We live on an acre of land, and we have chickens and ducks that free range during the day. We also have a rat and mouse problem. We're bringing in a fair bit of used hay and manure, and live near to an informal urban settlement. So rats are likely to be a long-term issue.
Trying to figure out how to reduce our rat and mouse numbers: we are not cat people, we have never had cats in our lives. But a cat seems to be one option for dealing with rodents?
I wondered, if we got a kitten and she grew up seeing the hens and ducks (who are grown and quite substantial sized birds), would the cat be less likely to attack them? And, do all cats hunt mice/rats? As you can tell, I'm very ignorant about the ways of cats and probably need to know a lot more.
Thank you for advice!
sortof-almost-off-grid in South Africa: www.concretegardener.com
Cats are excellent for rodent control. My property (and house) were overrun until I got two cats. Now I rarely see mice, and then only in my shop because the cats can't get in there.
Cats will kill baby chicks but don't bother adult chickens at all. My cats, chickens, and dogs can all roam at once and they don't bother one another at all. I had to teach the dogs not to try to get the chickens but they learned it very quickly and now don't even look at them. Dogs and cats raised together have always gotten along well for me, regardless of which was older when they were introduced.
"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
Most cats cannot catch rats. I currently have three cats and only one of them catches rats. The one who does is a very large male. All three are pretty good for getting mice. My trio controls rodent populations on about 10 acres. It is easy to find a good mouser, difficult to find a good ratter.
A terrier would be good control of rats, but it would hunt your birds too. If you are a dog person this might be a good idea, but it could not be trusted with chickens or ducks off leash. They have a very high prey drive.
Now for more than you ever wanted to know about cats...
My cats all come from generations of farm bred mousers, they are much more active than most peoples house cats. Some cats do not know how to hunt or are not very good at it. For a good cat that will like to hunt, find a kitten or a young cat from a neighbor with farm cats or a feral cat rescue. These will have come from parents that have earned their keep hunting on a farm or in the case of a feral cat have fed themselves by hunting.
Farms who have cats that breed usually will give kittens away for free, feral cat rescues will vaccinate and alter cats then sell them for less than the cost of the vet care they have received.
You might get some people suggesting that you do not need to feed a mouser, or feed it less than it needs, as it will find its own food. This will not work, a healthy well fed cat has the energy to be a better hunter, plus if it is not getting food from you it will move out and find someone who will feed it.
I prefer my mousers altered and vaccinated. Sick cats do not make good mousers. Altered cats need about 25-33% less food than unaltered cats due to changes in metabolism rate, so you need to feed them less. Unaltered males are obnoxious, they sprayurine to mark territory, then leave to find females. A unaltered female will have kittens and spend all her time looking after them instead of hunting.
Adult chickens and ducks are way too big and tough for a cat to hunt.
When picking out a kitten as a likely mouser watch them play for a while. Take the most active one you can find, it will remain playful as an adult, and to a cat killing rodents is playing.
In my experience cats are not useful for catching mice until they are at least one year old. They don't catch anything bigger until several months of hunting experience.
If there is anything else you want to know about cats just ask me.
If you're looking for an outdoor cat to be a mouser, see if there are any local organizations that give away free "Barn Cats." The barn cats are generally feral cats that are TNR (trapped, neutered and then released). You'll just want to keep them contained in a barn or other shelter for 2-3 weeks so they know your place is their territory.
Living right next to a macadamia nut orchard, I have rats 365 days a year. But we can keep the rats under control by having cats. From experience I can say that most cats are not rat catchers. Our first cat, a declawed house cat that moved to the country life, was a great rat killer but he couldn't get up on the roof, where the rats were 90% of the time. So we gradually acquired more cats (for various reasons). Over time we got a few more great rat catchers, but honestly, most of our cats were either not interested in the job or aren't good at it. Our very best ratter is the smallest cat we own, a tiny neutered male. He's death on any rat that enters his turf. He trained two younger cats to hunt rats, so we now have a good army of rat catchers......4 good hunters, 9 couch potato types. But even those couch potatoes will chase a rat, although they don't catch them.
I prefer using cats over dogs simply because we have roof rats. A dog can't get the ones on the roof, up in a tree, eating the ripe bananas and tree fruits, walking across the electrical lines, or anywhere else that is not ground level. And besides, rats are mostly nocturnal, exactly when the dogs are sleeping. Our cats tend to prowl at night. Another plus....cats don't bark at twigs falling out of trees, cars driving by, joggers, turkeys walking in the pasture.
The two problems I considered with getting cats for rat control are...
1- most cats don't hunt rats. So I had no way of knowing in advance if the cat would become a rat hunter.
2- cats also hunt birds. In our case, we see our little hunter cat take a bird about once a month. He's terrible at it so invariably the bird is one of those slow doves. Funny how he can be so dismal with birds but a real champ with rats. One of our other cats will nail a finch about every 2-3 months. Considering we have 13 cats, that's not much impact on the bird population here. None of our cats even look at a chicken or duck.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
We got a cat for rodent control, but after a year I have determined the only thing he catches is an afternoon nap.
A sincere thank you to all of Permies Forums for making Christmas special to Katie and I, and our four daughters. Thank you!
posted 2 years ago
There are definitely cats with no interest in hunting. I have found I can predict pretty well which ones will and which ones will not, starting at 6 weeks of age. This is from 14 mousers spread over 13 years.
I have had 2 cats that would only eat cat food if there were no mice to be hunted, i.e. in winter. As kittens both were the first to run away at any loud noise, after I would sit quietly for a minute they would come back for attention and play time. As adults they would still startle and run from loud noises but were then the most affectionate once comfortable. When feeding them these 2 would show up looking for attention and ignore the food.
I haven't actually had any cats that never hunted. The cats I have had with mediocre hunting skills though as kittens were the last to run at loud noises. These ones as both kittens and adults were much more relaxed in unfamiliar situations e.g. coming inside the house, loud noises, coming inside the house, car rides.
Cats are all about the personality, some make awesome mousers but poor house cats, others make great house cats but are unpredictable as mousers. All of these observations are from my own cats, so the personalities are in relation to the other kittens I had at the time.
Another thing to consider, more so with cats than dogs, is that their presence will deter rodents. Sure mice will still show up, but less than if there were no cats around at all. I will usually catch one or two mice in my house per year, the cats don't seem to ever find a house mouse (besides one awful year), but if there's ever an extended period of no cats in the house, the mice will start to leave calling cards.
All my cats are mousers in varying forms. Just some go farther afield to hunt and some lazier ones stay in/around the barn. One is a capable bird hunter that's on to how to capture Starlings and will take out a Magpie but none of them bother chickens. I've even had them kill a weasel but I'm still hesitant to believe it was a healthy weasel!
No comments about rats as there aren't any here.
As a side note, my LGD is a fabulous hunter. He can get a mouse within 5 minutes of going for a walk and regularly has gophers, muskrats or weasels. Of course, his skills involve open area hunting, not ambushing scurrying rodents in a building like a barn. That's the cats department. He also needed lessons that chickens weren't toys.
Endless Prairies resident.
Currently home of... 8 bovines, 1 equine, 5 feline, 2 canine and numerous poultry.
Psychologist (and what profession knows more about rats) Jordan Petersen says a rat will scream for 24 hours after he just sees a cat, the trauma is so great. Hard to believe, but he isn't a comedian. So having cats around might help. The local pet store tried it's best to get rid of a rescue cat that was the size of a lab. What a monster, I wish I had had space for him. My experience with cats is get one from a country mother that has had as much time as possible to raise it. She will teach it how to kill, 6-8 weeks a minimum. If that cat is a ratter it will teach your cat to be one. If she specializes in birds that is what will come out. Cats are for the most part rodent killers based on their attributes, but the ones that know how are able to take birds at will, but it is not that to which they are adapted.
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