10 interesting facts about rats

by PDSA | 27 January #Justforfun

Rats get a bad rep, but as we welcome in the year of the rat in the Chinese zodiac, we’re looking at things to love about these little critters.

Big teeth, long tails, associated with the plague... We may be able to see a little bit of why rats aren’t everyone’s favourite animal, but we promise you they have really great qualities, too!

So some people might consider wild rats to be a bit of a pest, but domestic rats can make really great pets. They’re known to be clever and affectionate pets and anyone who has pet rats will definitely be singing their praises!

Want to learn a bit more about our rodent friends? Take a look at our fun facts below.

 

1. They can fit in amazingly small spaces

Two white rats playing

Thanks to their body shape, rats are able to fit through the tiniest holes and gaps. Their bodies are long and flexible so they can squeeze themselves down to fit into spaces much smaller than themselves!

 

2. They’re big chewers

Rat chewing

A rat’s front teeth are always growing, so they need things to chew on (otherwise it could cause a lot of painful problems for them). It’s super important to feed them the right diet to keep their teeth in good condition – you can read more advice on this. Their teeth are super strong, too, and wild rats have even been known to chew through some metals!

 

3. They don’t really sweat

Two rats cuddled up on leaves

Unlike us, rats don’t get sweaty pits. Nor do they pant like some other animals. They only have sweat glands on the skin of their paws (which isn’t enough to cool them down). Instead, they use their naked tails to help regulate their body temperatures.

 

4. Some rats are strong swimmers

Rat swimming in a pond

So we wouldn’t recommend forcing your rat to take a dip, but some rats are known to love water and be really strong swimmers. There are some types that can swim over a mile at once!

 

5. They don’t have a bad reputation everywhere

Two black and white rats

In Ancient Rome, rats were actually considered lucky. Ancient Egyptians and Mayans even worshipped rats. Not sure how that worked alongside worshipping cats, but there you go.

 

6. Rats need company

Two rats asleep in hammock

If you have pet rats, you should always have more than one. They hate to be alone and while they do bond with their owners, they need the company of other rats to stay happy. Best to keep the same gender together though to avoid any unplanned baby rats!

 

7. Born the year of the rat? Luck you!

Two rats eating

If you were born in the year of the rat (1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020) then you’re seen to have the traits of a rat. Which is a good thing. Rats are adaptable, clever, quick-witted and curious.

 

8. Rats have excellent memories

Two rats on a blanket

Rats are very clever and have super good memories. They can recognise other rats and humans they’ve seen before and once they learn how to get somewhere, they’re unlikely to forget the route.

 

9. Some are excellent climbers

White rat poking head out of pink bed

Thanks to their tails which they use for balance, rats are brilliant climbers. If there’s something them can grip on to, they’ll probably climb in. Some species can also jump really far.

 

10. They can detect landmines

Landmine rat with handler

This doesn’t apply to your average pet rat, but African giant pouched rats are used to help sniff out landmines. Their excellent sense of smell helps them to detect mines buried underground. They’re so light that they won’t set them off, meaning they can safely alert humans as to where they are.


If you’re thinking of getting rats, always make sure you do your research first. Our advice pages are a good place to start.

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