Should I let my cat eat rats and mice?

Cats, as obligate carnivores, naturally require a diet that consists primarily of meat. However, it's neither necessary nor practical for them to exclusively eat mice or rats, for several reasons.

Firstly, cats require a nutritionally balanced diet. This means they need a certain amount and variety of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats that might not be adequately provided by only eating mice or rats.

Secondly, there's the risk of parasites and diseases. Mice and rats can carry various parasites and diseases that could potentially be harmful to cats if ingested. For example, cats can contract diseases like Leptospirosis, Toxoplasmosis, and Hantavirus from these rodents.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by Leptospira, found in the urine of infected animals, including rats and mice. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by Toxoplasma gondii, which can also be transmitted to cats that eat infected mice or rats. Hantavirus is a viral disease transmitted through contact with the urine, feces, or saliva of infected rodents.

In addition to these diseases, cats that eat rodents can also be at risk of catching various parasites such as rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) and tapeworms (Dipylidium caninum and Taenia taeniaeformis).

Rat lungworm is a parasite that can cause respiratory problems in cats, while tapeworms can cause weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea among other symptoms. Cats typically become infected with tapeworms either by ingesting a flea that contains tapeworm larvae or by eating small rodents that are infected with tapeworm larvae.

To prevent such diseases and parasitic infections, regular deworming is crucial. The frequency of deworming treatments can depend on various factors, including the cat's age, outdoor access, diet, and the local prevalence of parasites. Common practice includes deworming kittens every two weeks until twelve weeks of age, then monthly until they are six months old. Adult cats should generally be dewormed every one to three months.

However, it's important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the best deworming strategy for your cat, based on its lifestyle and risk factors. Not all deworming medications are effective against all types of worms, so a vet's guidance is essential.

On top of regular deworming, it's also important to control fleas, which can carry tapeworm larvae, and to prevent cats from hunting and eating rodents. For domesticated cats, a balanced diet of high-quality commercial cat food is recommended. This cat food is specifically designed to meet all their nutritional needs, minimizing the risk of disease and parasitic infection.

In conclusion, while cats can occasionally hunt and eat mice or rats, their health and nutritional needs are better met through a balanced commercial diet and regular veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for the best practices in maintaining your pet's health.