View Full Version : "Training" a barn cat??
Jul. 17, 2009, 10:47 PM
Do cats naturally hunt rodents, or do they have to be "trained"? We recently lost our two house-cats-turned-barn-cats, one of whom was a very good mouser. I was thinking about getting a couple kittens for mouse patrol, but I wondered if two young kittens would be able to figure out how to catch mice. I've always had an older cat to teach the younger ones. Would the youngsters be able to figure it out? Sorry if this is a dumb question! :p
Wizard of Oz's
Jul. 17, 2009, 10:52 PM
I think most cats should naturally want to catch the mice. Just don't feed then too much. At my barn, some of the ladies feed the cats too much so they are really fat and don't care to catch any mice!
Tamara in TN
Jul. 17, 2009, 11:01 PM
but I wondered if two young kittens would be able to figure out how to catch mice. I've always had an older cat to teach the younger ones. Would the youngsters be able to figure it out? Sorry if this is a dumb question! :p
if you watch a good mother she brings a captured but not dead critter to the kittens and they wear it out til it's dead...w/o her bringing the thing to them that don't just figure out actual killing of things...not quick and efficent"call em when you pot the mouse and they come running" kind of killing that we expect from good cats...it is inherited
I suppose you "could" teach it with frozen mice on a string...but that seems a bit extreme...the only thing I've ever managed to teach cats to do was fetch...
Jul. 17, 2009, 11:13 PM
I've found they either have it or they don't. Have an orphan in the house and she never had a mother for long enough to be taught to catch mice....but she does and does it well. Any errant mouse that tries for winter comfort ends up comforting the inside of the cat. By the same token, I have a neutered tom who couldnt be bothered with something so small as a mouse but he cleaned out every gopher on the place and has brought in partridge, grouse and a duck as well. Another tom (feral) hunts the rooftops for sparrows and any pigeon stupid enough to land.
I feed dry food free choice all summer, supplement it with the odd tin and tinned food all winter. I have very few mice....they still catch stuff even if they are well fed
Jul. 17, 2009, 11:58 PM
We have "mother raised" cats here and cats that were pretty much orphans and everyone hunts well. They are also well fed and they hunt. One of our spayed females was actually raised at the Vet clinic, then at my house so never had a Mom to teach her. She is a calico and had two kittens before I got her spayed. She is hell on mice and her two sons, who she taught are super hunters. One of them even brought me a big frog today :eek:.
You can "teach" hunting with cat toys, but I have known very few cats who didn't hunt, just for fun all on their own.
Jul. 19, 2009, 04:55 PM
Just don't feed then too much. At my barn, some of the ladies feed the cats too much so they are really fat and don't care to catch any mice!
The amount of food fed will not change their instinct. Being obese will cause them to get arthritis, heart problems and/or diabetes and they will not move around as much as it hurts and they are not in shape. How does that affect instinct? It doesn't. If cats that hunted always ate their prey then no one would ever see dead mice or birds on their doorsteps, so they aren't hunting from hunger. Instinct.
They should have food available according to their ideal weight. The food being fed at your barn is probably full of carbohydrates, usually from corn, that cats cannot digest well as they weren't designed to ingest it.
Jul. 19, 2009, 07:48 PM
My comically lazy, fat cat's mother was an outstanding hunter. She was very small and regularly caught prey larger than herself.
Her son was touted by the BM as having the best hunting potential in his litter because he always took the prey from her when she brought it home.
All it meant was that he liked to eat. :D
Jul. 19, 2009, 08:15 PM
It actually can encourage cats to hunt if they are well-fed (but not obese). A hungry cat will hunt to eat, then go to bed in the nearest comfy place. A well-fed cat will hunt for fun.
Example: Had a cat, years ago, indoor-outdoor cat. One of several who lived around the place and a Very Serious Hunter. She would go out every night unless it was absolutely pouring rain or snowing, and hunt rats all night. In the morning, you'd find her on the back porch with four to a dozen rats, all neatly lined up, arranged identically with noses to the east, paws to the south, and Herself sitting beside them with her tail neatly curled around her feet.
Once you inspected the night's harvest, she would graciously waft herself into the house, eat breakfast, and go to bed. A Very Fine Cat, scrupulously clean, and quite picky about what she ate, she had no interest in eating the nasty rats. Yuck!
Anyway, all cats have the chase/pounce instinct. Most have to learn to kill but do learn it. Encourage with lots of pats and perhaps a food treat and Kitty will be just fine.x
Jul. 19, 2009, 08:33 PM
What an amazing story, Pat!
I agree, they aren't really "born" with it. Just the pounce and play instinct. Whether or not they choose to wield their "play" skills depends on training from Mom. Altho, other cats teach it, as well.
We have, over the years, had quite a few who came not having a CLUE how to truly KILL. In short order, tho, they learned from observation. Cats are truly amazing mimics of their own kind.
Example: We have a stray who was never "taught" to use the cat door on the tack room (behold, behind said door is where kibble is available!), yet, how many times have I come in to the barn, only to see the kitty door swinging wildly, and him trotting easily out the other end of the barn? Some are better mimics than others. We've had barn cats who struggle with learning to use that door, but once that stray learned "thar's food in there!," he's become a regular visitor!
Jul. 19, 2009, 08:35 PM
p.s. OT, but - Still working on the ultimate "TNR experience" for the stray. He's pretty darned smart. Tried it twice now with humane trap and canned food... no dice... this one seems cage smart. He'll have to be TAUGHT to use the cage (with door propped open) before that will work.