On the homestead, there is food everywhere. Chicken coops, goat barns, rabbit pens, compost piles, in the gardens and in the home. Mice can carry disease, eat through food, including cardboard boxes, and even chew through electrical wires. Mice are not fun to have around, really.
Laying traps or poison is what a lot of us do to get rid of the rodents. But, wouldn’t it be easier if you could get a barn cat to hunt mice? They would be able to decrease or eliminate the mice population and get fed at the same time. However, some cats are “broken” and won’t hunt mice. So, what does it take to get your barn cat to hunt mice?
Is it possible to adopt a shelter cat and turn it into a barn cat that will hunt mice?
Some suggest you CAN train a cat to be a barn cat and hunt after mice. This is done by:
- Adopting the cat and taking it home
- Placing it in an enclosed, sheltered area for approximately a week. This would be a cage or kennel large enough for the cat to have it’s food and water dishes AND a litter box in a separate area.
- Spending time with the cat, while it’s getting to know it’s new surroundings. They need to get to know you and hear your voice. Over time, they will learn to trust you.
- Allowing it to go free after a week or so, and expecting it to hunt. Many cats will do this by nature, and females are often more well known for this than males are.
- The cat will then hunt, keeping the mice and other rodent population down.
Does this work? In many cases, yes. Keep in mind, some cats will offer you the “present” of a kill, or you may not see signs of them hunting at all. If your mice problem seems to diminish, your barn cat is doing it’s job.
Let’s talk about some different breeds of barn cat.
Some breeds are too “mellow” and won’t hunt. This includes the laid back breeds of Manx, Persion, and Ragdoll cats. Some have better reputations of being “mousers”, including the Shorthairs, Bengals, and Abyssian. However, breed alone doesn’t seem to determine whether or not the cat will hunt mice.
According to Sciencing, the difference between instinctual and learned behaviors is easily explained, but not as easily identified in nature. They say,
“The difference between an innate behavior and a learned one is that innate behaviors are those an animal will engage in from birth without any intervention. Learned behavior is something an animal discovers through trial, error and observation.”
What this means is that cats learn how to hunt from their mother. Experimental psychologist Professor Kuo Zing Yang ran a decade-long experiment starting in the 1920s. He raised several solitary kittens without influence from their mothers at the same time as he cared for families of cats. His goal was to determine if cats instinctively know how to hunt and kill prey or if it’s a lesson learned from mom. What he found is that kittens that were raised by humans or non hunting mother cats are less likely to hunt themselves.
However, when you are training a cat to hunt mice, you will want to remember that females are more known for hunting ability than males, and kittens will learn from their mothers how to hunt. If possible, you may want to consider allowing a female cat to have a litter of kittens to train to keep the mice population down on your homestead.
Remember, though, that cats will need supplemental food and water from you, the human.
Do NOT allow any animal on your homestead to simply have to provide it’s entire means of support. Provide fresh water at all times, and cat food at least once a day. This is how to keep barn cats around your homestead. If your mouse problem is outside or in a barn, consider adopting a feral or semi-feral cat from a shelter. These cats probably won’t become true “pets,” but will stay around when they have plenty of water, supplemental food, and a warm place to sleep. In a house, the mere presence of a cat can deter mice.
Your barn cat will learn how to hunt mice, and while they may not eat them, it WILL decrease the rodent population. What are some ways you have used to get your cats to hunt mice? Be sure to share in the comments!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.