Is hunting and eating his prey bad for our cat’s health? We live in a rural area and our neutered male cat is quite the hunter. At least once a week he brings mice, moles, birds, and even a bat into the house. He normally kills the prey and then eats it, if we don’t get there first and take it from him.
Hunting is certainly the most natural way for a cat to eat, and in general, eating the prey is not that dangerous, with a few exceptions.
Most concerning is the bat you mentioned. In many parts of the country, bats can carry rabies, which is a disease you don’t want to fool with. Make absolutely sure your cat stays current on all his vaccinations, particularly his rabies vaccination. And don’t directly expose yourself to a living or dead bat; wear gloves if you must handle a bat. Other species that are at risk for carrying rabies include skunks, raccoons, foxes and occasionally coyotes. Although your cat does not prey on these animals, he could come into contact with them if he spends a lot of time outdoors.
If anyone in your household is pregnant or planning pregnancy, she should avoid contact with the cat’s feces (have someone else do the litterbox cleaning and the gardening), and wash her hands after petting him.
Other things your kitty could contract are mostly minor, such as bacterial and fungal infections and some parasites. Check your cat often for fleas and ticks, and have a stool sample checked by a veterinarian every six to 12 months to determine the presence of intestinal parasites.
As long as your cat goes outdoors, he will always hunt, and not much you do will change that. A bell collar may help a bit to alert prey to the cat’s presence, but plenty of cats hunt quite effectively with such collars.