Do non-exotic city rats ever get too big for a non-exotic cat to handle one on one?

IE a big mean Norway rat vs a big mean standard domestic cat one on one. Is there a point that cat, no matter how large, will say “no thank you” and flee?

As a side note “non-exotic” means we’re not talking about 4 lb Gambian rats or 45 lb hybrid jungle cats etc.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but I always thought a rat could easily kill your average housecat. Cats can kill mice, not rats. Maybe a feral barn cat or something might have a chance, but rats are really tough and dangerous.

Cats routinely kill rats, a very large rat may intimidate some cats but I don’t believe any rat is big enough to win a fight with a street smart cat. I doubt if a rat can weigh much over 1# if that.

It depends on the cat. I used to work with rats in research labs so I know their abilities and size well. They are unusually smart small animals and pretty good fighters but tales of huge rats are exaggerated. No domestic rat approaches the size of anything but a kitten a few months old. If you think you have a place where rats get big and mean enough to defeat a cat, my daughter has a cat that would politely disagree with you (probably just before slashing your your throat from behind).

Her cat is as sweet as can be to people but he lives to hunt and kill. His record is five full grown squirrels in an afternoon but he also like to mix it up with chipmunks, rabbits, rats, mice, and he even stalks wild turkeys that come into the yard but that always ends in a standoff. He is the best hunting cat I have ever seen however. Not all cats like to fight much and a few rats do so you could see a small cat get get defeated by a really aggressive rat if the circumstances were right but I wouldn’t count on it.

If you want to take the rat idea to the extreme, nutria are rodents that live in the swamps of states like Louisiana and can kill a dog much larger than themselves. I was with a man that had his Golden Retriever attacked by one on a duck hunt once. The dog survived the immediate attack although it was a brutal mess of internal injuries but died of complications at the vet a few weeks later.

River rats are in no way comparable to city rats. They aren’t even in the same family or genus, much less species. badger is correct. Rats are rarely found over a pound. Scenarios where the cat doesn’t win are plausible. Cat losing? Probably not.


and Oregon, the damn things.

It’s not about whether the cat thinks it can kill the rat. The cat would almost always “win,” but it may sustain some bad injuries. If it thinks it’s not worth it it can take off. Lions are apex predators, but that doesn’t mean they try to kill/eat everything smaller or more herbivorous than them.

A squirrel came into my apartment and scared the shit out of both my cats (it reared up on its hind legs and swiped at them with the front paws), so I’m quite sure there are plenty of cats who would back off from plenty of rats. Maybe outdoor cats with more experience with wildlife wouldn’t be so cowardly.


Those are the wimpiest cats ever, or that was the baddest squirrel ever. ROFL

Yeah, I thought it was pretty funny too, and my cats seemed really ashamed of themselves after the squirrel left. :stuck_out_tongue:

We have a squirrel in our neighborhood who sleeps on top of telephone polls begging the hawks to try thier luck. He will come to my glass door and tease the dog, we have a group of cats that socialize on the sidewalk and he casually walks right between them just begging for a fight. He is a freak about 4 or 5 times the weight of the regular red squirrels we have and he is fearless. Very tame when it comes to feeding him. Mischievous but not really mean.

I think it depends a lot on how the cat approaches this. In a face-to-face steel cage match, I don’t doubt that the rat could do some significant damage to the cat, although I still can’t see any way that it doesn’t end up as lunch. But housecats don’t hunt that way. They ambush, ideally from above, behind, or both, and can disable their prey quickly if they have to. If you’re asking about whether a housecat would be a good ratter, I think the answer is probably yes.

Besides a nasty bite rats are pretty much slow defenseless creatures very close to the bottom of the mammal food chain. My chihuahua will kill pack rats which are double the size of norway rats and a cat I am sure could take him if he ever managed to catch one.

Every cat I’ve had on this farm would quickly let a rat go if it were any work at all. They much prefer to attack ground nesting birds at night or animals that don’t put up a fight. I’ve seen my cats lay and watch a mouse by the grain bin because they weren’t into the effort to catch them. Cats are only marginally more useful than a snake for rodent control.

Now, my Jack Russel Terrier will chase and kill anything. She’s taken out a raccoon that was easily twice (almost three times) her size. She’s routinely gone after groundhogs and spent hours down in their hole terrorizing them. The only thing that she’s learned to avoid are opossums and that’s because one of them nearly cut her abdomen open (Full skin depth for over six inches, so she was severely sliced open and spent a day at the vet getting sewn back together.)

ETA: Several cities intentionally ignore their coyote population as a form of rodent control (that also works out as a form of excess feral cat control too)

I think I’ve heard: cats are ambush predators. They prefer to jump on prey and bite their necks, killing quickly. Dogs can be pack animals who run their prey down. Why house cats torture animals is another thread.

Jack Russell Terriers are bred to be master ratters, as are most (all?) terriers. They used to have bloodsport where terriers would kill dozens or hundreds of rodents in a short period of time.

That is why JRTs are valuable on farms. She keeps the ‘varmint’ population pushed over to the neighbor’s ground where they rely on cats. But, I honestly couldn’t see her doing dozens at a time. She puts 110% of her energy into each critter because she doesn’t have an adequate hunting partner (he’s a Great Pyr who just barely gets it).

Appropriate video on youtube : a brave rat fights five cats (don’t worry, the rat was fine, and the cats just slightly traumatized)

Rats are both predator and prey. They can and will kill smaller animals for food if nothing easier is available. So they aren’t total wimps. However, as has been mentioned, one pound/half a kilo is pretty big for a wild brown rat, legends of ginormous New York City sewer rats to the contrary, and a fully-grown house cat should in theory be able to fight and kill one, although the cat may be hurt in the process.

However, a house cat who has never had to fight and kill anything for food isn’t going to know how to do so automatically. Like the cats in the video clairobscur linked to, they may just freak out at the fuzzy toy that moves and makes scary noises and has a pointy end.

Sometimes Youtube comments are great. The top-rated one: “after this he trained 4 turtles and they called him Master Splinter.” Heh.

Ignorance fought! :slight_smile: