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Can Cats Eat Rats? What You Need to Know!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

group of rats

The image of cats chasing rodents has been around for centuries. In fact, mice are a part of the diet of wild cats, and many domestic cats were originally bred to hunt rats and other vermin. So, you might think that it’s safe to feed your cat rats. However, this is untrue.

Today, rats are unsafe for cats to eat. Wild rats can contain many parasites and pass on bacterial infections. They can also have ingested rat poison, especially if you live in urban settings. This poison can transfer to your cat if it eats a poisoned rat.

Along with giving you information on the risks of feeding your cat rats, we also have some safe alternatives that you can feed your feline friend.

Can Cats Eat Rats?

It’s very risky for your cat to eat a wild rat. Rats can carry worms that can transfer to cats. They’re known to be carriers of tapeworms, pinworms, and roundworms. Rats also scavenge for food and can ingest rotten food, which can be contaminated with bacteria that cause leptospirosis, plague, and tularemia. Both humans and cats can catch these highly contagious bacterial infections.

Although some urban cities may release feral cats to address mice and rat populations, most cats are not very good at catching rodents, or they’re disinterested. They’d rather select easier prey and food sources, so they’ll often sift through trash bins or eat from food left out by benevolent neighbors.  The purpose of feral cats is to chase out rodents from a specific area because the presence of cats can scare away rats.

You might be wondering if it’s a good idea to feed your cat frozen rats from a pet store or pet supply carrier. Technically, your cat can eat frozen rats and feel fine afterward, but it’s still pretty risky.

First, frozen rodents are more appropriate for snakes because snakes will eat them whole. Cats will often pick through the fur and bones, which will usually leave a gross carcass in your living space. Also, if you have a cat that enjoys taking time with its food, it might leave the rat out for too long. Raw meat shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours because it can become contaminated with harmful bacteria.

cat hunting
Image Credit: katya-guseva0, Pixabay

Nutritional Components of Rats

Rats can actually be nutritious prey for wild cats. The average adult rat has a crude protein percentage of about 61% and a crude fat percentage of 32% when measured on a dry matter basis.

Domestic cats need a diet consisting of a minimum of 26% protein, while diets containing at least 40% protein prevent loss of lean body mass over time. They also do well if their diet consists of fat between 22%-24%.

So, when you compare a domestic cat’s nutritional needs and the macronutrient breakdown of rats, rats can be a good source of protein and fat. Unfortunately, wild rats are too risky for cats to chase and eat, and frozen rats can leave a mess and expire quickly.

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Safe Alternatives For Your Cat

There are much safer alternatives that you can give your cat. Here are some delicious and safe protein-pack treats and toys that you can give your cat.

Cooked Meat

Cats are obligate carnivores, so they love eating animal meat as a main meal and snack. One of the safest ways to give your cat animal meat is to cook it thoroughly. Here are the internal temperatures that common types of meat should reach for them to be safe for consumption:

Safe Alternatives For Your Cat:
cat eating cooked chicken
Image credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Freeze-Dried Treats

A lot of freeze-dried treats are sold whole. So, you can find whole pieces of minnows and shrimp that are safely processed and packaged for your cats to eat. They’re also a cleaner alternative to rats, and they’re so tasty that your cat won’t leave anything bits behind.

Automatic Cat Toys

A lot of automatic cat toys mimic the movements of mice. So, if your cat likes to chase, a remote-control cat toy can be an excellent alternative to chasing a wild rat. You can also attach some treats to the toy or use catnip spray to entice your cat to chase and play.

cat playing with catnip mouse
Image Credit: Chewy

Conclusion

Although rats technically meet and exceed the macronutrient requirement for cats, other factors make them unsafe to feed to cats. There are much safer alternatives that do an equally great job without the risks.

Not eating rats doesn’t negatively affect your cat’s quality of life. There are plenty of other foods in their natural diet that you can give them. So, they’re not missing out on much if you omit rodents from their diet.

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