Help Tom catch Jerry
October 23, 2006 7:34 AM   Subscribe

How do I turn this into a brutal, relentless mouse killing machine?

To be fair, that picture was taken almost two months ago, which makes kitty ~4 months old, meaning that I think it's time for rescued kitty to start pulling her weight around here.

Currently, the cat sleeps with my wife and me, or our daughter, and doesn't seem to show any interest in mousing. However, we don't think she's seen one yet. She's very frisky, and seems like a natural hunter -- we found her on the L.I.E in the pouring rain of all places, so she's definitely tough beans.

Anyway, we live in a small two bedroom, and mice seem to originate in the kitchen. It's not infested, but it's enough to be bothersome. Our idea is to get the kitty a nice bed in the kitchen for a while so she can keep guard at night, at least until she links mouse rustling to something killable.

Is it too early to expect her to be a cold-blooded hunter?

Is there any sort of kitty psych 101 that I should know about -- am I going to give kitty some sort of kitty complex by kicking her out of our bed too soon?

What else can I do to make Master Meshu Meshola a brutal, relentless mouse killing machine without destroying her ability to take impossibly cute pictures like this? Can I have my cake and eat it too?
posted by milarepa to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
She'll get with the program soon enough. You could also try buying a pet-store mouse and seeing what she does with it. I'm betting that she doesn't befriend it...
posted by The Michael The at 7:38 AM on October 23, 2006

Cats come in all varieties - take, for example, the three cats that belong to my mom and dad.

Cat 1 : 1 year old, both eyes surgically removed due to infection (before they had her!). Current mouse kill count : 7. Flies killed : 3.

Cat 2 : Grey point Siamese. Once actually had a mouse run over his paw, and he did nothing. Mouse count : -1.

Cat 3 : Outside cat, 18+ years old. Mouse count : gazillions.

That's why they say, "That cat's from a family of good mousers." They're either born with it, or they're not. You also might find that your cat simply thinks the mouse is an interesting toy, and will toss/play with it for as long as the mouse's heart can stand it.

Your cat (so cute!) looks like he's just a regular old mixed breed, so I suspect he has a better chance of being a mouse killer. I have no scientific data to back this up, just knowledge of all the cats my family had over the years.
posted by Liosliath at 7:48 AM on October 23, 2006 [3 favorites]

Some cats are natural mousers and some could care less. Most go through a trial and error period and some emerge as killing machines. Younger cats have a better chance of learning to stalk and kill mice if they are exposed to the expertise of skilled older cats. Do you have any friends with good mousers that get along well with other cats? It might not be a bad idea to borrow it for a few weeks and see if your kitten learns anything.
posted by Alison at 7:55 AM on October 23, 2006

Of cats I've had, some did seem to be natural born hunters.

However, from the nurture side of the spectrum:

My recollection is that Skinner starved his subjects to 75% body weight, and they were much more motivated to do actions like press the lever to get the food pellet.

Which is not to say starve your cat, but it does seem that those cats who had a full bowl all the time seem less interested in pursuit and more in cuddling.
posted by dragonsi55 at 7:59 AM on October 23, 2006

I have 2 cats, sisters from the same litter. One is a mouser, one isn't. On the plus side, mice are actually not that dumb--they know when there's a cat in the place and will probably start avoiding it. When I lived in Sunset Park the apartments above and below me had mice; I only ever saw one in my apartment (which the cat mercilessly toyed with until we caught it and put it out of its misery.)
posted by miss tea at 8:06 AM on October 23, 2006

The mouse police never sleep. Lock her in the kitchen overnight until she produces the lovely gift of a half eaten mouse. And as mentioned above don't be worried if she never produces the corpse. Mice aren't all stupid.
posted by Gungho at 8:10 AM on October 23, 2006

As mentioned above, you may want to begin training with a toy mouse. Another option would be to introduce a toy catnip mouse along with the other one, possibly to suggest "play" may be associated with "mouse" at some point. Then "play" can turn into "mauling"... you get the picture.
One word on temperment: a female alley cat adopted me a few years ago and would routinely present me with a variety of dead "treasures" - birds, lizards, mice, large bugs, etc all from the empty field and garden next door. My previously lazy, indoor Burmese (not to be outdone) started going out to find treasures in competition to the alley cat. They were both smart enough to never eat, (only kill) and I would caution you against letting your kitty eat anything she kills, they may not be safe.
posted by Carnage Asada at 8:41 AM on October 23, 2006

Personalities aside, it would make sense that a cat given two square meals a day might develop less of the hunting instinct that a cat left to fend for itself would, so it seems to me that the best hunters are shopcats.
posted by sneakyalien at 8:49 AM on October 23, 2006

No amount of feeding has ever subdued my kitty's urge to kill! KILL! KIIIIILLLLLL!
posted by Sara Anne at 8:56 AM on October 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

I want to plug in of the side of nurture. Get that cat a mentor! Our two cats are both adept killing machines but have turned their attention mostly to the avian world as land based prey is mostly lacking.
Grace was well raised by her mom and seems to have always known what to do. She disdains cat toys. You can almost see her realize, "It doesn't, crawl, bleed are make pitiful noises. What's the point?" She is and has always been a sweetheart. Cute and lethal. She prefers to snack on squishy land based morsels under the bed in the middle of the night.
Hanu is pushy but clueless. From a broken home. Took her forever to figure it out. Grace never liked her so she had to learn by watching from a distance. Now, at the ripe old age of 5 she is decimating the pigeon population in these parts and leaving some parts and the feathers in the den.
posted by pointilist at 8:58 AM on October 23, 2006

Cats are born with the instinct to hunt, but it's through nurture from their mother that they learn the skill. If your rescue kitten had a mother who was a hunter and was with her long enough to learn the techniques, she will probably take up some mouse murdering as a hobby quite naturally. As your kitten is a rescue, it probably isn't possible to find out if the mother was a killer.

Mother cats teach their young to hunt by bringing back live small prey to the kitten nest, usually starting with creatures like grasshoppers, beetles. worms etc, then moving up a scale to intentionally disabled small rodents and birds. The kittens learn to hunt through this play.

Don't keep your cat hungry, a well fed 'hunter' is just as likely to kill mice as a starving one. There is little evidence from modern cat behaviourists that a hungry cat will hunt more often or more successfully than a well fed one. Skinner's experiment did not emulate the hunting sequence in any way.

Successful mousing is all down to the skills the cat learned from its mother. Some kittens are taken away from their hunting mother too soon to have got the knack of the whole stalking/ hunting skill set, but may learn the kill part themselves or by watching other cats hunting. You can try to encourage the stalking, creeping, pouncing behaviour by playing with your kitten with mouse toys on string. Cats are particularly good at seeing very small movements. A still but trembling beastie is a good cue for a cat to pounce.

If your kitten was from a non-hunting mother or taken from her below the age of about 5 weeks it's not looking too good for a career as a killer. However, the minute we think we have a cat sussed, they often surprise us.

If you try and pressure her into hunting activity, you may put her off it forever, so tread very carefully. Avoid constantly plonking her down infront of known mouse holes. It's usually far more effective to just allow the cat to find it's own way with something as instinct based as hunting.

If she does develop into a hunter, don't get upset when she plays with the prey until it is broken and half dead before she delivers the final bite. This isn't either of the human constructs of torment and torture, it's the cat ensuring there is no danger from the prey before putting its own face close to deliver the bite of death. The cat is avoiding leaving its face vulnerable to tiny but sharp mouse teeth/claws and bird beaks/claws. The cat may not ever learn the kill part either and be ever content to bat the mangled creature around until it gives up the ghost from trauma and shock.

Let her sleep in your bed or her bed. Pets pull their weight around the home not just by 'working' for their living. Their companionship and trust is worth far more than their perceived value as a work animal. She'll be far more effective as a mouser if she decides to be one herself.

Good luck and enjoy her :)
posted by Arqa at 9:00 AM on October 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

Both our cats prefer to hunt on a full stomach.
posted by pointilist at 9:02 AM on October 23, 2006

We have an excellent mouser, so I'll throw in my 2 cents.

In my experience, you have either a good mouser, or a good pet. I suppose there's a continuum, but a sweet, cuddly kittycat won't be a good killing machine, and vice versa. Our cat, Freak, is nice enough, and will sit on my wife's lap occasionally, but he's as much livestock as a pet. I believe a certain amount of wildness is necessary if the cat is going to be expected to be on the prowl. Of course, he also needs to be tame enough so that he knows where home is and will stick around.

We have a cat door, and, of course, we do provide food and water indoors, but we do not keep a litter box, so Freak must go out doors. He is very prone to biting and scratching if he's not happy with the way he's handled; I've disciplined him somewhat so that he doesn't lash out without warning, but, again, he needs to be a bit mean if he's going to be expected to face-off with a city rat.

He does do an excellent job on the mice. Our neighbors had mouse traps around their back door when we moved in; the traps are gone now, I've noticed. He does occasionally bring us a "present"; it's important not to scold him for that, since it's all part of the socialization of a true predator. He also doesn't discriminate, and will kill any bird that he can get ahold of. We're not happy about that, but, again, it's part of the package.

He's spayed and up to date on his shots, and we do pet him and scratch behind his ears when he lets us. But he's mostly about the business of hunting and killing, and I think that's what you need.

Just my opinion, of course. It looks like others have had better luck with having mousers be good pets, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:35 AM on October 23, 2006

In my opinion, you don't really need to do much of anything. Well, make sure you play with the cat a lot to keep it's instincts sharp and ready to go. Laser pointers will keep the little fella jumping all around and sharp, as well as stuff tied to the end of sticks and things like that.

The thing about cats is, even though they like to sleep all day and even though kittens can be the cutest things ever [cue some scary music here] they are born killers!.

Cat's are instinctively hunters. If they see a mouse, they will take it out with their deadly pouncing! If a bird happens to come near them they will thrash it to pieces with their deadly claws! Umm... if a fly decides to incade their airspace, they will decapitate it with their razor-sharp teeth!

Born killers I tell you. Killers.
posted by punkrockrat at 9:52 AM on October 23, 2006

From what I've read, it seems completely random as to whether or not a cat will hunt mice or not.

In my personal experience (I currently live with several cats), the day before I got my first cat was the last day I ever saw evidence of mice in my apartment. As it gets colder this winter, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few mice try to move in, but at the very least I'm convinced my cats would "play" with a mouse to death.

That said, they work as great bug spotters, but aside from softly touching the bugs with their paws, they never go in for the kill.
posted by drezdn at 10:10 AM on October 23, 2006

If your cat loves to pounce and claw at your wiggling toes through a blanket, you may already have a mouser (although my mouser much preferred birds). If its willing to play-wrestle with your hand or arm, it's a mouser. If you've ever seen the KILL KILL KILL face (eyes wide, ears back, teeth bared) during play, you have a mouser. All it needs now is some alone time and some helpless bugs to give it a taste for blood.

If your cat doesn't exhibit the above signs, then I'd introduce a well-known mouser to the house for a while, I guess.
posted by muddgirl at 10:18 AM on October 23, 2006

Oh, and after the first kill or near-kill - if the cat lays it out and starts meowing or purring over it, make sure you praise and pet your cat, then pick up the offering and dispose of it. That means your alpha-kitty, and the rat killing will continue.
posted by muddgirl at 10:21 AM on October 23, 2006

These little dudes come in packs of 6 or 9. We keep a constant supply on hand as our kitties tend to want to chase them under the fridge. Also, tiny kittens prefer to chase bugs. They will work up to larger game once they are older and more confident about their abilities.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:30 AM on October 23, 2006

How does a totally blind-from-infancy cat get around, let alone kill anything?
posted by davy at 11:16 AM on October 23, 2006

davy, it is possible remove an eye and not remove an eye... it is possible (at least with humans, as I've had it done) to remove the eye from the socket without severing the optic nerve, and then put it back in during surgery. At least, thats what I assume Liosliath is referring to.
posted by edgeways at 12:48 PM on October 23, 2006

Davy, guess that was addressed at me...the cat, Yessica, was born on my brother's girlfriend's farm. They let their cats breed willy-nilly, and don't pay much attention to the kittens, so she developed an extremely serious eye infection in both eyes. When he rescued her, her eyes were bugging out like...I can't even describe how horrible it looked. Anyway, despite all sorts of treatment at the vet, both eyes eventually had to be removed. He said that due to the eye infections, she never had much vision, at most 10%.

Fast forward to today. Dad has given her a little training - "Whoa" tells her to stop if she's about to crash into something, but the rest of it has been all her. I suspect that her other senses are making up for her loss of vision. He even takes her outside for exercise, and she darts all over the yard, leaps up at bugs in the air, and comes flying directly to him when he calls. He watched her catch a mouse once, she crouched patiently for what seemed like forever, and then made a lightning fast pounce. When she turned back around, she had the mouse firmly clenched in her little fangs. It's pretty amazing, and we never get tired of watching her.

Her only problem seems to be with other animals - she can't see their visual clues. My cat tried to make friendly overtures by rolling around on the floor and exposing his (rather fat) belly, and she was totally oblivious. She's also accidentally bowled over the outside cat in one of her mad dashes across the lawn - the outside cat was totally shocked and appalled.
posted by Liosliath at 1:00 PM on October 23, 2006 [3 favorites]

Edgeways, nope, the eyes were removed. They packed the socket (so her eyelids wouldn't sink in later and look weird) and then sewed the lids shut. It just looks like she has her eyes closed.

Both eyes had burst, so they couldn't be saved - believe me, we tried.
posted by Liosliath at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2006

Of the three cats I know that didn't have a hunting parent cat to teach them to hunt, it normally took about three years before their hunting skills developed to the point where they could catch a mouse - and longer still to become any good at it. And this learning curve was likely only possible because they were able to spend half their days outdoors, where there is no shortage of things to stalk unsuccessfully.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:22 PM on October 23, 2006

Best answer: i found my cat in my front yard 4 years ago, a refuge from the nearby humane society. (Someone had just left the box of kittens outside while the HS was closed and she had wandered to my front porche) For the first 3.5 years of her life she never saw a mouse. Recently we moved to a house that's semi-infested with mice and the cat had nothing to do with it - completely unaware or disinterested. I was using traps to catch the darn things. One day I let her see and smell a dead mouse and since then she's catching a mouse a month, though, not nesecarilly killing them.

Let her smell a mouse, it worked for me.
posted by starr226 at 4:52 PM on October 23, 2006

The only thing I can think of is make it live on the streets. We have two cats, one raised from a kitten, the other a shelter cat we got at 6 months. The latter is the killer (4 mice so far, and innumerable flies). The former just watches the mice unsure of what to do, like those synapses of his died long ago. She's also the younger one though, so youth may be on your side.

I think you can't MAKE cats be anything. They are what they are (and I think that's what makes them admirable). But starr226's suggestion sounds plausible enough. I'm also going to suggest feeder mice.

Our idea is to get the kitty a nice bed in the kitchen for a while so she can keep guard at night, at least until she links mouse rustling to something killable.

I just want to mention, have you seen the nightmare posts from people who have locked their cats out of their bedrooms at night? The scratching, the destruction, the yowls? You might not want to invite that kind of behavior. Your kitten is going to take a couple of years to calm down, it's par for the course.

but a sweet, cuddly kittycat won't be a good killing machine, and vice versa.

I have to disagree here. Our killer is the sweetest, cuddliest, thick-furrrred russian blue. She doesn't have an agressive bone in her body, she craves love always and is so loving in return. But she is also crazy and wild and carries things around the house crying, like stuffed animals and clothing. The lazy one is the aloof one, the biter, basically thinks he's human.
posted by scazza at 2:11 PM on October 24, 2006

« Older LED replacement for bike light bulb   |   Peacenik gift for future soldiers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.