Do Cat Kill Mice And Rats

Cats have long been known as prolific and effective hunters, especially when it comes to rodents like mice and rats. In fact, historical records show that humans began domesticating cats over 9,500 years ago in large part for their rodent hunting abilities. Cats were brought onboard ships to help control rat populations, and kept in barns and granaries for the same purpose. Their lethal skill and seeming enjoyment of hunting small prey has led to cats being both beloved and maligned over the centuries.

Today, many cat owners have mixed feelings when their feline companion proudly brings them a “gift” of a dead or dying rodent. While this behavior may not be welcomed by humans, it shows that cats still retain their strong natural instincts to hunt and kill mice and rats. Understanding why cats kill these rodents, and the effects on pest control and disease prevention, provides useful context for this timeless predator-prey relationship.

Natural Predators

Cats are natural predators with strong hunting instincts that lead them to chase, catch, and kill small prey like mice and rats (1). Domestic cats still possess the natural instincts of their wild ancestors to hunt rodents. Felines are evolutionary designed as predators, with heightened senses, stealth movements, and attack behaviors that enable them to effectively locate, stalk, and kill smaller animals (2).

While pet cats are well-fed by their owners, they still retain their natural prey drive. Their instincts to hunt small, fast moving animals like rodents remains intact. When cats encounter mice or rats around the home, they will habitually chase, pounce and deliver killing bites to the neck (1). So hunting comes naturally to cats, even those raised exclusively as pets.

(1) https://blog.catbandit.com/do-cats-kill-rats-investigating-the-facts/

(2) https://www.quora.com/Does-the-cat-smell-alone-deter-mice-and-rats

Effective Rodent Hunters

Cats are naturally skilled at hunting and killing rodents like mice and rats. They have several key adaptations that make them effective predators of small mammals.

Cats rely heavily on stealth and camouflage when hunting, allowing them to sneak up on prey without being detected. Their light footsteps, ability to stay low to the ground, and use of cover helps them get within striking range unnoticed (How Do Cats Kill Rats? A Comprehensive Guide). Once close enough, cats pounce rapidly to seize their prey.

A cat’s sharp teeth and claws are ideal tools for swiftly killing rodents. Their strong jaws allow them to deliver a lethal bite, crushing the spine or skull (Are Cats Effective at Killing Rats? The Surprising Answer!). Their claws help them maintain a firm grip while biting down. Together, these adaptations make cats highly proficient hunters of small mammals like mice and rats.

Positive Effects

Cats can have a positive effect by keeping rodent populations under control. When allowed to hunt, cats can be very effective at catching and killing mice and rats around homes, farms, and businesses.

According to researchers, cats have a strong prey drive and their desire to hunt is instinctual, having evolved as a hunter of small prey like rodents (LoDi-UK, 2022). A key benefit of cats as hunters is that they help limit rodent reproduction by reducing numbers.

With a single litter producing 6-12 young and rats breeding up to 5 times per year, rodent populations can explode rapidly if left uncontrolled (PetCareRx, 2022). By hunting and killing rodents, cats can effectively suppress population booms and limit the spread of rats and mice.

This natural form of pest control can be highly beneficial in homes, reducing the presence of disease-carrying rodents, as well as on farms, helping protect livestock feed and crops from being contaminated or consumed by vermin.

Overall, the predatory nature of cats makes them well-suited for controlling rodent numbers through hunting, providing an organic and chemical-free means of keeping populations in check (SPCA BC, 2022). Their rodent hunting provides a natural form of pest management with multiple benefits.

Preventing Disease

Rodents can carry and spread many harmful diseases that are dangerous to both humans and pets. According to the CDC, rodents directly spread diseases like hantavirus, hemorrhagic fever, and Lassa fever [1]. Cats are excellent hunters and can help control rodent populations, reducing the risk of disease transmission. When cats hunt and kill rodents, they help break the chain of disease spread from rodents to humans or other household pets.

Rodents don’t have to directly bite or scratch to spread disease. Their urine, droppings, saliva, and nesting materials can also carry viruses, bacteria, and parasites. For example, rodent droppings can contain the bacteria that causes leptospirosis or Salmonella [2]. Letting cats hunt rodents reduces sources of potential disease transmission within the home.

By lowering rodent populations, cats minimize the risk of rodent-borne illnesses being passed to humans and pets. With fewer disease-carrying rodents around the home, cats provide an important protective health benefit for families.

Protecting Food Supplies

Cats have long been used on farms and in grain storage facilities to help protect vital food supplies from rodent infestation. Mice and rats can decimate crops and contaminate or consume large quantities of grains, seeds, livestock feed and other agricultural products if left unchecked. According to a study by CABI, rodents destroy approximately 5-10% of global food production every year through contamination and consumption. Cats help curb this destruction through persistent hunting and killing of rodents around agricultural facilities.

Grain storage facilities and processing plants often employ teams of cats to patrol the grounds and keep rodents under control. The cats prowl the area and hunt down any rodents attempting to gain access to the grain stores. Farmers also use cats in barns, granaries and fields to protect livestock feed, seeds, and produce from being ravaged by rodents. While cats cannot fully eliminate rodent populations, their predatory presence forces the rodents to be more wary and helps significantly reduce losses. According to research from the International Journal of Pest Management, the use of cats in agricultural settings leads to improved quality control and reduces the need for chemical forms of rodent control.

Home Pest Control

Cats make excellent natural pest control for homes and properties by keeping populations of mice and rats under control. According to research, cats create a “landscape of fear” that causes mice and rats to avoid areas marked with cat scents [1]. This allows cats to protect homes from infestations and damage caused by these rodent pests. Cats use their powerful hunting instincts to catch and kill mice and rats around homes. Their stealth ability, quick reflexes, and sharp claws make them adept hunters of small rodents.

Having one or more cats around a home can significantly reduce or even eliminate rodent problems. Cat owners report dramatic declines in mice and rats after adopting a feline. Cats patrol properties and catch rodents in gardens, yards, sheds, garages, attics, and other areas around homes. Their mere presence creates an invisible barrier that keeps additional pests away. Homeowners who struggle with mice or rats should consider adopting a cat as an effective, non-toxic way to control these pests.

Farm Cats

Barn cats have long been relied upon by farmers to help control rodent populations. Their keen hunting skills make cats very effective at finding, stalking, and killing mice and rats around barns and grain storage areas. Having a healthy population of cats on a farm can help prevent rodents from destroying crops and contaminating food supplies.

According to the Beginning Farmers website, “Cats are NOT good rodent control. The myth about cats being good rodent control has been disproved on every island where cats were imported to control rodents” (https://www.beginningfarmers.org/the-most-important-animal-on-the-farm-the-barn-cat/). While cats may kill some rodents, they do not provide effective, consistent control of rodent infestations on farms. Other measures like sealing up entry points, removing food sources, and setting traps are more reliable.

Farmers should not depend solely on cats to manage rodents, but barn cats can still play a helpful role as part of an integrated pest management plan. Their predation applies constant pressure on the rodent population. And cats like to leave their kills as warning to other rodents, so their presence and scent can help deter infestations.

Concerns and Considerations

While cats can help control rodent populations, some studies have raised concerns about the environmental impact of cats hunting small native species like birds and lizards. One study published in Biological Conservation estimated that free-ranging domestic cats in the United States kill between 1.3–4.0 billion birds and between 6.3-22.3 billion mammals annually (Loss et al. 2013). Another study in People and Nature found that cats have contributed to extinctions for at least 142 species around the world, including 40 bird and mammal species (Trouwborst 2020).

One way to allow cats to hunt rodents while reducing their impact on native wildlife is to put breakaway collar bells on cats. The sounds from the bells can warn birds and small mammals of a cat’s presence and give them a chance to escape. Using collar bells and keeping cats indoors as much as possible can help balance pest control with wildlife conservation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, cats are amazingly effective natural predators of mice and rats. As we’ve discussed, cats have strong hunting instincts that serve as natural pest control. Their stealthy stalking skills allow them to readily catch and kill rodents. Having cats around can help prevent the spread of diseases and destruction of food supplies caused by mice and rat infestations. While there are some concerns about the impact cats can have on other wildlife, many people find the benefits of using cats for natural rodent control outweigh the risks. Their exceptional ability to catch and kill rats and mice makes cats valuable for natural, chemical-free pest management both in homes and on farms.

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