What are rats?

Rats, common home pests and often causing fatal diseases are found in different sizes, colors and types. They are neither too large nor very small; in fact these are medium-sized rodents having long tails and sharp teeth. There are as many as 64 species of rat belonging to the genus Rattus that have a variety of body colours, viz. black, blue, white, beige, brown, chocolate, platinum, and so on, as you can see in the rat pictures. Black rats are commonly known as "Old English Rats or Ships" and scientifically named as Rattus rattus where the second word 'rattus' refers to their species. These murine rodents are notorious for being the carries of fleas that brought bubonic plague to the UK. Brown rats are also known as the aggressive cousins of black rats and in binomial nomenclature, they are called as Rattus norvegicus. Being the best known and most common rodent species, they have got a number of other names as well, viz. common rats, wharf rats, Norway rats, Hanover rats, street rats, sewer rats and so on.

Another type of the organisms is mainly known as white-tailed rats that are capable of climbing in a firm, swift and efficient manner. These are the true rats, but there are many animals belonging to other rodent families and generas that show close behavioral and physiognomical resemblances but are not rats in actual sense of the term.

Black and brown rat types are widely spread and commonly known house pests to human and their huge population is found in Asian countries, like North China and surroundings. The preferred habitation is not just limited to countryside or rural areas, but they also live and thrive in cities. However, in urban areas, their number has become very scarce as it is very difficult for them to dig holes in the hard cemented ground. Initially, the rats lived in tropical regions of Asian Continent, but later on were brought to Rome through Near East and with the advent of European settlements, they have been transferred by travelers to all the human inhabited or visited parts of the globe. Significant population of rats has been reported in different parts of Europe and North American, Africa, Asia and the island countries.

Almost all types of rats can swim in water but those having thick and crocheted fur are considered the best swimmers as compared to the other species of the same genus.

Facts about Rats

  • Do you know, rats have always been the source of food for humans as well as domesticated animals (cats) throughout the history?
  • In some parts of the world, they are also adored as the religious icons, and serve the purpose of mine detection as well.
  • At the temple of Karni Devi, the centuries old practice of worshiping thousands of wild rats still continues, but you will be surprise to know that they never carried and transferred the infected Bubonic fleas to the worshippers even in the deadly years of plague!
  • It is one of the important rat facts that they have high intellectual capacity of rats is utilized by humans in various ways, like sporting as in the illegal game of rat baiting with dog.
  • Rats are also trained to drag electric wires through walls, thus facilitating and speeding up the job of an electrician.
  • Rats have since long been kept as laboratory animals, and used in a number of experimentations, for example B.F. Skinner carried out his experimentation of behaviorism on rats.
  • The highly strong and sharp teeth enable them chew through glass, wire, lead and other hard particles that Homo sapiens (human beings) are unable to do.
  • Their skeleton allows a great amount of flexibility as they have the capability to squeeze and contract their body to pass through a very small hole in the walls or floor of your house.
  • In laboratories, more than 99% genetically identical offspring are obtained by mating brother and sister rats for 300 generation.
  • The rats were very first introduced in China and the tropical regions of Asia, but now are widely spread in all other continents except Antarctica which is covered by snow and has extreme weather conditions round the year.
  • In most of the cases, they die before reaching the age of one year, however, some can reach the age of 18 or even longer.
  • The longest ever lifespan of a rat, as recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records, is seven years and four months which is twice greater than their normal life expectancy.
  • In the epidemic of the Middle Ages, known as Black Death, rats played the role of host in carrying the tropical rat flea that contained the notorious microbe, Yersenia pestis.
  • It is quite interesting to know that this notorious home pest that became the cause of Black Death in Europe was initially considered to be a sign of good luck by Romans.
  • The social chain of command is very powerful and well-developed, and in this way, the strongest and the largest rat will get the best harborage.
  • Scientifically these rodents are grouped in Phylum Chordata of Animalian Kingdom while falling in Order Rotentia, family Muridae, Subfamily Murine and the genus Rattus.
  • In binomial nomenclature, the brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) were first nemed in 1728.
  • Females get sexual heat after every four to five days that usually starts in the evening and lasts throughout the night during which the mating may occur.
  • A mother-rat can give birth to 40 to 130 baby rats in a year.
  • Some alternative names of a newborn rat include pup, pinkie, and kittens, etc.
  • By nature, all kinds of rats are capable of cutting and carving nearly everything like wooden items, metallic articles, electric cables, water & gas pipes and so on.
  • Their destructive nature places them under the list of the most unfavorable/unwanted rodents.
  • Rats are the very social and loveable animals that not only enjoy the company of their species members, but also that of human beings.
  • Most often, the rats are seen sleeping in a group in curled up position, and they also play together.
  • Mice, hamster, guinea pig, gerbils, and rabbits are considered to be intelligent animals, but rats take lead in this regard.
  • Norway rat species are distinguished by their heavy and thick body texture that extends up to 10 inches in length, and in weight, they may weigh as heavy as 17 ounces.
  • Grooming is the common practice among them on which they spend many hours to keep themselves neat and clean.

Rat Habitat

Concerning the rat habitat they love to live in moist ambiances like sides of rivers and lakes. Moreover, they like to reside in sewage systems as well (This is where the brown rat derives its name, "Sewer Rat"). On the other hand, black rats prefer to live near stockrooms, residential apartments and many other places in human communities. Rats are found to live in a large numbers in the forests, savannas (grassland ecosystem where trees are thinly spaced to avoid canopy formation) and parks. They also live in agricultural lands such as fields and crops. Hence, there is hardly any place where rats are not found and live, flourish, and increase their population size.

Rat Diet

Rats are famous omnivores and mainly feed on seeds, fruits, vegetables, invertebrates and vertebrates. Rats are not so particular about their diet and eat almost everything that is easily accessible to them, depending on their surroundings and area they live in. however, the favorite food of those dwelling in cities or urban areas includes cooked corn, macaroni, cheese and scrambled eggs.

Rat Conduct

As far as the conduct and behavior of rats is concerned, they behave distinctively on the basis of their type and particular species. Black cats are not as good swimmers as brown rats. Similarly brown rats lack climbing skills as compared to black rats. Likewise nesting place of both types of rats is also different. Brown rats like to build their nests on lower grounds of any edifice while black cousins prefer upper floors especially roofs and coverings of any building, and these roof dwelling species are very attractive to human eye in their appearance.

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