Categories: hunting

How do cats hunt mice?

The question implicitly refers to domestic cats. Cat guardians probably know the answer through their experience of seeing their cats bring mice into their home and release them. If alive and able mice sometimes run under furniture such as sideboards. Domestic cats will silently wait and watch an exit to the furniture in the expectation that the mice will eventually come out, whereupon they pounce and kill.

Mouse hunt is over. Pic in public domain. Presentation by PoC.

This more or less sums up how a domestic cat hunts mice in a domestic environment. Domestic cats are famous for their stealthy approach to prey. When hunting, the domestic cat can be still or move stealthily and they are always as silent as possible. This deadly behavior is combined with patience and persistence.

They use their highly developed senses of smell, sight and hearing. They select the best spot (e.g. outside a mouse nest) and wait while making careful use of available cover. The slightest rustle or the smallest movement is detected whereupon the domestic cat may freeze or stalk.

If the cat believes that the prey will move towards them they will pause and wait. If it is unlikely that the prey item will move innocently towards them they will move forward in short quick advances, while barely making a sound, interspaced with frozen pauses. Domestic cats crouch low and tense themselves. Sometimes before making a final pounce they will sway their heads from side to side in order to form an accurate 3-D picture of the position of the prey. This allows them to judge precise distance for an accurate pounce.

With mice, the final pounce is a simple downward action whereas with birds it is more complicated. This is because domestic cats anticipate that the prey will fly upwards to escape. As they close in they anticipate this and are ready to perform an upward leap swiping at the bird with both front feet at once. These actions can be seen in kittens when they play.

One aspect of domestic cat hunting is their extreme patience and persistence. They can wait for what seemed like hours at the exit of a mouse’s nest. The patience often pays off. If allowed to prey upon wild animals, the dominant pray for domestic cats are small mammals, principally rodents and occasionally rabbits or hares (if available). They attack birds but birds are harder to catch and therefore are not a priority. Insects are often chosen.

Domestic cats can reveal their intentions just before attacking by slightly twitching their tail. This may become a wagging movement in the seconds before the attacking leap or sprint. Tails are primarily balancing organs.

When an adult cat plays with a half dead mouse it is not a deliberate act of torture. Rather the cat is not hungry but is instinctively driven to hunt which drives then to pounce and pause.

Some more on hunting

Domestic cats eat 80% of their prey in situ

ANALYSIS: Have you ever wondered if your cat eats prey outside of the home? A study carried out in South ...
Read More

Why domestic cats still hunt when they aren’t hungry

It might be fair to say that some cat owners think that their domestic cat is occasionally mean and nasty ...
Read More

Don’t blame cats for destroying wildlife – shaky logic is leading to moral panic

Are cats really to blame for the worldwide loss of biodiversity? Dzurag/iStock via Getty Images Plus William S. Lynn, Clark ...
Read More

Do domestic cats hunt together?

No, domestic cats do not hunt together. I think that about answers the question in its entirety because there are ...
Read More

Why do domestic cats hunt?

The question in the title might, at first instance, look completely normal. Domestic cats hunt in order to feed themselves, ...
Read More

Why do domestic cats still hunt?

Domestic cats still hunt because it is in their DNA to do so. It is a characteristic which is a ...
Read More

Do well fed cats hunt?

Yes, well fed cats do hunt because it is an inherited, instinctive trait but a domestic cat may not kill ...
Read More

Do domestic cats kill rabbits?

Yes, domestic cats can and sometimes do kill rabbits. A rabbit falls under the classification of lagomorph (hares, rabbits and ...
Read More
Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts

What kind of water bowl is best for cats?

The kind of water bowl that is best for cats is either glass, ceramic or…

5 hours ago

Substantial number of people give Covid-19 to their companion animals

There have been a few studies on this subject unsurprisingly. It is obviously highly pertinent…

9 hours ago

People prevented from feeding stray cats in the UK

This is an extraordinary development as far as I am concerned. Councils in the UK…

9 hours ago

I can feel my cat’s spine when I pet him

If you can feel your cat's spine when you pet him, he might be underweight.…

1 day ago

7つのかご猫

The title is in Japanese. It means: 7 shironeko (7 white cats)...which is not true…

1 day ago

New Zealand: man who trapped and drowned eight cats thought he was doing the right thing

ANALYSIS AND NEWS - WARNING: this content may upset some people so please don't read…

1 day ago