You’re never more than a few hundred feet away from a rat at all times. How crazy is that? When you really start to think about it, it puts things into perspective.
While the exact number is hard to guess, scientists estimate that there are billions of rats in the world. They are one of the only species you’ll find in nearly every country. Moreover, a female rat can have as many as 2000 children in a year and can start reproducing when they’re as young as 3 to 4 months old. Crazy, right? Luckily, rats are fairly small or they’d be running the world by now.
So, with all the rats in the world, what’s keeping their population at bay? Rat predators, of course. Here are some of the most common creatures that eat rats.
Technically, the term predator means “an animal that eats other animals.” So, we as humans don’t count as rat predators. Some Southeast Asian countries, such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, have been known to include rats on the menu.
This isn’t a common practice anymore, but humans do actually contribute a lot to controlling the rat population. This is mainly due to constant deforestation, intrusion into their natural ecosystem, and the clever rat control methods that we’ve invented.
That said, we play a very small role in the rat predator category. So, let’s take a closer look at the world of true rat predators to learn how to get rid of rats by inviting these animals onto our property.
If you grew up watching cartoons, you probably know that cats eat rats. While we all giggled at the constant (and quite literal) cat-and-mouse game that Tom and Jerry played, there was actually some merit behind it. It may be hard to believe that your friendly neighborhood cat would snack on a rat, but there’s a very good chance that they’ve already done that. At the very least, they’ve probably killed a rat.
Domestic cats aren’t the only species of cat to enjoy a rodent as a snack. Wildcats, like bobcats and mountain lions, hunt them as well.
Most dogs are very interested in rats. If you do see a dog chasing after a rat, you’re probably going to have a mess to clean up later since dogs don’t generally eat rats. They only play with them.
The most common rat-catching dog breeds are terriers. Humans bred terriers to hunt rodents that live underground. Thanks to their small bodies and high energy, they can quickly dig up a hole and catch their prey.
Fun Fact: There’s a specific dog breed named the “rat terrier.”
Coyotes would prefer to get their paws on your pets. They’re known to eat small animals like rabbits, cats, and even small dogs. But they do eat rats, too. Coyotes are actually very open-minded when it comes to their diet. They’ll shift to whatever prey is most readily available.
Your pet parrot may not be the best rat predator out there. But, it does have a few feathered cousins that will make up for its lack of interest.
There is a category of birds, called birds of prey or raptors, which are the most common rat predators. These include:
- Owls: The barn (barred) owl, which is very recognizable due to its round, white face, is an excellent rat hunter.
- Eagles: While eagles mainly enjoy fish, they never let a good meal get away – even if that meal is a rat.
- Falcons and Hawks: These birds don’t eat rats as often as the birds we mentioned above. They mostly eat other small birds or larger ground animals like rabbits, gophers, and squirrels. Red-tailed hawks, which you’ll find all across North America, don’t mind a bit of rat in its diet. It will even hunt them during the day.
Weasels have a small head and a long, thin body, which is perfect for sneaking into the burrows of any ground-dwelling animal. They generally use to go after baby rabbits, baby birds, and eggs. Because the weasel loses heat fairly quickly, it has to eat often to keep warm. Rats are so common and reproduce so rapidly that there’s always a fresh meal nearby for a weasel to snack on. This is why rats are never off the weasel’s menu.
This is another creature that actually has a specific species that dedicates itself to killing rats. We’re talking about the rat snake, which is common throughout the southern United States and is often found in urban areas. You’ll find them in abandoned buildings and barns. Most other snakes will eat about a dozen or so rats a year.
Possums actually hunt, kill, and consume the largest number of rats and mice out of all of the predators we’ve covered today. They are one of nature’s finest scavengers. In true scavenger fashion, they’ll eat anything, including rats, dead or alive.
This last one may come as a surprise, but it’s true. Apart from other types of food, sometimes rats do eat other rats. Food shortages definitely contribute to rats eating their kin, but this is actually most common among new mothers eating their own young. They do this partly as an act of kindness, so their offspring won’t grow up starving, and partly to take care of themselves.