The idea that cats can keep rodent populations in check has been popular for thousands of years. Our feline friends have been a loyal companion for many generations. Often, in the hopes that these domesticated predators will keep the pesky rats at bay. Pop culture also reflects on these ideas. “The game of cat and mouse” has even penetrated our language.
Yet many people are unwilling to send a cat to do a dog’s work. What many people don’t know is that dogs are actually a lot better in hunting down different types of rodents. There are some breeds especially created for this purpose. Terriers are notorious in rat circles as rodent hunters and rat dogs. They are quite receptive to training on top of their already keen instincts. But is a pet, cat or dog, enough to solve a rodent problem? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Can cats kill rats and prevent a rat infestation?
We all know cats are super efficient killing machines in the guise of small, cute, furry creatures. Right? Well, turns out their widespread reputation might not hold as much water as we’d hoped, a new study suggests.
While in some parts of the world city officials are getting desperate in the fight against the phantom menace, cats might not be the amazing saviour they’re hoping for. Releasing feral cats into the urban environment may seem like the most logical solution to the problem (if you’re a cartoon character), but this not backed up by science (or any jolt of reason or logic).
It sounds good on paper – just lock some cats in cages for a while, keep them hungry for a while and then release them upon the rodent population so they can rain fire and brimstone. Seems legitimate – cats are incentivised to stick around by the “humane” treatment (who doesn’t want to be locked in a cage for three weeks) and their natural predatory instincts kick in once they encounter rats. And because they’re such proficient hunters, they will actively battle the rat populations. We’ve seen Tom and Jerry – we’re sure this is how it works.
Or does it? Here’s the problem – it’s true that cats, no matter how cute and domesticated, have the instincts of a lion inside of them. That predatorial urge is the reason they would go after a laser pointer dot or a ball of yarn. This goes double for stray cats that have to fend for themselves their entire life. So they have to be desperate for prey, right?
Maybe… Except predators aren’t stupid. There is a mathematical principle at work that includes basic instinct – the calories you gain from the food should far exceed the calories you need to spend pursuing it. In other words, go for the easy prey. There is a reason lions hunt antelopes and not leopards. The risk of getting killed by dangerous prey is not worth it unless you’re desperate. This is deeply encoded into every predator.
Back to cats. The small ones. Those of us who have seen a city rat know they’re anything but easy prey. The average rat can weigh around 300 grams, some of them even more. Granted a cat weighs about 10 times as much gives it an edge, but it’s not as easy as killing a small bird or a mouse (which weighs around 30 grams). The rat can and will put up a fight. With front teeth powerful enough to gnaw through almost anything and being abnormally aggressive (fighting for your life can do that to you) makes the pest a real threat to the cat. Of course, the feline predator would probably come out victorious in this deathmatch, but it’s not the same landslide victory as it would be against a little defenceless birdie. Rats are big and fierce enough to pose a legitimate threat and cats feel that, which is why they rarely try to hunt them.
“But if that’s the case, why do people detect fewer rats in the presence of cats”, we hear you eagerly ask. It’s simple – rats don’t want to fight or be hunted by cats, either. So they avoid each other. Once the rats get a whiff of the cats’ presence, they become very careful and stop prancing around. This doesn’t solve the infestation problem, but it does hide it. Basically, rats – 1: cats – 0.
This is the reason why your precious Snowbell won’t be going after the rats in your basement. If feral cats actively avoid rats, imagine your little princess.
So, can cats prevent a rat infestation? Not likely. If the infestation is small enough rats might be encouraged to relocate. But that’s a big “if”.
So, skip the “if” and schedule a rat control service today!
Can dogs kill rats and prevent a rat infestation?
“OK, If cats aren’t the answer, then what about dogs?” Excellent question, our inquisitive reader! You’ve picked up the trail! Dogs are indeed much better rat hunters than cats.
Terriers were specifically bred to deal with foxes, rabbits, and mice. Rat dogs were often used to keep rodent populations in check. They were efficient at dispatching individual rats that were running around, trying to escape with stolen loot.
Terriers have sharp senses and keen predatory instincts. Thousands of years of crossbreeding and living among humans have done little to sedate the killer inside. It’s actually healthy for the ratters to go after prey and give in to their hunting appetites.
A dog doesn’t simply become a ratter. Rat hunting dogs are the product of both nature and nurture. They might have the instincts to go after rats, but they don’t have all the necessary skills. They must learn how to effectively dispatch the rodent while at the same time minimize the potential danger for the dog. Packs of terriers were used in the 50s around Brisbane and turned out to be very effective against the rats that were running rampant around the city at the time.
“But Fantastic Pest Control, this is ancient history”, you may say “Can dogs prevent a rat infestation or not?” We’ll tell you. But first…
Today, dogs in cities all over the world as a part of the fight against the ever-growing rat populations. Seems like, with the passing of time, rats get bigger, stronger, and smarter. Not all is lost, though. Our canine friends are here to join the ranks of pest controllers and rat hunters alike.
Yes, you read that right – those early packs of rat hunting dogs are still around and they’re still used quite effectively to control the rodent menace (well, not the same packs – those terriers have long been running around the endless field of grass). With the help of these dogs, councils can kill thousands of rats a month. This is a popular practice in the UK, the US, and here in Australia.
Brisbane has a long-standing tradition of using rat dogs in this manner. While in a city alley, the fox terriers can sniff out, chase, and kill rats effectively. But their main function is to sniff out the rat infestation. And this gets us to the crux of things – it’s not very likely that a dog, even a rat hunting dog, would be able to prevent a rat infestation.
Thing is, inside rats are a lot more difficult to deal with. Even if the dog can sniff them out, rats still have a lot of hiding space. They can use backspaces, crawl under the floors, in the walls, and use the tiniest of holes to evade their would-be killer. Don’t let them fool you – rats are smart. They change their behaviour and adapt to changes in the environment.
Generally, having a pet around might reduce, but not completely prevent a rodent infestation. And if there’s one already present, we sincerely doubt your pet will deal with it. However, they can be invaluable in detecting one. From there on out, you can opt for rat control and allow the professionals to handle the infestation for you.
As much as pop culture would like us to believe, dogs are more effective ratters than cats. They have the proper instincts and can be trained to be ruthless rat hunters. However, even dogs cannot completely solve your rodent infestation problem, especially if it’s a big one. If you think to have a pet just for the sole purpose of protecting your house against pests, think again.