The enemy of my enemy is my friend. It’s not a proverb you’d think cats and dogs would subscribe to. But a study published in early 2017 suggests that when these fabled foes band together, they’re better able to vanquish a shared adversary: rats.
Researchers evaluated rodent activity on 40 farms in central Swaziland—10 with cats, 10 with dogs, 10 with neither, and 10 with both—by setting out peanut-studded boxes of sand. Farms with felines or canines demonstrated similar vermin activity to those with neither. At farms with both, however, vermin activity declined.
You can find the full study on the University of Greenwich’s website.
The study stated:
StopRats is short for ‘Sustainable Technologies to Overcome Pest Rodents in Africa through Science’, a project led by NRI for the past three years, which brings together research teams from Madagascar, Namibia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania. With funding from the European Union’s Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Science and Technology Programme, researchers have been working with farming communities, the private pest control industry, and government departments to increase awareness about rodents, the problems they cause and to develop sustainable rodent management strategies.
Professor Steven Belmain from NRI, who is the leader of the StopRats project and co-author of the paper says, “Contrary to our expectations, we did not find that rodent foraging behaviour changed when households had only cats or only dogs. However, rodent foraging did change when households had both cats and dogs present, where an increase in the landscape of fear for rodents dramatically reduced the amount of food they would consume from established feeding patches.” The research team based at the University of Swaziland is continuing to investigate whether this landscape of fear can be manipulated further to the detriment of rodent pests and whether it results in reduced losses to food stored at the household level and other potential benefits to the household.
For additional reading:
- PLoS One paper: Domestic Cats and Dogs Create a Landscape of Fear for Pest Rodents around Rural Homesteads
- ACP Science and Technology Programme – EU
- StopRats project website