Are Cats Effective at Killing Rats? The Surprising Answer!

by beaconpet
Are Cats Effective at Killing Rats?

Are cats effective at killing rats? Find out the answer though the article below of Beacon Pet now!

It’s a question that has long intrigued cat owners and those seeking natural methods of pest control. While cats are renowned for their hunting prowess, the answer to this question is not as straightforward as one might think. Cats have been valued for their ability to catch vermin for thousands of years, leading to their domestication. However, a study conducted in 2013 found that cats are not particularly efficient at killing rats. In fact, their effectiveness in controlling rat populations is quite limited. While cats excel at hunting mice, rats prove to be a more formidable prey. Nonetheless, initiatives like releasing feral cats to control rodents have shown some success in reducing rat sightings and providing felines with a new home. So, while cats may not be the ultimate solution to rat problems, they still play a role in pest management and offer companionship to their human counterparts.

Cats as predators

Cats have been known for their predatory instincts for thousands of years. In fact, their ability to kill vermin is one of the main reasons they were domesticated in the first place. African Wildcats were initially found near human settlements because of the presence of mice, and farmers gradually tamed them to control vermin. While cats were initially valued for their ability to catch mice, modern-day cats, whether feral or housecats allowed to roam outside, are responsible for killing various types of wildlife. However, the question arises: can cats effectively kill rats?

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Cats as predators

Cats are used for rat control

In certain areas, cats are utilized for rat control. For example, in Washington, D.C., Blue Collar Cats, a program run by the Humane Rescue Alliance, releases feral cats to help manage rodent populations. These cats, not suitable for domestication due to their lack of human interaction, are trapped, provided with necessary veterinary care, including spaying or neutering, and put to work controlling rodents for local businesses. The cats are given shelter, food, water, and basic care, and many businesses have reported significant reductions in rodent populations, including rats, around their properties. It’s important to note that while cats are used for rat control in some areas, their effectiveness at killing rats is still unclear.

Are cats effective at killing rats?

The effectiveness of cats at killing rats has been the subject of a single scientific study. This study, titled “Temporal and Space-Use Changes by Rats in Response to Predation by Feral Cats in an Urban Ecosystem,” examined the interaction between a colony of around 100 rats and a group of feral cats. Over a span of 79 days, the study found that while the cats spent a significant amount of time around the rat colony, they did not often interact with them.

Are cats effective at killing rats?

There were only 20 incidents of the cats stalking rats, with three attempted kills and only two successful kills. These kills occurred when a cat found a hiding rat, rather than actively hunting them in the open. The lead researcher, Michael H. Parsons, explained that as the rats adjusted to the presence of cats, they adapted their behavior by spending more time hiding in burrows rather than venturing outside. This change in behavior resulted in fewer visible rats, leading observers to assume that the cats had killed several of them. Therefore, based on this study, it can be inferred that cats are not particularly effective at killing rats.

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Factors affecting cats’ ability to kill rats

Several factors can influence a cat’s ability to successfully hunt and kill rats. Firstly, rats are relatively large prey for cats, even for experienced feral cats. While cats have the instinct to hunt, they may think twice before attempting to tackle a rat. Additionally, rats have the ability to defend themselves and can turn on a cat during a hunting attempt. Rats are larger and more formidable than mice, with brown rats weighing up to 330 grams compared to a mouse weighing just 30 grams. Hunting and killing rats effectively often requires specific skills that a cat may not possess unless it has been taught by its mother. Consequently, many cats may choose to ignore rats and find alternative ways to coexist with them rather than actively hunting them.

Rats as large prey for cats

As mentioned earlier, rats are relatively large prey for cats. While some cats may possess the skills and experience necessary to hunt and kill rats effectively, it is not a task that all cats are equipped for. Rats are capable of defending themselves and can pose a threat to a cat during a hunting encounter. Given the size and defensive capabilities of rats, it is understandable that many cats may choose to prioritize hunting smaller prey that is easier to catch and pose less of a risk.

Rats as large prey for cats

Rats’ ability to defend themselves

Rats are well-known for their ability to defend themselves against predators. When faced with a cat or any other potential threat, rats can become aggressive and fight back. They have sharp teeth and claws that they will use to defend themselves, which can pose a significant risk to a hunting cat. Moreover, rats are highly adaptable and intelligent creatures that can quickly learn to avoid predators. If rats sense the presence of cats in an area, they may alter their behavior and spend more time hiding in burrows to avoid detection. These defensive measures can make it challenging for cats to successfully hunt and kill rats.

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Cats’ preference for mice over rats

While cats may not be particularly effective at killing rats, they are generally better at capturing and killing mice. A study titled “Domestic cats as predators and factors in winter shortages of raptor prey” found that six cats over an area of 35 acres killed more than 4,200 mice over a period of eight months. This study highlights cats’ ability to hunt and control smaller prey populations effectively. Cats have a natural instinct to hunt, and mice are more manageable prey for them compared to rats. Therefore, if you have a rat problem and are considering using cats as a solution, it may be more effective to focus on mice control instead.

Cats' preference for mice over rats


In conclusion, while cats have a long history as predators and are efficient hunters of various wildlife species, their effectiveness at killing rats is somewhat limited. Scientific studies have shown that cats often do not actively hunt rats, and when they do, the success rate is relatively low. Factors such as the size and defensive abilities of rats, as well as the cats’ innate preference for smaller prey such as mice, contribute to their limited success in controlling rat populations. However, this does not diminish the value of cats in other aspects of pest control and their role as companions. Initiatives like Blue Collar Cats that utilize feral cats for rodent management can still be beneficial in reducing rat sightings and providing needy cats with homes. So, while cats may not be the ultimate solution for rat control, their presence can undoubtedly have some positive impacts.

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