Can Mice Sense a Cat in the House?

can mice sense a cat in the house

Mice have a unique sensory organ that helps them detect the scent of their enemies, including cats. This is why you are less likely to see a mouse when you have a cat in the house.

However, just because you cannot see the mice does not mean that they are not lurking around. Mice have a natural instinct to hide from cats but they can still crawl around in the small spaces of your house where your cat can’t reach them.

So, should you get a cat to get rid of mice? Read on to decide whether a cat is the most effective measure for chasing mice from your house.

Can Mice Smell Cat Urine and Litter?

Biologists have long suspected that the smell of a cat is what scares away mice. It actually sits even deeper than that; mice have a natural instinct to be scared of cats.

Mice (and other mammals, amphibians and reptiles) have a sensory organ in their nose that detects pheromones. This sensory organ is called the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s organ.

Thanks to the Jacobson’s organ some animal species can communicate with each other through their pheromones. Detecting each other’s pheromones is what leads animals to mate, signal danger and announce that there is food nearby.

Though pheromones were thought to only be communicable within the same species, it has now been proven that the pheromones released by cats is actually the danger signal for mice. The vomeronasal organ of mice senses a specific pheromone released by cats which drives mice to stay away.

The name of this specific pheromone is Mups, or major urinary proteins. Mups can be found in a cat’s urine, saliva and other bodily secretion – so yes, smelling cat litter and urine is what scares mice away.

To learn more about this biological phenomenon, you can look up the full scientific report written by Lisa Stowers et. al that was published in Cell.

Will Getting a Cat Get Rid of Mice?

Tom and Jerry not getting along is because of a natural instinct that kicks in on both sides. Mice are biologically inclined to live in fear of cats while a cat’s hunting instinct kicks in when seeing a mouse scurry away.

The innate fear that mice have of cats is triggered by pheromones in the bodily secretions of cats. This is why, a mouse does not need to come face-to-face with a cat to know that being in a certain room is dangerous – knowing that a cat has been in that room is enough to strike fear in them.

So, getting a cat can help to keep mice out of certain rooms but is not always effective enough in getting rid of mice completely.  Encouraging your cat to play, eat or groom in certain areas of the house is a little trick to keep mice away from that specific space only.

How is it that you can still have mice while there is a cat living in the house? This happens because mice are smart enough to keep to the small spaces where your cat can’t reach or does not like to be in such as in the walls, the basement or in the roof.

What could happen when you get a cat into the house is that the mice simply resort to sneaking around in the tiny spaces of your house to avoid meeting the cat. They are still in your house, though.

Even a cat that has excellent hunter instincts and frequently brings you his victim, is not completely effective in getting rid of mice. Your cat bringing you a mouse is only prove that there are still mice in the house since there are always more mice than you actually see.

So no, getting a cat does not necessarily get rid of mice in your house. Getting a cat does do a good job of keeping mice out of your sight.

Why Is Getting a Cat Not Enough to Get Rid of Mice?

Mice can sense that there is a cat in the house and this does scare mice away from the cat’s favorite places. However, to really remove all mice from your house you will need to take additional measures.

Mice are clever little creatures and they do not let a big cat deter them from scavenging food and nesting material from your home. The same way that mice got into your house is how they stay in your house; small spaces.

The best way to keep your house free of mice is to prevent them coming inside in the first place. Make sure that there are no cracks in the roof, floor boards or spaces under doors etc.

Once you have spotted a mouse in the house you can be sure that there are more in hidden spaces because mice can have a new litter every six weeks. So even when your cat has managed to catch one, how many more will your cat need to hunt for to keep up with the rapid breeding?

Another interesting biological trait of mice is that their ‘flight’ response is lowered if they are exposed to mups during a specific young age. This means that if a new litter has been born in your home then the young ones might not be as scared of your cat as you would hope.


Mice can sense when there is a cat in the house thanks to their vomeronasal organ that sniffs out specific cat pheromones called mups. Mups trigger a fear response in mice which encourages them to stay away from cats.

However, just because mice don’t like to be in cat frequented places, there can still be mice hiding in the small spaces of your house such as in walls, roofs, attics and storage spaces. Once mice have found their way inside your house, you can expect them to start breeding at a very rapid rate.

So, having a cat living in the house is not enough to completely keep mice away. The rate at which a cat catches mice is not nearly fast enough to keep up with how fast mice can breed.

Also, if you already have a cat and new mouse litters are being born, there is the risk that the mouse newborns develop a resistance to the instinct that tells them to stay away from cats. In other words, your cat might not be as effective anymore in making sure the little critters don’t rush into your room.

In short, though mice know there are cats around and mice are naturally inclined to fear cats, this is no guarantee for keeping your house rodent free.

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