Building a Better Rat Trap (Hint: Don’t Count on Cats)

New rodent control research uncovers key insights to improve rodent control and dispels classic cat myth

FAIRFAX, VA (November 13, 2018) — In groundbreaking new rodent control research funded by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), scientists studying individual rat behavior using scent detection and RFID-technology, better known as micro-chipping, also 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 odors 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. 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,” said Jim Fredericks, Ph.D., chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association. “We embarked on this research to learn more about individual rat behavior and to seek information to inform better rodent control methods for the professional pest control industry.”

Key conclusions from the rodent control research include:

  1. Scent Detection
    • Male scents alone cause both female and male rats to investigate, but then ultimately avoid an area in the future.
    • Mixed male and female pheromones cause rats to respond more favorably to the scent compared to male-only scents.
    • Female-only pheromones 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 one percent of the cat and rat encounters resulted in a rat being killed; despite, stalking behavior being observed 20 times.
    • Rats are less likely to be seen on the day-of or the day after cats are present.
    • For every cat sighting observed, rats were nearly 20 percent more likely to move toward a shelter.
    • 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 rodent control research study, rats and rodent prevention, visit PestWorld.org.

The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 5,500 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property. For more information, visit PestWorld.org.

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