Discover 10 Predators That Hunt and Eat Rats

Written by Angie Menjivar
Published: October 29, 2023
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They reproduce at incredible rates, and in populated environments, they can become quite a nuisance. Rats are also remarkably intelligent, displaying problem-solving skills that leave researchers impressed. But as it goes in the wild, they are preyed upon by some skilled predators. Some approach from the skies, stalk, and pounce on the ground. Discover ten predators that hunt and eat rats!

Discover 10 Predators that Hunt and Eat Rats

1. Snakes

Eastern copperhead snake

Eastern copperhead snakes offer a free rodent control service, snatching up rodents like rats and mice.

©iStock.com/JWJarrett

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Scientific name: Serpentes

There is a wide range of snake species found throughout the world. Some of them are venomous, and some of them are non-venomous. These are carnivorous reptiles that feast on rats. Some snakes are equipped with heat-sensing detectors, which allow them to locate rats even when they don’t have favorable visibility conditions. Typically, a snake moves stealthily or doesn’t move and waits for its prey to approach.

That’s when it strikes with impressive precision to inject venom or constrict. Once a snake has captured a rat, it’s doomed. Snakes can extend their jaws and swallow their prey whole. They don’t need to chew their food to be able to digest it. They start swallowing. Once a snake has consumed an entire rat, the snake’s digestive enzymes get to work. Even though they drink tough pieces of other animals like teeth, bones, and fur, their digestive system is fantastic at breaking it down.

Some parts don’t get digested, and the snake excretes those parts as waste. Snakes don’t need to eat too frequently. The digestion process may take several weeks, depending on the size of the rat or other prey animal. Aside from rats, snakes eat other snakes, birds, bird eggs, amphibians, arachnids, insects, and other small mammals if the snake is big enough.

2. Hawks

A Red tailed hawk going in for the kill

Hawks come in hot and use their sharp talons to grab unsuspecting prey like rats.

©David Brace/Shutterstock.com

Scientific name: Buteo

Hawks are birds of prey and are made for hunting. Their eyesight is acute, and they are equipped with sharp, powerful talons that allow them to grip rats after swooping in from above. They won’t let go once they grab a prey animal like a rat.

They have sharp beaks that help them kill whichever prey animal they capture. Ultimately, a hawk’s eyesight allows them to hunt so effectively. They can spot a prey animal as small as a rat from a great distance and come in quickly to capture the unsuspecting animal. Their prey doesn’t stand a chance because they don’t know when the hawk will strike.

The talons do not kill their prey, though they can injure them. It’s ultimately a hawk’s hooked beak that delivers a lethal bite. Along with rats, hawks feast on fish, insects, birds, reptiles, and small mammals. They are incredibly strong, and some species can capture impressively large prey.

3. Cats

funny cat

When cats are left to their devices outdoors, they effectively hunt rodents like rats.

©Nils Jacobi/iStock via Getty Images

Scientific name: Felis catus

When cats are left to roam outside, they don’t rely solely on commercial pet food or homemade pet food. They’re adept hunters and have highly developed skills as predators. If you have a cat at home, you know how it crouches down and wiggles its butt when it’s about to pounce on a toy (or your foot!).

They employ these hunting behaviors in the wild when hunting for food. They can see very well at night. Their sense of hearing is sharp, and they can track prey via their scent trail. Cats use claws and teeth to capture and kill small animals like rodents. However, they’re not quick to kill and sometimes even play with their food before they entirely immobilize it.

They don’t swallow rats or other prey animals whole. Instead, they bite it piece by piece. Aside from rats, cats eat insects, birds, fish, and other small mammals. Of course, they also enjoy savoring treats, kibbles, and wet food when it’s offered.

4. Opossums

Often called simply a 'possum, the Virginia Opossum is the only marsupial found north of Mexico.

Opossums are omnivores that sometimes hunt rats if they encroach on their territory.

©Bert B/Shutterstock.com

Scientific name: Didelphidae

These marsupials aren’t carnivorous and instead enjoy a more varied diet that doesn’t just include meat. They’re omnivores. However, they hunt and eat rats if they notice they are encroaching on their territory. This isn’t a staple food item in a possum’s diet, but they can undoubtedly devour a rat if needed.

Sometimes, they don’t even hunt the rat. If they come across a rat that’s already dead, they eat that. They’re fantastic scavengers! Eating carrion is not unusual for a possum, and they’re beneficial because they clean up what’s left dead and discarded. Aside from dead animals or rodents like rats, possums eat insects, plant matter, and fruits.

5. Weasels

mink vs weasel

Weasels use the advantage of their slender bodies to hunt rats by squeezing into small tunnels and burrows.

©Stephan Morris/Shutterstock.com

Scientific name: Mustela

Weasels thrive on meaty food sources. They’re small mammals with a carnivorous diet. Small mammals make up a significant part of their diet, including rats. Although they may appear harmless, they are keen predators. Not only are they agile, but they’re also fast. They have an advantage based on the shape of their bodies. They’re long and slender, so they can get into different burrows or tunnels to find hiding prey animals.

They have incredibly sharp teeth and claws that they employ when hunting rats. They are at least merciful in their killing and get it out of the way relatively quickly. Although they go for rats, sometimes they go for bigger prey like rabbits. These animals eat frequently and can digest all parts of a rat. Aside from rats, they eat amphibians, small reptiles, birds, bird eggs, insects, and carrion.

6. Barn Owls

Eastern Barn Owl in South Australia

When barn owls fly, they’re reticent, which gives them an advantage while hunting rats.

©Imogen Warren/Shutterstock.com

Scientific name: Tyto alba

You’re unlikely to spot a barn owl preying on a rat only because they operate under the cover of nightfall. With their ability to see in the dark and their keen sense of hearing, they are impressive hunters. Even when they fly, they do so quietly that you don’t notice them. When they set out to hunt a rat, they fly in search of rustling movements on the ground.

Once they spot a rat, they swoop in using their strong talons to grab hold of the unwary animal. Like hawks, barn owls have sharp beaks, which they use to kill the rat eventually. They don’t save it for later but devour it whole the moment after killing it. Although some parts of a rat are not digestible, the barn owl manages to regurgitate those impassable bits. Aside from rats, barn owls also hunt mice, birds, insects, amphibians, and lizards.

7. Eagles

Bald eagle, Mount Loretto unique area, Staten Island ny

Eagles are birds of prey that use their keen eyesight, powerful talons, and sharp beaks to hunt.

©Dorothy matula/Shutterstock.com

Scientific name: Aquila chrysaetos

Yet another bird of prey, the eagle, also has an incredible advantage since it looks for prey from an aerial perspective. These birds are opportunistic and snack on various animals, including rats. Their eyesight is exceptional, which allows them to spot rats from long distances. They are equipped with sharp talons and powerful beaks that help them capture and tear through prey animals.

Rats aren’t precisely their go-to meal, but since they’re opportunistic, they move in if they spot one. Unlike other animals, they don’t consume undigestible parts of an animal. Instead, they leave them right there on the ground where they eat. Aside from rats, eagles eat other birds, fish, small and medium-sized mammals, and carrion.

8. Foxes

Cute Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes in fall forest. Beautiful animal in the nature habitat. Wildlife scene from the wild nature. Red fox running in orange autumn leaves.

Foxes are omnivorous; they don’t just snack on rats and other meaty food sources. They eat plant matter and fruit, too!

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

Scientific name: Vulpes vulpes

Foxes don’t rely solely on meat to survive. These are omnivorous mammals that have highly developed hunting abilities. They’re opportunistic, taking advantage of moments when they can grab an easy meal. They typically stalk their prey before getting close enough to pounce on it. Sometimes, they can find rats in open areas like fields, but they also know to find them in their burrows and aren’t afraid of digging in to capture their meals.

They use their teeth to effectively kill rats after capturing them. Sometimes, if they’re not in a safe location, they carry the dead rat to a place where they feel safe enough to consume it. Otherwise, they eat it right then and there. Aside from rats, foxes also snack on other small mammals like rabbits and mice. They even eat squirrels. They also eat birds, insects, plant matter, fruit, and carrion.

9. Wolves

A portrait of a red wolf

Red wolves eat rodents like rats and mice.

©Cavan Images/iStock via Getty Images

Scientific name: Canis lupus

Since wolves hunt in packs, they can typically take down large animals like moose or deer. However, for red wolves, rats are definitely on the menu, along with mice. Wolves are significantly larger and more powerful than rats, allowing them to overpower them quickly using their sharp teeth.

When eating, they are selective, ensuring they consume the parts that provide them with the most nutrients. They discard the rest that is more difficult to digest. Aside from rats, red wolves also eat birds and carrion. However, gray wolves tend to go for those larger animals so that they can share the feast among their pack.

10. Mountain Lions

Mountain lion standing on thick tree branch

Mountain lions

often hunt larger prey, but being opportunistic, they eat rodents too.

©Geoffrey Kuchera/Shutterstock.com

Scientific name: Puma concolor

Unlike wolves, mountain lions operate solo. These carnivores typically hunt prey larger than rats, but every so often, they also hunt and snack on rodents. They’re opportunistic, stalking their prey and attacking it from behind. Typically, they go for larger animals like deer but also eat raccoons and rodents like rats and mice.

These animals are large enough to take down elk but are also opportunistic. If they’re hungry and there’s a rodent on their path, they can quickly snatch it up as a source of protein and other nutrients. After a kill, mountain lions usually take the dead animal to a more secure location to enjoy it in peace. Like other predators in this list, they don’t consume parts of animals that are more difficult to digest.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Gallinago_media/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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