Who said (me!) that domestic cats are not very good at catching and killing rats? This video fatally undermines the statement but it is about individual cats’ temperaments and this one is full of courage. As you can see, the cat hears a rat under the hard standing in which there is a small hole. With great commitment and purpose, they manage to catch the rat with their claws and drag it to the surface. My concern in watching the video is for the cat’s forelegs in stuffing them down such a small hole with speed, power and commitment. It required precision of movement to avoid injury. I would expect the cat to have suffered bruising at least. Clearly, we can’t generalise domestic cats’ desire and ability to catch rats which for are quite dangerous to domestic and stray cats. Like others I have seen cats back off when rats arrive. I’ve seen community cats being deferential to rats when eating food that has been put down. The general gist of the argument is that rats are too hazardous for many individual cats to kill as they fear an injury from a nasty bite which would greatly impair their ability to survive.
Note: This is an embedded video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source or the video is turned into a link which would stop it working here. I have no control over this.
A study published in 2002 found that cat odour but not fox odour “increased retreat to the hide box, reduced locomotor activity and elicited ‘head out’ behaviour. When tested immediately after odour exposure, only cat odour exposed rats showed increased anxiety…”
After 24 hours the rats exposed to cat odour showed continued fear – “showed evidence of conditioned fear”.
Conclusion: the smell of domestic and stray cats is scary to rats resulting in them becoming defensive. Another study found that “Cat odor elicits a profound defensive reaction in rats that is reduced by benzodiazepine drugs”. Benzodiazepines called ‘benzos’ are psychoactive drugs used in people to alleviate anxiety and insomnia.
It is a little strange to me that many domestic cats are unsure about attacking a rat while rats are scared of cats. When the rats are large it seems that there is almost an equality of fighting abilities which results in a standoff.
In the video we see this fearless cat beginning to bite the rat to death before they go out of view behind the car but normally cats hit rats with rapid slaps and punches to stun and disable them before administering the killing bite in order to protect themselves from a nasty rat bite. This is indicative of cats’ caution in attacking a prey animal that is on the menu.
Below are some pages on rats.