Jack Black, rat-catcher, 1851
Jack Black, rat-catcher, 1851

A rat-catcher is a person who kills or captures rats as a professional form of pest control. Keeping the rat population under control was practiced in Europe to prevent the spread of diseases, most notoriously the Black Death, and to prevent damage to food supplies. In modern developed countries, such a professional is otherwise known as a pest control operative or pest exterminator.

Anecdotal history

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Anecdotal reports suggest that some rat-catchers in Europe would raise rats instead of catching them in order to increase their eventual payment from the town or city they were employed by. This, and the practice of rat-fights, could have led to rat-breeding and the adoption of the rat as a pet—the fancy rat.

A famous rat-catcher from Victorian England was Jack Black, who is known through Henry Mayhew's interview for London Labour and the London Poor.[1]


Professional rat-catchers behind a pile of dead rats, during the outbreak of bubonic plague in Sydney in 1900
Professional rat-catchers behind a pile of dead rats, during the outbreak of bubonic plague in Sydney in 1900

Rat-catchers may attempt to capture rats themselves, or release "ratters", animals trained or naturally skilled at catching them. They may also set a rat trap or other traps.

Modern methods of rat control include traps, poisoned bait, introducing predators, reducing litter and clearing of current or potential nest sites.


"Ratter" redirects here. For the motion picture, see Ratter (film).

A "ratter" usually refers to a dog used for catching or killing rats. This includes specially-bred terriers for vermin-hunting, which may be known as rat terriers, although the latter may refer to a breed that was historically developed in rat-baiting.

Conditions and risks

Rats are rarely seen in the open, preferring to hide in holes, haystacks and dark locations. A rat-catcher's risk of being bitten is high, as is the risk of acquiring a disease from a rat bite.


In popular culture


Comic books





See also


  1. ^ Mayhew, Henry (1851). "Chapter I: The Destroyers of Vermin". London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 3.
  2. ^ Batman: Arkham Asylum character bios.
  3. ^ "Shakespeare/Michelangelo/Colin Mozart [ratcatcher]" (1970) http://www.montypython.net/scripts/shakespeare.php
  4. ^ Dahl, Raoul (September 13, 2012). "The Ratcatcher". Goodreads (Kindle ed.). Penguin. ASIN B008QXLFEI.
  5. ^ "Books". robert-beatty.com.
  6. ^ The text and woodcut illustration of this broadside ballad were reprinted in Hyder E. Rollins, ed., A Pepysian Garland: Black Letter Broadside Ballads of the Years 1594-1639, Chiefly from the Collection of Samuel Pepys (Cambridge University Press, 1922), pp. 60-65. The Library of Congress holds an original broadside: https://www.loc.gov/item/2007681612/. The text appears, with melody, in Ross W. Duffin, Shakespeare's Songbook (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004), p. 326 et seq. The Baltimore Consort's performance is included in A Trip to Killburn: Playford Tunes and Their Ballads (Dorian, 1996; DOR-90238).