Should indoor cats be given live mice or entertainment?

We at Petplace receive lots of great questions and comments that make us think and some of them really stretch and challenge us.
Recently, Dr. Debra was asked this question from one of our Petplace subscribers – Is it safe to give a cat a life mouse to play with?
The exact question was:

Dr. Debra – my cat likes to play. Is it safe to give my cat a live mouse to play with periodically (and even eat if he wants). My cats name is Sammy and I think he might enjoy this maybe once a week or so. He is a 2-year-old indoor cat and I think he might enjoy the real cat and mouse game! I can buy mice pretty cheap at the local pet store.
Bill.

This question really made us uncomfortable. We realize in nature that cats hunt, play with, sometimes torture and eat their prey. But that is nature. Somehow it seems different in the natural habitat that in our homes. Or is it?

So Dr. Debra asked for your help by sending you a survey. Dr. Debra told Bill that I preferred that he played with his cat with cat toys. There are some great cat toys in the market today; there truly is something for every type of cat out there. We have a very good article titled ” How to Determine Your Cats Play Preference”. This article will help you figure out what type of play your cat likes best. Some cats like to chase bugs – and we call them “buggers”. Some cats like to track bird motions and we call them “birders”. Some cats like to stock and tumble as though stocking mice – we call them “mousers”. There are different types of toys that each group responds to.

The results were as follows:

  • Of those of you that responded – 97.6% of you have cats, 1.8% didn’t currently have cats but had an opinion on this topic.
  • 73.4 % of you had indoor only cats and 27.4% had indoor only cats.
  • Then the big question – Do you think an indoor cat be given live mice for entertainment?

    93.5 % said NO! 3% said yes.

    Those that responded no – 90% said they did not think it was ethical to cause needless pain, suffering and fear to a mouse for a cats entertainment, 47.5% worried that the mouse could be sick and hurt the cat and 30% worried that they mouse could bite and physically injury the cat.

  • We had many great comments – including:

  • The person who asked this question is a moronic idiot!
  • I believe that there are plenty of cat toys available that can mimic the “cat and mouse” game. In nature, the cat would probably eat the mouse for survival, but I think it is inhumane to “serve” a mouse to a cat for play.
  • I have had mice, birds and cats all at the same time as pets. I would never think of feeding one of my pets to another pet. That is just sick!
  • As long as you don’t injure the mouse so that it has a fair chance, I don’t see anything wrong with it. At least it has a chance to escape. It’s more humane than throwing a mouse in a tank with a snake!
  • The mice in pet stores are met to be sold as pets. They are bred to be tame and to exhibit loving characteristics. To me, this is no different than game preserves where hunters are allowed to take potshots at tame or elderly animals!
  • This guy who wants to give his cat a live mouse just loves his cat very much! He thinks that he is torturing his precious cat by not giving him what he could’ve had outdoors.
  • His idea is analogous to the extremely wicked practice of allowing humans to “hunt” at farms at which elk or deer are kept corralled or even tied up to make sure that the “hunter” cannot fail to make “his” kill. This is a disgusting practice. I am a hunter myself, but that kind of hunting is beyond conscience. If my little puss should bag a bird or a mouse when we are outside in our garden, more power to her. This accords with the laws and customs of her kind in the natural world. But if I bought poor wee mice and brought them home for her, I would be, in effect “stocking” these mice for her, as money-making persons stock elk and deer for cruel and lazy people who want to claim the honor of hunting without doing the work. This should not on any account be considered. Thank you. JAH
  • Hope he doesn’t decide to get a dog…to kill the cat!
  • It is cruel to the mouse. I’ve seen it happen outside and it is very upsetting to see. Why would I want that in my house? It is just CRUEL, not to mention the mess and dirt and germs introduced by a mouse running around. HORRORS!
  • I understand in nature cats may chase, play and eat mice. But it is extremely unethical to bring a mouse into the house for the cats entertainment. Other animals eat and chase cats in nature but we should not bring a cat to a pit bull for entertainment. It’s just wrong.
  • I think the whole idea of doing such a thing is sickening and disgusting
  • That person is sick.
  • No I don’t think it’s o.k. to get a live mouse for a cat to kill. Cats that hunt for their prey are exercising an age old instinct to track , hunt, kill and eat their prey or give them to you as a gift. Handing over a captive mouse to a cat to play with and eat is just satisfying some sicko’s perverted fascination with watching a defenseless creature be tortured to d
  • Why kill an animal for self entertainment. The cat has an endless supply of food, therefore the mouse would probably just be a toy and suffer. Y do cats HUNT mice???? 2 eat 4 food. Food 4 thought: He is an idiot.
  • I’m wondering if some people should have pets
  • The mouse could get into a small place and die; seems to me, it would be inviting other pests and/or disease.
  • Bill is crazy. It’s awful to do such a think to a mouse!!! How would he feel if someone bought a cat to feed to their pet Racoon!
  • Knowing my cat as I do, I watched her actually hunt live mice in my home. I have never seen her so excited or “happy” with a purchased toy. The only thing that holds me back from actually buying her mice to play with are these two things: I have children with softer sensibilities and, what if the little bugger escapes? Are traps any kinder? And finally, don’t some feed live mice to snakes? Isn’t that possible torture, knowing they will possibly run around that tank in terror, hopping hopelessly towards unattainable freedom, as the snake slowly slithers their way, in hopes of a warm meal?
  • Perhaps this owner should allow his cat outside if he wants the “real” cat & mouse game
  • It is a cat’s nature to chase things especially mice. If he catches one in the house it is okay but I don’t we should purchase mice just for them to play with. That is harsh and cruel to the mouse and doesn’t really help the cat hone his expertise in catching, playing and killing mice.
  • I have three indoor only cats and I DO NOT go out and get them live mice to play with. However, if one comes into the house, then they are on “Mouse Patrol” until that mouse is caught, played with to death and eradicated from the premises. This is natural, but going out and getting a live mouse for them to play with, I don’t think so.
  • If you have a cat as a pet then they shouldn’t be given live prey to play with. If an abandoned or stray cat catches and eats a mouse in the wild they do that to survive. Feeding a domesticated cat live mice or even allowing them to “play” with a live mouse is just cruel for the mouse. As pet owners, it should be our responsibility to provide food and toys to our pets and live prey isn’t the proper way to do so.
  • I think the cat owner is cruel and sick to watch it!
  • This sounds cruel to me, and if children are involved watching this, it might make them treat animals poorly later in life. In “nature”, this is the way an animal would find food to eat — with an indoor cat that is well fed, the only word I can use for this would be cruel. I would question the owners’ desire to watch this and also call it “entertainment”.
  • I don’t think it is sanitary.
  • I was saddened to read that Bill would even question this. Maybe we should ask Bill if he would like to see his cat be chased and eaten (if it so chooses) by a dog.
  • This is why stores sell cat toys!!!
  • Our cat, Cali, used to be indoor/outdoor. She loved to hunt mice and bring them home alive. I typically praised her and then released the mouse out of Cali’ sight. One time I let her keep the mouse for three days on the screened patio. She played with the mouse often. I finally released the mouse as a prisoner of war. For some reason our big male cat, Arnold, did not grab Cali’s mouse and eat it. I never had a problem with our cats catching a wild mouse and eating their prey. Arnold is now at rest and Cali is an indoor cat. Cali has a realistic mouse that has a battery operated squeaker. She stays inside to avoid the coyotes that now plague SW Florida. They are attacking dogs on leashes and killing cats.
  • A bizarre question from cat owner (and presumed animal lover) Bill. In fact, although my cat is not a great hunter by any means, I have always endeavored to take any prey away from him before it is injured and release it safely at a good distance. The only thing I have allowed my cat to keep when it is caught is the occasional grasshopper. He seems to enjoy eating them very much, and I have been told that they taste like shrimp!
  • I can understand wanting to stimulate your cat – but given the fact that mice are not needed for food as you would for a snake, it is cruel to put a living thing (even a little mouse) through torture just for fun. My cat caught a wild mouse in our house, and while she was having a good time, it was really traumatic for me to watch and to try & get the mouse away form her. There are so many ways to play with a cat other than this. Get a furry mouse, and tie a line to it’s tail & you can mimic the same thing. Just my 2 cents
  • I knew of a case where a person bought a cat from a pet store and the cat became sick and was found to have rodent tape worms. It seems the cat who was roaming free in the pet store broke into a cage containing mice and ate several. This was where the rodent tape worms came from. The cat was treated and was okay but there was the expense of the vet , why would you put your cat at risk.
  • That guy must be loony tunes ! you should have informed him that ,his Sammy was no longer in the Wild and did not need to hunt for prey and kicks .Dr I am 79 yrs old and have had cats all my life ,I recently lost my 19 yr old Honey Bunny, Still have a 6yr old and one 14 yrs , my Family are all Cat Lovers including my Great Grand babies;
  • I have nothing at all against domestic cats catching, playing with and even eating mice. That is nature. When I was growing up on the farm, this happened all the time with out cats. They stayed almost exclusively outdoors or in the barn. They kept the rodent population on our farm in check. When we had a mouse problem in the house we, even brought them into the house to get rid of the mice. One cat that became mostly a house cat, but did spend a lot of times outdoors, never hunted mice. We fed him more on a regular basis than the other cats. As a very young kitten he was injured by a cow, and my dad fixed his leg. During his recovery, he became more of a house cat than a barn cat.

    However, being exclusively indoor cats, this is sick. There are plenty of toys that even look like mice that your cat will have lots of fun with. My two can even have fun by themselves, with certain inanimate toys, when they want to. There are mechanical toys, ones that may require batteries, and even that laser light toy is great for cats. Leave live mice to outdoor cats and let indoor cats play with other toys, the way it is meant to be.

  • I was floored by the question. Some creature in captivity need live prey, I am aware of that. But a cat is a domestic animal, if that person feels the cat needs more entertainment, let him go outside and catch a mouse that would have a chance to escape. Get him/she a companion, more toys, something… There is something perverse about the concept.

    I suggest that every cat lover take a moment to read this article. Go to: Cat Toys – Selecting the Right Toys for Your Cats Play Preference.

    If you would like to take the survey – go to Should Cats Be Given Live Mice for Entertainment?

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