I was going through my iPhoto library the other day and came across this video of one of our cats - Basil - playing with a deer mouse in the yard:
The video is a fond memory for a number of reasons. None of the cats in the video (there are at least three) are with us any longer. The reality is that the life of a farm cat is considerably shorter than that of an indoor pet. And to be clear, while we enjoyed the company of these cats, they were most certainly not pets. They were working animals.
What Basil is doing in this video was their primary job. Well, batting the mouse around for several minutes isn't really part of the job description - that's just a cat taking extra pleasure in his work - but reducing the mouse population is their main purpose on the farm.
While there are certainly mice everywhere, they are rampant out here. We are surrounded by fields. They are usually planted with corn, sometimes with soybeans, but in either case they provide a haven for rodents of all kinds - mice, shrews, gophers, groundhogs - we see them all. But when the corn comes down in the fall the mice evacuate the fields in droves, looking for winter shelter.
A big old house with lots of routes of entry (from a mouse's perspective, anyway) must look like heaven to them. Which is why it's important to ensure that the road to heaven is paved with feline fangs and claws.
I would imagine there are people out there who will think what they see in the video is cruel - cats killing mice, torturing them for extended periods of time. I submit that anyone with that perspective hasn't really had to manage living with mice. They are filthy and destructive animals when allowed to live, unchecked, as a pest in human homes and buildings. You only have to have a mouse leap out of a kitchen drawer you have just opened one time to truly appreciate the presence of the cats.