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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.

A famous fictional rat-catcher was the Pied Piper of Hamelin.


Anecdotal history

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.


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.


Template:Redirect 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


  • 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.

Comic books

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




  • Rat-catchers appear in George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (1860).
  • British author Roald Dahl's short story, "The Ratcatcher", was collected in Someone Like You (1953).
  • Serafina, the Chief Rat Catcher of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. Serafina is a fictional character created by author Robert Beatty and was first introduced in Serafina and the Black Cloak, a spooky, historical fiction novel. Serafina's mysterious adventures grew into a trilogy (Book 2: Serafina and the Twisted Staff, Book 3: Serafina and the Splintered Heart) and the fourth book in the series is due for release in summer 2019.


  • The humorous ballad "The Famous Rat-Catcher" (c. 1615)--sometimes referenced by the first line, "There was a rare rat-catcher"—evokes both the material culture of contemporary ratting and the verminous conduct of a particular practitioner. A fellow rat-catcher also carries treatments for venereal disease; it is not clear from either the song or the editor's commentary whether this was a common part of the rat-catching trade.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rat-catcher" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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