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Home > Cats > What to Do if Your Cat Catches a Rat? 3 Vet Approved Steps to Follow

What to Do if Your Cat Catches a Rat? 3 Vet Approved Steps to Follow

a cat caught a rat outdoor

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Dr. Lauren Demos

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats are natural hunters, so it isn’t uncommon to see them pounce at any small creature that stumbles across their path. Even indoor cats have the desire to hunt, which is why so many cat toys take on mouse-like or bird-like shapes. When your cat is just attacking stuffed rats, it can be adorable and entertaining. But when he manages to capture a living, breathing rat, it’s a lot less endearing.

If your cat has just dropped a thoughtful “present” at your feet, you may be panicking and clueless about what to do next. When your pet brings you an animal, live or dead, there are three steps that you should follow. We’ll discuss them in detail below, and after, we’ll talk about how to prevent your cat from bringing you rats in the future.


The 3 Steps to Follow if Your Cat Catches a Rat

1. Ideally, Prevent Your Cat From Eating The Rat

You must act promptly when you spot your cat with a rat. Put on latex or rubber gloves if possible. If not, you can cover your hands with plastic bags. Once your hands are protected, grab the rat by the tail and remove it from your cat’s reach.

A swift response is vital due to the diseases a rat can pass on to your cat. If your cat eats their catch, they may be at risk of developing various diseases such as:

  • Leptospirosis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Hantavirus
  • Plague

However, exposure to rat excrement can also cause similar concerns, so any hunting or outdoor activities potentially put your cat at risk. That said, many cats live healthy outdoor lives hunting and catching various prey, so a risk-benefit analysis can be helpful. Speak with your vet to address the specifics for your cat.

man with protective gloves holding the tail of the dead rat
Image by: Budimir Jevtic, Shutterstock

2. Care for the Rat

If the rat is alive and injured, you can place it in a ventilated plastic container and keep it away from your cat. Then, you can contact a local animal rescue facility for further guidance. If the rat is dead, contact your veterinarian for further guidance.

3. Clean the Area of Any Urine, Feces, or Other Debris

After disposing of the rat, you must clean everything the animal came in contact with. This includes floors, gloves, boxes, and your hands. To efficiently eliminate harmful bacteria, you can mix bleach and water to scrub over the contaminated items. When diluted with water, bleach is less harmful to your cat.

Still, diluted bleach can be dangerous for your cat. That is why it is best to keep your cat in another room while you’re cleaning.

hand of a man with gloves scrubbing the floor
Image by: ETAP, Shutterstock


How to Discourage Your Cat from Catching Rats

Even though they have been domesticated for centuries, cats have never lost their inner predator. If your cat plays outside and has access to small animals, it is more than likely that you will end up with a thoughtful “present” now and then. If you’re looking for ways to prevent your cat’s gift-giving streak, there are a few approaches that you can take.

cat lying on the windowsill
Image by: Vasylchenko, Shutterstock

Keep Them Indoors

One of the simplest ways to keep rats out of your cat’s mouth is to keep your pet indoors. While it is not a 100% guarantee, as rodents can still sneak into your home occasionally, it significantly diminishes your cat’s ability to prowl for live prey. Instead, you can redirect their hunting desires to stuffed mice, puzzle toys, or other entertaining (and safe) outlets.

Place a Bell on Your Cat’s Collar

This option is less effective than keeping your cat indoors but can still be helpful. A bell on your cat’s collar will alert the prey of their approach. Hunting will be a much more difficult task for your furry friend, but skilled hunters may still be able to manage it.

However, make sure that the collar you place around your pet’s neck is a breakaway collar. They have clasps that can release if the collar is snagged on an object. Otherwise, your cat can get stuck or choke if the collar is caught on something.

Provide an Alternative

If your cat has an adequate outlet for their desire to hunt, they are less likely to feel the need to capture live prey. With your cat’s toys, you can mimic their natural prey and entice them to play with the toys rather than live rodents.



Cleaning up your cat’s messes is rarely fun, especially when it involves a living (or once living) animal. Although your impulse may be to panic or act rashly, be sure to take precautionary measures such as wearing gloves and disinfecting the area. There are many ways to prevent your cat from bringing their prey home, including keeping them inside and attaching a bell to their collar.

Featured Image Credit: Bachkova Natalia, Shutterstock

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