Nature & Environment
It's official - cats are rubbish at catching rats
By T.K. Randall
September 30, 2018 · 12 comments
Don't expect a cat to do much in the way of rat-catching. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Tim Felce
A new study has cast doubt on the practice of releasing cats in to cities to help curb rat populations.
If there's one thing cats are known to be good at, it's catching mice, yet despite their reputation for chasing small, scurrying rodents, it turns out that they are not actually all that good at catching rats.
During a recent study in to rat populations at a waste disposal site in New York City, researcher Michael Parsons and colleagues noticed both rats and feral cats co-existing in close proximity.
Over the course of their research, the team observed more than 300 close encounters between the two species and only 20 times did a cat even attempt to chase down one of the rodents.
On top of that, most of the time the cat would give up before catching its target.
During the 79 days the researchers spent observing the site, only two rats were killed by cats. The rest of the time, the cats just sat around observing the rats from afar, seemingly uninterested.
"Like any prey, rats overestimate the risks of predation," said Parsons. "In the presence of cats, they adjust their behavior to make themselves less apparent and spend more time in burrows."
"This raises questions about whether releasing cats in the city to control rats is worth the risks cats pose to wildlife."
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