How To Train Your Barn Cat To Hunt Mice

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.

cat catching a mouse

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 its food and water dishes AND a litter box in a separate area.
  • Spending time with the cat, while it’s getting to know its 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 its job.

Choosing the Best Breed of Barn Cat

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 their 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.

What Makes a Good Hunting Cat?

When most people think of hunting cats, they envision large, fearsome predators like lions or tigers. However, there are a number of smaller cat species that are equally adept at bringing down prey.

When choosing a hunting cat, there are a few key attributes to look for. First, the cat should be fast and agile, able to chase down prey over long distances. Second, it should have sharp claws and powerful jaws, allowing it to kill its prey quickly and efficiently.

Finally, the cat should be stealthy and quiet, so as not to alert its prey to its presence.

While each hunting cat has its own unique set of skills, these are the qualities that all good hunters share.

Does Spaying or Neutering Reduce a Cat’s Desire to Hunt?

There is a common belief that spaying or neutering a cat will reduce their desire to hunt.

However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. In fact, hunting is instinctive behavior for cats, and altering their hormones will not change that.

Some cats may hurt less after being spayed or neutered, but this is likely due to reduced energy levels and/or a change in territory. It will pass!

So, if you’re hoping that spaying or neutering will stop your cat from hunting, you’re likely to be disappointed. However, there are many other good reasons to spay or neuter your cat, so please don’t let this myth deter you from doing so.

Why Won’t My Cat Catch Mice?

One of the most common questions that vets hear from cat owners is, “Why won’t my cat catch mice?” After all, cats are natural predators, and most of them seem to enjoy playing with small animals.

However, there are a few reasons why some cats don’t display this behavior. First of all, it’s important to remember that not all cats are born hunters.

While some felines inherit the instinct to chase and kill small prey, others do not. This is simply a matter of genetics, and there’s nothing that can be done to change it.

Secondly, even cats that are born with the hunting instinct may not display it if they haven’t had the opportunity to learn it. In the wild, kittens learn to hunt by watching and imitating their mothers.

However, domestic cats often don’t have this opportunity, which can lead to them never developing the skills necessary to catch mice.

Why Won’t My Cat Kill Mice When It Catches Them?

If you have a cat, chances are you’ve come home to find a dead mouse on your doorstep. You may be wondering why your cat won’t kill mice when it catches them. There are a few possible explanations.

First, it’s possible that your cat is trying to teach you how to hunt. After all, cats are natural predators and they have a strong instinct to kill small prey. By bringing the mouse to you, they’re hoping that you’ll take care of the rest.

The mouse may be seen as a gift. In some “cat cultures”, it’s considered good luck to receive a dead animal as a present. So, by leaving the mouse for you, your cat may be attempting to bestow some good fortune upon you.

Finally, it’s also possible that your cat is simply showing off. They know that they’re capable of killing the mouse, but they want you to see what they can do. In other words, it’s a way of showing their strength and power.

How to Train a Cat to Catch Mice

While most cats are born with a strong hunting instinct, some may need a little help honing their skills. If you’re dealing with a mouse problem and you want your cat to lend a paw, there are a few things you can do to encourage them.

Choose the Right Breed

Some breeds of cats are better suited for hunting than others. Siamese cats, for example, are known for their athletic abilities and natural prey drive.

Start Early

When training your cat to catch mice, it’s important to start early, while your cat is still a kitten. This will help your cat develop the necessary skills and instincts for hunting.

Ensure Your Cat is Well-Fed

A well-fed cat is a happy cat, and a happy cat is more likely to be motivated to hunt. Make sure your cat is eating a high-quality diet that provides them with the energy they need to run and jump.

You may also want to consider supplementing their diet with some high-protein treats, which can give them an extra boost of energy.

Reward Your Cat

While a hunting cat can be a useful ally in keeping your home free of pests, it can also be difficult to train them to catch mice without damaging your property.

The key is to provide positive reinforcement when they catch a mouse, and to make sure that they understand that catching mice is a good thing. Start by offering your cat a special treat or toy whenever they bring you a mouse.

Spend Plenty of Time Outside

Most cats enjoy spending time outdoors, and it’s a great way to provide them with exercise and stimulation.

If you’re hoping to train your cat to catch mice, spending plenty of time outdoors is essential. Mice are most active at night, so your cat will need to be able to spend extended periods of time outside in order to have the best chance of catching one.

Play With Your Cat

Cats love to play, and it’s important to give them plenty of opportunities to do so. Not only will this help keep them physically active, but it will also help them to stay mentally sharp. When it comes to playing with your cat, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

Make sure to use toys that mimic the size and shape of real prey. Avoid using your hands or feet as toys, as this can teach your cat that it’s okay to bite or scratch you.

Finally, be sure to praise your cat generously when they catch their toy – this will reinforce the behavior you’re trying to encourage.

Use Toys

In the wild, cats use their sharp claws and teeth to catch small prey, such as mice and birds. You can harness this natural instinct by training your cat to catch mice using toys.

Start by selecting a toy that resembles a mouse, such as a plastic toy or a sock filled with rice. Then, put the toy in an area where you have seen mice before, such as under the couch or in the corner of a room.

Once your cat catches the toy mouse, give them a treat to reinforce the behavior.

Offer Praise

Cats are natural hunters, and many of them enjoy the challenge of catching a mouse. However, not all cats have the instinct to hunt, and some need a little help getting started.

One way to encourage your cat to catch mice is to offer praise when they succeed. Give them a treat or pet them vigorously to let them know that they’ve done something you approve of. You can also try using a toy mouse as bait to get them started.

Once your cat gets the hang of it, they’ll be able to catch mice without any assistance.

Keep the Cat’s Age in Mind

Training a cat to catch mice is not as difficult as it may seem. The most important factor to consider is the age of the cat. Kittens have a natural instinct to hunt, and they can be easily trained to catch mice.

However, older cats may not be as interested in hunting, and they may need to be incentivized with treats or toys.

Get Another Cat as a Mentor

While cats are natural predators, they don’t always know how to catch mice. If you’re having a mouse problem and want your cat to help take care of it, you may need to give them a little training. A good way to do this is to get another cat as a mentor.

The new cat can show your cat how to stalk and pounce on their prey. This will give your cat the confidence they need to go after mice on their own.

In addition, be sure to provide your cat with plenty of opportunities to practice their skills. Leave a few live mice in a secure area for them to hunt, or set up a simple enclosed space where they can safely stalk and capture their prey.

Be Patient

Like all forms of training, teaching a cat to catch mice takes time and patience. Don’t expect your cat to catch its first mouse overnight. Be patient and continue to work with your cat until it becomes a proficient hunter.

Tips for Raising Mouser Cats

If you’re thinking about keeping cats specifically just to kill mice, follow these tips to be successful.

Cats Will Need Supplemental Food and Water

Do NOT allow any animal on your homestead to simply have to provide its 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.

Consider Adopting a Feral or Semi-Feral Cat

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.

Don’t Rely Solely on Your Cat

If you have a mouse problem, don’t rely solely on your cat to take care of it. While cats are natural predators of mice, they are not always effective at keeping them out of your home entirely.

If you have a mouse problem, the best course of action is to call a professional exterminator. They will be able to safely and effectively get rid of the mice in your home, without posing a threat to your family’s health.

Know That Cats Often Just Expose the Problem – They Don’t Always Solve It

It’s important to realize that cats don’t always solve the rodent problem. They may catch a mouse or two, but if there’s an abundant food source and plenty of places to hide, the mice will keep coming back.

If you’re dealing with a mouse problem, it’s important to take steps to eliminate their food source and create an environment that is less hospitable to them. Then, and only then, should you consider bringing in a feline friend.

Cats Can Contract Diseases, So Be Careful

Cats are often thought of as clean animals, but they can actually contract diseases from mice. The most common disease that cats get from mice is toxoplasmosis.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that is found in the intestine of mice. When a cat eats a mouse that has the parasite, the cat can get sick. Symptoms of toxoplasmosis include fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, the disease can be fatal.

Another disease that cats can contract from mice is hantavirus. Hantavirus is a virus that is found in the urine and feces of mice.

It can be transmitted to cats when they come into contact with contaminated materials. Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, muscle aches, and vomiting. If left untreated, the virus can cause kidney failure and death.

Therefore, it is important to be careful when handling mice around cats and with using your cats as mousers.

You May Need Multiple Cats

If you’re dealing with a mouse problem, you may need to get multiple cats. While one cat may be enough to scare the mice away, it won’t be enough to actually eliminate the problem. Mice are speedy little creatures, and they’re good at evading predators.

To increase your chances of getting rid of the mice, you’ll need to have multiple cats. The more cats you have, the greater the chance that one of them will eventually catch a mouse.

Of course, having multiple cats also means more work for you. You’ll need to provide food and water for all of your furry friends, and you’ll need to deal with the occasional fight between them.

But if you’re serious about getting rid of your mouse problem, multiple cats may be your best bet.

Final Thoughts

Although cats are often thought of as lazy creatures that spend most of their time sleeping, they can actually be very effective at getting rid of mice.

Cats are natural predators, and their sharp claws and quick reflexes make them well-suited for hunting small prey. In addition, cats have a strong sense of smell, which can help them to track down hidden mice nests.

Of course, not all cats are equally skilled at mouse hunting, and some may need a little training before they are ready to take on this type of task. However, for those who are up for the challenge, using a cat to get rid of mice can be a successful strategy.

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!

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last update: 07/19/2022 by Rebekah Pierce

4 thoughts on “How To Train Your Barn Cat To Hunt Mice”

  1. We had four cats, 1 male and 3 female. They were neutered and spayed so no kittens. Now none of our cats were feral or semi feral, they were true house cats. They loved to cuddle and be with us, and we them. Our children played with them as we did too, and when we moved they went with us we NEVER abandoned them or left them behind. That is something we could NEVER do as we knew that they relied on us completely. But at the second last house we were in, we had a huge fenced yard, oh one thing I forgot to mention was that we had 3 dogs as well. So the cats got along with our dogs and even played with them. We had a very loving and happy home where the animals were never ignored. But as I was saying when we moved into the second to last house it had a huge yard and a partial concrete fence. So with the dogs in the yard my kids and my husband starting letting the cats out for a couple hours each day, which I was VERY MUCH AGAINST! But they all felt that they’d be happy having the sensations of the grass etc., which I didn’t agree with. Anyway to say the least it was 3 against 1 not including the cats. At the same time we began having mice issues, and our male cat started getting interested in checking them out. Once he caught his first mouse he brought it to me as a gift. But it was still alive so when he brought it and I was like a little freaked out even though I wasn’t totally, he killed it and laid it at my feet, which really did freak me out. Then they all started hunting down the mice and killing them. Sadly, it didn’t stop there, they began hunting the songbirds which was then a real problem for me. The mice were long gone and I think that now they had the instincts to hunt they wanted to do more and there was no prey except the birds. We landed up bringing them back into the house and not letting them out, but it didn’t work they’d sit at the door and cry loudly, telling us how much they hated being kept in. Then we moved again and once again had mice problems which the cats happily took care of. And we were back to square one, although this time when the mice were gone we didn’t have so much trouble keeping the cats in, and I think it’s because when we first let them out at the new place, they only were allowed out for around 2 hours, then in. Now they’re gone over the rainbow bridge and we miss them terribly. Sadly I had an allergy to them but when we first got them I was on desensitizing shots because I worked with a vet and they had an in house cat. So I had to have the shots to work, then when I left I still had the residual effects of the shots so I never had a problem, however, the cats are gone, so is my ability to not get sick. We tried to get a kitten again and I got deathly ill from the allergy. So the dr. won’t give me the desensitizing shots anymore because it’s gotten so bad. So as much as we’d love to get another cat I can’t have another. I’m sorry kitties and shelters we can’t help you. I wish we could.

  2. I have to disagree with your professor. I have always had cats and they have always hunted. We live in a farming area and their are mice EVERYWHERE.

    I volunteer for the local shelter and my main job is to take in orphan kittens for about 8 months out of the year. They come as young as 1 day old to 4 weeks old so some have never even seen their mother. I bottle feed them and raise them up until they are old enough to get ‘fixed’ and give them back to the shelter to find homes for them. I’ve kept only 4 of the bottle fed babies for myself. I kept them in the house until they are big enough to be safe outside. All of them are excellent hunters! There are always several mice, and sometimes birds, on the porch every morning. These kitties are no different than all the cats I have had who had their mother to teach them to hunt. I’ve heard some people try to force their cats to hunt by not feeding them. I think that is horrible and cruel! I keep dry food out for them all the time along with giving them a little bit of canned food each day, and they still hunt just fine. The only problem with a bottle fed cat is that they are such a loving and personable cat that they are always wanting to be petted and loved! I also have 3 dogs, 2 shitzu/poodle mixes and a chocolate lab. They love to hunt mice too! It’s like their favorite pastime.

  3. cynthia marcisz

    I put a sting around a mouse I got from a pet store, then treaded it like a cat toy. they loved it. then one cat bit into the mouse. and that was the end of a house cat and a extream hunter was born. even eat a whole red tail hawk once. lol this is what I do with all my kittens. it seams to work really well.

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