Are dogs better than cats at killing rats?

Terriers and farmers go ratting and the dogs love it and are aggressively fearless in contrast to most domestic cats today.
Terriers and farmers go ratting and the dogs love it and are aggressively fearless in contrast to most domestic cats today.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

My conclusion is that dogs are better than cats at killing rats; specifically, the Jack Russell terrier is better than any cat breed and even the moggie. One commentor (see base of page) said that dogs need to be trained to be efficient ratters but don’t find that very convincing as dogs are predators just like cats.

In order to answer the question as accurately as possible I delved into Google Scholar which is the repository of all scientific studies that we can access on the Internet and I couldn’t find one which helped me answer the question in the title! I have to rely on anecdotal evidence as they say which means stories from people posting on the Internet. And I can rely on my own knowledge. This is my opinion. I expect some readers will have different opinions. If so please share them in a comment.

And in relying on my own knowledge, both in terms of first-hand experience and reading about cats killing rats, my overriding feeling is that the modern-day domestic cat is no longer a great rat catcher. In the past there have been some record holding domestic cats killing five rats a day and that sort of thing but if you watch videos of domestic cats in the presence of rats, sometimes they back away being too fearful of them.

White domestic cat looking somewhat nonplussed by the large rats presence in complete contrast to the behavior of the Jack Russell terriers ratting on a farm.
White domestic cat looking somewhat nonplussed by the large rats presence in complete contrast to the behavior of the Jack Russell terriers ratting on a farm.

It obviously depends upon the individual cat’s personality and the size and aggression of the rat but I don’t see domestic cats diving into kill rats with great aggression which is exactly what I see when I see a Jack Russell terrier catching rats or a mink doing the same thing.

There are a lot of videos on YouTube of dogs killing rats. They are often Jack Russell terriers, a small dog which seems to be highly suited to the task. I don’t like watching the videos as they are unpleasant but huge numbers of rats have been killed by terriers and the farmers dig them up and allow the dogs to kill them rapidly. The dogs are very excited as they dive towards the rat. They bite them hard while shaking them; killing them very quickly.

Ratting with terriers. The dogs are very eager and dive in aggressively and fearlessly as a rat emerges. Domestic cats today would be never approach this level of effectiveness in killing rats.

The dogs don’t hesitate for a second. They are eager to kill. I don’t think you would find the same attitude, in general, with the domestic cat. Farmers like to go ratting with their dogs because it amuses them and it keeps the dogs happy. I have a different opinion about the activity.

On the website (an intelligent social media forum) somebody asked whether cats are afraid of very large rats and I think the answer is probably yes depending upon the cat’s character. The same answer would not apply to a Jack Russell terrier. I can’t think of any cat breed that is particularly well attuned psychologically to killing rats.

Today’s cat breeds are selectively bred to be really good human companions often living full-time indoors. The same can’t be said about the Jack Russell terrier living with a farmer. The lifestyle is almost opposite to that of a beautiful purebred cats living indoors.

The dog eagerly waits to go outside to go ratting with their owner. The farmer digs up the rats and the Jack Russell lunges at the rat as it emerges from the ground.

The domestic cat has some great hunting skills, for example their reflexes are faster than those of a snake in my estimation. And there are some amazing wild cat species such as the sand cat who has the unnerving ability to kill snakes at will. The sand cat is a diminutive wild cat species but fearless and aggressive even if they have a very cute appearance similar to that of a domestic cat.

But after 10,000 years of wild cat domestication, this hunting ability has been somewhat lost even if it is said that the wildcat is just below the surface of the domestic cat in terms of character. This is true but rats are very competent predators themselves and they defend themselves aggressively.

The domestic cat is more cautious than their wild cat ancestor. They don’t want to be bitten by a rat which is the kind of thing that they think might happen if they did what the Jack Russell terrier does. The dog doesn’t mind that risk. He doesn’t think about it. There is no caution. In fact, in taking that confident attitude, the risk of being bitten by a rat is almost eliminated.

But if a domestic cat cautiously approaches a rat and is unsure about attacking, the rat is more likely to harm the cat in my view. This makes the cat less effective than a dog but of course it depends upon the dog’s breed. The small terriers are well suited to the task but there are other breeds which are probably equally effective.

And it depends upon how the animal has been trained and raised. And that’s another point; dogs are highly trainable whereas cats aren’t. Cats can be trained but instinctively they are less adept at the process because they are essentially solitary creatures whereas the dog is a pack animal looking up to the alpha namely the owner for leadership and guidance.

On this page you can compare the video above with the one below which shows a white cat in ‘an epic stand-off’ (not quite) with a large rat. I think you can see the difference in attitude between cat and dog.

White domestic cat is unsure of themselves when confronted with a large rat.

My clear conclusion is that dogs are better than cats at killing rats these days. What do you think? Please note that these are both embedded videos which means that they are being served to this page by YouTube. I have no control over their presence on YouTube and if they are deleted on that website they will stop working on this website.

P.S. I’ve seen some amazing videos of mink attacking and killing rats. The mink is also a very effective ratter.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

3 thoughts on “Are dogs better than cats at killing rats?”

  1. I don’t want ANYONE encouraging or condoning the ruthless maiming and murders of rats or mice. That’s a highly cruel form of specieism!

  2. I live right next to a bayou, so there are plenty of mice and rats around, pretty much all year round. The answer is: most definitely NOT! I have yet to personally see even one dog with a rat in its mouth, while I have lost count of how many times I have seen outdoors, stray and feral cats with captured/killed mice and rats in their mouths. For a dog to be an effective rat hunter, it has to be trained. The same is not true for cats. That comes very natural for them, no one has to “teach” them that skill.

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