Watch as this large rat snake, some of nature’s best pest control, tries to feel out our screened-in porch while our cats try to process what in the **** is happening.
I love snakes. All species get a bad rap, and that’s just nature. We’re hard-wired (literally) to immediately recognize their shape and fear it. But for a rancher without poultry or other small outdoor animals, seeing a rat snake simply means a whole lot less rats and mice. And that’s an excellent trade as far as I’m concerned.
Rat snakes are beautiful, but are often killed out of that innate fear or caution. Their coloration depends on their location and genetics. Here in Tennessee, we have both solid black and patterned rat snakes. It’s the latter that are often killed out of caution, as their pattern mimics the “uh oh” look of rattlesnakes. This is the case for our porch guest this morning, who was just a few inches from entering the back door to our Nashville home:
We’ve been seeing a lot of baby rat snakes around our small ranch lately. They’re adorable, honestly, and will grow up to be vital members of the forest ecosystem here. I’m also pretty sure we just met their mother.
After watching her for a few minutes to make sure she wasn’t finding a way into the attic, I noticed how absolutely spazzed our cats were/are. Leif and Charley (see: those good boy cats) love our screened porch and spend the majority of their time out here. It’s also where I write many of the articles featured here on the site. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t looked above my head every two minutes or so to make sure a rat snake isn’t about to drop onto my head.
Yes, rat snakes can eat cats. No, we should not kill them.
This rat snake is a welcomed sight outside, though, as she’ll never mess with our highland cattle and we don’t have chickens (a favorite meal of the species). Rat snakes are constrictors, non venomous, and eat a whole lot of mice and rats. Again, great pest control!
The species isn’t dangerous to humans or our large dogs. All of us large mammals are safe, basically. Cats, however, are natural prey for larger rat snakes.
Cats know this instinctively. Which is why the boys currently refuse to come back out on the porch. I don’t blame them.
In kind, I gave this curious snake a squeeze of the tail to let her know this is not a place she can be. Hopefully she listens, because, again, cats. But please don’t do this if you’re not trained to do so or familiar with handling snakes. Even though they’re non-venomous, a rat snake’s first line of defense is still to strike and bite.
That similar pattern to dangerous snakes also means there’s a chance of handing the wrong species. Grabbing a rattlesnake or other pit viper will land you in the hospital.
If you see a rat snake somewhere you don’t want it, they respond strongly to hazing. Use a stick or other long object to swat them away. If you have poultry or other small animals outside you need to protect, however, capture and relocation by a professional is recommended.
Killing a rat snake just means more rats.