Cats make wonderful pets, and they have instincts that make them fascinating to live with. One of their instincts is to kill prey, but they will appear to play with it first.
It may appear to be cruel, but there is actually a good reason for it. Cats play with their prey so that they can protect themselves and prevent the prey from biting them.
If the prey bites the cat, it can hurt it or make it sick from disease. When the cat bats the small animal around, it stuns it so that the cat can kill it safely.
The Instincts of Cats and Mice
Animals act on their instincts, and this includes cats and mice. Cats have a predator drive, which is why they hunt small animals. Mice have instincts of survival.
Although cats usually finish the kill with their teeth, they do it by severing the spine with a strong bite. Mice are much smaller than cats, but they are excellent fighters and will bite a cat when they are cornered.
Mice will try to bite the eyes or nose of the cat, which can cause a great deal of pain. Rodents also carry diseases that are zoonotic, and the cat can get sick and sometimes die.
Cats do not have instincts to play with or torture their prey; they are trying to protect themselves by exhausting and dazing the prey before they deliver the last blow.
The process of hunting for cats in the wild starts with finding prey by sight, sound, or scent. They will then stalk it silently as they observe where it is, what it is doing, and where it might go.
When the moment is right, they pounce and subdue the prey. The prey usually fights back if it can’t get away, and the cat immobilizes it with a final bite to the neck.
Why Are Cats Drawn to Mice?
Mice are a favorite target of cats, along with birds. Some cats get so good at catching mice that they can sit still and grab it with their paws as it runs past.
Mice are the perfect size and type for cats because they are small enough to grab, challenging enough to hunt, and easy to kill. Cats love to stalk and then pounce, and mice are flighty and move unpredictably.
Mice pose the perfect challenge to cats and satisfy their need to hunt. If you find a cat and a mouse in an environment together, the cat will hunt it and kill it if it can.
How Do Cats Subdue Mice?
Cats have different ways of subduing mice. They may approach it differently depending on different factors, such as its size, its level of energy, and the cat’s own safety.
Sometimes, the cat bats the mouse around with its paws to get it exhausted. The mouse gets wiped out, dizzy, and may even suffer broken bones because mice have very brittle bones by nature.
When the cat is ready for the final blow, they might throw the mouse up in the air because the landing will kill the mouse. Even if the mouse survived, it will be unable to get up or fight back.
Cats usually hunt alone unless they are younger; you may see a few young kittens working together to subdue prey, but older cats hunt on their own. They may look as if they are playing with the mouse, but they aren’t; this is their basic hunting instinct at work.
Sometimes people are upset by watching it, and they want to help. However, it can be dangerous as the mouse might bite you, and the cat might even take its frustration out on you.
Once the cat starts batting the mouse around, it is injured right away, and if you try to save it, it will still die. Trying to interfere actually leads to a long, painful death, whereas the cat will kill it quickly.
Do Cats Eat Mice?
Some cats eat everything they catch, including mice, birds, and insects. Others do it for hunting and leave it once they kill it.
With domesticated cats who are fed regularly, they usually kill the mouse and lose interest. Although they haven’t lost the instinct for hunting, they don’t eat when they aren’t hungry and they know that you will feed them.
Many cat foods taste better than mice, and they give cats all of the nutrients they need. If your cat does eat its prey, you should watch for certain risks, including the following:
- Toxins (if mouse has been poisoned)
- Choking on bones
- Weight gain
Most of the time, domesticated cats kill the prey and bring it to you as a present or discard it. Hunting is more of a sport to them.
Why Do Cats Hunt for Fun?
You may wonder why cats hunt if they aren’t going to eat their prey. The fact is that it is their instinct, and it is unrealistic to think it won’t hunt given the opportunity.
Different cats have different instincts, so if you have more than one cat, you may find that they approach it differently. Some cats enjoy the challenge of difficult prey, while others stick with something simple.
Feral cats tend to hunt for food, but since domesticated cats have their nutritional needs met, they don’t need to. They only hunt for recreation, not for survival.
When cats finish with the mouse, they might bring it to you. They do this as a compliment because they don’t need the food, so they are offering it to you.
Other cats hide the mouse in their bed or in a favorite spot. You need to watch out for this because it will decompose, which brings health risks with it.
If you don’t want your cat to hunt, you can help with a range of toys. They make feathers on the end of a stick or laser pointers, which allows the cat to exercise its instincts without killing a mouse or other animal.
By helping your cat exercise this way, they will spend less time hunting mice and more time resting when they aren’t playing.
Why Cats Lie on Prey After Killing it
If you have ever seen a cat kill their prey, you may have seen them lie down on it. Hunting is an accomplishment to a cat, so lying on the prey is its way of letting everyone know that it belongs to the cat.
You may notice this behavior in other ways; cats often lie on people’s items to let them know that it is important to them too. In addition, the cat rests after expending the energy to hunt the prey.
Cats don’t want anything to happen to the prey, and there may be people or other pets around. Cats are very territorial, and this instinct is why they lay on the prey once they kill it.
Once the cat is finished lying on the prey, it will either discard it, leave it behind, or make a present of it for the owner.
Why Cats Lick Mice
Sometimes you might see a cat lick a mouse after it kills it. This usually occurs when the cat plans to eat it but isn’t ready at the time.
The cat licks it to remove its scent from the mouse because they don’t like to leave any sign that they were there. When they lick the mouse, they believe that other predators that are nearby won’t know that they are there.
Another time that cats lick mice is before they eat them. This is more common with birds than mice because they can remove feathers by licking them; however, they can remove some of the fur by licking the mouse.
The cat is able to eat the mouse later without the preparation when it is hungry.
Some Cats Play with Dead Mice
You may see cats play with dead mice, and there are a few different reasons for this. First, they may be making sure that it is actually dead and can’t hurt them.
Another possibility is that the cat found the kill too easy, and it still has its hunting instinct engaged. The cat will grow tired of this and leave it alone.
Finally, the cat could be confusing the dead mouse with a toy. Many domesticated cats have toys to play with, and it may have no idea that the mouse is a dead mouse and not one of its toys.
It may appear that cats are cruel when they bat mice around before they kill them, but this is part of their instinct to protect themselves when they hunt. Mice are much smaller than cats, but they are avid fighters and they will bite the cat if they get the chance.
The cat is trying to make sure that the mouse is dazed and subdued before it kills it. This is the safest way for the cat to kill a mouse.
All of the cat’s behavior when it comes to mice is instinct, and cats and mice can never be friends. Even the laziest domesticated cat can have this instinct awakened when it sees a mouse.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard.