Do Cats Eat Mice? All About Mice Predators

Mice are rodents, belonging to the order Rodentia. They occupy niches low on the food chain due to their size and diet.

All mice are fairly small, with the smallest, the pygmy mouse, weighing between 3 and 12 grams. The largest may be the Gough Island house mice, with a maximum weight of 35 grams. This leaves them with a plethora of natural enemies (e.g., birds, reptiles, larger mammals), which help to prevent overpopulation, habitat destruction, and the spread of disease.

Famous research between the 1950s and 1970s showed that mouse populations in the absence of predators grow wildly out of control and would deplete the resources of a natural environment. 

Predators and, more broadly, competition, are essential for proper ecosystem functioning. So are the roles mice play.

In addition to serving as prey, they aid in the dispersal of seeds and help control insects and vegetation. In this article, we will cover some of the primary predators that help keep mice populations in check.

What animals eat mice?

Felines

As is well-known, cats do indeed eat mice. Whether a domesticated house cat or a fearsome wild leopard, most feline species are known to prey on mice. Small cat species, such as bobcats, rely somewhat more heavily on mice and other small rodents than larger species like leopards.

Just the smell of cats (or other predators) produces a strong stress response in mice, akin to human post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This response occurred even if a mouse had never encountered a cat before.

Canines

Canines are also known to prey on mice, though the relationship isn’t as familiar to us as that between cats and mice. Like with felines, smaller canine species such as foxes and jackals, tend to rely more heavily on mice for their diet than do larger species.

Foxes can even hear mice scuffling beneath thick layers of ice and snow from 25 feet away, stalk silently towards them, and then dive quickly through several feet of snow to catch their prey.

Wolves will also eat mice, particularly when larger prey is scarce. And they often use small creatures like mice and rabbits to teach their rowdy, inexperienced pups how to hunt. Your pet dog may also catch and kill mice.

Birds

Birds are a primary predator of mice, perhaps more so than cats. Specifically, predatory birds such as owls, hawks, falcons, kites, and kestrels depend on mice and other small prey animals in order to survive.

Owls are the birds that predate most predominantly on mice – this is mainly because both mice and owls are nocturnal.

Similar to their fear of cats, mice exhibit defensive behavior when they hear the call of an owl.

Others

Other common mouse predators include reptiles, amphibians, and other small- or medium-sized mammals. Snakes will readily consume mice and some frog and lizard species may also eat mice, if they are small enough.

In addition, mustelids such as weasels, mink, and martens rely heavily on small rodents like mice for their diet. And occasionally rats and even other mice will eat their own kind if food is scarce or they are viewed as a threat.

Even scorpions have been known to prey on mice.

Popular myths about mice predators

One of the most common myths about mice predators is that simply having them around will eliminate your mouse problems.

While the animals listed above will help in reducing mouse populations, unfortunately, once mice have established themselves in your home, you’ll likely need more than just some natural predators to get rid of them and keep them from coming back.

Mice can hide within your home, away from wild predators. They even steal food from dog and cat bowls or live beneath doghouses. Furthermore, mouse infestations can grow so quickly that predators simply can’t keep up.

Another widely known myth is that feral cats are good because they help keep rodents in check.

In addition to the problem with relying on predators, feral cats are actually more of a detriment than a benefit. They themselves breed out of control, roam freely, and damage wild native bird, rodent, reptile, and amphibian populations. Domestic cats living outdoors are also bad for small wild animals. It’s better to keep your cat indoors and get it spayed or neutered.

Setting mouse traps and fixing any holes around the outside of your home can go a long way towards treating current infestations and preventing future ones.

Some predators are simply disliked. Snakes, for example, are vilified by many. However, native snakes are effective rodent predators and can prevent the spread of some diseases and parasites spread by small mammals.

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