Rats are small to medium-sized rodents. They scurry about in the shadows on our city streets and in the holes in our homes. You might spot them in a park or under a bush, or maybe eating some trash. But what animals prey upon rats?
Small rodents like rats acquire lower levels in the natural food chain. These pests have many predators, ranging from mammals like bobcats and raccoons to birds of prey and corvids. Several reptiles and amphibians commonly feed on rats as well. Humans, being at the top of the food chain, are also their predators.
Research shows that natural predators of rats include snakes, bats, birds of prey particularly hawks, falcons, and owls, and other mammals like cats, cougars, foxes weasels, coyotes, bobcats, and raccoons.
Rats are actually feared by a lot of people, but no one seems to know which animals can sometimes prey upon them. Unlike other animals where we know exactly what eats them, we don’t really have that information when it comes to rats. There might be some dangerous animals that enjoy eating rat flesh. Will the answer surprise you?
Mammals that eat Rats
Cats (Felis Catus)
Cats are the smallest members of the feline family that have been domesticated by humans and are commonly kept as household pets.
There are three kinds of cats: house cats, farm cats, and feral cats. The third kind of cats is the ones that are not owned by any human and live on the streets (also referred to as “stray cats”).
There are about 60 recognized cat breeds that are commonly found in the world.
Although cats are significantly smaller than the other felids, they have excellent reflexes, a flexible body, and well-developed vision and smell senses.
Being carnivores, they also possess retractable claws and sharp teeth, enabling them to kill small prey. These felids are solitary hunters that are most active during dusk and dawn.
Their hearing senses are developed to catch frequencies that are inaudible to the human ears, such as the ones emitted by mice and rats. It is because of this reason that these two are the most common prey of the cats.
Moreover, cats are known to feed on small birds and their eggs as well.
Bobcats (Lynx rufus)
Bobcats are medium-sized felids that are endemic to North America. These cats have been actively hunted in the past by humans, both for their fur and sport. However, their population has shown extraordinary resilience and is still abundant.
Bobcats are also called “Red Lynx” due to their resemblance to the members of the Lynx genus but are smaller than them in size.
Although the color of their fur coat varies from tan to greyish-brown (depending on the geographical location), all of them possess dark streaks on their body with white underparts. Their forelegs and tail are covered with dark bars. Some individuals harbor melanistic skin as well.
Bobcats are mammals that can go for a long period without food but will eat heavily when they come across abundant food.
They have different hunting techniques reserved for differently-sized prey. Their diet includes insects, rodents, birds, and fish. Larger prey like minks, foxes, martens, raccoons, domesticated cats, dogs, and skunks are also hunted by them occasionally.
Cougars (Puma concolor)
Like the Bobcats, the Cougars are also members of the feline family endemic to the Americas; but Cougars are about 1.5-2 feet larger than the bobcats.
They are a highly adaptable species with a generalist diet, two factors that have led to their ever-growing population within their habitat range.
Having a rounded head and erect ears, cougars are one of the most agile felids. Their retractable claws, powerful jaws, neck, and forequarters help them in holding larger prey.
Although both sexes of cougars appear similar in appearance, they display sexual dimorphism in their body mass, with the females having an average weight of 55 kgs and the males of 68 kgs.
As the cougars are generalist predators, their diet can range from small insects to large ungulates. Badgers, coyotes, mule and white-tailed deer, moose, horses, elks, bighorns, and pronghorns are primary to their diet. Although rodents like rats are not their preference, the cougars would still eat them if they’re caught.
Belonging to the Mustela genus, the weasels are small-to-medium-sized, mostly carnivorous mammals that are closely related to the minks, polecats, ferrets, and stoats.
Although all the weasel species have varying sizes (ranging between 6-8 inches in length), their fur coats range between red and brown, with a white underbelly. To help them follow their burrowing prey, the weasels have long and slender bodies.
Rodents like rats are a part of the primary diet of most weasel species. The following are some of the rat-eating weasels:
- Amazon Weasel (Mustela Africana)
- Malayan Weasel (Mustela nudipes)
- Yellow-bellied Weasel (Mustela kathiah)
- Egyptian Weasel (Mustela subpalmata)
Coyotes (Canis Latrans)
The Coyotes are a wild canine species that are endemic to the forested regions of the Americas. These canids are more closely related to the wolves than the dogs, although there is a significant difference between their size and weight.
Some historical names of coyotes include “Prarie Wolf” and “Brush Wolf.”
Being omnivores, coyotes are usually known to hunt in packs when they’re going after large prey, such as large ungulates. Rats and other rodents like mice and voles are an essential part of their diet. Coyotes can hunt rats individually, pouncing on them and killing them at once.
The Opossums are the largest order of marsupials that belong to the Americas, consisting of over 110 species divided into 19 different genera.
All opossum species have small-to-medium-sized bodies and grow as large as a house cat. They have a long snout, claw-less hindfeet, awn hair fur coat, and a prehensile tail. The females have a pouch to carry their younger ones.
Being omnivores, the opossums are opportunistic feeders that commonly feed on rodents, insects, and birds. They prefer eating dead food if given a choice. Frogs, eggs, and plants, fruits, and grains are also part of their diet.
Foxes are a large group of Canids with characteristic triangular ears, flattened skull, an upturned snout, and most importantly, a long, bushy tail (also known as “brush”).
Although the genus of true foxes (Vulpes) consists of only 12 species, over 25 similar-looking animals are commonly referred to as “foxes.” Among the true foxes, the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the most widespread fox species, with over 47 subspecies of their own.
When it comes to their diet, foxes are omnivores whose diet can roughly be divided into 60% animal-based foods and 40% vegetation.
Among the animals, they mostly feed on small vertebrates such as birds and reptiles, along with many invertebrates (mostly insects). Rats and pigeons make a large part of the diet of urban foxes.
Raccoons (Procyon Lotor)
Known for their characteristic bandit face mask and ringed tail, the Raccoons are medium-sized mammal species endemic to North America.
The entire body of these mammals is covered with a dense fur coat that is greyish in color with slightly rounded ears surrounded by white fur.
When it comes to food, raccoons are omnivores, with about 40% of their diet consisting of small invertebrates. Only 27% comes from vertebrates.
Their main diet includes fish, amphibians, and eggs of birds and reptiles. Rodents are not a common part of their diet and are only consumed on rare occasions.
Birds that eat Rats
Owls are an order of birds belonging to the birds of prey that consists of over 200 species. They are characterized by their solitary and nocturnal nature, a large head, an acute sense of vision and hearing, and sharp talons.
The feathers of all owl species, except two (Burrowing Owls and Northern Hawk Owl), are adapted for a silent flight, which gives them an edge over their prey.
Mammals, insects, fish, and other smaller birds are a typical part of their diet. Some owl species are also known to prey on other, smaller owls.
Some of the North American owl species that prey on rodents are:
- Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus)
- Great Horned Owls (Bubo virgianianus)
- Boreal Owls (Aegolius funereus)
- Northern Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula)
- Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
- Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa)
Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis)
The Red-tailed Hawks are known for being the most widespread member of the hawk family, both in North America and worldwide. Breeding throughout North America, these birds of prey are colloquially referred to as “Chickenhawks” in the United States.
Red-tailed Hawks are the largest members of their genus and have over 14 subspecies with varying ranges and appearances. Although their plumage color varies, most subspecies possess a white underbelly with a brown band stretching across it and a tail ranging from red to rufous in color.
The diet of the Red-tailed Hawks varies according to the availability of prey in their geographical location. Still, the ones that breed in North America mostly feed on small mammals like rodents.
American Kestrels (Falco sparvarius)
Also referred to as the “Sparrow Hawk”, the American Kestrels are the smallest falcon species found in North America. These birds of prey are so well-established in the Americas that they have over 17 subspecies with varying geographical locations.
They display sexual dimorphism in size, with the females being 10% larger than their male counterparts.
American Kestrels are not only significantly smaller than the other hawks but are also less muscular or leaner than them. Because of this reason, they prefer to use the ambush hunting technique (a method that conserves energy).
The most common prey of these raptors are dragonflies, grasshoppers, voles, mice, rats, and other small birds. They also prey on bats, squirrels, and snakes occasionally.
Northern Harriers (Circus Hudsonius)
The Northern Harriers are a migratory species of birds of prey that breed in the northern parts of North America, and travels south to Central America during winters.
These raptors are sexually dimorphic in appearance and size, with the females weigh over 150 kgs more than their male counterparts on average. Their tail and wingers are surprisingly long in relation to the length of their bodies.
Just like the other harrier species, these harriers primarily prey on small mammals as well. Mice, ground squirrels, and cotton rats make up about 95% of their regular diet. However, they are occasionally known to feed on sparrows, pipits, frogs, and waterfowl.
The term “Crow” is broadly used to describe all the black-colored, medium-sized birds that belong to the Corvus genus.
There are over 40 crow species in the world, out of which the American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) are the only species found in North America.
Crows are both omnivores and scavengers, with a diet that includes all kinds of invertebrates, eggs, carrion, nestlings, human food scraps, fish, seeds, and grains. The American Crows commonly hunt small animals like rats, mice, and frogs.
Reptiles and amphibians that eat Rats
Rat Snakes (Colubridae)
As the name suggests, the Rat Snakes are all the primarily rodent-eating members of the snake family Colubridae, including indigo snakes, vine snakes, milk snakes, and so on.
Almost all the species belonging to this group are non-venomous, with some even being kept as pets. The primary diet of these snakes includes voles, mice, chipmunks, and rats, along with frogs, lizards, birds, and their eggs.
Also known as “Red-tailed Boas”, the Boa Constrictors are a species of large and bulky snakes that are commonly found in the tropical forests of South America. These non-venomous snakes have diverse patterns drawn on their skin, giving them an attractive appearance.
Although the boas prey on lizards, amphibians, medium-sized mammals, and birds, rodents make up a large part of their primary diet.
American Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus)
Endemic to the eastern parts of North America, the American Bullfrogs are a large species of true frogs that are usually found inhabiting ponds, lakes, canals, ditches, and swamps.
These frogs are named after the males’ bellowing sound during the breeding season, similar to that of the bulls.
Being carnivores, the bullfrogs are ambush predators that mostly feed on rodents, small lizard species, fish, scorpions, small birds, as well as other frogs and toads.
Although rats are widely considered pests or vermin, you’d be surprised to learn that these rodents are consumed as food in many parts of the world.
Rats are a part of delicacy in countries like Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Thailand, some parts of the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. In most of these countries, the practice of eating rats is a traditional one that has been passed down for generations.
But are there any advantages to eating rats? Well, if you look at these rodents from a nutritional perspective, you will learn that they have a high calorific count, are rich in protein and healthy fats, along with Vitamins A and E, Magnesium, Copper, and Zinc.
Conclusion: What Eats Rats?
Rats are one of the most hated, harmful, and destructive animals in the world. They have always been known to be carriers of infectious diseases.
Although many people don’t know it or choose to ignore this fact, rats are an incredibly popular food source for many animals. From a survival perspective, this makes sense because they are abundant and easy to locate.
While their predators may not be able to eliminate the entire rat population, they can significantly reduce the number of rats in an area.
And that brings us to the end of our article! I hope you found it interesting, educational, and fun. Remember, it’s not an article without sharing! Feel free to share it with your friends or family who can also use some help with rodents.
I wish you a great day!