Cats are great at killing mice but how are they at helping control rats? Rats are much bigger than mice and it isn’t obvious if a cat could handle a mean rat. What would a cat do if it came across a monster rat? Would it stalk the rat as prey and tear it to shreds or would the cat pretend it didn’t see the thing and slowly walk away?
So what about it, “Do cats eat rats?” “Are there breeds of cat eating rats?” I did a little research and this is what I found out:
Some cats will eat rats but it depends on how the cat was raised and the size of the rats. Some municipalities use feral cats to control rat populations but there is debate about the benefits of such programs. It turns out that, when it comes to killing rats, dogs are the superior hunters.
Cats Hunt Rats If They Were Taught By Their Mother
It’s fairly common to assume that all cats will hunt rats if given the opportunity. The reality is that for just about all domesticated cats, hunting for rats is a learned behavior, not an instinctual one.
When a cat is still a kitten, it can be taught to hunt and kill rats, mice, or other rodents. However, the kitten can also be taught to be friends with these same creatures. Because rat hunting among cats is learned, getting a cat to control a rat problem won’t always be a surefire solution.
How to actually teach a kitten to hunt rats is another topic altogether. Judging from behavioral research done on the subject, it appears that kittens learn to hunt rats most effectively by learning from their mothers.
Use of Feral Cats to Control Rat Populations
It’s common for some cities to try using feral cats to control rat populations. While some of these cats may kill a few rats, they don’t stop there. Remember that feral cats are expert survivors, and they’ll hunt virtually any small animal they come across. This includes birds, groundhogs, and squirrels.
So, when a city opts for the feral cat fix, what they often end up with is a lot of other dead animals without seeing a real dent in the initial rat problem. A recent study of feral feline hunting behavior showed that these cats prefer less challenging prey. Rats are exceptionally good at hiding and evading predators, making them difficult for feral cats to catch.
“Blue Collar” Cats
Some organizations like the Humane Rescue Alliance provide what are called ‘Blue Collar cats’ (also called ‘working cats’) to homes and businesses that have an established rat infestation. These cats have already learned how to hunt rats, and they do a fairly good job of managing the problem once they’re introduced to the rat’s environment.
Of course, this kind of solution might not be ideal for those with cat allergies or for those who live with other pets.
Dogs are Better at Killing Rats Than Cats
Contrary to popular opinion, dogs are more effective than cats when it comes to hunting rats. This is especially the case with dogs that are specifically bred to do the job.
Why is this? Well, it has to do with species-specific hunting instincts. While cats can exhibit high levels of aggressive hunting behavior, it’s actually baked into dog DNA. Keep in mind that the modern dog evolved from wolves, which are master hunters. In specific, the Terrier breed of dog is remarkably good at tracking and killing rats—much more so than the typical feral cat.
In fact, Rat Terrier dogs are so good at killing rats that they’ve been commissioned by the city of New York to tackle the ongoing rat problem there. Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, the iconic 26th president of the United States, owned a Rat Terrier named ‘Scamp’—a dog that was so good at hunting rats that an entire breed was coined: the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier.
Another great ‘ratting dog’ is the Dachshund, a dog breed known for its alertness and bold hunting tactics. You might think that breeding a Dachshund and a Rat Terrier would result in a hyper-efficient rat-killing machine, and you’d be right. Dachshund Terriers are not only great at hunting rats; they’re also very family-friendly.
Who knew that a dog with short, stubby legs would be so good at killing rats?
A Slight Advantage for Cats
Cats are great climbers. Dogs are not.
If a pack of rats decides to make their home in a tree (which is a great strategic escape from other predators), a cat is naturally going to do a better job of rooting out the problem because of its ability to climb swiftly, right? Not quite.
Why doesn’t their expert climbing ability make cats better at hunting rats than dogs? The answer is this: cats don’t capitalize on their climbing advantage enough for it to make them especially good at hunting rats.
More often than not, cats choose to scale things like trees and telephone poles as a way to escape or distance themselves from perceived danger. Therefore, you’re more likely to see a cat running up a tree to get away from something, not chase something down.
Summary and Conclusion
Pop culture would have us believe that cats are the ideal rat hunters, when in fact, it’s the dogs that deserve the praise. When a cat does manage to nab a rat, bringing its corpse to the feet of the cat’s owner, chances are high that the cat was simply bored. It wanted the chase itself, not the rat.
If given the choice when hunting, cats will almost always opt for less-challenging prey. This means foregoing the conniving and elusive rat in favor of other small animals like groundhogs, birds, or squirrels.
Dogs on the other hand are by their very nature vicious hunters with an inbred motivation to attack and eliminate small, furry animals like rats and mice. So, the next time you’re presented with the problem of rats, go with the dog and not the cat!
Noah Thompson is an expert in rat relief, providing invaluable tips and advice on effective rat control. With extensive knowledge in rodent behavior, he simplifies complex concepts, empowering readers to confidently tackle rat infestations. Through workshops and seminars, Noah equips communities with practical skills while advocating for humane treatment and control of rats.