Need a cute killing machine.
November 27, 2012 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a new kitten. Difficulty: mice.

I have always had cats, mostly strays or from shelters. I am looking to get two kittens (probably two sisters if I can manage it) in January. I am considering going to a breeder for Norwegian Forest Cats, but I am somewhat anti-breeder and pro-shelter. We have no pets now (we left our dear cat in good hands in New York when we left).

We live in the Netherlands now, and the important bit is: we just moved into our new house and already have mice problems. I need a mouser. Or two.

I'm looking for breed or kitten training suggestions to make All The Mice Die.
posted by digitalprimate to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, kittens who were taken in along with their feral mama after they would have had some hunting instruction (so, say, 5 or so weeks?) have been the best mousers (and birds, lizards, what have you). A little wildness in one helps a lot here.

I've only met one Norwegian Forest Cat, and though he was very sweet he was the furthest thing from a mouser I've ever seen.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:14 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your best bet is to check with local farmers: barn cats are the best mousers. And they probably have at least one to spare! Considering you just moved, maybe call your local grain elevator (do they have those in the Netherlands? hmmm....), feed lot, or such and they might know someone you can contact or you could probably put a notice up on their bulletin board.
posted by Eicats at 12:19 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I really think it's a crap shoot - you just never know what you're going to get, in terms of mousing. We adopted a rescue who had been separated from her mom way too early. She weighed less than 1 pound when we got her. She is a stone cold killer.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:21 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have two Siberian Forest Cats (which are close to Norwegian Forest Cats but not the same thing). They (as a breed) are the sweetest, most beautiful, and most affectionate cats I've ever seen. My cats came from a breeder. One loves playing all sorts of hunting games and is very good at them. The other one just lazily bats at things, mostly ineffectually. So you're probably better off getting a rescue cat that's known to hunt.
posted by ethidda at 12:23 PM on November 27, 2012

I really think it's a crap shoot - you just never know what you're going to get, in terms of mousing.

Seconding this. To compare two cats my parents have had: One spent almost his whole life without front claws and never, ever played any games at all; would not chase so much as a string. He also stalked, pursued, caught, and dismembered absolutely every mouse and chipmunk and god knows what else that got into the house, with an almost professional efficiency. The other is playful, hunts everything she possibly can (papers, strings, etc) and cannot handle an actual live mouse under any conditions.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:25 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thirding the "it's a crap shoot." I don't know too much about my cat's kittenhood, but from what I understand he was PREY rather than predator (he shared the house with two big dogs). Despite that, he turned out to be such a good mouser that I had friends ask to borrow him for a few days while they were waiting for an exterminator to show up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's a crap shoot, but I do think certain breeds make better hunters than others. Siamese cats, for instance, are generally curious and assertive, while Ragdolls are bred for passivity.

If you are looking for a similar type to a Norwegian Forest Cat, I'd suggest a Maine Coon. Every Maine Coon I've ever owned or known of has been a serious mouser. Ours, a big furry purring machine who generally runs and hides at the slightest noise and has to be coaxed out of our bedroom when friends come to visit, has also, without a qualm, viciously drowned blind mole rats in our swimming pool (he is fascinated by water).

Cats are weird.
posted by misha at 12:40 PM on November 27, 2012

It's a crapshoot. My rescue cat was apparently a stray loves to catch, but not always kill, mice. My folks had a succession of pedigree Siamese that were inveterate mice killers.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:41 PM on November 27, 2012

Adding another voice to "it's a crap shoot"

My mother's cat was born behind an office building and until she was 2 years old, would hardly allow anyone to touch her. Patches is indoor/outdoor and regularly leaves chipmunk, squirrel and bird bits on the porch.

Last year, there was an infiltration of mice in the house until glue traps and D-con were implemented in a strategic counterattack. We're not sure if Patches thought the house wasn't part of her patrol area or what but she sat passively on my lap one night when a Scout Mouse made an appearance in the den and that cat didn't move an inch.

To add more ammo to the crap shoot scenario, despite Patches being a proven squirrel killer, the little bastards still managed to eat their way through 5 different lighting harnesses in 2 months on a Honda Minivan parked right outside the front door ($6K worth of damage)
posted by jaimystery at 12:50 PM on November 27, 2012

So, um, did anyone mention it's a crapshoot? Because it totally is (I have all kinds of anecdotes too but I think you're getting the picture by now).

Get cats that you like and hope that the smell of them helps keep the mice at arms length.
posted by shelleycat at 1:01 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cat is of a breed known for laziness and docility and is a great mouser. (Luckily I no longer have a mouse problem.) Crapshoot, but two kitties up the odds a bit.
posted by shownomercy at 1:04 PM on November 27, 2012

We always got barn cats when I was a kid -- the mothers teach the kittens to hunt.

I have two male 1/2 Maine Coons. One sits there and watches, he is a butterscotch tabby and they are known to love eating and laying around. The other is part short hair black & grey tabby and he hunts like nuts (he is also from a breeder and body style resembles a Bengal). Picked up a 3-colored female kitten in the country last Spring and our mouse hunter taught her, but pretty sure she had the mousing gene already. When she was 3-4 months old, she got a mouse and growled at my husband when he tried to take it from her. Now gets them on a regular basis and I have to let her play a while before I can scoop 'em up and throw them in the woods.

So yes, it's a crap shoot, but the two mousers we have are very inquisitive and active (also prone to knocking things down). One thing I have always done with kittens is teach them fetch with milk rings and small toys. After that they get a treat so it's kind of like hunting.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 1:10 PM on November 27, 2012

Yes it's a crap shoot, but that's why you have to get barn cats! I couldn't be more serious about this. They usually aren't fed cat food like regular pet cats—they have to learn to hunt for themselves. Just don't get a brand new kitten that hasn't been taught to hunt by its mother yet.
posted by Eicats at 1:20 PM on November 27, 2012

...oh, and once you get said cat, don't put out a lot of food for it and lock it in the pantry overnight right away (or whatever room you are positive the mice will be roaming about). That way you make sure the cat knows mice = food and won't rely on your bag of cat food. At least until the mice problem is taken down a notch or two. (but of course, provide water! ...and some other food in another room; I'm not suggesting you starve the new kitty)
posted by Eicats at 1:23 PM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: While it is a crap shoot, usually just having a cat or two in the house will deter mice (regardless of the cat's mouse hunting tendencies). We had a massive mouse infestation a few years ago. Then we got cats (first my roomie's, now my boyfriend and I's). I've never seen any of the cats that have lived here kill a mouse or leave a body behind. I also haven't seen a mouse more than once in the last 3 years. I think the cat's presence alone does wonders to deter mice.
posted by picklesthezombie at 1:27 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

We had a wee beastie raid our pantry. Yuk!

Then we adopted Eartha and Malcolm. Their Mommy was sort of ferral.

After the kittens were born, they were brought inside with their Mom and were kept in a bathtub until we adopted them at around 10 weeks old.

These kitties love to hunt. The mousie came in one day and when he saw Malcolm's Wolverine claws turned right around and left, never to be seen again.

Our kitties stalk an occasional bug that gets in the house, and spend hours staring out the arcadia door at the critters in the backyard, licking their chops.

So total crapshoot, but two cats in the house, will make it very unpleasant for mice.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:37 PM on November 27, 2012

Another thing to consider--just having a cat, any cat whether it's a stone cold killer or a slovenly couch potato, will deter mice. Mice instinctively fear cats and the odor is enough to scare them away*.

* unless the mouse is infected with Toxoplasma gondii, in which case the parasite will cause the mouse to lose its sense of self-preservation to further the spread of the parasite.
posted by mullingitover at 2:59 PM on November 27, 2012

I'm sure this is not at all scientific, but every tabby cat I know is a good mouser. So get a kitty who looks like mine.

For what it's worth, mine was separated from her mother way too early, and certainly did not learn to hunt from other cats. She showed a lot of interest in chasing and pouncing on toys, and caught her first mouse when only around 3 months old. At first she had no idea about killing and eating it, and just played with the damn things. It took her another three or four months to figure out the eating bit. Now she catches mice and rats three or four times a week, kills them instantly (weirdly, by jumping up and down on them) and wolfs them down within minutes.
posted by lollusc at 5:21 PM on November 27, 2012

Another vote for keep your cat lean. Not underfed, a healthy cat is a better hunter, but definitely not fat like ours. She still catches the mice. And brings them inside. She just doesn't bother to kill them. (Also another vote for a rescued feral, her killing instincts are right on when my grandfather can be convinced to stop topping up her food dish all the time.)
posted by anaelith at 6:02 AM on November 28, 2012

Nthing the 'it's a crapshoot' answer. However, you can encourage hunting behaviour during lots of play sessions with fake mice, balls of paper, etc. You can teach them, if their mom didn't do the best job of it.

There is a risk for transmission of tapeworms, salmonella, toxoplasmosis, mites, etc., so make sure the kitties are properly deflead/dewormed and vetted when needed.

Also, if there is a chance the mouse can ingest poison from somewhere, your cats run the risk of ingesting it also if it noms on it.
posted by wennj at 8:31 AM on November 29, 2012

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