Despite the Tom and Jerry cartoons and general cat vs. mouse preconceptions, you want to bring a rodent or cat into your home where the other is already living. Here are some tips to help introduce your cat and your rodent - successfully!
First contact between your cat and your rodent
Whether you introduce your cat or your rodent into your home, it is important to follow a few simple rules to ensure no animal is put at risk - especially the more susceptible rodent.
If your rodent (rat, guinea pig, mouse, or hamster, for example) is the new arrival in your home, ensure that the two of them have no direct contact. Your tiny fur friend will need time to adjust to its new environment, including smells and noises, and to also get to know you. Frightening it with feline contact could cause additional stress to your small pet.
Your rodent should also not be able to move freely around where your cat has access. This phase of acclimatising will allow them to get used to the scent and the presence of the cat in your home naturally.
It is also important to make sure your cat can't get at your rodent through the bars of their cage - be it with their claws or their teeth. Firm 'no' training will be required for your cat if it approaches the cage. If possible, and for a week or so, try keep your cat out of the room that your rodent will live in to avoid this happening.
Once your rodent has settled into their new life with you, and the cat has become familiar with the presence of them, an introduction can finally be made.
Monitor the conditions
The behaviour of your cat to your rodent will depend on a number of different factors: personality, age, lifestyle, etc.
Older cats will probably be more tolerant and less likely to try play with the rodent, while younger cats will most likely want to play - even if they don't necessarily want to hunt them. But whatever the personality of your cat, it is important to know that the smallest blow from a cats paw, be it from reflex or playing, can prove harmful, even fatal.
It is therefore very important to monitor the proceedings: restrain your cat, either in your hands or with a harness, a good distance from the rodent. You should allow the rodent to escape if they so wish to. Observe the reactions of the two pets and get ready to intervene if the situation begins to look risky.
If the rodent approaches the cat to sniff them, allow them to do so but stay on guard.
Even if the cohabitation of your two fur friends seems to be going without a hitch, it is is important to never leave them alone in the same room. Even if your cat is obedient and seems to have a good relationship with your rodent, their hunting instincts can surface in an instant. An elderly cat can become a hunter without warning!
Do you have a cat and rodent living together?