1. Yes. Defense isn't an action.
2. Actually this was just mentioned in another thread yesterday.
In the rules, under Captured Mouse it says,
...Leave the captured mouse's initiative card on the initiative track, but remove the mouse's figure from the game board, discard all of that mouse's cheese tokens and all of the search cards the captured mouse currently has equipped (starting equipment and any items in the pack are safe and do not need to be discarded......
But there is says that when captured, you don't need to discard starting equipment. But if you already discarded it for something else, then you are out of luck and don't get it back. The rules don't specify that you automatically get it back, they just say that you don't have to discard them when captured. You have to have them in order to not have to discard them.
I've played this game many many times and never got rid of my starting equipment. If a mouse starts out with a one-pawed weapon, then they have room in the other paw to equip a new one-pawed weapon, or a shield. They'll want armor or a helmet or other things that can be equipped, and then you still have room in the pack for some extra stuff, like an extra special weapon. If you get too much stuff, you can always share it with another mouse that has more room in their pack.