Do Cats Eat Rats: Understanding the Feline Tendency to Eat Rodents

Cats eat rats because carnivorous animals often hunt rats, mice, and other small rodents as part of their natural diet. Cats are known for their hunting abilities and have been used for centuries to control rodent populations in homes, farms, and other settings. 

However, not all cats hunt, and some may prefer other types of food or may not have access to rodents to hunt. Additionally, it’s important to note that not all rodents are safe for cats to eat, as some may carry diseases or toxins that could harm the cat.

Reasons Cats Eat Rats


Cats are natural predators, and their hunting and eating behaviors are instinct-driven. This means that cats, including rats, are born with an innate ability to hunt and kill prey. Their instincts are shaped by millions of years of evolution and are designed to help them survive in the wild.

One of the main reasons cats eat rats due to instinct is that it’s an innate behavior passed down from their wild ancestors. Instead, cats are descended from wild cats that live in environments where they must hunt for food. 

These cats had to be skilled hunters to survive, and their hunting behaviors were shaped by natural selection. Over time, cats developed specialized physical and behavioral adaptations to catch and kill small prey like rats.

Some physical adaptations cats have developed for hunting include sharp claws and teeth, excellent vision, and the ability to move quickly and quietly. These adaptations help cats to stalk and catch prey without being detected, which increases their chances of success. 

In addition to these physical adaptations, cats have specialized hunting behaviors driven by instinct. For example, cats are known for their ability to pounce on prey from a distance, and they often use stalking and pouncing behavior to catch rats.

Nutritional Needs

Cats require a diet high in animal protein to meet their nutritional needs. As such, cats eat rats due to their high protein content, which provides them with the essential amino acids and other nutrients they need to thrive.

Rats are a good source of protein for cats, as they contain high-quality muscle meat rich in essential amino acids like taurine, arginine, and methionine. These amino acids are necessary for cats to maintain their health, and the cat’s body cannot produce them in sufficient quantities, so they must be obtained through their diet.

In addition to protein, rats contain other important nutrients that cats need, such as fat, vitamins, and minerals. For example, rats are rich in vitamin B12, essential for maintaining healthy nerve and blood cells, and they also contain iron, which is important for forming red blood cells.

While commercial cat food is formulated to meet the nutritional needs of cats, some cat owners may choose to feed their cats a raw or homemade diet that includes rats or other small rodents as a source of protein.


As mentioned, cats are predators and must eat regularly to maintain energy levels. If they cannot find other food sources, they may turn to rats as a readily available food source to satisfy their hunger.

Cats have a high metabolic rate, meaning they burn calories quickly and require a lot of energy to maintain their normal bodily functions. In the wild, cats may have to hunt for food, which is risky and requires a lot of energy. However, domestic cats may not have to hunt for their food, as they are often provided with a regular supply of commercial cat food or other types of food.

However, if a cat is hungry and unable to find other food sources, it may turn to rats to satisfy its hunger. Rats are small, fast-moving animals abundant in many areas, making them an easy target for hungry cats. By catching and eating rats, cats can obtain the energy they need to maintain their normal bodily functions and stay active.

Control of Rodent Populations

Cats have been used for centuries to control rodent populations in homes, farms, and other areas. By catching and eating rats, cats can help to reduce the number of rodents in an area and prevent them from causing damage or spreading diseases.

Rodents are a common problem in many areas, as they can cause damage to homes, buildings, and crops and spread diseases like Hantavirus and salmonella. Traditional methods of controlling rodent populations, such as traps and poisons, can be ineffective or harmful to other animals and the environment. As such, many people turn to cats as a natural and effective way to control rodent populations.

Cats are skilled hunters and have evolved to be particularly effective at catching small, fast-moving prey like rats. By controlling rodent populations in this way, cats can help to protect homes, farms, and other areas from damage and disease.

In addition to their hunting abilities, cats have a strong territorial instinct that can help keep rodents away from an area. When cats mark their territory with their scent, they send a message to other animals that the area is occupied and defended, which can help to deter rodents from entering the area. This territorial behavior can also help to prevent new rodent populations from forming in an area.

Risks of Feeding Rats to Cats

Feeding rats to cats can pose several risks to the cat’s health. For example, rats can carry a range of parasites, including fleas, ticks, mites, and intestinal worms. These parasites can be transferred to cats when they eat infected rats, leading to health problems like diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. In some cases, these parasites can also be transmitted to humans, which can cause serious health problems.

Rats can also carry several diseases that can be transmitted to cats, including leptospirosis, salmonella, and Hantavirus. These diseases can cause symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory problems, and they can be potentially fatal in some cases.

While rats are a source of protein, they may not provide all the nutrients that cats need to maintain their health over the long term. For example, rats may be low in certain vitamins and minerals that cats need to stay healthy, leading to nutritional imbalances and health problems over time.

Also, rats have small, fragile bones that can be a choking hazard for cats, especially if they swallow them whole. In addition, the bones can also cause gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, or even perforation of the digestive tract. Another risk is that rats may have ingested toxic substances, which can be transferred to cats when they eat them. This can cause serious health problems or even be fatal.