Pest Rats - The Roof Rat & Norway Rat
Rats are one of the most despised and feared animals among people in Western society, but these members of the rodent family are a lot more interesting than many people would admit. Rats are often portrayed as pestilent because of the diseases they can carry, and because they have adapted so well to living among humans they are often seen more frequently be people than other animals.
Biology And Appearance
The rat is a member of the rodent family that is larger than the mouse, and will usually have either a brown or black furry body. A long hairless tail is typical of a rat, and although in areas where food is in abundance they can grow up to a foot and a half long, most rats will be shorter than this. Rats usually have larger hindquarters with legs that provide the propulsion, with small forepaws that can hold and carry items with great dexterity.
One of the distinctive features of the biology of rats is that they are prone to carrying diseases, and are known to carry the bubonic plague, typhus and many other conditions that can be particularly damaging to humans. The differences between the brown and black rats can often be identified because of the color, but the brown rat is also much larger than the black rat with smaller eyes and ears.
Behavior And Life Cycle
Rats are generally nocturnal, but are very adaptable and will often be seen in the daytime if food sources are plentiful. Brown rats are generally much more suited to ground dwelling, and will live in burrows under the ground, while black rats are naturally smaller and will often live in trees as well as on the ground. Both types of rats are expert foragers, but brown rats are particularly good at living around humans and foraging from the waste of humans. Rats are very social animals, and will often groom each other and sleep in the same space.
Very few rats in the wild will live beyond a year old, although they have been known to reach three years of age. Because of this, rats will breed frequently throughout the year, with litters of over ten rats often seen.
Habitat And Diet
The brown rat is very much an urban animal for the most part, and can be found around the world wherever humans dwell. The black rat on the other hand can adapt to many different types of habitat, and will often to be found in urban areas along with agricultural areas and woodland.
Both types of rats are naturally omnivorous, and will tend to eat grains and seeds if it is available. Brown rats especially have evolved to be very effective scavengers, and will prefer grains and cereals but can eat almost anything. Brown rats are particularly good swimmers, and have been known to catch fish and even to dive for shellfish in some occasions.
The rat as an animal has often been persecuted and hunted by humans because they are carriers of disease, but their advanced social structures, prodigious breeding ability and adaptability have made them one of the most successful species in the world.
Because of the proximity of humans and rats it is important to note the relationship is one that can be very different around the world. In Western society they are generally considered to be unhygienic and can carry diseases. However, in many countries they will sometimes be hunted and seen as a food source. Domesticated rats will often be kept as pets and can be very clean animals, and are also used frequently for medical research.
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More Rat Articles I've Written:
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