Rats are omnivorous and can eat anything they encounter when faced with starvation. Although rare, rats can attack and kill small animals.
They may not have exceptional hunting skills, but they have highly developed senses that enable them to locate sick, elderly, or young animals they can hunt and devour.
Rats prey on smaller animals such as lizards, chicks, birds, fish, snakes, crabs, turtles, young rabbits, and mice. When threatened or cornered, larger rats can subdue and kill kittens or very small dogs.
Moreover, rats hunt in groups to make it easier to take down larger animals.
What Do Rats Prey On?
As mentioned, rats prey on several smaller animals such as mice, lizards, wild birds, fish, worms, snakes, crabs, baby turtles, and chicks.
According to the Journal of Wildlife Management, Norway rats are predators of burrow-nesting seabirds. They tend to raid the nests of these birds, eating adult birds, chicks, and eggs.
Even though rats aren’t natural hunters, they’re opportunistic omnivores. Rats can eat anything they encounter, including other animals. Various circumstances, such as extreme starvation, can force them to become predators to small animals and insects.
Dominant rats can also eat weaker rats in cases of severe starvation. It’s not uncommon for wild rats to prey on mice even though they belong to the same rodent family.
Snakes may be among a rat’s main predators, but rats won’t hesitate to kill and eat smaller snakes. Small snakes are less of a threat.
Since rats are excellent swimmers, they’re not afraid to plunge into large water bodies to prey on small fish, crabs, and baby turtles.
Do Rats Eat Birds?
Rats can eat small birds, as well as their eggs and offspring. However, it is important to note that birds aren’t a primary food source for rats.
The primary target is usually bird seeds and feed. Rats only attack, kill, and eat small birds in cases of severe starvation or stiff competition for food.
The size of the bird is immaterial since some birds are much larger than rats and can predate on rats, mice, and other rodents.
Rats prefer smaller birds or chicks if they can’t find anything else to eat. Since rats are exceptional climbers, they can scale up tall trees and reach birds’ nests, kill chicks, and steal their eggs.
If you rear poultry and have a chicken coop, you must rat-proof it to protect your birds from rats. Rats usually roam around chicken pens, foraging for leftover feed that spills on the ground.
If they don’t find any food, they may turn to your birds and their chicks. They may also steal eggs from the pen to meet their dietary needs.
Pet birds such as budgies (parakeets) can also fall victim to marauding rats. The rats will attempt to access their cage and even manage to squeeze through and kill or eat your pet.
Do Rats Kill Chipmunks?
Despite being larger than most rats, chipmunks are a vital food source for rats. They also have other predators, such as birds of prey, raccoons, bobcats, snakes, coyotes, foxes, and weasels.
Rats rarely attack or hunt other animals but won’t hesitate to fight and kill a chipmunk when they encounter one. This explains why a chipmunk and a rat can’t occupy the same property.
Do Rats Eat Other Rats?
Rats can eat other rats due to cannibalistic tendencies that develop during periods of severe starvation.
As explained, dominant rats can attack weak rats when starving. They’ll move into other colonies, fight for remaining food sources, and eat one another when the food vanishes.
According to a developmental study on rats, mother rats usually eat their offspring during pre-weaning in 0-33% of the cases.
Are Rats Predators of Mice?
Rats can eat mice, even though they belong to the order of Rodentia.
Wild rats are more muscular and aggressive than mice and will always win a battle for survival. A rat won’t hesitate to attack a mouse whenever it feels hungry, and there’s no other food source available.
Rats and mice are unfriendly neighbors, and scientists describe the practice of rats eating mice as muricide. This is essentially a mouse-killing instinct in rats.
According to Mississippi State University, the reasons for muricide in rats remain unknown. However, experts believe it’s connected to food deprivation.
What Does A Small Rat Eat?
Small rats can’t hunt like their older counterparts. Also, they can’t prey on other animals, relying on regular rat diets such as fruits, vegetables, meats, worms, and insects.
As a rat grows, it’ll develop predatory skills, which may come in handy if it has no other option but to hunt for food. It’ll acquire several adaptations, such as long claws and stronger and sharper teeth.
Can Rats Harm My Pets?
Rats can harm pets physically through bites and scratches or by spreading diseases.
Rats don’t usually bother with pets in the home. Their primary objective is to find adequate food, water, and somewhere safe to nest. Pets such as dogs and cats don’t tolerate rats and may attack.
The first instinct of a rat, when chased by a dog or cat, is to run away. When cornered, it’ll certainly fight back. Rats are aggressive fighters, and they have long claws and sharp teeth.
Also, rats are disease carriers. They carry bacteria, parasites, microorganisms, and pathogens that cause severe illnesses in humans and animals.
Rats aren’t natural hunters, so they sometimes kill and eat other small animals. They mostly hunt other animals when food is in short supply.
Like any other carnivorous or omnivorous animal, rats need protein. The meat of other animals is rich in protein, and rats will do what is needed to survive.