Rats! Not just an expression, but a nasty pest that can send shivers down your spine. You may not think about it much, but they are actually a vital part of Nature’s food chain. There are many animals that rely on and eat rats!
Nearly all types of cats eat rats—maybe your house cat has brought you a trophy—but snakes, raptors, weasels, and coyotes will take down rats too!
Rats provide food for a very large variety of predators. We could easily list dozens of animals that eat rats, but here we’ll narrow it down to the top predators that eat these rodents. Hang on to your seats, as we go over some of the most prolific and popular rat enemies.
1. Cats Eat Plenty Of Rats
Cats are predators made for eating rats. Nearly all types and species of cats will eat rats and rodents. When it comes to your housecat, it could be hit or miss depending on their mood. Housecats don’t typically have to chase prey for food.
Cats in the wild definitely eat rats. This includes bobcats, mountain lions, feral cats, servals, and the like.
How Do Cats Catch Rats?
Cats are masters of stealth. They can sneak up on unsuspecting rodents without making a sound, and then they pounce when they are ready.
The sharp, retractable claws are able to lock tight onto the rats so they can’t escape, while the needle-sharp teeth incapacitate them. Once a cat has the rat in its clutches, there’s usually no escape.
2. Snakes Are Predators Of Rats
All snakes are carnivorous, and most—if they are big enough—will eat rats. There is even a species of snake called the rat snake. It seems to target rodents more than any other prey.
Snakes can take down their prey in one of two ways, by constriction or venom. There are many more constrictor snake species than there are venomous.
How Do Constrictors Eat Rats?
A rat snake for instance is a constrictor. These snakes like to find dark spaces, especially man-made structures because they know rodents are attracted to these places. There they wait for a tasty rat or mouse to pass by.
When a scaly-tailed meal passes too close they strike out and latch onto the rat with their mouths. Inside all snake jaws are rows of razor-sharp, backward-facing teeth. These teeth prevent their meals from wiggling free.
Once the meal is in its jaws, the snake throws its muscular body around the rodent. It squeezes tighter and tighter until the rat can no longer breathe.
When their prey exhales, the snake squeezes tighter so the animal can no longer draw in a breath. Once the snake no longer senses the heartbeat, it swallows it whole, usually head first.
Venomous Snakes Strike And Release
Snakes such as rattlesnakes, copperheads, and even the black mamba coil up and strike out with amazing speed and accuracy. When an animal they want to eat comes by, they dart their heads forward with their mouths open wide.
Hinged fangs stretch out, then pierce the rat before it knows what hit it. The snake quickly injects a fatal shot of venom into the rat, then the snake lets it go.
The rat won’t go far before it collapses because the venom is doing its job. The snake then uses its incredible sense of smell to find the rat. When it does, it gulps it down, again, head first. Do you have a snake problem in your yard as well? Catchmaster Baited Rat, Mouse and Snake Glue Traps can take care of the rats and snakes with one tool!
3. Birds Of Prey Eat Many Rats
Raptors such as owls, hawks, eagles, kestrels, and falcons all eat rats and rodents. These animals rely on their amazing sight and aerial ambush to incapacitate rats.
Some hawks can see medium-sized animals from at least a mile away! When they are soaring hundreds of feet in the air they can see rats on the ground or hiding in grass way before the rat can even sense the raptor.
Rats don’t have great eyesight, they rely more on smell and hearing. Since they can’t see the flying threat from above, and they can’t smell it until it’s already wrapped in piercing talons, rats are relatively defenseless against raptors.
Owls Search For Rats At Night
The only defense rats have against daytime raptors is to be more active at night. Hawks, eagles, and falcons feed during the day when their keen eyesight is best suited for them. Unluckily for the rats, that’s when another threat appears.
Owls come out at the same time rats and mice do and these rodents are a favorite meal of the nighttime stalkers. Owls like to perch in trees where they can silently observe what’s going on below them.
When they notice movement, such as a fat rat searching for grain, they swoop down and grab the rat in sharp iron-like claws.
Owls have great night vision, plus they have specialized feathers that render their flight nearly soundless. Even with the rat’s incredible hearing, they won’t hear an owl zooming from the top branches of the tree.
4. Foxes “Outfox” Rats
There’s a reason foxes are synonymous with intelligence. They are smart predators that have plenty of tricks when it comes to securing a meal.
Foxes have excellent night vision, an amazing sense of smell, and astounding hearing. They are also virtually silent as they stalk through the forest floor, and they can even climb up trees if the need arises.
Foxes are also small, and swift, so even if a rat catches a whiff of a dangerous fox, they don’t stand much of a chance of getting away. A rat may be able to escape into a small hole, but a fox may be able to reach in and pull it out.
Though foxes are a member of the canine family, they share a few similar characteristics to cats. One such similarity is semi-retractable claws.
These claws are not as sharp as a cat’s, and they don’t completely disappear, but they work well when latching onto a slippery character like a rat in a small hole.
Foxes Like The Night!
These animals are some of the most common animals in the world, but you may never see one even though several are probably living in your neighborhood. That’s because they prefer to hang out in the darkness.
At night the fox can find more things to eat, and they don’t have to worry about larger predators so much such as wolves and humans. Since they are active at the same time as most rodents are, they will often eat rats, which make up a large part of their diet.
5. Coyotes Eat Rats
Coyotes are sort of like the middle child between wolves and foxes. They are bigger than foxes but much smaller than wolves. They are also mostly loners, but if it suits them, coyotes will band together to take down larger animals.
Rats are a big part of a coyote’s diet, especially urban coyotes since rats and rodents are often very populous in these areas.
Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat a wide variety of foods. Since rats are so prevalent, coyotes will often track these rodents down and eat them.
Coyotes will avoid humans as much as possible, so they have adapted to be active when we generally are not. This also puts them in the path of more rats, so they consume more of these annoying pests.
6. Wolves Are Predators Of Rats
When we think of wolves hunting, we think of large packs running through the snow as they attempt to tackle a caribou or deer. But wolves don’t always go after huge animals, sometimes they eat smaller animals such as rats.
It’s more dramatic and majestic to show shots of wolves ganging up on huge animals such as caribou or moose. Which wolves certainly will eat when given the chance.
The reality is that wolves more often actually consume smaller animals than big bounties. These smaller animals often include rabbits and pesky rats.
Wolves don’t have many sneaky ways of taking down rats, they simply pounce on them or chase the rats down and snatch them up in their powerful jaws.
Unfortunately, wolf howling doesn’t work as a rat deterrent at your home. But here are some sounds that’ll scare rats (and keep them away)!
7. Weasels Will Eat Rats
Weasels live across much of the North American continent. Some species range as far north as Canada, to some countries of Central America. These carnivorous animals often eat rodents such as mice and rats.
Even though some weasels are smaller than rats, they will still take on the larger animals. Weasels are fearless, ferocious animals that are efficient at taking down their prey.
They are very quick, agile, and tenacious. They use incredible senses of smell and hearing to track their food, and like rats, they can squeeze through the smallest of openings.
Weasels Can Be Helpful
Often these little long-bodied predators are welcomed on farms. They can be active during the day, but they most often go out at night. That’s when mice and rats come out.
Weasels help to control the rodent population on farms. This saves farmers a lot of money because rats and mice get into grain stores and ruin them. They can contaminate water sources, and pass on illness and infection to livestock.
Anything that helps to reduce the rodent population is usually welcome on the farm. On the other hand, weasels can be a bit of a nuisance. Weasels will also eat chickens and eggs on occasion, so they can be helpful and not so helpful.
8. Badgers Are Predators Of Rats
Badgers will eat rats and other small animals. These animals are essentially omnivores, but they love eating rats and rodents.
When these animals come across a rodent hole or burrow, they will quickly dig through it and eat anything they come across. Badgers are excellent diggers. They have long, sturdy claws on their front and back legs, and they have webbed feet.
Combined with the claws, a badger’s paw is like a serrated shovel. It can quickly scoop out large amounts of soil in record time. Rats caught by a hungry badger don’t have much time to make an escape.
If they can’t get to another exit hole quickly, rats become snacks for the voracious badger.
If you don’t have any badgers nearby to clean out the burrows, you can use Stuff-fit – DS8044 Copper Mesh for Mouse Rat Rodent Control to block holes and other places where rats may be tempted to dig!
9. Crows Will Eat Rats
Crows are very intelligent, and rather large birds that will regularly dine on rats and rodents. These birds are omnivores and extremely opportunistic feeders that love to dine on meat of any kind.
Often you will see crows and ravens on the side of the road feeding on carrion, but they are also accomplished hunters. Crows won’t hesitate to jump on a rat nearby and eat it.
How Do Crows Go After Rats?
Crows can figure out where rats congregate and then fly down and snatch them in their thick beaks. They can employ several methods to incapacitate the rat when the crow gets in close.
Crows can gather in groups to go after a meal and they will peck the rat until it is no longer moving. Smaller mice and rats can be snatched up by a single crow and get shaken until the rat is a bit more “docile.”
Crows May Wait By Rat Burrows
In the Western desert states such as Arizona and New Mexico, Ravens have been known to watch tortoises lay eggs and remember where the nest was. When the baby tortoises hatch, the ravens then dive down and eat the soft-shelled babies.
They remembered where the original nest was, and they waited months for the eggs to hatch! Crows can do the same when they discover rat burrows.
They will wait for a rat to leave the safety of their home, then when it’s too far away to run back, they charge down and eat it.
So, as you can see, these birds are quite crafty and intelligent. A rat may be smart as well, but in my unscientific opinion, I feel crows have the upper hand here.
What Defenses Do Rats Have?
Rodents reside on some of the lowest links in the food chain because they provide nutrients for many other animals. They have to constantly look over their shoulder, the other shoulder, above, below, and all around. But they do have a few defenses up their sleeves.
Rats Are Intelligent
There is still research going into exactly how smart rats are, but as of now, they are considered some of the most intelligent animals on the planet. They use their smarts to get away from traps and predators.
When a larger animal is chasing them, rats are thinking of several different escape options. In their burrows, they have winding tunnels and several exits.
Rats Have Superhuman Senses
If you think Spiderman has amazing senses, he probably doesn’t even compare to a rat. They may not have great vision, but their senses of hearing and smell are exceptionally acute.
According to Brandeis University, rats learn what they can eat by smelling the breath of other rats. They understand that another rat ate a certain food and survived, so they will try the same food when they smell it later.
Rats can also tell how another member of their group is feeling, if they’re pregnant, and a lot more, just from smelling their urine. Their sense of smell is so strong they can smell food inside your house while they are still outside. They can even smell a change in the weather before it happens.
How Does Smell Protect A Rat?
They can use this incredible sense of smell to tell if there is a predator nearby. Even before they come out of their nest they can smell a cat or other animal without sticking their head out.
This sense of smell tells them when a predator has been around so they know if it’s safe to go out.
If The Don’t Sniff Out Danger, They Can Hear It
Let’s say the household cat found a way to mask its scent, and the rat doesn’t smell Tom Cat waiting outside its burrow. They may still be able to hear it breathing.
A rat’s sense of hearing is quite amazing as well. When they are outside and away from protection, they use these senses to look out for hidden predators and are able to get away before they become a snack.
Rat Communities Protect Them!
Where there’s one rat, you’ll usually find many more hiding away. Rats are social animals that tend to live in large groups.
While a snake or a weasel may enter a rat burrow to eat a single rodent, if they come across several of them, the predator will make a hasty exit.
One rat is easily handled, but dozens or hundreds could quickly overpower the largest animal.
Why did this rat community choose your property as a home, anyway? Here’s why rats are in your yard.
Rats Reproduce Like Rabbits
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche that something “breeds like rabbits”. Well, rats procreate faster than the long-eared cotton tails.
Rats can breed all year long and can become pregnant almost immediately after giving birth. What’s more, they can become sexually active at the ripe young age of 5 weeks.
It doesn’t matter how many rats get consumed by other animals, there are always more rats than predators. According to the Indiana Department of Health, there are at least as many rats as there are humans living in the United States.
As A Last Resort Rats Will Fight
When all else fails, a rat can still bite, hiss, screech, and claw to get away. They have strong, sharp, constantly growing teeth that can pierce flesh.
If something grabs them and they have no escape route a rat will bite relentlessly and scratch with its sharp little claws. It’s not often, but they occasionally can escape the grim reaper when they fight back.
While rats do have a few defenses, it doesn’t stop these predators from going after them. Now let’s get into the predators that eat rats.
With so many predators of rats, you’d think the population wouldn’t be so bloated. Snakes, crows, badgers, cats, coyotes, foxes, wolves, and so many more animals all feed on these pests.
Fortunately for the animals that feed on them, and unfortunately for us, rats are intelligent and extremely prolific breeders.
Breck, Stewart W., et al. “The intrepid urban coyote: a comparison of bold and exploratory behavior in coyotes from urban and rural environments.” Scientific reports 9.1 (2019): 1-11. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-38543-5
Coburn, Charles A. “The behavior of the crow, Corvus americvanus, Aud.” Journal of Animal Behavior 4.3 (1914): 185. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1926-01178-001
Henderson, F. Robert. “Weasels.” The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (1994): 43. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1041&context=icwdmhandbook
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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