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How to Stop a Cat From Bringing Dead Mice Home

Nicole Cosgrove

July 6, 2021

Cats are natural predators. In the wild, they would hunt small rodents, small animals, and small birds. They would watch, stalk, jump, and kill their prey. While you might provide them with two square meals a day, regular treats, and plenty of time and attention with a fake bird on a piece of elastic at home, this isn’t always enough to quell a cat’s instinct to hunt.

If your cat brings you dead or half-dead mice and other animals, it could be for many reasons. However, if you are not enjoying receiving these “gifts,” there are some steps that you can take to minimize how often it happens or even prevent it from happening in the future.

Read on to find out more about this intriguing habit and learn if there is any action you can take to help prevent it.

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Why Does My Cat Keep Bringing Me Dead Animals?

Before you determine the best way to stop your cat from bringing you dead mice, you should determine why it partakes in this funny habit. Nobody really knows what goes through a cat’s mind, but possible reasons for bringing dead mice include:

  • The Thrill Of The Hunt – Cats observe, stalk, pounce, and kill prey in the wild. They are instinctive hunters. Even though the closest your cat has to required hunting is to find the food bowl under the kitchen unit, it is still an instinctive reaction. This is evident in kittens that have never been out of the house but still twitch as they watch birds and other potential prey out of the window. Effectively, your cat might be bringing you dead animals because they can’t help it, it’s instinctual.
  • Safety – If your cat is a natural hunter, and enjoys eating the food it catches, it may simply be looking for the safest place to eat its quarry. If you find prey near the back doorstep or elsewhere around the garden, it could be that your cat is bringing their catch back to a spot where they know they can safely eat it without losing out.
  • Teaching – Your cat probably views you as an inferior hunter. They can catch birds and small animals, but all you can catch is a shopping bag. They may be bringing you dead animals home in a bid to show you how it’s done: as a teaching exercise, rather than as a gift.
  • Gifting – While your cat may not see you as a hunter, they likely see you as a provider because you can make food appear in their bowl. You also give them love and attention when they want it and meet all of your cat’s other requirements. The dead mouse at the door could be your cat’s way of showing you just how grateful they are for your efforts. After all, they went to the effort of stalking and hunting that mouse.
cat carrying a dead mouse
Image Credit: Konyvesotto, Pixabay

Neighbor’s Cat Leaving Dead Animals

Your neighbor’s cat has the same possible motivations for bringing you dead animals. If you have very little to do with the cat, it is more likely that your doorstep was a convenient location and is free from would-be food thieves.

If you feed your neighbor’s cat, they could be repaying a kindness, and if you let them in, they could have recognized your inefficiency as a hunter and are trying to provide you with the essential skills you need.

Stray Cat Leaving Dead Animals

Similarly, a stray cat is leaving food on your doorstep for one of these reasons. Stray cats tend to be more protective over food, and more likely to eat the small animals that they do hunt down. Safety and convenience, therefore, are the most likely. If they are leaving the catch as a gift, remember that stray cats don’t know where their next meal is coming from, so leaving food for you is something of a risk for the cat.

How to Stop A Cat From Bringing A Dead Mouse Home:

If your cat does bring you dead mice, you should avoid the temptation to get mad. You should try to thank the cat for their gift and try the following steps to help, at least, minimize the number of dead mice you are given in the future.

1. A Collar With A Bell

Put a bell on your cat’s neck and it will warn prey when your cat is coming. It essentially removes one of your cat’s greatest weapons: stealth.

When buying any collar for a cat, do remember safety. A rigid collar that sits tightly and securely around the neck can get stuck on branches and other surfaces. This can trap the cat and prevent it from getting home. Worse still, it could tighten and prevent your cat from breathing. Ensure that the collar is quick release.


2. Dictate Time Outdoors

bombay cat_Viktor Sergeevich_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Viktor Sergeevich, Shutterstock

One way to prevent your cat from hunting any prey is to stop them from going outdoors. However, if you still want your cat to enjoy time outside but want to prevent the catching and killing of animals, restrict their time outdoors.

Birds are more prone to attack just before sunset and just after sunrise. They are a little groggy, and their senses are not as keen as at the height of the day, so they are more likely to get pounced on by your cat. Mice tend to come out at night, so this is when they are more prone to being caught by your cat. This is why you are more likely to find a dead mouse on your back doorstep first thing in the morning.

Consider when your cat is bringing gifts most often, and then stop it from spending too much time outdoors during this time. Arrange meal times and activities to encourage your cat to remain at home during these intervals.


3. Don’t Make Easy Prey

Feeding tables and birdbaths are beneficial for wild birds because they provide a regular source of food and somewhere to sit and bathe. They can also be very beneficial to your cat because they provide a guaranteed spot where birds are going to hang out, and where they aren’t necessarily paying attention.

Similarly, feeders may attract other animals, such as mice that eat the remnants of the food that is found on the floor around the base of the feeder. Even if you keep the bird food in a shed or garage, there is a reasonable chance that the mice have found it and your cat has worked out where they are heading.

Put feeders out of the reach of cats, use baths that are not easy for cats to get on, and protect little animals from feline hunters.


4. Play More

domestic shorthair cat biting into a pink ribbon
Image Credit: Carsten Reisinger, Shutterstock

No matter how often and how much you play, your cat may still head out and feast on local wildlife. But if your cat has started bringing a lot of dead animals, it could be that it is catching the mice and other animals simply as a means of entertainment. Even if this isn’t the case, if you play with your cat more, it can sate its feline desires to get out and chase things.

Interactive toys, like the fishing rods with pretend birds on the end of a piece of elastic, are especially appealing to the hunter cat. The movement of the bird mimics the erratic movement of a wild animal, and because the toy is usually plastered in catnip, it will appeal to your pet’s senses.

Laser pointers are another popular toy and they are not only fun for your cat, but very easy for you to play with. You can sit in your favorite chair and gently encourage your cat to burn off energy while charging around the room.


5. Training

This particular option may fall under the heading of “hopeful but unlikely,” but you can train your cat to perform desirable actions and prevent them from performing undesirable ones.

outdoor cat enclosure_SariMe_Shutterstock
Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock

Training your cat to stop bringing you dead gifts can be difficult, not least because you are attempting to stop your cat from doing something that is perfectly natural to them and is ingrained in their behavior. But also because cats are very independent.

When your feline friend brings you a dead mouse, thank it and give it a catnip-scented toy to play with before disposing of the dead mouse when your cat’s attention wanders. Keep doing this and, eventually, your cat may choose to bring you catnip toys instead of dead mouse toys.

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Cats And Dead Mice

Cats are exceptional hunters. They especially excel at watching, stalking, preying, and stealthily leaping on their quarry. They will hunt mice, small birds, and even animals like frogs and butterflies. They may bring some of these animals to you, as a gift or as a training aid, and it can be difficult to convince them to stop. Above are five techniques you can use to try and stop your cat from bringing dead mice.


Featured IMage Credit: B_kowsky, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.


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