The Year of the Rat has just begun, but it is the end of January and that means it’s time to bid a fond farewell to our Animal of the Month – the rat. We hope you enjoyed your time with these intelligent, social and clean rodents as you followed us on Twitter @ExoticPetVets. If you missed any of our tweets this month, here is a summary you can always use as a reference. Did you know?:
There are more than 50 rat species, but for this Animal of the Month feature we will focus on the one species most commonly kept in captivity (Rattus norvegicus), which is known as the brown or Norway rat.
- Despite being commonly called the Norway rat, brown rats do not come from Norway. They originate from central Asia, specifically from northern China.
- Brown rats spread around the world by ship and now live almost everywhere humans live.
- There are very few places on Earth where brown or Norway rats are not found – Antarctica, the Arctic, and Alberta are among them.
- Alberta has worked diligently to keep rats out of the province since 1950 because, according to the Alberta government web site, – quote – “Norway rats are one of the most destructive creatures known to man.”
- Larger than mice, adult brown rats are medium-sized rodents and reach a size of about 40 cms (15 inches) from the tips of their pointed noses to the end of their tails. Male rats are typically a bit larger than females.
- Rats are known for their long hairless tails, which are shorter than their body length. Rats also don’t have any fur on their ears.
- The brown rat has short coarse brown fur naturally, but selective breeding in captivity has resulted in brown rats that aren’t always brown. Captive brown rats can have a variety of different fur colours, patterns and characteristics.
- Did you know that rats can survive for over a month without directly drinking water?
- When water sources are scarce, rats can hydrate themselves by extracting moisture from the food they eat – and they will eat pretty much anything.
- Even though rats can survive for a long time without water, in captivity they should have a clean water source available to them at all times.
- Just like humans and chimpanzees, rats can feel and give in to peer pressure.
- Researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton found that rats were willing to eat food that previously made them feel ill after they smelled it on other rats’ fur or breath.
- But scientists still don’t know why rats, humans and chimpanzees choose to ignore their own personal experiences to participate in activities with others that they know will be to their detriment.
- January 25, 2020 marked the start of the Lunar New Year and it is the Year of the Rat.
- The rat is the first animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. One legend has it that the rat ended up being first because he won a competition among the other animal candidates for inclusion in the zodiac.
- The Lunar New Year is celebrated in many countries around the world, including here in Canada. The NHL‘s Vancouver Canucks even created a special hockey jersey for the team to wear in celebration of the Year of the Rat.
- Rats are very misunderstood and are maligned by people who have the wrong impression of these rodents.
- It was long believed that the bubonic plague – a.k.a. the Black Death – was spread around Europe by rats. But, in fact, the Black Death was spread by humans.
- Rats are very clean and groom themselves carefully. In captivity, they are social pets who can bond to other rats and the human members of their family. Rats can be very affectionate!
- Rats are also very intelligent animals who have great memories and can respond to their names. In captivity, they need to have a lot of mental stimulation to prevent boredom.
- Rats can be taught to do tricks!
- Rats don’t have a very long lifespan. They already have the ability to reproduce by the age of three months.
- In captivity and with proper care, rats can live between 2-3 years on average.
This is the third time we have featured rats as our Animal of the Month. Check out our blog posts from June 2015 and June 2018 to see what we tweeted about rats the first two times around!