My Cat Just Ate a Mouse! Should I Be Proud or Worried?

cat and mouse

I received an email from a cat patient’s family. They have recently moved to the suburbs and with the move came a mouse! The mouse problem didn’t last too long since Tigger killed and ate the mouse right in front of the entire family. While their initial reaction was pride at Tigger’s new found prowess as a huntress, they soon realized a rodent repast might not have been a healthy meal choice on Tigger’s part.

Here are my answers to their concerns about a mouse meal for their cat.

1. If the mouse ate poison, could it be dangerous?

Since mice are small compared to your cat, veterinarians believe a cat would need to eat several poisoned mice to develop toxicity from mouse bait, but it is not impossible to do so. If you have mouse bait out in your home, place it out of range of your cat. One type of mouse bait causes internal bleeding and the other elevated blood levels of calcium. If you have mouse bait in the house and your cat is ill, be sure to tell your veterinarian since you may not know your cat has been lunching on poisoned mice. A better alternative would be to trap mice in mechanical traps rather than poison them.

2. Can I peppermint oil my entire apartment to keep mice away and will the peppermint oil be safe for Tigger?

Recently, there has been concern expressed by experts about toxic effects of essential oils in cats. Cats lack the enzymes required to process essential oils and can become ill if exposed to the oils via ingestion, contact or inhalation. In a previous blog post, I suggested using peppermint oil soaked cotton balls as a mouse deterrent, but think I should redact that statement in the light of new information.

3. They sell sonic pest repellents; would she be okay with one?

As far as cat safety, these devices seem to be okay. The jury is out on the efficacy of the devices when it comes to pest control.

4. Obviously, the mouse wasn’t cooked. Could Tigger get sick from the raw mouse?

The short answer is yes, and one of the reasons to try and keep your cat from eating mice. Mice can be infected with roundworms, which can in turn infect your cat. Mice also carry Toxoplasma gondii, the agent of Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a greater risk to human family members than to feline family members, but since the health of the entire family is important, keeping mice out of the home is also important.

If you have a serious mouse problem requiring an exterminator, mention your cat and follow their directions on post-extermination clean up to protect your cat.

Controlling Household Pests Safely When You Have Pets

pet safe pest controlAt one time or another, every home becomes infested with a household pest such as ants, cockroaches or rodents. Ridding your home of these noxious creatures can involve using equally noxious poisons which may not be safe for your pets. Here are some pest control treatments that do not involve poisons and are pet safe.

Talcum Powder
A mineral composed of magnesium silicate, talcum powder has been touted for the treatment of household ants. Shake talcum powder where your find ants and then once they are gone, vacuum up the residual powder. This method has the potential to get messy if your pets walk through the pile of powder on the floor, so keep them out of the treated area.

Building a Safer Mouse Trap
Controlling rodents can be downright dangerous for your pets. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, intoxication with rodent poison is number two on the list of dog poisonings and number 10 on the list for cats. Even though the labels indicate the refillable bait stations are dog proof, the manufacturers seem not to have met some of the more creative and persistent patients we see in New York City who are able to thwart the protective bait station, allowing them to feast on the contents. The most common type of rodent poison intoxication seen at the Animal Medical Center is life-threatening hemorrhage caused by anticoagulant rodenticides such as d-CON or Tomcat. Less common are rodent poisons that drive up the level of calcium in the body and cause kidney failure. Even glue traps can get stuck on a curious cat and require an animal ER visit for removal. Safest for pets would be the mechanical mouse traps which trap the mouse without any poison.

Keeping Mice Away
Of course, having no mice in your apartment would be better than having to set traps! I have steel wool around the openings in the floor where the heat pipes come into the radiators. The steel wool prevents mice from slipping through the hole and is not very chewable. Another pet safe mouse deterrent is peppermint oil. Apparently, mice don’t like the smell and it keeps them from coming into the apartment. Cotton balls soaked with peppermint oil from the health food store should be placed near the opening where the mice are entering. Part of me wonders if you could put the peppermint oil on the steel wool, but fortunately, I haven’t had reason to test this hypothesis.

Boric Acid
Often used as an antiseptic for minor burns and cuts, boric acid has also been approved for decades as an insecticide for cockroaches and ants. I found insecticide products containing boric acid on the shelf of my local drugstore. At first glance, boric acid seemed like a good choice for a pet safe insecticide, and although boric acid is used medicinally, the warning labels on the insecticide take boric acid off my list of pet safe insecticides. For minor cuts and burns, the boric acid crystals are diluted in water making the concentration very low. Based on the warning labels, I suspect because the concentration in the insecticide is much higher compared to the antiseptic solution.

Contact a Professional
If these simple pest control methods don’t work, consider engaging a professional pest control company and be sure to follow their directions regarding restricting your pet’s access to the treated areas in your home. You could also board your pets or have them spend the night at grandma’s house while your home gets treated.