We’ve been inundated with stories of cats chasing mice since we were kids (think Tom and Jerry). It’s a given that cats kill and eat mice. But is it true?
Today, we will examine actual facts to discover if this is true or not.
Actually, those cartoons are not completely baseless. Cats can keep mice from scurrying around your home.
The reasons? We list down a few below:
1. Cats Emit A Terrifying Scent
Our noses can’t tell what kind of scent a cat has. But mice can. And they’re terrified by it.
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, rats spent 87% of their time in hiding after being exposed to a cat’s odor. Rats who weren’t exposed to the cat’s odor spent just 20% of their time hidden away – a significant difference.
So just having a cat present on the premises is enough to keep mice away.
John Bradshaw, a cat-behavior expert at the University of Bristol in England, said in an interview that cats are territorial animals, and they get a sense of security from the place they live in.
So any mice that dare enter their territory are considered a disturber of the peace. Cats will immediately seek to chase out any intruder that threatens that sense of security.
Cats, much like their ancient ancestors, are natural hunters.
The passing of time has done nothing to curb their inclination to hunt. A domestic house cat is still a highly skilled predator. So, any mice that are around are considered a “game” for cats.
Natural instincts will kick in, and cats are commonly known to catch and kill mice. Often they toy with their prey before going for the kill.
Cats hunt and keep out mice. True enough, but they’re facing a losing battle. We may have established reasons why cats are effective mouse catchers, but they are not enough.
Micahel Parsons, a behavioral ecologist and visiting professor at Fordham University in New York, believes that cats may have fooled us into believing that they’re great rat catchers.
In an article published in Scientific American, Parsons said the following on the cats he observed: “They didn’t really bother doing anything when the rats were on the open floor.”
Why did cats behave so? To answer that, Gregory Glass, a professor at the University of Florida, says that rats are “too big and nasty for the cat to deal with.”
Additionally, there are other reasons which we cite below:
A female mouse can give birth every 3 weeks. Each birth produces at least a dozen baby mice.
These baby mice grow up fast and have their own offspring. On the other hand, a cat may catch a mouse every now and then (if they’re in the mood). Expecting cats to keep up with the growing population of mice is a long shot. Near on impossible in reality!
Most rodents, including mice, are host to several germs that can infect cats.
A study published in PubMed Central shows that pet animals like cats are susceptible to diseases like Lyme disease, hantavirus, and cat leukemia. Although these diseases cannot be passed on from cats to humans, they can be fatal to the cats themselves.
In the interest of self-preservation, mice will keep away from cats. It’s easy for mice to hide.
Cracks in the wall, attics, basements, and behind any kind of clutter are favorite places for mice to hide in. Cats, by virtue of their size, will find it impossible to chase after their prey. Soon cats will lose interest and move on to more exciting prospects.
Cats have a natural propensity to hunt. But that’s when they’re hunting for food. A cat that is well fed will show no interest in catching any mice.
Granted that cats will seek out mice for the thrill of the hunt, but that hardly contributes to solving a mouse problem. Once cats are past their prime, the desire to chase mice for fun will gradually fade.
Tom and Jerry is probably the greatest cat and mouse cartoon series. They’ve used the supposed enmity between cats and mice to great comedic effect. We also know that some of it has some truth to it.
Cats strike fear into mice just by their scent. Felines are jealous about their territories and will defend their borders with all the strength they can muster. Finally, when a cat’s natural hunting instincts kick in, the mice can only pray they are spared.
But, rodents are hardy creatures. The rate at which they reproduce ensures that they’re always around. Ultimately, a cat that has other sources of food will not bat an eyelid at any mice.