Cat chasing a mouse – the paradigm ‘prey item’

Cat resting and dead mouse
Cat resting and dead mouse
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A cat chasing a mouse is the classic “predator hunting prey” but, hey!, it can be a rat chasing a cat for love and affection and getting it! This turns things on its head.

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See the vid:

It is all about socialization. If the rat and cat are raised together, they don’t fight, they love. Now, I wonder if we can translate that to the human race? Nah……..

The problem is I, personally, cannot show a video of a cat chasing a mouse because, although it is the most natural thing in the world, I feel bad for the mouse and in any case, it is a kind of voyeurism. Sure, cats chase mice but we don’t have to gloat over it and put it to music. That, though, is just me and most people think differently to me 😢.

Prey profile

It is interesting that a substantial percentage of the general public object to the predation of birds by domestic and feral cats. However, they do not object to mice being killed by cats. This is speciesism. It’s understandable because birds are prettier than mice. Mice are seen as pests and birds are seen as a precious animal which adorn the countryside. The spreadsheet below tells you in percentage terms the prey animal profile of domestic cats. It might not be typical for all cats in all areas but it has validity.

Mouse in the home
Mouse in the home. Photo in public domain.

Mice are just the right size for domestic cats to prey upon. It’s their original prey, if you like, going back to the first wildcats that were domesticated about 10k years ago. They are easier to catch than birds. That is why they feature above birds in the prey profile chart. The vast majority of domestic cat studies show that small mammals particularly rodents are the dominant prey of this feline.

The ideal natural diet for a domestic cat is the mouse. It is 40% protein, 50% fat and only 3% carbohydrates. Cats require considerably more protein than dogs; about 2 to 3 times as much. This is why it is wrong to feed a cat with dog food and vice versa. Dog food does not contain sufficient nutrients for a domestic cat. Cats are uniquely adapted to metabolise protein and fat as energy in preference to carbohydrates.

Attacking mice – attacking birds

Domestic cats employ entirely different hunting methods when attacking a mouse compared to when they attack birds. They are famous for their stealthy approach. They will sit and stare at an area where they think the mouse is or where they have heard a mouse. They will do this for a very long time with great patience. When a mouse appears, the cat will usually wait until it has moved some distance from his burrow before pouncing.

With respect to birds, the cat will stalk as near as possible to the animal as they can. They slink silently towards the bird using groundcover wherever possible. The belly is close to the ground and they stop frequently. The cat is a picture of concentration. The ears are pricked forwards and the body is tensed. The eyes are fixed on the bird. As the cat gets closer it becomes more excited. The tip of its tail twitches. She may wiggle her bottom in preparation for the final pounce. She may tread her hind feet on the ground as if to seek purchase. She may move her head from side to side as a means of using her binocular vision to precisely estimate the distance from her to her prey animal. The final rush is fast and determined. It is an all-or-nothing gamble. The hind legs provide the power and the front legs thrust out to grab the prey. Sometimes you may have to jump into the air and catch the bird as it flies off.

RELATED: The screaming of the mice

Yes, mice scream at the top of their voices when attacked by cats. The frequency is meant to be too high for humans to hear but it isn’t when it is this loud and desperate.

My cat

Incidentally my cat, Gabriel, is the best hunter I have known. I fostered him as a feral cat rescue and them adopted him. He has wiped out entire families of mice. He can eat a mouse in its entirety (except the gall bladder) in 60 seconds – see the second photo below.

Gabriel's eaten prey
Gabriel’s eaten prey. This half eaten. He normally eats the lot and does not leave blood.
Cat eats mouse in 60 seconds
Cat eats mouse in 60 seconds


So here the classic cartoon:

Torture? No.

In the real world a cat chasing a mouse can look pretty gruesome because the cat seems to want to play with the mouse, prolonging the chase. This is because cats don’t get much chance, usually, to exercise their hunting skills so when the chance does come along, they prolong it. And secondly, they are playing safe, avoiding a bite and preferring to batter the mouse to death with their paws at a distance. See Domestic Cat Hunting.

Next up we have a cute little video of a cat that is very interested in a mouse of a different kind. The pointer produced and moved by a computer mouse. This shows how easy it is to entertain our cat and we should…all the time. They get bored you know.

Cats prefer to chase prey that is on the ground rather than birds because it is easier to catch. This dents the argument of the bird conservationists who say that the domestic cat wipes out millions of birds each year.

2 thoughts on “Cat chasing a mouse – the paradigm ‘prey item’”

  1. Brilliant observation that cats prefer ground prey and how that flies in the face (pun intended) of the bird activists’ claim that it’s mainly birds. I hadn’t thought of that, and while I have one cat who preferred chasing birds, she’s an exception and she hasn’t caught more than a few over her lifetime. The Trump boys have killed a higher number of big game, probably in one visit to Africa.

    • By the way I also can’t stomach watching a kill, and I think there’s something refreshingly civilized and sympathetic about it, so good for you Mr. Broad.


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