Last updated on October 10th, 2022
Recently I discovered that my neighbor loved growing succulents when she was lamenting that pests were eating away her cactus plants.
She believed that rats were to blame for the damage done to the plant and this made me curious because you would associate cactuses with thorns, and animals like rats tend to avoid them. But while researching online, I found kangaroo rats do eat cacti.
Cactus are often sought out by kangaroo rats and smaller rodents during the dry season and since these plants have an inherent moisture content, they feed on their leaves (Nopales). The lack of food in the dry season makes the cacti a suitable food source for kangaroo rats.
Do kangaroo rats like cactus?
Kangaroo rats are interesting creatures that are often misunderstood.
These animals have specially adapted to their arid habitats and have unique digestive systems that allow them to extract moisture and nutrients from plants that other animals would find inedible.
While kangaroo rats are certainly capable of digesting cactus, they don’t actually eat it all that often.
In fact, the vast majority of their diet consists of seeds, which they obtain from a variety of sources. When cactus is available, however, they will consume it – especially the young, tender pads.
Do kangaroo rats eat cactus seedlings?
You will find that cactus seedlings hold less moisture than adult ones but kangaroo rats are also known to eat cactus seedlings, according to the website insectcop.net.
So in the absence of other sources of seeds or fruits, kangaroo rats can also eat cactus seedlings.
Is there any way that you can protect your succulents from kangaroo rats?
Most rodents are attracted to succulents and cacti. So, if you think that kangaroo rats are eating your succulents, then it must be Nelson’s Kangaroo rat.
The best way to protect the succulents would be to make a fence or a net around the plants.
If your succulents are in pots, you can quickly build a fence around the pots. If you have planted these in your garden, use pest repellents to protect the plants.
When are kangaroo rats most likely to attack the cacti in your garden?
If you are like my neighbor and love to plant succulents and cacti in your garden, you must be careful about kangaroo rats during the dry season.
You will not find these pests attacking the plants during the day because kangaroo rats are nocturnal; hence, they will come out at night in search of food.
So, ensure that the pest control you set up to keep out the kangaroo rats is ideal for nocturnal pests.
Can you protect your succulents from kangaroo rats by planting other plants around them?
This might seem unusual given that the kangaroo rat eats all types of cacti and survives on grass seeds. But certain plants can act as deterrents.
For example, planting garlic and onion plants around a row of succulents can deter kangaroo rats.
Just the odor of garlic and onion will be enough to prevent these rodents from entering your succulent garden.
Which cacti is resistant to kangaroo rats?
There are no particular cacti that are inedible to kangaroo rats.
If you think that prickly pear cacti are not eaten by kangaroo rats, given that there are thorns on the plant, you are mistaken!
The rodent is known to eat prickly pear cacti, including fruits and seeds. The rats will avoid the thorns and consume the pads of the plant with a smaller number of thorns.
Can kangaroo rats eat aloe vera plants?
The exciting feature about aloe vera plants is that kangaroo rats do not eat the plant’s skin but only the sap and the gel.
So, if you want to experiment with a Nelson kangaroo rat, you can cut an aloe vera stem and leave it out for the rat.
You will find that the rodent will try to eat the sap and the gel and avoid the tough skin and the ridges.
However, the aloe vera plant is succulent, which is not a preferred food like the cactus for a kangaroo rat.
What do kangaroo rats normally eat?
Usually, kangaroo rats eat grass seeds and mesquite beans. Occasionally they can also eat small insects.
But they will start eating cacti and other succulents if their regular food becomes scarce.
Kangaroo rats do not need water as they can survive on water metabolized from the grass seeds.
But when these seeds are scarce, they turn to cacti for their food and moisture supply.
This usually happens during the dry season when the grass dies, and there is a significant lack of other plants.
Curious about learning what animals eat cactus? You can check out that article to learn more.