Many people often ask us, “What animals naturally eat rats?” While there are a plethora of rat predators out there, the domestic options are not as effective as many people think. So before you put Fluffy to work eradicating your rodent problem, check out our list to learn about the most prolific predators of the rat, excluding humans of course.
1. Birds of Prey
Birds of prey are famous for feeding on rodents. Hawks and falcons hunt by day, and owls typically hunt by night. Owls are especially dangerous to rats because they hunt at the same time that rats forage for food. The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicenis) is North America’s most familiar and widespread large hawk. Its numbers have actually increased since the 1960s.
Red-tailed hawks can be found throughout much of the United States and Mexico, and some will fly north to Canada to breed. While they usually prefer the country, some red-tailed hawks will nest and hunt in cities. They will watch for prey from a high perch and then ambush their victim by swooping down on them.
The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is both the smallest and most widespread falcon in North America. Like the red-tailed hawk, it lives year-round in the US and Mexico, but some kestrels fly north to Canada to breed. It can live almost anywhere; kestrels have been seen in cities, open country, forest edges, deserts, and farmland. All the American kestrel needs is a good perch and a good supply of prey. Like its bigger cousins, it will watch for prey and swoop down on it.
The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) has one of the biggest ranges of any terrestrial bird, for it has been found on six continents and multiple islands. As its name suggests, it likes to live in barns where it has easy access to the rodents there. Owls, in general, have extremely soft feathers that enable them to fly silently. Noiseless flight allows owls to both track their prey and catch it unawares. Barn owls have excellent night vision and hearing. They may either wait for prey from a perch or fly low seeking prey. When they find something, they will swoop down on it.
Domestic cats are actually more mouse predators than rat predators, but some will take on a rat. Both the American Shorthair and the Maine Coon are said to be descended from ships’ cats that earned their keep by killing rodent pests. Some cities use feral cats to hunt rodents.
Wildcats like Bobcats (Lynx rufus), however, are more likely to hunt rats than their domestic cousins. There are thirteen subspecies of bobcat, and they can be found throughout much of the United States and a good chunk of Mexico. While they prefer woods, bobcats are adaptable and can live in swamps, farmland, and even cities. Bobcats prefer small prey like rats, but if such animals are scarce, they will hunt bigger game – including deer. Bobcats have been known to kill prey eight times their own size. They adjust their hunting tactics according to the size of their prey. When hunting small animals like rats, for example, the bobcat will lie in wait and pounce on the first unlucky or careless rat that wanders too close to it. The bobcat will then use its sharp claws to grab the rat.
Cougars or mountain lions (Felis concolor), which eat anything ranging from insects to big deer, will hunt and eat rats. They have a huge range that extends through most of the Americas. Cougars are the biggest cat in North America; a large male can be nearly eight feet long from nose to tail-tip and weigh as much as 220 pounds. Cougars are usually ambush predators that can kill their prey by either biting it in the neck or breaking their back by leaping on it.
Snakes generally eat eggs, birds, and small mammals, including squirrels, rats, and mice. Rat snakes, as can be guessed from their name, often prey on rats. Rat snakes aren’t venomous, so they kill their prey through constriction. There are dozens of species, and they can be found all over the world. The black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus) which can grow to be over eight feet long, is the longest snake in North America. It is found in the central and western United States. The corn snake (P. guttatus) is a patterned orange snake that lives in the southeastern US. It owes its name to its habit of living near stored grain, and farmers have used corn snakes to control rodent populations since at least the late 17th century.
Not all dogs can help you with your rat problem, but some breeds are known for their prowess in catching rats. Many of them are terriers, a type of smallish dog that was actually bred to hunt rodents and other small animals that live underground. Terriers are energetic and skilled at digging. There are several breeds – including one called the rat terrier. Other dog breeds that are adept at catching rats include the dachshund, German Pinscher, and miniature Schnauzer. All three of these last breeds originated in Germany and were used to hunt vermin. The Dachshund (“badger hound”) was bred to hunt prey underground.
The various dogs bred to be ratters have some traits in common, like a keen sense of smell that enables them to track down rodent prey. They have muscular front legs that make them efficient diggers, and they have strong jaws that enable them to seize prey. Dogs usually kill rats by shaking them and breaking their neck.
Weasels are also natural rat predators. They belong to the same family (Mustelid) as wolverines, otters, and badgers, and they are in the same genus (Mustela) as ferrets and mink. The short-tailed weasel or stoat has the largest range of any weasel; it can be found in the Arctic, Europe, Asia, and North America, including the northern US. The long-tailed weasel (M. frenata) lives throughout most of the United States and Central America, as well as parts of Canada and South America. Like owls, weasels are nocturnal and thus hunt at the same time that rats forage. Weasels kill their prey by repeatedly biting it in the neck. In addition to rats, weasels will also eat mice, rabbits, voles, birds, frogs, and bird eggs. A weasel’s slender body enables it to follow prey into tight spaces.
The good news is that the answer to the question “What animals eat rats?” will often include something that is in your area. If you have a rat terrier or Maine Coon, you may already have a solution to your rodent problem in your house. Unfortunately, animals that hunt rats can sometimes get hurt by rats – which is not true of rat traps.
A Better Solution
At AutomaticTrap.com, we pride ourselves in providing an effective and humane solution to your rat problem. While rats are pests, they are also intelligent and social creatures that don’t deserve the cruel deaths provided by glue traps or poisons. To learn more about our traps, call 1 (877) 992-8868 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org