Dispelling Myths About Rats

Rats are not a popular choice for a pet and many squirm at the very thought of keeping a rodent in their household. However the bad rap that rats have been given is largely undeserved and due to a number of misconceptions. There is a widespread belief that rats are disease-carrying vermin. This most likely stems back to medieval times with the Bubonic Plague (aka Black Death). Rats have long been blamed for the infamous pandemic that wiped out millions of the human population and this legacy still looms large in the minds of people today. This is further perpetuated by popular culture and the familiar image of the ugly and “dirty” sewer rat.

It is time for these myths to be dispelled and for rats to be recognised as the lovable and smart domesticated animals they are! Below are few of the common misconceptions that have unjustly tarnished rats with a bad reputation:

Rats spread disease:

Despite popular belief, rats were not solely responsible for the black plague. The deadly infection was transmitted to humans through fleas which were carried not only by rats but by dogs, cats and other humans. The rat unfortunately bore the brunt of the blame and people still today believe that rats are magnets for disease and as such are fearful of close contact. The truth is it is rare for domestic rats to contract and pass on diseases to human. They are actually very clean animals who spend a lot of time self-grooming and probably have better hygiene that you or I!

Rats can’t be tamed:

Another misconception is that rats are wild and feral by nature and can’t be trained to learn tricks and follow commands. Contrary to this, rats are actually very intelligent creatures that can be taught to perform an array of tricks and behavior just like dogs and cats. You can have a lot of fun teaching your pet rat to shake, stand up on its back legs, jump through hoops and run up your arm.

Rats don’t show affection:

If you think rats are incapable of affection and bonding with their owners you are sorely mistaken. Rats are social animals who love interaction with humans. So if you want a furry pet that you can cuddle consider getting a pet rat.

10 Interesting Facts About Rats

Rats Can Swim

Believe it or not, rats could give Michael Phelps a run for his money. Certain types of rats can tread water for up to three days and hold their breath for three minutes. Additionally, some species can swim over a mile. And the stories about rats popping up in toilets is no urban legend. They can easily make their way up your pipes.

Rats Are Revered in Some Cultures

A temple dedicated to Hindu goddess Karni Mata in northwest India is home to more than 15,000 rats. These rodents are worshipped and protected, and human devotees of the temple believe that when they die, they will be reincarnated as rats.

Their Tails Keep Them Cool

Rats don’t sweat like humans, nor do they pant to relieve the heat like a dog. Rather, rats control their body temperature by expanding and contracting the blood vessels in their tails.

A Rat’s Teeth Never Stop Growing

Rats are known for gnawing on things, and with good reason. Their teeth can grow up to 5 inches per year. They have to chew on things to wear them down. In addition to wood, rats can also gnaw through lead, cinder blocks and aluminum sheeting.

There Are Many Different Types of Rats

Most people have heard of Norway rats (brown rats), pack rats and roof rats (black rats). However, what many people don’t know is that there are 56 known species of rats in the world.

Some Rats Get Pretty Big

True there are some big rats out there rummaging through garbage cans, but the types of rats most people are used to seeing are small compared to some of their more massive rodent relatives. The Sumatran bamboo rat, for example, can weigh up to 8.8 pounds and measure 20 inches in total length. That’s the size of a small housecat. While not as heavy at 3 pounds, the Gambian pouched rat can measure as long as 3 feet from nose to tail.

Rats are Prolific Breeders

One of the facts about rats that most people are familiar with is that they can breed quickly. A female rat can reproduce every three weeks or so. And when she gives birth, the litter typically contains six to 10 pups. These pups become sexually mature when they’re three to four months old, meaning they can begin spawning their own broods.

They’re Social Creatures

Most types of rats live in communities, in which they groom each other, sleep together and even play. However, they are territorial, so they can turn aggressive toward unfamiliar rats. A group of rats is called a “mischief.”

Rats Can Carry Pathogens That Spread Disease

Yes. One of the most well-known facts about rats is that they can carry pathogens that spread diseases that can affect humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rats and mice can spread over 35 diseases. They’re even responsible for an outbreak of monkey pox in 2003.

Rats Can Laugh

When rats play, they experience what researcher Jaak Panksepp calls a type of “social-joy.” The result? They laugh, albeit not a hearty chuckle like you’d hear from a human. Instead, they emit a high-pitched chirping noise.

Now that you know these facts about rats, you can see why some people might keep them as pets. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you ever want to encounter a wild rat in your house or workplace. That’s why it’s important to know how to keep rats away.