It’s just possible that cartoons have lied to us.
Not every cat has an inbuilt hatred of rodents, which are normally mice and rats, However, there is no doubt about it, cat ownership comes with a tacit understanding that as long as you feed them, they will reciprocate by keeping your house vermin free. So, is the Maine Coon a good mouser?
In short, yes. it’s an excellent mouser. It’s size and agility, coupled with a propensity for removing mice like it’s a sport makes this a good breed for those with rodent problems. It consistently gets rated well by breed experts, homestead preppers and owners as one of the top breeds for exactly this purpose. All cats are designed for hunting their own food, so a domesticated cat is likely to not be as good as a wild cat on that basis. The Maine Coon offers a good breed temperament and personality to make it a natural mouser though, all other factors being equal.
That said, mine is an indoor cat, so may be out of practice.
There are several reputable sources that list the Maine Coon as a favorite breed to choose if you wish to control the proliferation of mice and rats about the habitat.
Chewy.com has an article on the subject, and has the Maine Coon in position 2, citing;
Another breed that has inhabited the country for centuries, the Maine Coon has been held in high regard for its abilities as a mouser since the colonial period in its home state.
The other way to look at this is, amongst the preppers and homesteading community, what breed do they pick for this purpose? After all, if you are storing food, what breed of cat do you pick to protect your supply? A very good prepper site, OffTheGrid news has an article about this subject matter and places the Maine Coon at position 1 as a mouser, citing
Their great advantage on the homestead, aside from being extremely loving and sociable creatures, is that they are rodent-slaughtering machines. My own Maine Coon has destroyed much of the rat and mouse population around my house and has moved on to cleaning up the neighbor’s property, as well, much to their delight. This hearty northern breed is pretty much a must-have cat around the homestead or farm, and is perhaps the closest thing to a dog you can get in cuddly cat form.
Any amount of internet research back this up. A Maine Coon and a vermin population seem to be a match made in heaven should you need less mice and rats in your life.
It’s not just the modern day survivalists that picked the Maine Coon for its ability in the vermin eradication industry..
Long before modern day survival needs there existed the very real problem of keeping vermin away from ships stores on long trade passages.
It’s thought that, as the Maine Coon is native to Maine, that the Maine Coon was kept aboard the ships of Charles Coon and the resulting population were referred to as ‘Coons Cat’s’.
It’s probably fair to say, they weren’t there purely for decoration. Loading up supplies and food stock for voyages in the 19th century, at different parts of the world, would have attracted plenty of vermin.
Probably safe to assume that the Maine Coon caught a few mice and rats whilst on board, but of course, nobody can actually prove it.
I just think it’s a fair assumption.
Feeding a crew for a voyage is expensive, and a breed of cat capable of removing the threat to the food supplies would be a good move.
Not to mention the fact that if rodents go through and ruin the food for a passage then this could potentially be fatal.
The Maine Coon then, was a lifesaver.
While the obvious answer is food, it might be a little more complex. If it’s a well domesticated cat with a history of being fed by humans it has little reason to suspect its next meal isn’t arriving so what could be causing.
Certainly a step in the right direction might be to say instinct. Kittens, even at an early age will demonstrate abilities of pouncing and thousands of years of inbuilt instinct to capture and kill prey animals.
Even when playing with toys, all cats demonstrate and develop a skill that aids in their hunt for food.
Whether, eventually this instinct dwindles remains to be seen, because cats do not naturally produce enough of an amino acid called taurine.
Taurine is essential amino acid to cats to consume. It’s also one of the reasons why you can’t use dog food for cats, as dogs produce enough of it themselves.
Cat’s naturally get taurine from mice and other rodents, so it seems this could be an underlying impulse, that keeps the hunting instinct alive.
Despite being on the large side for cats, the Maine Coon is still a good mouser.
What qualities does the Maine Coon possess that make it a natural hunter? All cats are natural predators, so why is the Maine Coon ranked highest?
Well, firstly, from young kittens they are quite a playful breed,and i think this might be because they have a strong natural hunting instinct.
While that’s quite a simple answer, I think it does reflect one of the biggest reasons.
There are however, other factors from, well, any cat with regards to hunting
The age of your Maine Coon – This will reflect heavily on its propensity for hunting. From young adults to older age, your Maine Coon will be more aggressive naturally. Older cats, especially if they are suffering from something, are less motivated to chase a mouse or tackle a rat. I have owned several cats and as they grow older I have noticed they seem to ‘be nicer’ as they more heavily rely on you for food.
Exceptional hearing – Those oversized aren’t just for decoration. They are sound traps and can pick the tiny scratchings from a long way away. It will know the presence of a rodent before most..
Big feet and claws – The Maine Coon does not have ‘dainty’ feet. They are large and lethal if you are a mouse.
Powerful bite – Being a big cat, and a muscular cat when it comes to killing prey will help.
Females rather than males – Ironically enough female cats are meant to be better hunters than the males. The idea is supposed to be that the female cat has to teach the skills to the kittens.
Alertness – despite your cat doing its best Garfield impression, the Maine Coon is quite an alert cat, quite possibly due to the large ears picking up sound above and beyond other cat breeds.
You may have stumbled across this article whilst researching cat breeds for a vermin problem you have.
If that’s so, then you should be in no doubt that it’s a great breed for that particular problem.
However, you may with to compare the Maine Coon to other breeds considered great for the role.
So what what makes a good hunting cat?
There’s a really good argument out there that states that the breed matters much less than the individual cat.
I have some sympathy with that.
While certain breeds may have a better natural tendency to become good hunters and mousers, there’s no doubt that a cat that catches mice and rodents out of necessity will be a much more accomplished hunter than a well fed domestic cat.
Think ‘feral cat’ vs ‘pampered moggy’.
The first thing to do is look for signs of hunting behaviour. When a Maine Coon is a kitten it will learn hunting tactics and methods. So, if you are still purchasing, you might want to ask the owner whether the mother was a good hunter.
This is actually quite important as studies have been done that suggest, the mother bringing home dead prey and eating it has an impact on the hunting instincts of kittens.
A good mouser will also display the instincts to pounce and chase from an early age. We tend to think of this as the kittens playful stage, but is learning vital skills of balance, poise and attacks.
Those games you play with your kittens are ideal really for keeping the hunting instinct alive and well. It keeps the hand to eye coordination (should that be paw to eye?) sharp, which will aid in any hunting endeavor they eventually embark upon,
Also, it probably helps if your Maine Coon is going to be an outdoor cat. It will naturally go about the world, taking in possible threats, assessing prey just by being ‘out and about’.
An indoor cat, like mine, does not and will not get this kind exposure without help.
You can often tell, just be playing with your kitten that it will be a good hunter. Showing sustained interest in playing with toys and leaping on their siblings, you might surmise that they could have good hunting instincts.
The kittens ‘play fighting’ with each other is also useful. Each kitten is learning about resistance and equipping itself to face the fact that a potential for will resist their attack. It’s essentially learning how to avoid being hurt in the future.
Here’s an interesting thought I’ve had recently. I wondered if a kittens pounce on a sibling that is asleep, or otherwise not looking at them is the kitten developing the skills of moving when the prey will not notice the movement.
If you have ever seen a cat trying to get into position for the pounce, they rarely move, if ever, when the prey would detect the cats movement, and thus flee.
I probably have too much free time on my hands.
Over time though, all these lessons will develop into a skill. All kittens will start with this interest, as those that don’t, historically wouldn’t have survived.
Quality time with a kitten to encourage and develop skills like pouncing, leaping, and biting will eventually equip your Maine Coon to become a fearless hunter.
Maybe there’s even a job as a ships cat in its future.
I can’t for the life of me imagine that Maine Coons have adopted a hunting strategy, that other breeds of cat have yet to adopt.
Cats typically follow 2 types of hunting
Early in learning they tend to swipe at prey to test mobility, and stun the victim before biting.
Timid hunters will repeatedly approach prey and initiate tentative contact before withdrawing. sometimes , this can be confused as ‘play’.
Generally then, there’s about 5 steps to any cats instinct to catch prey.
Locating the target: This could be anything from a fly going past its nose, to an indoor cat, sitting watchfully out across the backyard waiting for unsuspecting wildlife. The ears and sight senses are on high alert, and your cat will largely be completely still.
Stalking: Depending upon how the opportunity came about, this can either be painfully slow or ‘over in a flash’. After the first initial interest has quickened the cats heart, the suddenly become a lot more focused. They move exceedingly slowly, very low and often only when they sense they are not being looked at. Most breeds of cat are considered proficient at hunting at 9 months of age.
Pouncing: A critical moment here as it passes the point of no return. To commit or not too commit. Risk and reward have traded off and a decision has been made. Quite often preceded by a little ‘bottom wiggle’ a bit like a golfer before the stoke, your Maine Coon will look alert as it ever has in its life. Total adrenaline fuelled focus at this stage.
Contact: The gotcha moment. Depending upon the prey, it will either be a swipe, a bite or manoeuvre. Small prey like mice, it’s often just a swipe. As it will be with flies and butterflies. However, your cat will be fully aware a large rat could do it some damage. It will take no chances. Dangerous prey, will as quickly as possible, be pinned down and bitten on the neck. Every hunting cat seems to know that a neck bite is fatal.
The Kill: But how does it get it to the kill position? The cat on the pounce cannot be certain the prey will be in the same position. After contact, the cat cannot let itself be wounded. If it’s wild, an injury could be fatal. If you are injured, you can still feed yourself. Supermarkets deliver. However, a severely injured cat will starve. Often a cat will look like it’s toying with an animal but it is normally just getting the position correct so the kill bite can be administered. It’s also why the swipe at prey checking it is dead, as further injury could result.
A good way of answering this is to probably think about where you might want to look if you wanted a bad at mousing cat.
Probably an indoor, plush apartment, in a city. Well fed, non outgoing, comfortable and no access to hunting practice.
You can imagine a Maine Coon being brought up in that environment looking at a mouse and thinking ‘What’s that?’.
Well, to start with you could go looking in the places that specifically relocate ‘barn find cats’ or feral cats. Go round asking if any of them know of a Maine Coon that is available. There’s a good chance that a ‘barn find’ Maine Coon knows how to catch mice.
If you live in a rural area, this could be easier, but local breeders and sellers might know of a person trying to rehome a Maine Coon,
A local animal shelter in a rural area might be a good idea. Get to know someone at a few and keep in contact regularly, as their situation will be continually changing.
When a Maine Coon comes in, then you are trying to get them to remember you and be the first person they call.
If the cat is a former feral cat, then that might be a surefire sign that it will be a good hunter. Without the appropriate skills it would have starved.
Although modern cats can go into other peoples homes and help themselves to other cats food. However, a feral cat, which can still make a good domestic cat, stands a good chance of removing mice from your pantry if need be.
So what do you do if your Maine Coon shows about as much interest in looking and removing mice as it does from trying to fix a lawnmower.
Well, firstly you shouldn’t worry. Quite a lot of individual cats don’t seem all that interested in killing rodents if they feel well fed and well cared for. You aren’t alone in this.
How many humans actually hunt food as opposed to buying farmed food.
However, maybe you have an indoor cat, and worry that if it ever gets out and fails to come back it will be badly equipped to survive.
Well, I share your worry. I worry about this a lot.
However, I’m pretty sure most cats will discover the instinct, at least how to prowl into other cats houses and steal food, so it probably won’t starve.
There’s no doubt that an outdoor Maine Coon has the opportunity to naturally practice hunting behaviour. That may indeed be the reason it goes out, to keep its instincts alive.
The key will have to be be getting your Maine Coons interest with toys. Movement is a key part here.
A toy that could ‘get away’ gives interest to the cat. Try not to make the play boring and you have to let the cat get the ‘prey’ occasionally.
That’s why red laser lights are fun, but don’t successfully teach your cat, as it does not get the sense of satisfaction from a catch. Ultimately the game gets boring as it never catches it.
The way i do it is to dangle and play then occasionally make the ‘mouse’ disappear for a while. Then do a play dead mouse.
Chop and change, and try not to let a routine get samey, ie an uninteresting dangling toy. Try everything to replicate real life.
Sometimes it gets the toy, sometimes not. Sometimes for a long time, sometimes playtime short. It helps keep the Maine Coon interested, never being quite sure what will happen.
There’s a few characteristics of the Maine Coon that I beleive make it a good choice of cat for those with vermin problems.
While you should never buy a cat solely for the purpose of removing rodents, it is one of the felines more helpful qualities.
Firstly, it’s an intelligent breed, so makes a good companion, and with the accompanying affection you get, it’s a good package.
A Maine Coon is quite trainable if you need to, part of being an intelligent breed.
Along with all this is that the aggression seems to stop after the mouse is caught. The last thing I’d call the Maine Coon is aggressive. Quite the contrary, mine is playful, affable and sociable.
So it seems a perfect blend of a family orientated cat, good for those with children and other pets but saving the ‘cat nature’ for mice only.
If you are in the process of buying a cat, specifically for the the purpose and you are considering a Maine Coon to get the job done, you have selected a great breed.
I’d say consider a feral or wild Maine Coon if you don’t currently have a cat at all, but with the proviso that it should at least be friendly. It should be a rehomed or rehoused Maine Coon, not one directly from the street.
The older a feral cat is, the harder it will be as well. A young kitten might be more easily trained, but a well aged feral cat could come with a lot of problems if it hasn’t been house trained.
I have heard of stories where an ‘owner’ will deliberately starve a cat in order that they go and catch mice around the home. This I think is terrible. Please don’t be that person.
Rewarding cats for their behaviour, even if it’s bring you a worm is a good idea.
Spayed or neutered cats are said to be better hunter as they concentrate less on ‘other things’.
If you do have a Maine Coon that quite likes the outdoor lif and hunting, then there is a good question to ask?
Is anything about the modern world dangerous for my cat?
Mice and rats carry all sorts of diseases, ticks and worms. Thus if your cat likes to catch and eat mice it will kind of get exposure to a lot of things by proxy. Domestic cats have sensitive stomachs compared to feral cats.
That’s why it’s a good idea to keep those vaccinations up to date.
One problem comes from an outdoor cat, catching and eating a rodent that it itself has ingested rat poison. Not common, but it can happen.
Hopefully neighbors will alert you if they are putting it down, but around farms it could become a problem.
Either way, if your cat looks like it’s eaten a rat, a vet trip might be a good idea.
No direct difference, no.
It might make them a little less distracted, but that’s about it.
Spaying or neutering will not affect or interfere with your cats ability to hunt.
You should never buy a cat, purely for mouse hunting purposes, that seem to be a wrong reason to own a cat.
There’s the question of the individual cat over the breed
Even if your Maine Coon shows not the slightest interest in catching mice, totally against the run of things, you shouldn’t worry. It’s obviously feeling pretty comfortable with how things are going.
Otherwise it wouldn’t be there.
Any cat will help with a mouse problem. I believe mice and rodents can smell cats, so just their mere presence will repel most rodents.
The Maine Coon though, is an excellent starting point if you desire a cat, that has these qualities. Just make sure its mother played with the kitten and taught them the skills, they play and pounce on toys and are rewarded for hunting like behaviour.
At the end of the day, I believe hunting behaviour should be encouraged. I have no specific wish for my Maine Coon to prey on an animal but thought of it defenceless in the world is something I wouldn’t desire for her.