Thursday, October 13, 2011

Today's Trivia - Rats

Love them or hate them, rats have interesting quirks. Below is some information about these creatures for the inquiring minds.

- Rats are long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea.

- The most familiar rat species to humans are the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) and the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus), generally known as the 'Old World' rats or 'True Rats', both of which originated in Asia.

- Rats seldom weigh over 500 grams (1.1 lb) in the wild.

- Male rats are called bucks, unmated females are called does, pregnant or parent females are called dams, and infants are called kittens or pups.

- A group of rats is either referred to as a pack or a mischief.

- Rats are opportunistic survivors and often live with, and near, humans.

- Many species of rats are island endemics and some have become endangered.

- Rats can carry many different zoonotic pathogens. Some diseases linked to rats include classical swine fever and Foot-and-mouth disease.

- The Black Death is traditionally believed to have been caused by the micro-organism Yersinia pestis, carried by the Tropical Rat Flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) which preyed on Black Rats living in European cities during the epidemic outbreaks of the Middle Ages; these rats were used as transport hosts.

- An average rat's life span is two to three years, although most rats in the wild do not survive more than 1 year.

- Specially bred rats, which have been kept as pets since the late 19th century, are typically variants of the species Brown rat.

- Pet rats behave differently than their wild counterparts; they do not pose any more of a health risk than pets such as cats or dogs.

- Domestic rats, which are generally friendly, differ from wild rats in many ways. They are calmer and less likely to bite; they can tolerate greater crowding; they breed earlier and produce more offspring; and their brains, livers, kidneys, adrenal glands, and hearts are smaller.

- Over the years, rats have been used in many experimental studies, which have added to our understanding of genetics, diseases, the effects of drugs, and other topics that have provided a great benefit for the health and wellbeing of humankind.

- Laboratory rats have also proved valuable in psychological studies of learning and other mental processes.

- Rat meat is a food that while taboo or even forbidden in some cultures, is a dietary staple in others. Taboos include fears of disease or religious prohibition, but in many places the high number of rats has led to their incorporation into the local diet.

- Rats are a common food item for snakes, both in the wild, and as pets. Captive-bred ball pythons in particular, are fed a diet of mostly rats.

- Rats have a very good sense of smell and are easy to train, this has led to their use in Landmine and Tuberculosis detection.

- The Egyptians deified rats.

- Depending who you believe, you're never more than 10 feet, a few feet, or just three feet from a rat.

- The Brown Rat is the most common kind. A 2003 survey estimated there were about 60 million of them in the UK, about the same as the human population.

- Rat teeth never stop growing.

- Rat teeth are strong enough to nibble through wood, bone, lead piping, brick, concrete, and metal.

- Rats can't vomit.

- Most rats are right-handed.

- Rats urinate as they travel to mark their path.

- Rats are afraid of new objects in their environment which makes it difficult to trap them.

- Rats can swim as far as 1 kilometer in open water, and sometimes through sewer lines exiting into ground floor toilets.

- Rats are excellent jumpers and can leap 36 inches vertically and 48 inches horizontally.

- Female rats average 4 to 6 litters each year; each litter consists of six to 22 pups.

- A rat can collapse its skeleton, allowing it to wriggle through a hole as narrow as three-quarters of an inch.

- A rat’s jaws can bite down with the force of 7,000 pounds per square inch, about the same force as a crocodile jaws.

- Rats can gnaw through bone, wood, concrete and iron. They do this to wear down their incisors which grown five inches a year.

- Rats can communicate over distances up to 15 meters.

- Rats fish by dangling their tails in the water and wiggling them about. Fish mistake their tails for worms. When a fish bites, the rat leaps into the water and grabs it.

- Rats show pity to the unfortunate. Sometimes able-bodied rats lead blind rats by allowing the blind rat to hold on to their tail or by each holding the end of a stick in its mouth.

- Laboratory findings suggest that a single pair of rats could have an astonishing 359 million descendants in three years — but they don’t. Pups are killed by enemies, disease and other rats.

- Rats have good memories. If one family member eats poisoned bait and dies, the rest of the family will avoid similar bait in future.

- More than 550,000 American families own pet rats or mice.

- The United Nations World Health Organization estimated the yearly number of rat bites worldwide is around a million.

- Rats' front teeth grow 4½ to 5½ inches each year. Rats wear them down by continuously gnawing on everything around them, including cement, brick, wood, lead pipes, and other small animals.

- Not all rats live close to humans. Of the 56 known species, many live in remote habitats like marshlands and rain forests, and some are endangered.

- A Hindu temple dedicated to the rat goddess Karni Mata in Deshnoke, India, houses more than 20,000 rats. Many people travel far to pay respect to the rats, which are believed to be reincarnations of Karni Mata and her clansmen.

- Rats can fall from a height of 50 feet without getting seriously injured.

- Rats do not sweat. They regulate their temperature by constricting or expanding blood vessels in their tails.

- Domesticated rats make excellent pets.

- Domestic rats live to be 2-3 years old.

- Rats are nocturnal so they are most active at night.

- A baby rat is called a pup.

- The biggest rat ever found was 20 inches from nose to tail.

- Most people don’t like rats because of their tails (no fur) and pointy faces.

- Rats can run 100m in under 10 seconds.

- Rats will regularly trek up to two miles in search of food.

- Rats have traveled in space. The first rat was launched into space from France in 1961.

- Forget the old wives' tale...a cornered rat will NOT go for your throat.

- Brown rats have many names: common rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat, Norway rat, Brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, or wharf rat.

- The male rat weighs on average 12 oz and the female 9 oz.

- According to the Guinness Book of World Records the longest lived domestic rat died at seven years and four months of age.

- Brown rats live in large hierarchical groups, either in burrows or subsurface places such as sewers and cellars.

- When food is in short supply, the rats lower in social order are the first to die. If a large fraction of a rat population is exterminated, the remaining rats will increase their reproductive rate, and quickly restore the old population level.

- Female rats can successfully breed as early as six weeks. There is no specific ritual. They breed according to the social order of the group they live in.

- Rats have been used throughout history as food for people and pets, religious icons, laboratory animals, pets, mine detectors, and some have even been trained to drag wires through walls making some electricians’ jobs go much faster.

- The first albino rats to be bred in captivity were born to a single albino rat captured in a graveyard in England by Queen Victoria's royal rat catcher Jack Black.

- Some rat species can grow to enormous sizes like the Gambian Pouch Rat whose largest specimens can reach around eight pounds.

- The first laboratory rats were bred as far back as 1828 in Europe.

- Inbred laboratory rats are created by breeding brother to sister for at least 300 generations. This produces animals who are more then 99% genetically identical.

- Laboratory rats can survive 17-20 days without sleep before succumbing to death.

- Rats have been proven to make a laughter-like noise (unable to be heard by the human ear alone) when tickled.

- Rats dream while they sleep.

- Gambian Pouch Rats have been trained to sniff out mines in war torn countries - due to their light weight they are far less likely to explode the mines than dogs are.

- The ancient Romans didn't distinguish rats and mice but instead called then Rattus Major (big rat) and Rattus Minor (little rat.)

- Rats have poor eyesight and are colorblind. They primarily see light, shadow and movement, and are rarely seen in the middle of rooms or clearings where their whiskers aren't touching the perimeter of a landmark or wall.

- It is estimated that there is one rat for every person living in New York City.

- A rat will eat from one to three ounces of food each day.

- A rat can go without water longer than a camel can.

- In American culture a rat is associated with dishonesty and cunning, but in other cultures, particularly Asian culture, rats are viewed with favorable characteristics like honesty, hard work, intelligence and good luck.

- Domestic rats make good "lap" pets, preferring to sit and have their ears scratched by an attentive human friend. Female rats are very curious, and love to explore and play games. Both genders make great companions.

- Rats can eat chocolate.

- Rats don't have canine teeth.

- A happy rat will chatter or grind its teeth. Often, chattering teeth results in "vibrating" eyes, caused by the lower jawbone pressing the backs of the eyes.

- It is unlikely you will ever catch rabies from a rat.

- Rats bathe themselves, usually six times a day or more.

- Rats have no canine teeth, no thumbs, no gallbladders and no tonsils. They do have bellybuttons.

- Rats are omnivores. Among other things they eat seeds, fruit, grains, nuts, flowers, leaves, insects, birds, reptiles, fish, eggs and fungus.

- Rats use high-frequency sounds, smell, touch and body postures to communicate with each other.

- A rat's gestation period is three weeks and they can become pregnant again within 1 to 2 days after giving birth, while continuing to nurse their current litter of pups.

- Pups are born blind and naked. It takes about 7 days for their hair to start growing and 12-14 days for their eyes to open.

- The pups stay in the nest built by their mother until they are weaned, which is when they are about 3 to 4 weeks old.

- Often litters of numerous females will share the same nest and are cared for by all the females, regardless of who their true mothers are. If a mother dies, the other females will take over nursing the orphaned pups. Male rats don't participate in the parental care.

- Rats have a strong social hierarchy. The biggest and strongest rats will get the best food and harborage.

- Rats are very social and affectionate animals. They love being in the company of their own species or humans. They like playing together and love to sleep curled up together. They take care of the injured and sick rats in their group. When rats don't have companionship, they can become lonely, depressed, anxious and stressed.

- Rats use their tails to regulate their temperature, to communicate and for balance.

- Rats are intelligent animals. They are more intelligent than rabbits, hamsters, mice, gerbils and guinea pigs for instance. They also have excellent memories. Once rats learn a navigation route, they never forget it.

- Rats are very clean animals. They spend several hours each day grooming themselves and each other.

- Rats are curious but shy. They prefer to run away rather than confront a potential threat.

- Predators of rats are cats, birds, reptiles and other carnivorous animals.


  1. Well, I've got to say...even though the picture of the huge rat on the trash bag gave me the willies, your list of facts about rats is fascinating, Martha. I loved the ones about how they fish and how they help other rats with handicaps. You really do find the most amazing trivia, Martha!

  2. I am with Beth on the fishing one. That is amazing.

  3. I do love me some ratties on a Thursday.

  4. Beth, I think there is something fascinating about all creatures, no matter how we feel about them. I have a very curious mind, always in need of learning something new, and I love to share what I discover along the way. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


    It sure is, WebDebris. I guess they learn to do these things in order to find food and survive.


    Well, I'm glad you got your Thursday fill of 'ratties', grumblebunny.