Rats are easily one of the most misunderstood animals in the world. Most of the time, people look at them in disgust, fear, and even animosity, because they have been associated with many bad things – infections, diseases, and loss of property – on more than a few occasions in the past.
However, rats are more than pests or agents of destruction. Here are some interesting facts about them that you probably didn’t know.
Rats are great at adapting
Rats can be found on all continents except for Antarctica. This is due to the rodent’s amazing ability to adapt to almost any environment. They have evolved a variety of strategies and physical traits that increase their chances of surviving virtually any condition.
- They reproduce very quickly.
- They can change their diet to fit the resources available to them.
- They can swim. Most can hold their breath underwater for 3 minutes.
- They are smart. They learn through experience and remember to avoid dangers.
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Rats have a good memory
They can memorize routes after navigating them only once – an extremely useful skill to have if you want to make your way all around the house, and then dart out to safety without getting caught or seen. This is one of the reasons why catching the little critters can be quite challenging.
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Rats are very intelligent
Several experiments prove that rat intelligence is not something to scoff at. These little critters are capable of solving mazes and puzzles. Some learn their names – even coming out when called. Other pet rats even learn tricks like sitting on command or playing basketball. Their inquisitive nature coupled with their ability to learn from experience makes them some of the smartest animals in the world.
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Rats are surprisingly very clean
Contrary to what most people think, rats are clean freaks. Domesticated rats, specifically, are very particular with hygiene. They can be seen grooming themselves even more times than household cats do. When trained to use the litter box, they would even smell better than pet mice and guinea pigs. That’s why pet owners find them a whole lot easier to care for than other rodents.
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Rats have an incredible sense of smell
According to research, rats have a surprisingly abundant amount of olfactory receptors. Based on the numbers alone, their sense of smell is second only to the elephants’ and twice as keen as dogs’. In fact, because of their sniffing prowess, they’ve been used to clear landmines in Mozambique, and are now being used to do the same thing by other countries. Furthermore, in Africa, their noses are being put to the test as they’re being used to screen for tuberculosis and even HIV in asymptomatic patients. Studies in Africa even show that rats can be as much as 50% more effective at sniffing out the said conditions in patients than existing microscope tests.
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Rats are perfect for beginner pet owners
According to most pet owners, rats are probably the best choice for anyone who wants to start taking care of a pet, because they are incredibly easy to care for. Here are the reasons why.
- First of all, rats are not picky eaters, so they will eat anything you give them (for as long as they’re edible). They will even try food that’s new to them, although they might test it first before devouring everything.
- Second, they groom a lot so they don’t smell bad. They can even use litter boxes so their cages are also quite easy to clean.
- Third, they don’t vomit (because they can’t) so all you need to worry about when cleaning their area is replacing the bedding.
- Lastly, they are happy with cramped spaces, so you don’t need to reserve a big space for them or their cages.
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Rats reproduce very quickly
If you’ve just started taking care of pet rats and are eager to see them grow in numbers, then you don’t have to wait long. Rats are quite prolific in reproduction. Females give birth 6 times a year on average, with as many as 5-12 pups per litter. And since rats only need 4-5 weeks before becoming sexually mature, a pair of rats can easily become 1250 individuals in a year.
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Rat incisors never stop growing
Unlike human incisors that have roots, rat incisors are open-rooted. They don’t have roots and they never stop growing. Because of this, rats have to constantly gnaw to grind their teeth and prevent them from curving in towards their skull. So, the next time you see rats incessantly chewing on wood, wires, or anything tough, be a little bit more considerate. Maybe, they’re just trying their best to avoid being stabbed to death by their teeth.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Do rats bite people?
Unfortunately, yes, they do. Cases are rare but not unheard of. In fact, in the US alone, researchers estimate around 20,000 cases are recorded annually. However, in most of these cases, rats are not the ones instigating the conflict. Most rat attacks on humans result from retaliation or because the rats feel cornered and they feel like biting back is the only way out. In reality, if given the choice, the little critters would rather flee to safety than risk death by attacking humans.
In the case of pet rats, however, accidental nicks are often the result of improper feeding, or overgrown teeth (usually when the rats don’t get to trim or grind their teeth down to proper size). That’s why it’s important to provide them with chewing materials for teeth.
Do rats hunt or kill other animals?
Yes, but very rarely. Rats prefer scavenging for food rather than risking injury by hunting or killing other animals. After all, with a sense of smell that’s almost twice as keen as canines,’ they are well equipped for locating food items that are often unattended or just left behind. If opportunities arise though, they will take the chance to prey on insects, smaller animals, or even defenseless eggs and hatchlings.
Do rats prefer the dark?
Yes, because rats are naturally nocturnal animals. They are more active at night and often spend the day sleeping or hiding under dark covers. Their nose and eyes have also evolved to suit their nocturnal habits. As a result, their eyes hurt in the presence of bright light. So, yes, rats prefer the dark.