The Pet Corner: The Game of Cat and Mouse

By Dawn Aerts

It’s an age-old story.

Like a Shakespearean play, there are elements of frivolity and surprise, amusing moments and tragic end.  For cats, the game of ‘mouse’ is simple:  see the mouse, corner the mouse, ‘play with mouse’ until mouse escapes, or sadly succumbs.

Sometimes, a cat-mouse duo may appear to play together, but let’s not get carried away.  These two are destined to be ‘fren-emies’ and at our house, Miss Lulu takes the game seriously.  Experts believe that the humble cat was widely valued in ancient Egypt for their obsession with devouring any rodent who infested a grain bin.

At your house, that duty might be a garage, a basement or under a sink.

Eventually, people came to admire cats for their other traits… as the flamboyant felines they are.  While certain breeds (like short hair) are said to be better suited for ‘mousing’ than others, cat owners will tell you that today’s shelter-kitties have this very skill built into their mind set. Mousing is just one of their competencies.

For example, Lulu is all about the game of mouse, but she is yet to deliver a victim.  She is an indoor cat that seems to understand her limitations outside the front door. And while she has an assortment of jingle balls and cat trinkets, and toilet paper rolls to keep her busy, it is the toy mouse that holds her attention – keeping it tucked away, here and there for future games.

The outside cat to consider.

Many cats will not do well if left outside as they will revert to the ‘wild’ and are susceptible to cold and illness.  Cats, like any animal, should be given proper care, shelter, protection and regular feeding.  But if you are looking for a sound cat, with very practical skills, here are a few tell-tale signs of a potential ‘mouser’ in the house:

  • Does the cat carry toys in its mouth and look like she owns the toy?  This is a typical behavior for a mouser.
  • Is the cat both curious and persistent in efforts?  Good mousers have long attention spans, and they will seldom forget about their target.
  • A well-fed, healthy cat makes for a better mouser.
  • Does your cat enjoy interaction, or hide for long periods of time?  In either case, you may have an adept feline.
  • Bells:  a cat collar with bell will alert the neighborhood birds.

One downside to the cat and mouse game:  Your cat will eventually want to provide you with rewards, so you should keep plastic gloves handy for disposal. While cats who capture mice are more susceptible to some disease – you should consult with a vet on what those health concerns might be.

With good care and a regular menu, feral cats can be valued for ‘outside’ barn duties but these should always be spayed or neutered to prevent neglectful outcomes and many multiple cats.

Be a Hero by adopting a homeless dog or cat at your local animal shelter.  For information on adoptions at the Cedar City, Iron County, or Enoch Shelter, call 435-586-8791 or 435-586-2960.

Illustration by Hannah Holloway, SUU Illustration Department student.



What others say about : The Pet Corner: The Game of Cat and Mouse..

Dr Johanna van de Woestijne

American Bird Conservancy has a program called Indoor Cats, and advocates against allowing cats outside to free roaming because they don’t kill only mice, but also baby birds, nestlings, fledglings, and important small mammals and reptiles, that are important in the food chain for local raptors. It is better and safer for your cat, if it has to go outside to play, to provide a catio, a wired or screend porch, again with a lot of dangly stuff, climbing trees, sleeping baskets. This avoids vet bills too for accidental rodenticide ingestion are cat fights are car tire pancaking. Coyotes can be an issue too, depending on the area. Cats can actually for a population sink for the wildlife, meaning they are attracted into the area by the foliage, or food, or water, but can’t successfully breed there due to cat predation, or are outright killed. Kittycam studies of well fed pet cats show that 44% kill local wildlife and most of that is not mice and you will only saw the occasional caught bird, since the rest are left in the field or consumed

Robin K

This is blantantly irresponsible. We do not need cats for rodent control. Just the fact that felids are the definitive host for the parasite that causes Toxoplasmosis is reason enough never to consider this.

Cats are now the leading direct human-related cause of wild bird and small mammal mortality in the USA. Bells do not work to alert birds. They do not know that sound means danger. Bells do nothing for helpless nestlings and fledgling birds and neonate mammals. Bibs, clown collars, and the like are not helpful and do nothing to further responsible pet ownership – similar to this lousy advice column.

Steve Hodges

Cats should not be let outside, period. They don’t just kill mice and rats, they kill anything – birds, beneficial lizards and snakes (which are much more adept at controlling rodent populations than cats, which did not evolve here), beneficial small mammals. Also, many neighbors may simply not want free-roaming cats defecating in their gardens or climbing on fences, cars, or roofs. I had a few neighbors cats become accustomed to defecating on my garage roof where a tall cedar provided them some cover. It was awful to clean up and clogged my gutters. Cats don’t belong outside, it’s safer for wildlife and it’s safer for the cats themselves – no fleas, no diseases, no offerings of coyote lunches.

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