For thousands of years, human beings have seen rats as their enemies. Most of us cringe whenever we hear of a rat infestation, whether in our offices or homes. Rats are among the most populous mammals on Earth. You can find them in almost every corner of the globe—except in the Antarctic and Arctic regions.
Rats typically inhabit every place that we do since they depend on us for both shelter and food. The harm they can cause to property, homes, and businesses can be worrying, though.
Did you know that rats are actually quite fascinating little creatures? They can make good friends despite their bad reputation. This is why some people keep them as pets.
Let’s take a look at 15 exciting rat facts you might not know.
1. Rats feel depressed when lonely.
A rat can display symptoms of loneliness or depression if they lack a mate, lose a loved one, or are caged. This is the primary reason why they like living in groups. They are social beings, just like us!
Scientists have found out that the social isolation of adolescent rats can result in severe depression. But how do you know that a rat is lonely or depressed? They play less, undereat or overeat, and even sleep more.
2. They laugh, too!
Although rats may not chuckle as we do, they do laugh. They produce a high-pitched sound, particularly when playing. But what makes them laugh? Do they have a sense of humor like humans do? When you tickle a rat, it’ll giggle—but only when it’s in a good mood.
Scientists have also spotted rats smiling. You just need to look at the behavior of their ears to see it. They tend to relax their ears and let them hang loose on one side. Tickled rats often display a behavior commonly referred to as a joy jump. When rats are happy, they’ll grind their teeth and boggle their eyes.
3. Rats have great memories.
If you didn’t know, rats have great episodic memories. In the wild, they tend to scramble through the network of paths they create and never forget the way. They’ll also remember both bad and good memories. If a rat falls, it will understand that falling hurts. They’ll also recognize their owners, like other pets such as cats and dogs do. A tamed rat will rarely bite you.
4. There are 56 species of rat in the world.
Although they all belong to the same genre, Rattus, there are about 56 known species of rat in the world. The common ones include black rats, roof rats, Norway rats, and brown rats. The biggest rat in the world is the Gambian giant pouched rat.
5. They succumb to peer pressure.
Just like we do, rats tend to copy the behavior of their peers, particularly brown rats. They change their behavior to conform with that of their colleagues. Their urge to copy others extends to the type of food they eat. In an instant, they can abandon their favorite food and eat the food that others are eating.
6. Rats can survive for a long time without drinking water.
Like camels, rats are exceptionally hardy creatures. They can go for 2 to 4 days without food and can stay alive for up to 20 days without drinking water. They get water and moisture from the food they eat.
7. They’re shy and clean.
Rats are shy. Rather than confronting danger or threats, like those from predators, they prefer to run away. They are also very clean and spend a lot of time grooming themselves. Compared to other pets, they’re less likely to catch diseases.
8. Rats can reproduce every three weeks.
It only takes about three to four months before a newborn rat pup becomes mature enough to reproduce. A female Norway rat can give birth to 20 pups in a single year. Female rats can determine the sex of their offspring through smell.
9. They’re skilled swimmers.
Rats have hinged spines that enable them to hold their breath and swim and squeeze through drains, pipes, and other tight spaces. They can enter your home through sewage lines. A rat can hold its breath for as long as three minutes. Norway rats are the most well-known swimmers.
10. Some rodents are resistant to radiation and carcinogens.
Scientists have confirmed that a naked mole rat can survive radiation and exposure to carcinogens. They rarely develop cancer and are resistant to acids. In fact, they have a lifespan that is six times longer than other rodents. A naked mole rat can withstand the most prolonged period of oxygen deprivation due to their low respiratory and metabolic rates. It also doesn’t feel some types of pain.
11. Some countries worship rats.
In India, did you know that some consider rats to be the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess? At the Karni Mata Temple, rats are considered as small gods, fed with milk and grain. Nowadays, the temple is home to over 20,000 rats.
12. Their teeth never stop growing.
Having teeth that grow for your entire life might sound strange, but this is what happens to rats. Their teeth can grow up to 5 in. (12.7 cm) or more in a year. They tend to gnaw on items because they’re trying to reduce the length of their teeth. So, be careful when choosing live catch rat traps. Their teeth are stronger than many different metals. They can even chew your nails if you aren’t careful!
13. Their tails play a thermoregulatory function.
A rat’s tail helps to regulate its body temperature. The blood vessels in the tail contract and expand to keep the rats cool. It’s also said that rats use their tails for communication and balance.
14. A single rat can produce about 25,000 droppings annually.
Rats pee and poop everywhere they go, unlike squirrels that only poop in one location. Rats also carry various diseases, so if you see them, get to work and buy some traps to get rid of them. Some rats even eat feces for its nutritional value.
15. They scent mark using urine to converse.
Just like cats, rats use their urine to mark and establish their territory. They have pheromones and a unique scent in their urine. Although their urine smells gross and you shouldn’t ingest it, rat urine is actually non-toxic. However, it can transmit diseases to humans and the same goes for their other bodily fluids.
The Bottom Line
Now, you know some of the fun facts you probably didn’t know about rats. You’ve also learned why some people keep them as pets. But does this mean you have to tolerate a wild rat in your home or office? Not at all. It’s paramount to know the best way to catch a rat and keep them away from your home and office at all costs.