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Getting a cat as a mouser
Berkeley Parents Network >
Advice about Pets > Getting a cat as a mouser
Related page: Rodents
We have a rodent problem (rats or larger) and my husband wants to
get a cat to chase them away. All the cats in our neighborhood
are lazy pets; he wants a cat like the one he had as a youth: big
enough to hassle dogs and good at catching rodents. Does anyone
know where we should look for such a cat, and what we should look
for? My husband envisions a male cat (do females reach 15
pounds?) but is afraid that the usual neutering will kill its
killer instincts. Is there a way to render a male cat infertile
while preserving its testerone levels? (although I'm not sure
testosterone is necessary for mousing instincts)
Thanks for any advice you can give.
You should only get a cat if you want one as a pet, and if
he/she hunts for you, that is a bonus. I have had multiple cats
for many years, and I have found that the females are usually
much keener and determined hunters. Many of the males are lazy
and sweet, and can't be bothered to hunt. My in-laws have a
great huntress, a little six pound Tonkinese, who is a
relentless hunter. She brings in birds, lizards, rats, and
mice, and like to play with them on her mistress' bed before
doing them in.
If you do get a male, neutering will not affect the hunting
instinct or personality in any way. What it will do is decrease
your male's interest in roaming, fighting, and spraying urine to
mark his territory. If you got your male sterilized through a
vasectomy (to preserve the testerone), you would still have all
the problems that go along with an unneutered male, which can
include hundreds of dollars in vet bills to treat abcesses and
injuries from fighting. I don't know if vets even do this
If you only really want a cat for rodent control, maybe you
should consider other forms of pest management. Once you adopt
a cat you are responsible for it's care for that animal's
lifetime, which can be 15-20 years.
For a ''mousing'' cat, I suggest you look for a mixed breed from
the SPCA or pound. A feisty young male or female kitty with a
look of adventure in their eyes! Our SPCA, neutered male kitty,
Elliott, was a great mouse and sadly, bird catcher too. Make
sure they are up to date on their rabies vacination too.
Ten months ago I adopted two male kittens that are brothers.
Both are neutered. One kitten is big; one is small (about half
the size of his brother). Recently, the smaller cat has
routinely killed rodents and brought them to me as gifts. The
one he left on the doormat this morning was at least a third as
big as he is! The bigger kitten won't kill a thing.
Interestingly, the smaller cat is more cuddly, more loving,
purrs more, loves to be petted, and yet is a better hunter. The
bigger cat does not like to be picked up or petted as much and
seems less civilized (he does sleep sometimes at the bottom of
our bed and will rub against our legs), yet has no hunting
In short, I don't think size is a good factor in determining
hunting instinct. I would pick a cat with a loving yet
I'd advise against getting a cat (particulary one not neutered!)
for the purpose of controlling your rodent problem. We've had
two cats over the last 6 years and they rarely kill the
rat/mouse/etc, and they have almost always tried to bring them
in the house! I can't tell you how many times I have had to
shuffle an abused rodent (birds too) out of my house. I know
rodents are a nuisance, but cats tend to just torture them and
treat them like playthings rather than swiftly and humanely kill
them. I'm sure there are better ways, good luck!
I'm a strong advocate of cats as pest control--my cat worked
better for me than traps or poison. That said, I have to say
getting a cat as a mouser may be hit or miss; I've known
somebody with 7 cats and a rat problem. Your best bet is a feral
cat; they take some taming, but their mother will have taught
them to hunt, and they wouldn't have made it if they didn't have
the instincts. Community Concern for Cats is one organization in
the area that adopts feral kittens, or used to. A scrappy cat
who'd rather play than anything else, and even beats up on
his/her litter mates, is a good bet. You should definitely have
him/her neutered; testicles have no effect on mousing ability,
in my experience, and there are excellent female mousers. (and
the world already has far too many domestic cats) Also, keep
your cat indoors. Better for the cat, better for the birds, and
an indoor/outdoor cat generally prefers to hunt outside. An
indoor cat will drive the mice out. A final note--a good mouser
is not always outwardly aggressive; my kitty was terrified of
people (his feral legacy) but would stalk any and all critters.
He was pretty big and burly, but I've known mousers who were
not. Good luck!
Please consider other options beyond getting a cat for pest
control.Regardless of sex or testosterone, you will never know if
the cat will be a great predator or not. This behavior tends to
be learned behavior from mother to offspring. Since most of us do
not live on farms or ranches, the likelyhood of you getting an
instictivley predatory animal is slim. And if he/she is, it is
likely that you will end up with large vet bills as this pet
takes on other cats/pets in the neighborhood. In addition song
birds and other creatures are often the victim of a ''good
mouser'', to the point where bird populations have suffered. An un
neutered male cat is always defending turf; resulting in abcesses
galore. Municipalities have rodent abatement programs that you
should be researching. Best of luck.
Animal Health Professional
We have two cats, both female, both fixed within their first
year, both indoor/outdoor, and both good at ''hunting''. However,
our ''smaller, leaner, meaner'' cat is an amazing hunter of rodents
and birds (unfortunately) and stands her own against racoons,
which seems to be unheard of. You might want to do a web search
on what cats tend to have more of the hunter instict. Or ask at
the SPCA, they probably have extensive information available. Our
''hunter'' is part burmese and part alley. The downside to this
type of cat is that she is very very temperamental and we have
recently been having problems with her hissing at our 2 year old.
This behavior seems to occur after an especially busy kill day or
night. I suppose the other downside is that hunter cats love to
bring the dead kill in to show you how skilled they are. The
upside is that I've never seen a rodent in the house
unless its in her mouth; and I know that many of our neighbors
have had problems with rodents.
As an avid birder and nature enthusiast, I would encourage you to
avoid getting a cat that will spend the majority of its time
Well fed domesticated cats tend to have more of an advantage (at
hunting) than their ''wild'' counterparts. I think it is unfair to
our avian neighbors to allow your cats to roam outdoors. They are
also at risk for severe injuries from cat fights, racoon
encounters, and being hit by cars.
If you do allow your cat to go outside, please put a bell on it,
so the birds can hear it coming!
I don't know how you could ensure that your cat would be a good
mouser. You could try to get a kitten or teenage cat that was
trained by older cats at a farm or other situation with many
rodents. I knew some cats who were great gopher hunters. I
welcomed them in my orgainc garden. But other cats at the same
site weren't interested in rodents at all. Remember when you
get a cat, that many of them are very territioral, and like to
mark their territory with foul smelling spray, especially when
their home turf overlaps another cat's. I lived with a female
cat who sprayed. It was horrible to find dried stinky spray on
my fancy dresses, in my fancy shoes or in the outside pocket of
my purse. I understand that unneutered males are most likely to
spray. Unneutered males are also most likely to get in fights
and suffer expensive-to-care-for injuries. Also remember that
some cats like to share their dead or injured prey by proudly
bringing them into the house; even into the kitchen or bedroom.
Finally, given that pet and feril cats are the major cause of
songbird death and population decline in this country, you may
want to consider just trapping the rats, intead.
A Former Housemate to Many Cats
Cats are domestic pets who deserve a loving home, and kind hearted
care from their owners, which always includes spaying and
neutering. In fact, cats should not eat or kill rodents - they will
acquire unhealthy parasites from eating them, and they can be
accidentally poisoned by mice or rats that have ingested poisons.
If you have a rodent infestation, one cat, or even 5 cats, cannot ever
solve it. The only solution is to take action to seal your home around
the foundation, vents, windows and roof to keep them out. In your
yard, you must remove any rat and mouse harborage, such as heavy ivy,
piles of refuse, lumber and wood piles. You must clear away anything
outside or near your home that attracts rodents such a accessible
garbage, pet food, rotting fruit that has fallen from trees, etc. Your
neighbors may have harborage that is increasing the rodent
population. You can get help and advice regarding this from the city
where you live. Call your local health department and ask about
this page was last updated: Jun 9, 2003
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