Selection of a Mouser
A special breed of cat is not necessary. Some of the best mousers are mixed breed cats, and if they are going to be an outdoor only cat, a short-haired cat is better as longer haired cats require attention to prevent painful hair mats. However, if the cat is going to be outdoors all the time, you may want a medium length hair cat, and must provide it with some sort of shelter. Certain breeds who are known to be more laid back, such as Persians or Himalayans may not be a good choice. I personally suggest the cat be indoors at night or in winter, and outdoors only in the day time. Be aware some areas have laws requiring your cat to be kept indoors only, or only on your property. A good owner does not let their pet roam no matter what, besides you want the cat to catch the mice in YOUR house, right?
Age should be considered. If you are getting one who will strictly be kept outdoors do not get a young kitten. The survival of younger animals when kept outside only is poor. They are easy prey for owls, coyotes, and so on. If you are looking for a strictly outdoor barn mouser I would suggest getting an adult and keeping indoors for a while so it gets used to your place as its home. Or consider rescuing a feral cat. Some times shelters have feral (semi-wild) cats that they spay, or neuter, and adopt out as mousers to farm homes where the cat will be outdoors.
When looking for a good mouser you want a cat, or kitten, who is playful. One particular habit that seems to be a sign of good mousers, is that they want to carry things (usually soft toys) in their mouths. So when selecting a feline for mouse control you need to have a few soft toys you can roll around and see which cat is the most interested. If a cat looks like it thinks it “owns” the toy, then it will probably have a good sense for hunting. If you can find a cat or kitten from a farm home, they tend to be natural mousers, having learned it from their mothers. However if they are right off the farm they will require a vet check, vaccinations, and deworming.
The best, and usually most affordable, cats are ones you adopt from shelters, such as the SPCA, or RSPCA. Being non-profit, these places act on the best interest of the pet. When you get a “Free” kitten it still requires its shots, deworming and should be vet checked. These all cost money, as well its extremely important to spay or neuter. Not only will this make a cat into a better mouser, it will add an average of 2 years to their life.
Females, being the natural hunters are said to be better mousers, but I have a male barn cat who managed to kill a gopher once, so do not discount males. Solid white cats are sometimes deaf, therefore may not be suitable for mousers. As mentioned, spayed or neutered pets will make better mousers, as they are not preoccupied with hormonal desires.
Helping a Cat to be a Better Mouser
One common mistake people make is that they think if they starve their cat it will be a better hunter. This is completely incorrect. A well fed cat will hunt for fun, and will catch more mice than one who is only hunting for need. Putting the cats food in the room where you have the most mice is probably going to help you also., and the smell of the cat may help keep mice away. Just make sure the food is put somewhere that mice cannot get into it. You will want to make sure any cat used for mousing is vaccinated and dewormed regularly, as mice carry diseases and worms.
I would recommend keeping your new mouser in a small room in your house at first, then allow it to explore the rest of the home after it has relaxed. This is especially important if you get a kitten, as finding the litter box can be tricky for the first while. Play with your kitten to encourage its prey drive. If you intend to let it out, wait until it is spayed or neutered first. With millions of kittens euthanized every year there is no reason to allow yours to breed. House mice are most active at night so if you want to control mice indoors, make sure your cat is inside at night. Garden mice are active in both the day and the night.
Declawed cats can catch mice, but should never be allowed outdoors. Of course sometimes the declaw makes a cats paws hurt, so it will not have interest in play or catching mice. As such it is better to keep a cats claws intact, if clawing is going to be a concern, invest in cat scratch posts, and cat claw protectors.
Do not use mouse or rat poison if you have a cat. This should be obvious, but oddly isn’t.
If your cat brings you the gift of dead mice, the best way to dispose of them is by sealing them in a plastic bag and putting in the garbage, or better yet, by burning them.
A playful kitten, will make a good mouser, just remember it should also be a well cared for pet. Photo from Wikimedia