In ancient Egypt, the cat was first valued for devouring rodents that infested the village grain bins. Eventually, people began to admire their other traits, and cats became helpers as well as beloved members of the family. But as they became “domesticated,” prey drive and hunting skills declined, and today not all cats are automatically suited for “mousing.” So, how do you find a modern-day cat with an old soul for hunting?
Most agree breed doesn’t matter as much as temperament and upbringing. The popular Maine Coon, originally bred for mousing, has pretty much lost her reputation as a hunter, and breeds like Manx, Persian, and Ragdoll are said to be too “mellow” or “laid back.” Breeds that do seem to have a reputation for mousing include the American Shorthair, British Shorthair, and American Polydactyl. Athletic breeds like the Bengal and Abyssinian may have the stamina for hunting, but that alone doesn’t guarantee a “good mouser.” Many owners say their best mousers are “pound kitties,” who were adopted from a shelter. Here are some things to consider:
- Does the cat carry toys in its mouth — and look like she “owns” the toy?
- Is the cat curious, active, or persistent? Some enjoy batting at toys for a few minutes before losing interest. Good mousers have longer attention spans when hunting. Interestingly, a good hunter will abandon an effort that’s gone on too long — saving energy for the next opportunity.
- Females may be better mousers than males, possibly because they teach their kittens to hunt; however, many famous mousers in history were male.
- Many people feel a slightly older cat may be a better choice than a kitten who is still honing her hunting skills.
- Make sure your cat is spayed or neutered. It’s healthier, prevents overpopulation, and a “fixed” cat can focus on things other than mating.
- If your mouse problem is outside or in a barn, consider adopting a feral or semi-feral cat from a shelter. Many will provide a spayed or neutered and vaccinated cat at little or no cost. These cats probably won’t become true “pets,” but when you provide supplemental food, water, warmth, and safety, many will stay around for years. In a house, the mere presence of a cat can deter mice.
- Never adopt a cat just to kill mice; if your problem is serious, consider consulting pest control or professional extermination services.
- A well-fed cat will hunt for entertainment and catch more prey than a hungry cat; never withhold food from any cat in your care.
- Reward your cat for leaving you a “present,” even if it’s disgusting…and keep plastic gloves handy for disposal.
- Cats who hunt are more susceptible to certain diseases. Experts recommend you worm your cat every six months, research the health concerns in your area (like hantavirus), and have a good relationship with your vet.
Cats are wonderful companions, as our ancestors in the East knew. Having a cat who is also a good mouser is just an added blessing.