From Tom and Jerry to Stuart Little, we see that films, shows, and books love to portray the endless battle between cats and mice. But why do cats love catching mice?

First of all, it’s important to realize that despite being domesticated thousands of years ago, cats are nearly identical to their ancestors. Unlike dogs who have undergone significant changes from their wild counterparts, cats still retain a lot of the physical traits and behaviors of their wild ancestors. One of these traits is that they are full-on carnivores. Though dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet, cats need meat to survive as their bodies are incapable of producing a molecule called taurine, and they might die without enough of it. As a result, they’re always hunting to make sure they have an ample supply of fresh meat, even when full.

This means that feeding and hunting are two separate needs, which is why cats hunt despite having a bowl full of food nearby. The desire to hunt is so hardwired into their brains, that seeing a moving wire or string is enough to drive them nuts and makes them enter their hunt mode. This is why cats adore playing with toys, as it gives them the same excitement as hunting. In fact, it’s said that this separation of feeding and hunting is what allows cats to be domesticated and to habilitate to life at home.

There are lots of potential creatures for a cat to hunt, from birds to small insects, so why do they love hunting mice specifically? This is because a mouse is a perfect target. It moves seemingly randomly and in an unpredictable fashion, which captivates the cat’s focus. Not only that, but they’re also the perfect size. They can easily be caught in the cat’s paws, and are neither too big nor too small. Also, unlike birds or some insects, they can’t fly away, so they are always within the cat’s reach.