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Franny Syufy

Of Cats and Mice

By January 11, 2013

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Cats and mice can make a deadly combination.What else did your cat bring home, along with that mouse he so proudly presented to you? Romeo, pictured here, brought home Toxoplasmosis, a zoonotic disease. Unlike most cats who are exposed to that virus, Romeo, pictured below, became very sick, and his medical bills have mounted into the $thousands since then. The toxoplasmosis led to uveitis, which in turn led to glaucoma, leaving Romeo blind in one eye.

Weakened by his fragile state, he also developed bartonella. His medications alone added up to about $400/month, according to his human, Jennifer Yarchever.

In addition to toxoplasmosis, that little rodent "gift" could also bring home at least four other diseases, including Yersinia Pestis, better known as the Black Plague. For your own safety and that of your cat, if your cat becomes sick after ingesting a mouse, take both the kitty (and the mouse, if still available) to your veterinarian without delay. (Be sure to don surgical gloves before handing any rodent.) If your kitty's illness is one which could reach epidemic proportions, your vet may want to submit the mouse to a lab for analysis, then notify the proper authorities. Read the full article for information on the other potential hitchhikers your cat may have brought home along with that mouse.

Romeo is now an inside-only cat. His experiences provide just one more reason to keep cats safely indoors.
Photo Credit: © Jennifer Yarchever


February 22, 2010 at 7:42 am
(1) E says:

Gad that is scary. But I think it is important to stop perpetuating the idea that indoor-only cats don’t meet mice. The ASPCA always does that. Mice get indoors VERY easily! Any one who lives near fields, or in an older house, or in a city apartment building can certainly attest to that. Mine have killed 3 indoors, and I’ve trapped numerous. sigh.

February 22, 2010 at 11:59 am
(2) Franny Syufy says:

E Noted: “But I think it is important to stop perpetuating the idea that indoor-only cats don’t meet mice.”

I don’t believe I’ve “perpetuated” that idea in this article, nor anywhere else on the site. And yes, I’ve encountered mice indoors in various locations I’ve lived. OTOH, I’ll continue to urge cat owners to keep their cats inside, and this offers yet another good reason. Although there are probably no studies to verify it, it seems to me that cats are more likely to catch and kill disease-bearing rodents outdoors than inside.

February 23, 2010 at 2:20 am
(3) E says:

Well, it’s just this line, Franny: “Romeo is now an inside-only cat. His experiences provide just one more reason to keep cats safely indoors.” That does seem to infer that an indoor cat is safe from mice. Most advocates say the same thing. I just want people to be aware that mice can get in ANYwhere.

November 25, 2010 at 1:55 am
(4) black14 says:

Penny brings roof rats, both caught indoors(garage) and outdoors. Less lately because she is near retirement age and her job performance is not what it used to be. Already in the beginning we established an exchange procedure in which she brings the rats into the dining room and gets Innova kibble for it.
Many years ago, there was a period of a few months when she started to go after birds but I could soon train her not to do that. It cost the life of a couple of young birds and an injured, but cured third one. She brought a few mice, a couple of nonnative, exotic reptiles from which one bit me in my hand, and unfortunately, a couple of times a young opposum which she probably mistook for a rodent. Also unfortunately some lizards. A few times when the door to the garage was closed and she could not bring the rats into the dining room she started to chew on them, something I have been trying to avoid.
Slinky brought when she was younger some mice, a couple of young rats and some lizards. She sees them as toys and does not hurt them.

November 25, 2010 at 4:18 pm
(5) Lydia says:

I live in a rural area and have had mousing, often semi-feral and/or rescue kitties, since I was 13 years of age. Anyone who’s lived with strong-willed ex-stray or semi-feral cats knows how much they will protest and raise hell if they repeatedly aren’t allowed out when they want out. Making them ‘house cats’ is just not possible. Besides that, I despise the idea of house cats without reason on the same level as declawing. If you live in a violent area or by a main road, I can understand completely. Elsewhere, I just find it cruel.

In so many years of cats, I can firmly say none of my feline friends have gotten anything worse than a dodgy belly. Two of them bring mice or voles in nearly daily and on one memorable occasion a rat. They, touch wood, have never been ill because of it. Regular vet check-ups confirm them to be slightly podgy, slightly creaky, exceedingly happy kitties.

I think you mix cats with people. If my neighbour was chowing down on raw rat, that’d be a concern. My cat? No. Thousands of years of evolution revolving around eating anything does not produce a creature which dies when it eats a mouse. It also does not produce a creature designed to be cooped up indoors.

I wonder, with your black plague scare-mongering, why I haven’t gone the way of medieval peasants, or why the UK, where the cat is the number one pet, isn’t a hotspot. In fact, I’ve never, ever heard of a modern person catching the plague here, and it’s considerably rare enough that it’d make the news. Odd, with all those mouse-eating cats about!

Your reaction to E’s comment was very unprofessional. Please, show some maturity! There’s no need to throw a hissy fit when people don’t take your word as gospel. I’m sorry, but if you don’t like what E said, serious criticism must go down like a cup of cold sick, and if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t be writing anything at all.

November 26, 2010 at 4:44 am
(6) E says:

Lydia, regarding this: “Anyone who’s lived with strong-willed ex-stray or semi-feral cats knows how much they will protest and raise hell if they repeatedly aren’t allowed out when they want out. Making them ‘house cats’ is just not possible.” — my two recovering ferals would disagree vehemently. They got enough of “out” by being born out there, and raised.

Oh, and please don’t yell at Franny on my behalf. We are friends, and she simply misunderstood what I meant, because I was not clear.

Also, even my Vet warned me about Yersinia Pestis, which, indeed, takes three forms, all plagues: pneumonic, septicemic, and bubonic. This is not necessarily “black death”, but bobonic plague did cause that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubonic_plague

November 26, 2010 at 4:54 pm
(7) black14 says:

My biggest concern about my cats eating rodents is the possibility of ingesting a POISONED rodent, unfortunately the people around here think that poisoning the planet is the right way to go and the big corporate pushes those beliefs. For the rest, whatever the perceived dangers might be, a healthy rural rodent diet beats any cheap commercial diet and possibly even quality canned food.

August 9, 2012 at 11:20 am
(8) Mal says:

Great article but you could have advised reader discretion.

January 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm
(9) CatLover60 says:

I have had numerous cats over my lifetime. At one time, I lived in a rural area with a barn and had several barn cats. I have never had one get sick from a mouse. My vet never even metioned it to me!

I only have one cat that goes out now-and yes, she is insistent to the point of destroying things to get out. She goes out less as she has gotten older, but I think she likes to go to the bathroom outdoors. She is also a mouser, and has brought home many mice, voles, moles and occasional baby rabbits. :( I have never seen her eat a mouse though. She always leaves them by the front step.

I also have a bird feeder and have trained her to stay away from it with behavior modification. She makes a wide circle way from it when she goes out! She has never brought home a bird.

Because she goes out, she gets every shot known to man. I am definitely going to ask the vet about this, not only for my sake, but for the safety of my indoor kitties. This is scary stuff!

January 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm
(10) morven coulter says:

Whilst I empathise with your cats illnesses cats are outdoor creatures who are designed to hunt and kill.It is in their make up and I am and have been a cat owner for years both growing up on a dairy farm and now living in a City.My cats have never been declawed nor kept indoors.If they want out they get out and they are seriously healthy cats.Both rescued and both special to my family.They catch birds and I suspect mice.I will take my chances because I was in a local pet shop buying food and someone in this shop had a cat dressed in a cat dress from some company in US and was carrying it in a baby/cat carrier.This for me is simply abuse of a majestic proud animal.Not meant to be mocked up indoors nor dressed up.

January 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm
(11) Christi 100 says:

I have rescued cats for years, which usually means they were outside cats who were either feral or abandoned. I think it is cruel to keep a cat indoors when they grew up or were born outside. Most of my cats were mousers when they were young, but as they’ve grown older they have stopped the practice. One of my cats would bring mice and lizards into the house and put them in the bathtub alive, then would cry until I came and put them outside again. None of my cats has any disease that was caught from a mouse. Every once in awhile, I’ll find a dessicated lizard behind the sofa. At the present time I have 9 rescued cats, one of which I rescued 5 days ago and had her spayed. She wants to go out so badly but her stitches need to heal first. I currently have 7 ferals outside that I feed but won’t let me come near them. I am trying to catch them one at a time in a live trap and have them spayed or neutered. I know they will never be a part of the family but at least they will stop having kittens. The one I caught 5 days ago was from this bunch. The vet said she was very healthy and was negative for feline leukemia virus, so I guess the rest of them outside are probably also.

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