A collaboration among England’s University of Greenwich, the University of Swaziland in Africa, and the University of Florida, the study aimed to aid African subsistence farmers by pitting the two pets against each other to determine which proved the more effective pest deterrent.
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.
“This was a completely unexpected result. We thought cats would have the most significant influence,” admits University of Florida professor Robert McCleery, who attributes the outcome to the combination of different species. “Rats can often adjust to one type of predator by changing their movements and behavior,” the 45-year-old explains. “Two become much scarier.” Though McCleery acknowledges the experiment’s small scope, he considers such research a step in the right direction: “If you can reduce the prevalence of disease and raiding of crop storage in this part of the world, that’s an important advancement.”