Home /

Rats

/ What Animals Eat Rats? 39 Natural Rat Predators in the Wild

What Animals Eat Rats? 39 Natural Rat Predators in the Wild

Misfit Animals is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn More.

Rats have many natural predators. Examples of animals that hunt and eat rats are snakes, cats, ferrets, foxes, owls, and others. Rats have become good at hiding in small holes and narrow spaces to escape from predators.

Many animals eat rats, keeping their population under control.

Because they have a lot of natural predators, rats have many babies, around 8-18 pups at a single birth. This way, they make sure that at least one offspring survives to keep the species alive.

In this article, you will learn what animals eat rats, and how rats are hunted by them.

Rat Predators

Rats have many natural predators, including falcons, snakes, ferrets, foxes, eagles, owls, cats, and dogs. Rats are also afraid of humans.

Predators are carnivorous animals, meat-eating insects, or omnivorous animals that hunt prey animals for food. 

Examples of animals that eat rats:

  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Hawks
  • Owls
  • Herons
  • Eagles
  • Crows
  • Cats
  • Dogs

Predators often do not consume other predators, but there can be exceptions.

Natural predators of rats are divided into three categories:

  1. Reptiles
  2. Birds
  3. Mammals
Rat Predators

Mice Predators

Animals that hunt and eat rats usually also eat mice. As mice are smaller, they are also hunted by smaller predators that cannot hunt rats:

  • Smaller species of lizards
  • Small birds of prey
  • Hedgehogs and other small mammals

What Reptiles Eat Rats?

Snakes and lizards eat rats. Mice and rats are the main sources of nutrition for some snake species. Carnivorous lizards have a more varied diet based on insects, crustaceans, rodents, birds, etc.

Rat-eating reptiles include snakes and certain species of lizards.

Some snakes have heat vision (infrared vision), which helps them sense the heat rats emit and catch them.[3]

Snakes That Eat Rats

Most snakes eat rats if they get the opportunity. The most common species that hunt rats are boa constrictor snakes and rat snakes.

While snakes eat rats, they rarely eat in general. They eat once a week or once every two weeks. Smaller, younger snakes eat twice a week, and larger, older snakes can stay without food for weeks.

When snakes eat, they don’t chew their prey; they swallow it. 

After ingesting their prey whole, they break it down during digestion. The digestion process takes about 48 hours. If the snake does not digest the food, it can regurgitate it.

Snakes are carnivores, and a rat or a mouse usually represents a complete and balanced meal.

Certain snake species also eat chickens, guinea pigs, gerbils, young rabbits, insects, frogs, amphibians, earthworms, eggs, and other small animals.

Snakes That Eat Rats

There are two snakes that mainly consume rats:

  • Boa constrictor snakes
  • Rat snake

1. Boa constrictor snake

Boa snakes are carnivores. They feed mainly on birds, lizards, bats, and small mammals, including rats.

Some people keep these snakes as pets, and their staple food consists of frozen mice, rats, rabbits, or their offspring. Many owners also choose to feed their boa pets live mice and rats.

2. Rat snake

Rat snakes prefer to feed on rats. They kill their prey like boas, through constriction.[4]

Rat snakes are not venomous and do not pose a threat to humans. You can find these snakes throughout the Northern hemisphere, in urban areas, in abandoned buildings, and in barns (places where rats live).

The most popular species of rat snake kept as a pet is the corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus).[5]

Lizards That Eat Rats

Lizards are small to medium-sized reptiles that are natural predators of rats. They swallow prey whole, like snakes. Carnivorous lizards eat insects, amphibians, smaller lizards, small mammals, birds, and other small animals.

Three lizards are commonly known to eat rats:

  1. Monitor lizards
  2. Geckos
  3. Bearded dragons

1. Monitor lizard

Lizards That Eat Rats

The monitor lizard is a large lizard that can reach 40 inches (1 meter) long and 13 pounds in weight (6 kg). These lizards are part of the genus Varanus and are native to Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

Monitor lizards are venomous but not enough to cause harm to a human.

Depending on where they live, some monitor lizards are carnivores, and others feed on fruits and vegetation.[6]

Carnivorous monitor lizards feed on:

  • Eggs
  • Birds
  • Small mammals, including rats
  • Smaller reptiles
  • Insects

Like snakes, monitor lizards swallow their prey whole and do not chew it. Digestion takes about two days, and they feed 1-2 times a week.

2. Gecko

Most Gecko lizards feed on insects, but some species also consume mice and rats.

Geckos can only eat small rats, as they have small mouths. They hunt hairless baby rats, called pinkies.

3. Bearded Dragon

Bearded Dragons feed on insects, as in the case of Gecko lizards. If the rat is small enough, bearded dragons can consume them as well.

These lizards eat their prey whole in the wild.[7]

What Birds Eat Rats?

Large birds of prey eat rats. These include eagles, falcons, or owls. These birds regularly consume rats and mice, but they also eat other small mammals and birds.

Birds of prey are famous for feeding on mice and rats. Some hunt during the day and others at night. 

They have a sharp visual acuity. When they spot a prey animal, they throw themselves at it. Birds of prey catch rats with their sharp talons and devour them with their hooked beaks.

Birds that feed on rats:

  • Falcons
  • Hawks
  • Owls
  • Herons
  • Eagles
  • Crows

1. Falcons

Peregrine Falcon nest

Falcons eat other birds, fish, amphibians, and small mammals, including mice and rats.

The smallest and most widespread falcon in North America is the American kestrel (Falco sparverius). It lives year-round in Mexico and the United States but can sometimes fly to Canada to breed.

They chase prey and throw themselves at it to catch and consume it.

Related: What Do Falcons Eat?

2. Hawks

Rough-Legged Hawk

Red-tailed falcons are found in the same regions like the American kestrel. They feed on rats daily and can hunt them even in cities.

Related: What Do Hawks Eat?

3. Owl

Little Owl flying

Owls are nocturnal animals like rats. The owl population depends directly on rodent populations (mice, rats, rabbits, bison, etc.). If necessary, owls can also feed on insects.

These birds have soft feathers, which helps them make no noise when flying. This represents an advantage over the fine hearing of rats. Owls catch rats unexpectedly because they do not hear them flying most of the time.

Related: What Do Owls Eat?

4. Heron

Heron

Great Blue Herons will eat mice and rats when they can find other food, such as fish, turtles, snakes, or salamanders.

5. Eagles

Eagles on mountain

All eagles eat rats, if given the opportunity. The golden eagle and the long-crested eagle are the most common that feed on rats and mice in the wild.

6. Crows

crow flying

Crows are opportunistic birds, scavengers. They can attack small animals, including mice and rats, but are usually satisfied eating dead animals.

What Mammals Eat Rats?

Many mammals eat rats, including cats, dogs, opossums, foxes, ferrets, and many other. 

Mammals are split into several families, many of which feed on rats.

Mammals that feed on rats:

  • Felines (cat-like mammals)
  • Canids (dog-like mammals)
  • Mustelids (weasel-like mammals)
  • Marsupials

Felines (Cats)

Felines eating rats

Cats that hunt rats are small to large and include:

  1. Domestic and feral cats
  2. Bobcat
  3. Tiger
  4. Leopard
  5. Lion
  6. Jaguar
  7. Cougar

1. Domestic and feral cats

Cats hunt more mice than rats because they are smaller and easier to eat. If they can’t find anything else to eat, cats will hunt and eat rats as well.

The American Shorthair and Main Coon cat breeds are descendants of cats that lived on ships. These cats hunted and fed on rodents.

Some cities use cats to hunt rats.

2. Bobcat

Wild bobcats live in swamps, forests, agricultural lands, but also in cities. They prefer small rodents such as rats, but they also hunt larger animals (deer) if they can’t find anything else to eat.

Bobcats can kill animals eight times their size. They adjust their hunting tactics according to the size of their prey.

When hunting rats, bobcats stalk and lurk their prey, then pounce at it.

3. Lions, Leopards, Tigers & Jaguars

lion roar

Lions, leopards, tigers and jaguars are large, wild felines. They generally feed on large animals but consume rats to supplement their diet when there is not enough food.

4. Cougar

Cougars or mountain lions eat almost anything that provides them with animal protein:

  • Insects
  • Deer
  • Rodents, including rats
  • Other small mammals

Cougars are ambush predators that pounce at their prey. They bite the neck of small prey, like the rest of the big felines, killing them almost instantly.

Canids (dogs)

Canids eating rats
Image Source

The following canines eat rats:

  1. Domestic and wild dog
  2. Fox
  3. Wolf
  4. Jackal
  5. Coyote
  6. Dingo

1. Domestic and Wild Dogs

Domestic dogs do not necessarily see rats as part of their diet, but some breeds (e.g. terriers) are trained to hunt rats.

Wild dogs feed on rabbits, possums, wallabies, bandicoots, and rats.

2. Foxes, Jackals, Dingoes, and Wolves

Red Fox portrait

These canids choose to eat rats, especially in the cold winter months, when other larger species are not available or are hard to find.

3. Coyotes

Coyotes prefer to eat small animals, such as rabbits, small dogs, and cats, but do eat rats and mice. Coyotes help keep the rodent population under control.

Mustelids

Otters

Mustelids are small and medium-sized carnivorous mammals. They have a long body, a long tail, and short legs. The fur of some mustelids is considered precious and is used in the fashion industry.

Mustelids that eat rats:

  1. Polecat
  2. Ferret
  3. Badger
  4. Otter
  5. Marten
  6. Wolverine
  7. Stoat
  8. Weasel
  9. Skunk
  10. Mink
  11. Raccoon

All these mustelids also eat eggs, birds, frogs, rabbits, and other small animals, in addition to rats.

It should be noted that the mink is an aggressive animal that kills rats for fun.

Marsupials

Tasmanian Devil

Marsupial animals are a class of mammals that have an abdominal pouch called a marsupial pouch. Not all marsupials have a pouch in the true sense of the word. 

This pouch is designed to protect the babies while the mothers are nursing. A fold represents the pouch in some species.

There are both herbivorous, omnivorous, and carnivorous marsupials. Omnivores and carnivores feed on rats in addition to other animals and include:

  1. Tasmanian devil (carnivore)
  2. Opossum (omnivore)

Opossums pose a higher risk to rats than owls and minks.

Conclusion

Rats have many natural predators, including birds, reptiles, and mammals. They’re hunted due to their small size, making them an easy meal for many animals.

Some of the most common animals that eat rats include:

  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • Falcons
  • Hawks
  • Owls
  • Eagles
  • Herons
  • Cats
About Iulia Mihai (DVM)

Dr. Iulia is a certified veterinarian with more than 10 years of experience in the field. With extensive knowledge of diet, care, and medication, she helps Misfit Animals provide readers with accurate knowledge on technical topics.

Looking for something?

Try searching our website!