Does the potential for rodents to access/gnaw on a cable under normal circumstances render it subject to "physical damage" in the sense the NEC intends that term to be used?
If an area rodents can infiltrate is considered subject to physical damage, then cables run inside finished walls, between joists in attics, etc. would certainly have to be considered to be subject to physical damage.
Everything is subject to physical damage in the strictest sense. In context, it's clear the code means subject to physical damage in the normal usage.
If you run the cable through a cage full of rats, then yes. Other than that, it's going to be up to the Authority Having Jurisdiction to make the call. They have a better understanding of the local conditions, and can make a more informed decision.