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Nature & Environment

It's official - cats are rubbish at catching rats

By T.K. Randall
September 30, 2018 · Comment icon 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."

Source: BGR.com | Comments (12)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by Troublehalf 5 years ago
Rats are too big for most cats to bother with. Also the fact they're at a waste disposal site brings this to mind; are the cats actually hungry? If this is a waste disposal site, there must be food for them to eat of some sort. While cats will obviously chase rodents if their instincts kick in, I suspect a group of hungry cats would make a much more concerted effort to catch the rats. Releasing cats to deal with the problem probably won't work if the cats have a source of food that is easier and less risky for them to come by. My cat catches on average a mouse a day; that I know of (as in, she... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by Alien Origins 5 years ago
Not only that there is the serious threat of rabies.....
Comment icon #5 Posted by cyclopes500 5 years ago
The present day cat is different to the one of the past. They're like humans. They get their food from a different and easier to catch source. Namely tins in the supermarket. Once they've had a meal they save energy by relaxing. Also they're all neutered and don't have a family to support. I mean imagine what we'd be like if we had to run after the tins inside Croydon Sainsbury's and chuck magnetic spears all over the shop floor. The trollies would need lids everything or the tins would escape. Thousands of years ago we had to run after our food like the cat did. Lastly supermarkets much to my... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Avalanche 5 years ago
Nae they can catch it if they want
Comment icon #7 Posted by Habitat 5 years ago
I recall seeing a doco about the siege of Leningrad, where it was said a large number of cats were amongst the first things brought in, when the siege was lifted, to control the rat population that had exploded in the beleaguered city. It doesn't require a lot of imagination to realise what those rats might have been eating.
Comment icon #8 Posted by TripGun 5 years ago
In other news, Lions seem to be effective keeping everything off the street.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Eldorado 5 years ago
I can vouch for that. (My emotional support animal is a big Siberian tiger)
Comment icon #10 Posted by UFOwatcher 5 years ago
I used to have a cat that delighted in laying dead mice at my feet and meow. It received praise from me and a pat on the head but I guess not enough to bring me a rat.
Comment icon #11 Posted by aztek 5 years ago
cats do not attack adult rats, but small young rats are not safe from cats, which is also very useful, dead young rat will not become big adult rat
Comment icon #12 Posted by Katniss 5 years ago
About two years ago my tuxedo cat caught two large rats and brought them near my back porch. She didn't bother to eat them, but just laid them there. I don't know why. Because she usually eats any type of rodent. So the next day my ex-boyfriend scoop them up with a shovel for me and tossed them into the woods across the gravel road I live on. That took care of that, but unfortunately she got fleas from catching those rats. God! It seemed like it took forever to get rid of those things from her thick fur and the carpet in my house. But I did it! Somehow.

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