How to Train a Cat to Be Outdoor Safe and a Good Rodent Catcher
If cats are raised to spend most or all of their time outdoors, they will usually practice natural hunting behavior. This means that they can be great for controlling pesky rodents around your house, yard, or barn. Outdoor hunting cats, sometimes called “barn cats” or “mousers,” will still need to be fed and cared for. With just a little encouragement, however, they’ll quickly become rodent-fighting ninjas.
Choosing a Cat
Decide what kind of cat you want to raise.Outdoor cats are different than cats who go outside.Most cats will practice hunting behavior when let outside. However, outside cats will be used to spending all or nearly all of their time outdoors, and better able to take care of themselves than indoor cats that spend some time outdoors. If you want a dedicated mouser, an outdoor cat is the best choice.
- Short-haired cats make the best choice for mousers, because you will not have to worry about their fur becoming tangled, matted, or trapped in something.
- Female cats tend to be more consistent hunters than males.
Get a cat.You can get a potential mouser from any source with cats available. However, many animal shelters have formerly stray cats available, which make great outdoor cats. These felines are used to spending time outdoors, and are even happy to be there. They are also not dependent on constant human companionship.
- Consider getting more than one outdoor cat at a time. They can enjoy having another cat to snuggle with, groom, and hunt with.
- Kittens will not be prepared on their own to begin hunting right away. They are also more vulnerable to predators like owls and wolves.For this reason, it is best to get a cat that is already about the size of a rabbit if you want it to be a mouser.
Have your cat checked by a veterinarian.Once you have chosen your mouser-to-be, take it to your veterinarian for a checkup. The vet will ensure that the cat is in good health, and provide it with any vaccinations and other care it may need.
- Spaying or neutering your outdoor cats will not stop them from being effective hunters. However, it will reduce the tendency to roam, helping to keep them on your property.
- Your vet can also insert a tiny microchip in your cat for identification purposes.
Training Your Cat
Make sure that your cat’s basic needs are taken care of.Even if they spend all of their time outdoors, mousers will need you to provide them with shelter and a regular supply of food and water. When you first bring them home, they will also need to have a litter box available.
- You can use automatic feeders and water dishes (available at pet supply stores), or make sure to replenish your cat’s food and water yourself everyday.
- Your cat’s shelter should be easily accessible, covered, dry, and protected from wind, cold, and heat. Good choices include a barn, shed, or dedicated cathouse.
- Make sure your cat has a place to bed that is safe from disturbances like dogs, cars, and children.
Start your mouser out in a cage or crate.When you first bring your cat home, it will be somewhat stressed as it gets to know its surroundings. Keeping it in a large cage or enclosed area at first will protect it and prevent it from running away.Set the cage up near the shelter that your cat will use once it is accustomed to its new surroundings, so that it will associate that area with home.
- Make sure that the enclosed area is large enough that the cat is free to roam around, stretch out, and get some exercise. It should also be protected from heat, cold, rain, etc.
- Your local animal shelter may be able to lend you a cage or crate to use.
- Check on your cat regularly. Refill its water and food dishes, and empty its litter box whenever necessary.
- Give your cat some toys to play with to keep itself occupied, and treats to make it associate its new home with good feelings.
- Putting towels or blankets in the enclosed area can also make your cat feel more comfortable. A towel, blanket, or t-shirt that you have used will help your cat get used to your scent.
- Spend some time with the cat, so that it gets used to your presence and the sound of your voice. However, don’t attempt to pet it or pick it up if it seems fearful or aggressive. Eventually, the cat will begin to trust you.
Let the cat go free.After a week or so, your cat should be ready to roam around on its own.Open the area it has been enclosed in, and let the cat come out on its own. It may disappear for a day or two in order to explore. Leave the cage or enclosed area where it is, and keep food and water supplied. The mouser will come back to feed.
- Once the cat seems to be comfortable with its new surroundings, you can remove the cage and just let it use the permanent shelter you have set up for it.
Watch your cat catch rodents.Cats will hunt, even if they are fed regularly, because of hunting instincts.You will not have to train your cat to do the actual hunting.
- Cats are opportunistic. Rodents are easier to catch than other animals, like birds, and cats will sit and wait for mice and rats to emerge from burrows and other hiding places.
- Some cats will bring their humans rodents they have killed as a “present.” Others will eat the rodents, or leave them elsewhere.
Caring for Your Cat
Continue to make sure your cat’s basic needs are taken care of.Even if your cat is a professional mouser, it will need you to provide it with a steady supply of food and water. It is a myth that cats will not hunt if you feed them.Your cat’s shelter should be kept dry and comfortable; if it is cold, put some blankets or straw inside.
- Give your cat a constant supply of dry food. If you also offer it wet food at night, it will be drawn to its shelter and away from predators such as wolves, coyotes, and owls.
Spend time with your cat.Barn cats or mousers might be more solitary than indoor cats. However, they will still appreciate some attention, so make sure to pet and play with them often.
- Sometimes, outdoor hunting cats will go away for a day or two, roaming and exploring. Usually they will come back.If you have not seen yours for an unusually long time, you may want to search for it to make sure it is ok.
Have your cat seen by a vet.Mousers will need regular health check-ups, vaccinations, and other preventative care.Because they spend most or all of their time outdoors, mousers may also be more susceptible to injuries, risks, and illnesses, so make sure to keep an eye on yours.
- Your vet may suggest that your outdoor cat take special treatments to prevent problems from fleas, ticks, worms, and other pests.
QuestionHow long can a cat live outside?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerA totally outdoor cat (such as a feral or community cat) has certain basic needs, such as a windproof and rainproof shelter, to survive the seasons. But life is tough for an outdoor cat and their life expectancy is shorter than an indoor cat. This can range from as little as two years, out to 10-12 years.Thanks!
QuestionWhat types of cats are the best mousers?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerHunting ability is an individual trait that some cats have and some don't. You can have two cats from the same litter and one will be a brilliant mouser and the other totally inept. If you need a mouser, the best thing is to source an adult cat (try a rescue shelter) that is known to have good hunting skills.Thanks!
QuestionDo cats help keep mice away?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerMice seem to avoid the smell of cats and so yes, keeping a cat may well deter mice. However, this needs to be balanced against the occasional cat that hunts and likes to bring mice home as a present for their owner.Thanks!
QuestionI just rescued a 7-week-old stray female kitten, and have taken her to the vet for her checkup. I want her to be an outdoor cat, as I have an indoor cat. I own 5 acres for her to roam. What age is the best for me to let her roam free outdoors and out of the crate?wikiHow ContributorCommunity Answer2 - 3 months is a good age.Thanks!
QuestionCan I train a mouser not to eat chickens?CookiesandpuddingCommunity AnswerAs soon as you can, introduce your cat to your chicken(s), at first through a cage so that they get used to each other’s smell, look, and sounds. When your cat is used to this, take the chicken out of the cage and hold it in front of your cat so it can again smell and get used to the chicken (and vice versa). After a day or two of this, introduce them to each other in a relatively enclosed space, so you can separate them quickly if need be. Allow them to interact with each other until the cat gets bored. Continue the process.Thanks!
QuestionWill playing with my cat strengthen its instincts?Community AnswerYes! Get mouse toys, bird toys, and interactive cat hunting mock toys.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I keep my cat inside?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMake sure your cat is spayed/neutered and get it a scratch pad and toys. Make sure you play with your cat regularly.Thanks!
QuestionI have just bought a farmhouse and plan to get two kittens to keep rodents away. I am also planning to have them as family pets. Is that possible, or does it have to be one or the other?Bubaloo122Community AnswerThis is definitely possible! Be prepared for the fact that you may get "gifts" of things they catch on your doorstep.Thanks!
QuestionDoes this work with kittens too?ChrisortizCommunity AnswerNo, baby cats don't eat rodents until they're grown into adult cats.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I get an indoor cat to be an outdoor cat?Bubaloo122Community AnswerYou can try taking your cat outside and seeing if it likes being outdoors. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't get lost or run away. If it is declawed, it is probably not safe for it to be outdoors without supervision as it has no defense against potential predators.Thanks!
What type of cage do I need for a new outdoor kitten?
- A hunter that regularly eats their catch should be wormed monthly for roundworms, and every three months for tapeworms.
- Cats can catch a disease called toxoplasmosis, in some cases from hunting and eating wild animals. While most cats become immune to the disease, it can be transmitted to humans through accidental contact with cat feces or litter (as well as by the unsafe handling of raw meat). Most humans have an immunity to toxoplasmosis, but children and those with weakened immune systems may want to be especially careful around cat litter.
- Pregnant women should never handle cat litter or cat feces because toxoplasmosis causes birth deformities.
Video: How I Trained My Cats
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