In research funded by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), scientists have studied individual rat behaviour using scent detection and RFID-technology, better known as micro-chipping. This has dispelled some long-thought myths about cats as an effective means of rodent control. It turns out that cats do not successfully kill and control rat populations.
Although cats’ stalking activity may initially keep rats out of sight, the rodents will patiently wait them out and return undeterred once the cats lose interest and leave the scene. Bad news for those homeowners relying on feline friends to keep a tight patrol. The researchers also monitored how often a rat frequented remote sensors and found certain odours to be more attractive than others in luring rodents to a trap or feeding station.
“Historically, rats have always been extremely problematic in society as both carriers of disease and threats to our property and food,” said Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the NPMA. “Despite the risks they present, rats are also one of the most under-researched animals because they are so uniquely adept at living in close contact with humans, but remaining just out of sight. We embarked on this research to learn more about individual rat behaviour and to seek information to inform better rodent control methods for the professional pest control industry.”
Key conclusions from the research include:
1. Rat response to cat scents/pheromones
Scents of male cats cause both female and male rats to investigate, but then ultimately avoid an area in the future. Mixed male and female cat scents cause rats to respond more favourably to the scent compared to male-only scents. Most interestingly, female-only cat scents are most attractive to both male and female rats and elicit the strongest response.
2. Cats and Rodent Control
Feral cats were observed over the course of a five-month period and their presence was recorded more than 300 times by the cameras monitoring the research site and active rat colonies located nearby. In that timeframe, less than 1% of the cat and rat encounters resulted in a rat being killed; despite, stalking behaviour being observed 20 times. Rats are also less likely to be seen on the day-of or the day after cats are present. Although rats were less likely to be seen, the feral cats had no observable long-term impact on the rat population. The rats went into hiding but came back later, determining that cats are not an effective measure in rat control in urban settings.
For more information about the study, rats and rodent prevention, visit PestWorld.org.