(CBS Local) — Oh rats, it turns out your cat just isn’t that interested.

Cats have long been thought of as the natural enemy of rats. However, a new study shows that while your prowling feline might create the appearance of a rat-free home, that’s only because rats keep a low profile when cats are around.

Cats are not the natural enemy of rats, says lead researcher Dr. Michael H. Parsons, a visiting scholar at Fordham University. He says cats favor smaller prey like mice and birds, which typically weigh in at under 30 grams.

Parsons and his team recently found what appeared to be a perfect laboratory to conduct their study — a recycling plant in Brooklyn. Researchers set up cameras and monitored the behavior and movement of micro-chipped rats in the presence of cats living in the same area.

The videos showed the rats actively avoided the cats and only two rat kills were recorded in 79 days.

The findings add to growing evidence that any benefit of using cats to control city rats is outweighed by the threat they pose to birds and other urban wildlife.

“New Yorkers often boast their rats ‘aren’t afraid of anything’ and are the ‘size of a cat’,” said Parsons. “Yet cats are commonly released to control this relatively large, defensive and potentially dangerous prey.”

The study was published by Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.