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A rivalry spanning thousands of years, the power struggle between cats and mice shows no sign of easing up. What is it that cats find so appealing about mice? And what do you do if your cat drops their rodent trophy on your pillow?
Humans may have domesticated cats as long as 4,000 years ago, according to National Geographic. At some point, someone must have noticed, that their cat companion was good at catching mice and realized the benefit of having cats around (besides their cute companionship). Soon, cats became hired hands, paid in the form of food and shelter by farmers and others who needed to keep rodents away. It's been a game of cat and mouse ever since.
Why Cats Are Attracted to Mice
Simply stated, mice are an easy target. Much like birds, another favorite feline prey, mice are the perfect size for little paws and don't put up much of a fight. Cats are pouncers who love to stalk their target and wear them down. They're also attracted to a mouse's flittering, skittering, unpredictable movement. A mouse treat satiates a cat's craving and desire for hunting.
My Cat Ate a Mouse! Now What?
When a cat catches a mouse, they can make quite a mess. When cleaning up the crime scene, wear gloves to protect against parasites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends treating the affected area with disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water and, if applicable, washing bedding in hot water.
Are There Health Concerns?
It is possible for your cat to contract an illness from eating a mouse. According to the Animal Medical Center, mice can be infected with roundworms, which they can then pass on to your cat. Mice can also carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, which can transfer to cats and then transfer to humans via cat poop.
Cats who contract toxoplasmosis don't exhibit signs of the illness, note researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. However, your cat's veterinarian can test their fecal matter to help rule out other infections, like roundworm.
Humans may not show signs of toxoplasmosis either, but if your cat has hunted recently and you have unexplained symptoms, such as a fever, muscle aches, a sore throat or vision problems, see your doctor right away. Thankfully, toxoplasmosis in humans and cats is treatable.
On the Hunt
Indoor cats are less likely to catch a mouse than outdoor cats, but it can happen. Your feline friend is hardwired for hunting, which is why your kitty sometimes attacks random objects like wads of paper or your feet.
Indulge your cat's predatory instinct with non-living prey. A mouse toy is a tried-and-true replacement, as is a battery-operated mouse that mimics the movements of the real thing. You can also make DIY cat toys with objects from around the house.
Cats and mice may never live in harmony, but you can help the situation by keeping your kitty indoors, supplying them with toys and engaging them in play. And if your cat ever does get hold of a mouse, it's always a good idea to have them checked by the vet.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.