Is the modern cat any good at catching rats and other rodents? Can you adopt a cat for that purpose and expect success? In India, at least one person found success. I don’t know how commonplace it is for people to keep cats for the sole purpose of killing and frightening off rats and mice.
However, domestic cats can still have a utility function. They need not just be decorative, lounging around eating and sleeping. Although that’s what it looks like sometimes. In many areas and countries a cat might be adopted to keep down the rodent population. You know..the old-fashioned, almost ancient idea, which is the reason why the cat was domesticated in the first place. There was a contract, if you like, between cat and human. This was it:
The wild cat ancestor to the domestic cat – the wildcat – is a top predator of rodents and snakes and therefore the first domestic cats were equally adept and successful as a pest-killer. Has any of that ability been retained after 9,500 years of domestication?
I am sure that there are many farms where barn cats (or farm cats) are retained as “pets” but also on a utility basis, to keep the pest population down. However, barn cats are a little more wild, or a lot more wild, than the standard domestic cat. Their hunting skills are more finely tuned and in good working order.
One aspect of keeping barn cats for pet control is that they are more effective if they are fed by the farmer. This keeps them within the area of the barn and on the farm, in which case they are in the right place to kill rats. Being well fed does not stop them hunting rats. If you keep barn cats hungry they wander far and wide. Their hunting takes them away from the barn.
Conclusion: barn cats are still good rat catchers.
No 10 Downing Street
We all know that the prime minister’s office at No 10 adopted a cat from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to keep rodents at bay. The concept was not so much to hunt rodents but to keep them away by the presence of a domestic cat. See cats in the workplace.
Conclusion: the home loving domestic cat is still a useful repellant against rodents
You might know that in the UK one champion mouser – a Lancashire, male, tabby cat – killed 22,000 mice while being employed in a factory over a lifespan of 23 years. He appears to have lived off them, killing three per day.
The “world champion” (really just a guess) ratter is, apparently, another tabby cat living in London who caught 12,480 rats in 6 years.
Both examples probably relate to times gone by, about 50 years ago and more. Even 50 years ago the relationship between cat and person was quite different.
What Cat is Best for Rat Catching?
There is nothing on the internet to help us. This is no surprise because, in truth, you won’t know which cat is the best for rat catching because it comes down to the individual personality of the cat. Some cats will be excellent and some relatively uninterested.
Both champions mentioned above were tabby cats. That does not mean that tabby cats are good rat catchers. It just means that there are more tabby cats than any other sort of cat.
If I was adopting a cat for the sole purpose of keeping rodent populations down I’d use these guidelines:
- Adopt a rescue cat from the local shelter.
- Choose a cat that was semi-feral or stray and brought in. Most often these cats are deemed unsuitable and euthanised but I would have thought they would have more finely honed hunting skills. However, you’ll have to do a bit of domestication.
- Chose a red tabby cat. I feel that these cats are a little more alpha type and also well behaved. This assessment is anecdotal and completely unscientific.
- Ask the shelter people for their advice. They should know the character of their cats or have an idea about their individual personalities. This is important because, as mentioned, it comes down to individual cats. You can’t brand one type of cat better than another.
- Don’t bother about adopting a purebred, pedigree cat (but see the comment below about the Bombay cat – nice comment). They will be no better and possibly worse. However, the Maine Coon evolved as a barn cat in the USA. Perhaps rat catching is still in her blood?