The Mystery of the Mouse-Like Kitten

Status: Probably a rodent posing as a kitten
image About a week ago Smerk posted a link in the forum to a story about a cat who supposedly gave birth to a kitten that looks like a mouse. The story reads:

According to the owner of the cat, the litter included 5 regular kittens, and one that more resembles a mouse. The owner says the nose, mouth and ears look like that of a mouse, but the rest of the body is that of a cat. The mother cat doesn't seem to notice or mind. She's nursing and taking care of it, just like the kittens.

The thing is, when you watch the accompanying video you can see that the "kitten" doesn't just slightly look like a mouse. It really looks like a mouse. But why would a mouse be living with a bunch of cats? To clear up this mystery, I contacted Sarah Hartwell, who runs I figured that if anyone could shed light on this mystery, it would be her. Her verdict: That's no kitten! Here's what she writes (reproduced with her permission):

It is just a rodent that the cat has adopted. I've added information to
Possibly the mother took the rodent back to the nest and then her maternal instincts overrode her predatory instincts. This is not uncommon if the prey is the same size as her kittens and makes similar noises and especially if it doesn't run and re-trigger her predatory instinct. Alternatively it went into the nest attracted by potential food while the mother was absent and because it had ended up smelling like the kittens she didn't view it as prey. Once it starts acting like a mouse again i.e. jerky movements and instinctively fleeing, she will treat it like prey. Possibly it isn't acting like a mouse due to being injured by her if she hunted it. You may have seen documentaries on confused lions, usually inexperienced juveniles, that adopt young prey animals because the terrified or injured prey stops acting in a prey-like manner and this confuses their instinct to kill it.
There are several cases of young squirrels being fostered on nursing cats and the maternal instinct overriding the predatory instinct. On the other hand, but involving the same 2 instincts, in cat colonies, there are plenty of cases of kittens being killed by other females because their movements and sounds triggered predatory instincts and they were treated as prey (my friend's cat was a female that hunted another cat's kittens because of confused instincts).

Update: Boing Boing speculates that the rodent in question is a kangaroo rat.


Posted on Mon Mar 20, 2006


That is no kitten.
Posted by Trotsky  on  Mon Mar 20, 2006  at  11:15 PM
The video clip showed the owner picking it up by the tail and handling it. The mouse creature seems like a domestic pet if it can be easily handled. Maybe that's why the cat accepted it into the litter. I reckon the owner knows exactly what it is and is playing the gullible media for laughs and a bit of money.
Posted by Louise  on  Tue Mar 21, 2006  at  09:15 AM
As if the national guard documents weren't embarassing enough. Then followed by the mouse/house fire. I think you could film 3 hours of stationary dog poop and the media would accept it as life on mars.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Tue Mar 21, 2006  at  02:39 PM
That's no kitten, that's a mouse.
Anybody who doesn't know the difference should be ashamed.
Posted by Big Gary in Ponder, Texas  on  Tue Mar 21, 2006  at  03:44 PM
Sure looks like a mouse to me. Except for the tail - it looks too short. Possibly it was lost in a previous hunting accident, the mommy cat truncated it or the cats' owner cut it off (with the carving knife).
Posted by Blondin  on  Tue Mar 21, 2006  at  10:12 PM
Quite a few small rodents have short tails e.g. hamsters. How any journo could really pick the tale up (no apologies for puns) as a mouse-like kitten when it isn't even April 1st boggles the mind.
Posted by Louise  on  Tue Mar 21, 2006  at  11:53 PM
I know someone that has a kangaroo rat and it looks exactly the same.
Posted by Garrett  on  Wed Mar 22, 2006  at  09:20 AM
...I don't know how any person could confuse that animal's body with a KITTEN BODY.
Posted by Maegan  on  Wed Mar 22, 2006  at  12:19 PM
Thats not a kitten, only a stupid mouse...
Posted by Eva  on  Wed Mar 22, 2006  at  04:13 PM
Aw, what a cute little rat. I don't see how anyone could have mistaked it for a kitten, though.
Posted by Sakano  on  Wed Mar 22, 2006  at  05:02 PM
love hot guys
Posted by anne  on  Wed Aug 27, 2008  at  07:26 PM
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