If Fluffy spends time outside, she may also be hunting. Given the opportunity, cats will act on their natural prey drive. Whether it's bugs, lizards or rodents, they're all fair game for Fluffy. However, if she eats a mouse, she may become an unwilling host to parasites.
Rodents: Carriers of Disease
If you've heard of the Bubonic plague, you probably know it killed millions of people in the middle ages. Rodents such as rats and mice were carriers of the disease, spreading the deadly bacteria via their fleas. The fleas fed on the infected rodents and easily transmitted the disease when they jumped onto people and bit them. The plague is still around today and there are other diseases that can pass from mice to humans, primarily through breathing in or eating or drinking something contaminated with rodent droppings. It's natural to wonder what Fluffy might be exposed to, given that she may be snacking on mice when she's outside.
Tapeworm and Roundworm
Two of the most common ailments Fluffy is vulnerable to are tapeworms and roundworms. If she snacks on a mouse that's infected with either type of parasite, chances are she'll end up hosting the parasites too. Roundworms can be dangerous for kittens, but as a rule, these parasites won't do long term harm to Fluffy. It can be difficult to tell if a cat has either type of parasite, however, cats with tapeworms may scoot across the floor. Sometimes a cat with roundworms will vomit or lose their appetite. Both are easy to treat with a de-wormer prescribed by your vet. Prevention is also easy, usually part of monthly flea preventative.
Toxoplasmosis is another parasite Fluffy can pick up from eating infected mice. According to the ASPCA, most cats become naturally immune to the disease through exposure to the parasite. If Fluffy has been exposed to the parasite but hasn't built an immunity to it, she may have some mild diarrhea and a decrease in appetite. There are more significant consequences for this disease, which can affect Fluffy's lungs, liver and nervous system. An infected cat will likely be treated to address symptoms and should be isolated to avoid infecting other cats and people. People with weakened immune systems and pregnant women should exercise particular caution not to contract this disease.
Unusual But Serious Diseases
There are some serious diseases Fluffy -- and people -- may contract from mice. Cats can be exposed to the plague by biting, or being bitten by, an infected rodent. In the United States, the bacteria is more predominant in the southwest between May and October. Infected cats will have fever, inflammation and pain from swollen lymph nodes. Treatment usually requires hospitalization, antibiotics and intravenous fluid therapy. Tularemia is more prevalent April through August and is also contracted by ingesting infected animals. Fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy are a few of the symptoms; antibiotics will treat the condition. Left untreated, tularemia can have fatal consequences. Topical medications can help keep parasites such as roundworms at bay, however, they won't keep potentially more troubling diseases, such as tularemia, away.
- VCA Hospitals: Roundworm Infection in Cats
- VCA Hospitals: Tapeworm Infection in Cats
- ASPCA: Toxoplasmosis
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Diseases Directly Transmitted by Rodents
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Pub Med Health: Plague
- Pet MD: Bacterial Infection (Tularemia) in Cats
- Pet MD: Plague in Cats