Preventing rat infestation of my colony's cat houses?

jesslocke

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
Jun 22, 2021
Messages
1
Purraise
0
I just bought a house in a dense urban area that is known for rat infestations. My new house came with several outdoor cat houses and an established colony of five feral cats. I agreed with the sellers that I would continue to care for the colony as they had -- feeding twice a day, water, maintaining the huts, etc. Today I saw a large rat eating from the cats' breakfast food. The alpha cat was there, looking on, as this gigantic rat ate his breakfast. The rat is way too big even for this tough, hefty cat to tangle with. I'm really concerned that caring for this colony of cats means that I am attracting/maintaining a colony of rats as well.

Does anyone here have experience with this or advice about how to handle it?
 

Kieka

Snowshoe Servant
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Sep 6, 2016
Messages
11,500
Purraise
20,471
Location
Southern California
Most cats won't mess with full grown rats, they are too big and nasty to mess with. Especially feral where injury could be death. Mice, birds, are more a cats preference. Not that they can't take on a rat, my little 7 pound girl regularly hunts rats and has caught a few but she is a giant cat stuck in a tiny body. Just last night some mouse got into our house and she spent all night (no exaggeration) hunting and playing with it. This morning she was still growling and hissing when I tried to take it away (it had died by that point). She finally gave it up in exchange for massive praise and breakfast. She regularly stalks and will kill rats that decide our bushes or trees are fun, which keeps our rat population pretty low. But that's Rocket who is weird and has zero self preservation when she gets focused on something.

Anyways.... rats. Your best bet is to switch to timed feedings with the cats and not leave down food between (monitor feedings and shoo off rats if they try to approach). The rats will move on once food isn't around for them. You absolutely do not want to use poison because the cats could eat the bodies. You could also try live traps and relocate the rats (although relocation does have its own risks for the rats). You could also make a rat proof feed box with a microchip door programed for the cats to go in to eat. That one take a bit more engineering but the cats would learn to go in the box for food and rats wouldn't be able to get pass the door (but they can chew or dig in if motivated enough).
 

fionasmom

Moderator
Staff Member
Moderator
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
13,820
Purraise
18,295
Location
Los Angeles
I have outdoor ferals on my property, so I can control their feeding, but we also have a lot of wildlife. My neighbor is currently using a well known humane trap/release company to deal with the skunk apocalypse we have had thanks to some careless construction workers who left her window wells and vents uncovered.....so I sympathize. One morning I had 5 skunks show up en masse and challenge my outdoor female for her food which they happily ate once they drove her off.

Feeding on some sort of a schedule is probably best. The cats will have to learn this but more than likely will figure it out and be happy to see the rats gone. The local TNR group uses clicker training to feed all their colonies so as to not leave dishes around in public places like Rite Aid parking lots. My ferals have never been trained on a schedule but have made their own and that works as well for me.

If you try to use snap traps to kill the rats, be cautious about a cat getting caught in one. While I consider them to be a solution, I have only put them in areas where a cat never went, such as under the house at a vent opening covered by a screen. And no poison at all of any kind as a cat will invariably investigate a downed rat.

Rats do quickly leave if they have no food and no shelter. We had huge vines growing on the garage and part of the house (don't ask) and once they were removed the rats disappeared.

Welcome to The Cat Site! You are most kind to have taken on the support of these cats. You probably already have done this, but with a rat issue, make sure that there are no openings on your actual structures...screens, vents, window wells, even tiny open places in roofing as rats can sort of deconstruct their skeletal structure and squeeze into place about the size of a quarter to half dollar. We had one access the attic, eat part of the condensate line of the AC (leak through ceiling) and about a day later eat part of the wiring of the heating system (almost had a fire if I had not arrived home when I did).
 

franchescac

TCS Member
Kitten
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
1
Purraise
0
Jesslocke, I agree with Kieka. Feed the cats at a certain time and then take away the dishes when they're done eating. My ferals know to come to my stoop for food, and I don't feed them until I see them. Although (Thank God) I don't have rats running around, I do have racoons. I take all the food in at night so the raccoons don't get it. Hope your situation improves.
 

solomonar

TCS Member
Super Cat
Joined
Jan 13, 2017
Messages
938
Purraise
832
Location
Romania
I apologies for somehow hacking this thread, with a similar (though not identical) subject.
The reason is I assume it is easier for interested people to find info in the same thread than digging into piles of threads.

===

I feed a colony leaving in the backyard of my condominium every now and then. I am not the main care provider, I only second the (unknown) main one, from time to time.

One week ago, the municipality placed rat poison in the basements of the building and (I guess) in some corners of the alleys.

What would be the best approach to feeding in this case:
a) to increase the amount of food, in order to prevent cats eating poisoned rats' corps ?
b) to decrease the amount of food, in order to make cats going elsewhere for food?

In my area it is winter now, 0-5 Celsius degrees (32 - 41 F), I usually place the food in the bowels before the midnight, so usually there is no cat around. Is this an appropriate time?
 

fionasmom

Moderator
Staff Member
Moderator
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
13,820
Purraise
18,295
Location
Los Angeles
I am sorry that you have to figure this out and that rat poison is being used. I am more or less guessing, but to me it seems as if the cats are not hungry they won't eat the rats. If they are hungry, they will. While I don't have any idea of the actual arrangement of your area, I wonder if the cats would look elsewhere for food or just decide that the rats are their new food source. My experience with ferals is that they tend to remain in an area where there was food and hope for the best.
 

solomonar

TCS Member
Super Cat
Joined
Jan 13, 2017
Messages
938
Purraise
832
Location
Romania
fionasmom fionasmom
Thank you!
Unfortunately, I dont have experience with feral cats, although I know all the colonies in the surroundings and feed them occasionally. I do not want to harm them.

From my window I can see the journeys of the cats in the backyard of the condominium. It is fascinating! It looks like each cat has a territory and let know the others who is the master :-). Although the areas are established, a couple of cats engage in an exploratory behavior, namely roaming to another condominium, across the street, where there is a grocery. But they must know how to avoid the cars.

Another option would be to join other colonies - one has a safe connection path with very light traffic alleys, but it is numerous and another one is across a large avenue, in a city park.

===

I think the way to go is to keep feeding them, hoping that they are smart enough not to eat the poisoned rats if they have their belly full.
 

fionasmom

Moderator
Staff Member
Moderator
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
13,820
Purraise
18,295
Location
Los Angeles
There is a lot of control that you don't have with true ferals, even with the best intentions. And, yes, they do have a society with organization, times of day, and a social order.

My experience with my personal ferals who live outside with a constant food source is that they are not motivated to eat prey, or at least they don't do it as often. I watch the sister of my avatar, who is truly wild, "pretend" as if she is going to hunt birds, but then just sort of walk away as she just is not hungry enough to put more effort into it.
 

solomonar

TCS Member
Super Cat
Joined
Jan 13, 2017
Messages
938
Purraise
832
Location
Romania
Colonies are amazing!

One friend of mine told me a story about a feral (!?) cat who patiently waits for humans at the entrance of the condominium and (you wont believe that!) takes the elevator with them to reach the 9th floor, where somebody feed her (is a "she"). Then, somehow, she manages to get back to the first floor where there is a cardboard box serving as shelter.

The dark side of such behavior is that such a cat can get easy access to the same places where live the rats (i,e. basement).

Another point is how we can be sure that the cats eat the food and not the rats?

I wonder why scientist do not invent something to trap the rats without harming the cats.
 

fionasmom

Moderator
Staff Member
Moderator
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
13,820
Purraise
18,295
Location
Los Angeles
There are various kinds of rat traps used by restaurants around here which are more or less black boxes filled with bait; however, the rat cannot exit and the opening would not allow a cat to get in to the prey. They also prevent lawsuits from some human coming in contact with rat poison. Some exterminating companies use them as well. However, it is still possible to buy rat bait which is just scattered around and left easily accessible.

As for rats eating the cat food....absolutely a possibility unless there is some way to control where the food is put and when the cats come for it.

Ferals can be remarkable in their understanding and intelligence.
 
Top