We all know that outdoor cats have a habit of going after small animals. They enjoy the game and will also bring you their kills as gifts.
Can cats kill rats? Your cat could kill a rat. But it is likely to be by chance more than anything else. Rats are too big and too feisty to take on where there is easier prey. Even feral cats don’t take that many. So if you do want to get rid of a local rat population, a cat isn’t the best choice. The rats might move away, but they won’t be exterminated.
Their brilliant hunting skills are either a blessing or a curse depending on your views on the local rodent populations. This also leads to some questions about how cats will manage when they come across a rat. Can cats kill rats? Or, are they too much to handle?
How Many Rats Do Cats Kill?
It is estimated that domestic cats across the world will kill as many as 3.7 billion birds per year and as many as 20.7 billion mammals. This would suggest that cats are sure to kill a lot of rats. But, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Smaller mammals are at the top of the list. Also, a study into cats and rat populations in Manhattan showed that over an 80 day period, cats that came close to a strong rat colony made little impact. There were only 20 attempts at stalking the rats and three kills.
Are Cats Effective Against Rats?
The honest answer here is that your cat isn’t going to be as effective at getting rid of rats as you might hope. There is the assumption that cats will be great because they catch so many small mammals and birds. Cats have great hunting skills that remain from their heritage as wild animals. They can stalk, pounce, and make short work of a small creature when they want to. You may also have a cat that has a habit of leaving mice, lizards, and birds in your home as gifts. But, not so much with rats.
How many times have you seen them bring in a rat into your home? You may have found one now and then, but the chances are that it isn’t nearly as common as finding a mouse. Cats chase mice as toys because they are a perfect size and don’t fight back. They can toy with them in between their paws, bat them around, and kill them with ease if they want to. From there they will either leave them alone or bring them in for you to find.
Rats are bigger, feistier, and not easy to catch. That doesn’t mean that cats can’t kill rats, but they won’t be as good at it as you might expect. The same Manhattan study suggests that cats will only make an attempt on a rat if they have no other option and can use the element of surprise. Feral cats will try if desperately hungry. Well-fed pet cats don’t need to bother. Smaller, younger rats could be easier targets. Or, your cat may come across a dead or dying rat and take advantage of this new toy.
Do Rats Attack Cats?
One of the biggest differences between a rat and a mouse, other than its size, is that a rat will fight back when provoked. The mouse will squeal and run around, enticing the cat to enjoy its playtime and test the limits of the game. The rat may go after the cat and try and bite it. This is a lot more dangerous and, understandably, the cat will think twice before approaching a rat again. There is no point risking an injury if there is easier prey to play with.
Are Rats Dangerous to Cats?
Another consideration here is that rats may be carriers of disease or poison. Other households in the neighborhood may have the plan to lay poison and bait rather than go for a safer method. If a cat decides to go for a rat, or even play with a dead one it finds, there is the risk of them ingesting some poison or picking up a parasite or illness.
Will Rats Stay Away If You Have Cats?
This is where some of the misconceptions about cats as rat killers come from. There are times when a cat owner will claim that their animal is a great rat killer because they haven’t seen any since they got their pet. There is the assumption that the cat killed the rats, rather than that the rats realized that there was a new predator in their territory and decided to move. Rats will set up a home where life is much easier for them.
What Is the Best Cat to Kill Rats?
If you wanted to get a pet cat with the hope of killing a local rat population, you need one with good hunting instincts. The American Shorthair and Maine Coons often reach the top of lists of the best cats for killing mice. So, it makes sense that they would be the better option in this situation. But, there isn’t much incentive for your cat to go and do this. You can’t assume that this is the best approach for rat control.
This is why dogs were always used as ratters. Dogs are tougher and stronger, with the ability to chase and catch rats. They can grab them in their jaws and shake the life out of them. Dogs also have the determination to please their owner and get the job done, even if the prey is fighting back. This takes us back to New York and its rat populations. While the feral cats barely manage to kill any rats at all, pest control teams will bring in dogs as a more humane way to deal with overpopulated areas. There are also stories of ratter dogs dispatching more than 100 rats in an area in a matter of hours – putting the cats to shame.
To sum up, cats would rather just play around with mice than go after bigger, more dangerous rats. If you are looking at getting rid of rats at your home, you should consider a different method, the cats aren’t that effective or motivated to deal with rats.
My name is Katie, and I have had different pets at home for as long as I can remember. While I can definitely say I love all animals in general, my heart belongs to cats and dogs. I know you are supposed to choose one or the other, but I could never really decide. I’ve also owned hamsters and fish when I was a kid, and they filled my childhood with very delightful memories.