Getting a cat as a mouser

Archived Q&A and Reviews


July 2002

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 procedure. 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. Cat Lover

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. Maya

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 instincts. In short, I don't think size is a good factor in determining hunting instinct. I would pick a cat with a loving yet assertive temperament. Alison

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! anon

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! Katy

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. anon

As an avid birder and nature enthusiast, I would encourage you to avoid getting a cat that will spend the majority of its time outside. 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! anon

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 vector control. Debby