Can Cats Kill Rats?

Updated November 22, 2022
Can Cats Kill Rats?

The answer to whether cats can kill rats is a definite “yes.” However, don’t rush to exit this page because there are many caveats.

Rats are a great food source for stray cats, but you should keep your pet from hunting rodents.

The risks of wildlife hunting for cats outweigh the benefits. The good news is that cats aren’t as good at hunting rats as one would expect because these creatures are intelligent, fast, and relatively large.

But what about pet rats? Will a cat attack a pet rat, or will they coexist peacefully? The answer depends merely on your actions. One can teach a cat and rat to get along with enough dedication and patience.

At the end of the day, each cat is different, and your pet’s reaction to rats depends on its personality. Some felines ignore rats, while others can’t miss a chance to chase one.

Cats Are Natural-Born Hunters

Cats are obligate carnivores feeding primarily on animal protein. They are natural-born hunters that love chasing smaller animals even if they don’t plan on eating them, including mice, insects, and birds.

Although rats are significantly larger than mice (the largest rats can be nearly the size of a cat, weighing up to nine pounds), they, too, often become targets of hunting cats.

It’s no wonder that so many cat toys resemble mice or rats. The fact that cats have powerful hunting instincts isn’t a secret.

Even indoor cats that have never seen a rat will instantly draw attention to the rodent if they see it in the backyard. And for stray cats, rats are among the primary sources of meat.

However, the real answer to whether a cat will kill a rat isn’t that straightforward. Yes, a cat is likely to chase a rat, but chasing doesn’t yet mean attacking or killing.

Some cats will chase rodents as part of a play, stimulating their brain and keeping them in shape, with no intention of killing them.

Depends On the Cat’s Personality and Physique

Each cat is an individual. All felines have hunting instincts, but their strength varies, and so do their physical capabilities for catching and killing prey.

Stray cats that only depend on their hunting skills for survival will have no problem catching and killing a rat provided they are healthy. Old or sick stray cats and kittens are more likely to hunt smaller prey like mice.

On the other hand, indoor cats might not even understand what to do with the rat or be afraid of it because of its size. There are numerous hilarious videos of indoor cats being scared of rats online.

Cats are intelligent creatures – they always assess their chances of winning the fight before attacking. If the cat doesn’t have much hunting experience or is about the same size as the rat, it is unlikely to attack.

Most indoor cats will avoid confrontation with a rat if it sneaks into the house. However, some indoor cats are more courageous than others, particularly large-breed cats like Orientals and Maine Coons.

Cats Aren’t as Effective at Killing Rats as You Might Think

Cats undoubtedly can kill rats, but they aren’t as effective at it as you might think. In 2017, researchers from Fordham University observed a rat colony for five months.

Over the course of testing, local stray cats ambushed only three out of roughly 150 rats in the colony and killed only two of the three.

Yes, the result means cats have an over 66% rat kill rate, but it also means cats tend to avoid large rodents. Perhaps, most cats don’t want to risk it because rats have sharp teeth and can fight back.

Plus, rats run fast as lightning and are highly agile. They aren’t the easiest prey, and cats know it, preferring to hunt slower or smaller animals.

Another interesting observation from the study is how cats chased the rats. The chase was like a game – when the rat stopped, so did the cat, so we can conclude cats often hunt rats with no intention of killing them.

On the one hand, the study’s results are positive because you don’t have to worry about your cat killing a rat and getting a disease that much. On the other hand, the study means that a cat is useless if you have a rodent problem.

Will a Cat Eat a Killed Rat?

Many feline enthusiasts wonder – do cats hunt for fun? Yes, cats often perceive hunting as physical activity and mental stimulation rather than means of survival, particularly indoor cats that get food from humans.

No cat can resist the sound of a rat’s scuttling feet because even indoor felines have instincts. Many cats will catch a rat and play with it until it dies instead of biting through the arteria and eating it right away.

Cats often lose interest in dead rodents after playing with them and leave them on their owner’s porch or in the grass. As an owner, you should be glad because eating rats has many risks for feline health.

Unlike indoor cats, stray cats are very likely to eat a rat they catch because they must hunt to survive and have better-developed hunting instincts.

Risks of a Cat Hunting Rats

If you let your pet walk outdoors, you should know the risks of a cat eating rats. Your cat might not hunt rats for food and not eat them entirely, but even a few bites can cause medical problems.

Diseases a cat can get from rats include hantavirus, leptospirosis, and toxoplasmosis. It can also get infested with parasites like fleas and ticks and worms.

Another danger of a cat hunting rats is poisoning. If you or your neighbors actively fight rodents in the area with rat poison and your cat eats a rat that has ingested the poison, it might die.

Poison sometimes takes several days to work, so a rodent that has ingested poison might continue running around. For these reasons, you should keep your cat from hunting rats and other wildlife at all times.

Can a Cat Kill a Pet Rat?

If you’re considering getting a pet rat but already have a cat, you might wonder whether a cat can kill a pet rat. In short, yes, a cat is likely to be interested in the pet rodent and try to chase it.

If you leave the two in one room without supervision, the cat is likely to kill the rat, especially considering that pet rats are smaller than regular rats living on the city streets.

Plus, pet rats don’t have as many places to hide as street rats. They also don’t run as fast and aren’t as strong. Keeping a cat with a rat is risky, but it isn’t impossible.

Can a Cat and Rat Coexist Peacefully?

Yes, cats and rats can coexist peacefully. You can teach your cat to get along with a pet rat. Start by learning how to introduce a cat to a rat correctly. Don’t rush things – give your pets time to get accustomed to each other.

The first interaction should be short – separate the pets as soon as you notice any signs of aggression or anxiety. You can gradually increase the interaction duration and decrease the distance as your pets start feeling more comfortable.

In fact, cats can be friends with rats – such cases are rare, but it’s possible if the animals are introduced early and the cat has a low prey drive. They might play and sleep together like best buddies.

Still, you should never leave a pet rat with a cat without supervision, even if you think your pets are friends. Ensure that your pet rat has a secure cage, preferably in a room you can close to keep the cat away.

How to Prevent Your Cat from Attacking Rats

If your cat frequently walks outdoors, you may wonder how to prevent a cat from attacking rats and other wildlife. After all, wildlife hunting has way more risks for feline health and life than benefits.

The best way to keep a cat from hunting rats is a bell collar. The purpose of a small bell on the collar is to alert rats, birds, and other animals the cat is approaching, giving them time to escape.

As a result, the collar saves both the cat and its potential target. When choosing the collar, ensure it has a breakaway mechanism that will release if your cat gets caught onto something.

Bird bibs are a great alternative to cat bell collars – they don’t make a sound and are more comfortable because of the soft material. Bird bibs are soft bright fabric collars that draw bird and rodent attention from a safe distance.

A cat that gets enough physical activity and mental stimulation at home are also less likely to hunt rodents, so don’t neglect daily play. Spend at least 15 minutes daily playing with your cat.

Lastly, you can set up a safe walking area for your cat in your backyard. Make a fenced enclosure where your cat can enjoy the sun and fresh air and watch wildlife without having a chance to escape.