Categories: Cat Behaviorhunting

What Cat is Best for Rat Catching?

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:

Cat Contract

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?

Farm Cats

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

Champion Mousers

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:

  1. Adopt a rescue cat from the local shelter.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • I think I have a rat or few in my basement is it safe to let my orange tabby down there? She seems to go after anything that moves

  • I was the owner of several cats at one time. The cats were raised with hamsters so they were used to rodents in the house. One of my cats would crawl into the cage where they were kept and just lie there while the hamsters walked all over her. Unfortunately when I did get a mouse in the house the cats totally ignored it. I guess they figured it was just another member of the hamster family.

    • Hi Karen, yep, when cats are socialised with an animal who'd normally be prey, they are no longer prey but friends. You can totally reprogram animals. The same must apply to humans. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • My Norwegian forest cat killed about 2 dozen rats last year. Some of the rats were huge. He has 7 toes on each front paw, so maybe that helps.

    • I like your comment a lot. I suspect that the seven toes does help. I hope that he has seven claws on those seven toes. Your cat reminds me of the Maine Coon ships' cats. The first long-haired cats to be brought to America were from Europe and these cats became Maine Coons. Sailors preferred cats with more than the usual number of toes (polydactylism) because they thought it made them better on ship and better in respect of catching rats. Thanks for commenting.

  • I beg to differ about the no purebred part. My Bombay, who my boyfriend and I rescued 2 yrs ago is an EXCELLENT ratter. He caught his first rat first winter he was here, took all of 2 seconds. He even went to a quiet spot of the house & ate it. Bombay cats at such great hunters because of the American Shorthair in them. (Bombays are essentially Black American Shorthairs & Sable Burmese). The American Shorthair were brought along the Mayflower as ratters. So, yes, purebred cats CAN be superb hunters, they just have to have a cat, (usually their mom), to show/teach them how.

    • Great comment. I liked it. Thanks for differing in your opinion. I like the idea of a purebred, pedigree cat catching rats and taking on the same role that the first domestic cats had 9,500 years ago. Nice connection with the past and our original relationship with the domestic cat.

  • Cats are actually one of the poorest methods of rodent control of all. Not only are they a highly destructive invasive species that transmits many deadly zoonotic diseases to both humans and all other animals, but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of native species on every continent that are much better suited for the purpose. On top of that, most cats run from rats.

    What happens is that cats destroy all the native rodent predators, or displace them, and then the cats destroy only the rodents that they can find (key point). Guess what? Rodents don't reproduce in places where cats can get to them. They reproduce in burrows and places too small for ANY cat to get to them. So what you end up with is a happy predator/prey balance of nothing but cats and rodents infesting your lands and homes.

    The rodents reproduce in burrows and holes where they are happy to reproduce forever to entertain your cats the rest of their lives, and make your own lives miserable, on into infinity. On top of that, when cats infect rodents with the cat's Toxoplasma gondii parasite, this hijacks the minds of rodents to make the rodents attracted to where cats urinate. Cats actually attract rodents to where cats are. Further increasing the cat/rodent density of this happy predator/prey balance. It has been documented many many times. The more cats you have, the more rodents you get. I suggest you Google for those studies.

    No cat population anywhere has EVER been able to eradicate rodents. But native predators can -- easily. Many reptiles and the more voracious smaller mammals can destroy rodents at their very source. Even the tiny little 1.75-inch Masked Shrew (not a rodent) in N. America, a David and Goliath story, can wipe out rodents. They are the only mammal in N. America with a poisonous bite, specifically designed to prey on rodents in places where rodents hide from your cats.

    Remainder removed as it was arrogant and rude.....(Admin)

    • I don't think I want any of those native rat killers in my house, and I don't think they want to be there, either. I am looking for a cat to kill rats in my house.

    • You mentioned that "there are hundreds (if not thousands) of native species on every continent that are much better suited for the purpose".
      Could you please name 10 of these and are they family friendly or legal to own?

    • I can tell this person is one of those wannabe debaters who makes it up as he/she goes. I have a cat which brings home full size rats, mice, moles, voles, and even squirrels and rabbits.

  • Tabby cats often have excellent camouflage especially in the nature. It's unbelievable how you can't see them in the long grass and plants nearby even. As I understand Larry was doing a bad job at number 10 so the Chancellors cat Freya from number 11 took over the job on a time share basis although that remains unofficial. Freya and Larry don't get on, I think she's a typical dominant bossy ladycat and Larry is a relaxed slightly lazy mancat.

    My mum got us an outdoor cat (its warm down there all year round pretty much) to deal with a rat problem down in the south of france. I was too young to remember the beginning but I remember the cat when I grew up a bit. He was black and white and his name was Basil. For years we tried to plead with the old ladies next door to not over feed him or not feed him at all. They kept doing it and he got very overweight. One day he was hit by a car either crossing the road on his way or way back from the old ladies house. I never knew Basil but I though that it was very sad and felt as though the ladies next door had basically killed him. If he wasn't so overweight I doubt he would have been hit even. Anyway, they shouldn't have fed him whatever they were feeding him. We had a paradise for him to live with nice food and everything. I think he didn't perhaps get enough human attention if anything but he did keep to himself as I remember. Regardless that he became big and not much of a hunter his presence kept the rats away. I wish I could have spent more time with Basil but I was just a little kid then and Basil anyway stayed away from all of us for the most part.

    • It is nice to have a real life example. A bit sad though. I may be that a decent number of people living in the country keep cats as a rodent repellant as a secondary purpose. It is just an added bonus. I agree that the camouflage of tabby cats helps to make them better rat catchers.

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