What makes a rat chase a cat

Cats very rarely hunt rats

Cats are of limited use in the fight against rats. American researchers found this out in New York. For several months they observed a rat colony with video cameras, near which feral cats regularly came. Within 79 days that cats were on site, the hunters killed only two rats, as the researchers from Fordham University report in the journal "Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution".

On those days, up to three cats were in the immediate vicinity of the 120 to 150 rats. If cats were on site, rats were seen much less often on the following day.

They only hunt rats when there is nothing else

The study was paid for by a pest control association. But the zoologist Hermann Ansorge from the Senckenberg Museum für Naturkunde in Görlitz, who was not involved in the study, shares the researchers' assessment in principle: "If you want to use a cat against rats at home, you have to have an animal that is very willing to hunt. " As a precaution, cats refrained from hunting the rodents when easier prey was available.

The researchers also suspect that the brown rats, which weigh an average of 330 grams, are not the preferred prey of cats, which usually hunt much lighter birds and mice.

According to the authors, certain conditions must be met before a cat kills a large rat: "The cat must be hungry, must not have a less risky source of food, and must usually surprise the rat," says co-author Michael Deutsch, who works for a pest control company.