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Jack Black, rat-catcher, 1851

A rat-catcher is person who practices rat-catching, the occupation of catching rats as a form of pest control. In developed countries the role may be merged with, or the title inflated to, pest control operative or pest technician.

Keeping the rat population under control was practiced in Europe to prevent the spread of diseases to man, most notoriously the Black Plague, and to prevent damage to food supplies.

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]

Techniques and risks[edit]

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

Rat-catchers would capture rats by hand, often with specially-bred vermin terriers, or with traps. Rats are rarely seen in the open, preferring to hide in holes, haystacks and dark locations. Payment would be high for catching and selling rats to breeders. A rat-catcher's risk of being bitten is high, as is the risk of acquiring a disease from a rat bite.

Modern methods of rat control include traps and poisoned bait, plus more holistic approaches such as introducing predators, reducing litter and the clearing of current or potential nest sites.

Rat-catchers in art[edit]

Rat-catchers in fiction[edit]


  • A famous fictional rat-catcher was The Pied Piper of Hamelin; different versions of his story have been adapted into a variety of media works.


  • In the DC Comics Universe one of Batman's enemies is the Rat Catcher, formerly Otis Flannegan, who was employed as a real rat-catcher for Gotham City. Rat Catcher occasionally orchestrates rat plagues using his uncanny ability to control rats.[2]



See also[edit]


  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. ^ Dahl, Raoul (September 13, 2012). Goodreads (Kindle ed.). Penguin. ASIN B008QXLFEI https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20118223-the-ratcatcher.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]