Are Cats Good for Pest Control?

Are Cats Good for Pest Control?

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Cats have natural instincts that allow them to hunt for small creatures including insects and rodents. The smaller and more elusive a pest is, the more attracted to the pest your cat will likely become. Both domestic and feral cats will frequently hunt for pests inside of a home-based on both sight and scent. But can cats actually be used for pest control with any noticeable effect? 

Domestic cats will hunt for pests if insects or rodents are inside a home. But the best method for actually using cats for pest control would be to rent feral cats from a working cat program. These cats can hunt for pests throughout the home, and actually produce strong results for natural pest control. 

If you are wondering if cats are good for pest control, then this article is for you. In this guide, we will explore one of the most natural and unique forms of pest control: cats. We will explore how pet cats and feral cats differ in their hunting instincts, as well as the best types of cats for pest control based on these two types of cats. Read on to find out more about how cats could actually be an effective pest control method you never knew you had. 

Using Cats for Pest Control

Brief History of Cats

Cats have a unique and storied history as both domestic and wild animals. In the Ancient World, cats were actually worshipped as deities, which is strange to consider, but a very real fact.

Like dogs, cats have evolved to be both domestic and feral animals, with the domestic traits being more prominent today than what was apparent hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Cats regularly hunted for unwanted pests in both palaces and small cottages, in every social class and structure throughout time. 

Today, our pet cats have mostly lost a great deal of these instincts, and that is due to over-domestication. We love and cherish our cats a great deal, and perhaps we even pamper them a bit more than what is necessary. With that, those feral, animalistic instincts are subdued, and this is replaced with friendliness and companionship. 

But those instincts are not completely gone. Even pet cats will still possess incredibly honed and targeted instincts. Superior vision, hearing, and smell are still characteristics of virtually every type of domestic cat. Feral (wild) cats have these instincts at a much more pronounced and dominant consistency, and this is because they need these instincts to survive in the wild. 

This can be noticed when cats frequently hunt for indoor pests, rather those pests are rodents or even insects. Anything that is smaller and registers fears will ignite a cat’s hunting instincts, and this is why domestic cats have always been used for pest control throughout history.

Cat Instincts Explained

You may have noticed that domestic cats differ greatly from dogs in their overall temperament and behavior. Cats love companionship and affection with their owners, but they are not attached to their owners by any means. This is because cats are solitary, mostly independent creatures, and this matters not how domesticated they are. 

A pampered and well-taken care of domestic cat would adapt more quickly to a wild environment than the most domesticated type of dog. This is largely because a cat would hunt for prey to eat a lot easier than a domesticated dog, which has grown more dependent on its owners when it comes to food. 

Cats are pure carnivores and cannot survive without protein. This is completely related to the hunting instincts they possess. Ambushing, stalking, and fishing for prey are synced into a cat’s DNA and brain, which can be seen in large and exotic cats such as lions and tigers. 

Even if your cat is well-fed, it will use these features to hunt for pests inside of your home because cats have evolved to maintain and hone these hunting characteristics throughout the centuries. 

Best Cat Breed for Pest Control

Any breed of cat is good for pest control, but it should be understood that a cat is only viable for a very small pest infestation indoors. If you are experiencing a large infestation of rodents, the cat will have a very hard time keeping up the multiple rodents. 

Furthermore, when it comes to insect pests, cats are not very good for this type of pest control. A cat will certainly hunt for and likely kill an insect that it spots, but this will do nothing to address an insect infestation indoors. 

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the best breeds of cats to consider for pest control. 

Siamese

cute blue-eyed siamese cat
Image credit: starush, Deposit Photos

The Siamese cat is beloved the world over, and this is also one of the most instinctive and consistently evolved of all domestic cats. The Siamese possesses sharp and unyielding hunting instincts, and will regularly hunt down rodents and even attack, hunt for, and fish for insects that are large enough to be considered a possible prey item. 

The Siamese cat is devoted to its owner(s) but is also a very solitary and independent-minded domestic cat. Due to this solitary behavior, the Siamese will regularly spend their days either playing with and fishing out their toys or, if present, hunting for and killing indoor pests. 

American Shorthair

american short hair
Image credit: pchoti, Deposit Photos

The American shorthair cat was bred for centuries as a working and hunting breed of cat. Due to this constant training, this breed of cat is one of the best cats to consider for trapping and killing rodents inside of the home since their prey of choice are rats. This is also the best cat breed for ‘mousing,’ which is a term used to describe the hunting behaviors of domestic cats. 

Persian

big fat persian cat
Image credit: ponchai7, Deposit Photos

Another great breed of cat for pest control is the Persian. Persian cats are known for their beauty, but their behavior is somewhat inquisitive, suspect, and deceptive in how the breed constantly investigates everything within their living environment. This of course means that the Persian is a superior hunting cat and will hunt for both rodents and insects once pests are spotted or smelled. 

Are cats the best way to get rid of mice?

While cats are certainly good for trapping and killing small numbers of mice, cats are not an effective solution for mice infestations. It is best to use other mice eradication techniques. Mice do not spend their whole time inside walls or air ducts. They come out when they think no one is looking to cast the joint for food, water, and nesting material. 

This means they come out anywhere a lot of food is stored such as kitchens, basements, garages, pantries, and closets. Just assume that anywhere food is stored, mice are prowling. Set mouse snap traps along the walls and behind dark places like the refrigerator. Bait them with peanut butter, which mice find irresistible. Check them every day and every time you hear a SNAP.

Also place traps wherever you find droppings, nests, or other signs of damage. If possible, place traps in crawl spaces or the attic.

Furthermore, be sure to closely monitor your cat when you are placing traps for mice to ensure your feline does not get hurt by the traps. 

Cat vs. mousetrap

Mouse snap traps, also referred to as the spring-loaded bar mousetrap, are an effective rodent pest control tool that aids in the catching and killing of mice. In a nutshell, the metal bar snaps and neutralizes the pest. Originally developed in the late 1800s, these traditional mouse traps have truly stood the test of time. Additionally, these widely used traps are budget-friendly.

Mousetraps are important in helping control the rodent pest population as well as reeling in potential infestations before they get out of hand. Mice have been known to spread a wide array of nasty diseases, so every attempt should be made to nip the problem in the bud early on. The use of mousetraps is also a good preliminary measure to take prior to using a formal pest control method.

The main problem with just relying on your cat for mousing is that you cannot control how your cat feels about the situation. Your cat may not be in the mood to hunt mice or, the sheer amount of mice in an infestation becomes common for your cat since the rodents are starting to become more of the natural environment inside your home. 

Are male or female cats better mousers?

Female cats are generally considered to be the best for mousing. It is not completely understood why this is; however, it likely has a lot to do with the instinct in female cats to train their young to learn how to hunt for rodents. Which therefore gives female cats a lot more experience with mousing than male cats. 

Can I rent a cat to catch mice?

Yes, renting a cat to help catch mice is a service that is available both on its own and also from many rescue groups that allow temporary cat rentals with the hope that you may consider keeping the cat. 

Actual cat renting services for mousing mostly specialize in renting out feral cats. These cats have just enough domestication to be comfortable around people, but the main use for these types of cats is their consistent hunting and fishing techniques to draw out rodents inside the home and kill them. 

Cat renting is also a service provided by many rescue organizations across the country. These cats are standard, domestic cats that can be rented for a set amount of time to help bring down a mice population inside of a home. These cats can be returned at the specified date or you can keep the cat as an adoption if you wish. 

Cat hunting little gerbil mouse
Image credit: ElaineNadiv, Deposit Photos

Does the smell of cats keep mice away?

The more feral the cat, the stronger its scent will be for mice. Domestic cats that spend all their time indoors began to settle into the environment and this can even affect how mice react to cats that are always indoors. 

But generally speaking, rather than a cat being wholly domesticated or feral, rodents will steer clear of cats and make sure to hide as much as possible. Your cat will begin to adapt to the time that mice typically come out at night to eat and drink, and this will become your cat’s primary hunting time. 

Barn Cat Breeds

Barn cats are a name given to domestic cats that spend the majority of their lives outdoors. These cats are neither wholly domesticated nor completely feral, but rather a mixture of these two behaviors. If you have a cat that hangs out a lot outside your home and is receptive to you occasionally petting or feeding it, this qualifies as a barn cat. 

Barn cats are expert hunters, and will not only hunt for pests for sport, but also for food to survive. Rodents, birds, and even rabbits, and small game are all hunted by barn cats on a daily basis. 

Best Barn Cat Breed

One of the very best breeds of barn cat is the American Wirehair. This cat was bred heavily on farms in centuries past and was always trained to hunt for rodents and keep rats and mice far away from homes and agricultural crops. 

An American Wirehair cat will actually prefer to live outdoors and will set up its base either on your front or back porch or somewhere close to your house. This breed spends a large majority of its days hunting for and killing rodents and any pests that venture near the home. 

Feral Cats for Pest Control

Feral cats represent the purest evolutionary traits within the small cats family. Although feral cats can be a bit dangerous in both their behaviors and the possibility of disease transmission, wild cats are likely to spend the most time and energy on hunting rodents within an infestation. 

Many rescue agencies and even some random pest control companies may use feral cats to help fish out hidden rodents inside of a home. 

Outdoor Cat for Pest Control

Outdoor cats or barn cats are also equally as impressive in controlling outdoor rodent populations around a home. 

An outdoor cat will hunt pests for both sport and food, which means that if a pest problem is occurring outside of your home, an outdoor cat can greatly reduce the number of pests that are cursing your home problems. 

Office Cat for Pest Control

Cats can also make good natural methods of pest control in an office setting. Although you will likely not be pleased if your office has a full-scale rodent or pest infestation. One cat is not going to reduce the infestation by much, and it is also not likely that an office cat will spend all of its time each day hunting for pests at the office. 

Cat playing with yardstick
Image credit: peus, Deposit Photos

Were Cats Domesticated for Pest Control?

Throughout the centuries, cats were bred for and trained to hunt for rodents inside of dwellings. In the days before common pest control applications, there weren’t many viable options to destroy a pest infestation. Therefore, cats provided pest control since this was also one of the primary ways that cats were able to eat. Barn cats, in particular, were bred on farms throughout the centuries solely based upon their rodent hunting instincts. 

Cats Catching Bugs: What Bugs Do Cats Prefer?

When it comes to cats and insects, it is much more likely that a cat will hunt for and kill an insect to satisfy its hunting behaviors. With this said, cats have been known to eat cockroaches, crickets, and even beetles, but this is more likely with outdoor and feral cats. 

Any insect that scurries across the floor inside or runs across the wall will catch a cat’s attention. A cat will hunt down the insect and likely kill it since this satisfies the hunter/prey relationship that is part of a cat’s evolutionary traits. 

Can a Cat Catch a Rat?

A cat will usually not stop until they have caught a rat that has caught their attention. If the rat is faster than the cat, the feline will use its fishing and ambush instincts to sneak up on an unsuspecting rat and ponce down on the rodent with its claws. 

For example, if a rat runs into a hole that it has made inside of a home, the cat will investigate the hole first, and then develop a strategy to hide near the hole without it being obvious that it is hiding in the nearby area. Once a rat emerges from the hole, a cat will quickly pounce down on the rodent and typically kill it.

Best Cat to Catch Rats

Either the American Shorthair or the Siamese cat is typically the best cat breeds when it comes to catching indoor rats. Both of these breeds will devote their entire time and energy to hunting a rodent and will likely not stop until they have caught and killed the rat

These two cat breeds are not easily distracted, which means that if your home is experiencing a rat infestation, the majority of either of these cat breed’s days will be spent hunting as many rats as it can. 

Can Cats Eat Rats?

Cats can and normally do eat rats if a rat is caught. Your cat eating a rat will largely depend on its hunger level and if the cat is lacking in nutrition. If a cat is well-fed, hunting, killing, and coveting a rat will likely be the extent of its activity. 

Although cats have eaten rats for centuries, it is not very healthy for a pet cat to eat this rodent. Rats can pass along intestinal worms to cats, in addition to some diseases that wild rats may be carriers of. This will likely make a cat sick during the digestive process. 

Tabby cat holding prey
Image credit: budabar, Deposit Photos

Can Rats Smell Cats?

Rats are one of the primary prey of cats, and cats are one of any rodent’s top predatory threats. Due to these centuries of evolutionary traits, rats have developed the ability to smell cats no matter how domestic or feral a cat may be. 

As soon as a cat enters a home that is infested with rats, the rodents will likely stay in hiding since the scent of the cat will be immediately noticeable and vice versa. 

Cat Noise to Scare Rats

Although rats will be alarmed by any noise that is not common within their environment, cat noises will likely be recognizable to rats due to years of predator/prey dynamics between the two animals. 

This is likely to only be present with a real cat in the environment that makes noises as opposed to video or audio recordings of cat noises. 

Does the Smell of Cats Keep Rats Away?

The smell of a cat is noticeable to rats both by urine, such as a litter box inside the home, as well as the scent of a cat that will be immediately recognizable to rats. 

If rats have set up an infestation inside of a home, they will likely still take their chances if a cat is present, and will try and navigate around the cat’s behaviors when in need of food or water. But still, just the smell of a cat will put rats on notice, but this could exacerbate eradication measures since the rats may actually try and go deeper into hiding throughout the home. 

Summary

So, are cats good for pest control? Somewhat, but not really in the grand scheme of things. This all depends upon the size of the pest problem inside of your home. A cat is not going to be proper pest control for a pest infestation, but if you are only dealing with stray pests every now and again, it is more than likely that a cat will certainly take care of this problem. 

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Mike Henderson
Mike Henderson

Mike (AKA 'Pest Control Mike') is a pest control operator from New York with over 15 years experience dealing with a wide range of pests. He shares his knowledge on this blog and provides useful information to help you combat pests on your own.

For severe infestations and professional advice you can also request a free pest control quote here.

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