Do Cats Control Rats?
Undoubtedly, there are some domestic cats that are good mousers. But most domestic cats are too well fed and only ‘play’ with mice. Few cats, even the good mousers, will tackle a fully-grown rat.
Cats probably became domesticated in ancient Egypt. It was recognised that they caught a lot of mice and helped protect the stored grains in village grain stores. Then the ancient Egyptians began to admire the other traits of cats; their friendly playful nature, pleasant purring, cuddly soft fur, low maintenance requirements, etc. But as cats became domesticated they began to lose their prey drive and hunting skills instead of being selected for their skills in befriending humans.
Are Cats Good Rodent Pest Controllers?
Here are some things to consider about cats and their benefits, or not, in controlling rodents:
- Feral cats are probably good mousers and will tackle rats when other food sources are not available. Unfortunately, there are often plentiful supplies of birds and reptiles for feral cats and New Zealand’s ground-dwelling birds are all too often easy prey for cats. Consequently, feral cats are regarded as a major biodiversity pest in New Zealand wild areas.
- The presence of a cat or cats in or around buildings may be a deterrent to rodents.
- Good mousers will catch some mice but it is rarely a significant percentage of the population because mice are nimble and spend most of their time in places where cats are not able to access them. Only when food is scarce or rodent populations and competition for food become high are rodents forced to move into open spaces in search of food.
- If you have cats as pets they may, from time to time, bring you a ‘present’ of a rodent, dead or alive. A common way for rodents to get indoors is for live mice to be brought into the home by the domestic cat and released for the ‘sport’ of trying to catch it again.
- Domestic cats that are good mousers may also be good (or should that be bad?) birders.
- Rodents are a pest in areas in areas where food is handled or stored partly because their urine, faeces and hairs may contaminate the food. Cats may take more care when toileting but they are also a food contamination risk.
Don’t get a cat just for controlling rodents; cats should be kept for pets and any effect reducing rodent numbers should be regarded as a subsidiary benefit.