Fun Cotton Rat Facts For Kids

Aashita Dhingra
May 01, 2023 By Aashita Dhingra
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Smriti Chaudhary
Cotton Rat facts about the hispid cotton rat that is active year-round.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.7 Min

Cotton Rats (Sigmodon hispidus) are notorious creatures found globally. With industrialization and urbanization, their number has increased drastically.

The Hispid Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus) is native to the North American continent, but its subspecies are found in South America as well. Their population is largely concentrated in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, Virginia, Missouri, and New Mexico. These mostly infest fields and grasslands and have not much to do with the urban settings.

Here are some interesting facts about the Hispid Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus) for your information. After reading these Arizona Cotton Rat facts, do check our other articles on the rice rat and muskrat as well.

Cotton Rat Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Cotton Rat?

The Cotton Rat is a rodent belonging to the genus Sigmodon. The Hispid Cotton Rat has a round body that appears like a Cotton ball and prominent ears.

Its appearance is like that of a fluff ball. Hispid Cotton Rats are small and cute-looking animals that cause a lot of chaos in the places they breed as they are active year-round. Their home ranges include dense grassy fields, cultivated fields, grassy areas, and forests with dry grass.

What class of animal does a Cotton Rat belong to?

The Hispid Cotton Rat is a mammal. It belongs to the phylum Chordata, which shows the presence of a vertebral column.

It is capable of giving birth to its young ones directly and does not have to lay eggs. Hispid Cotton Rats have sharp claws and an exoskeleton in the form of fur. In short, it possesses all the characteristics of the class Mammalia.

How many Cotton Rats are there in the world?

There is no exact number of the total population of Hispid Cotton Rats in the world. But as the Hispid Cotton Rats (Sigmodon hispidus) are capable of producing nine litters per year with five to six young per litter, their population is thriving and increasing rather quickly across their habitat.

The conservation status of the Hispid Cotton Rat is currently Least Concern.

Where does a Cotton Rat live?

Hispid Cotton Rats are native to both the North and South American Continents. This species of Hispid Cotton Rat is widespread.

This owes to the ability of Hispid Cotton Rats to survive harsh habitats and breed well. Their populations can be found across South and North American regions such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, Virginia, Missouri, and New Mexico. The Cotton Rat Florida habitat includes the sabal palm-coconut palm savanna.

What is a Cotton Rat's habitat?

The Hispid Cotton Rat inhabits various places such as the grasslands, marshes, and fields where they feed on the crops. In the field, Hispid Cotton Rats construct small nests with the help of shrubs. If they find a burrow made by another animal in the fields, Hispid Cotton Rats do not hesitate to house it for themselves.

Who do Cotton Rats live with?

A female Hispid Cotton Rat usually spends most of her time in the nests or the burrows. Wheres as the male rat can wander on its own or with a few members of the same species. Depending upon the places where they nest, Hispid Cotton Rats may move around in small packs or may reside alone.

How long does a Cotton Rat live?

The Hispid Cotton Rat has a lifespan of about half a year, that is six months in the wild. Whereas, if they are kept captive, their life span can increase by more than a year, or 23 months to be precise.

Their decreased life span in the wild is due to the coexistence of predators such as snakes in their natural habitat. Since Hispid Cotton Rats are active both during the day and at night, they are more prone to fall prey to the predators present in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

A Cotton Rat is a polygamous organism and breeds all around the year. The gestation period of these Cotton Rats is 27 days.

At the end of the gestation period, the female gives birth to the young ones. Since these animals are omnivores, they feed on a variety of plants.

During the reproductive phase, these animals shift their diet to include a maximum amount of dicot in their food. These dicots provide a sufficient amount of protein for the growth and development of the fetus.

These rats can raise several litters per year in their home ranges, leading to a rapid population increase in a short period. They are known to give birth to up to nine litters per year with five to six young per litter.

What is their conservation status?

The Hispid Cotton Rat falls in the category of Least Concern species. Owing to their short reproductive phase, these animals can breed multiple times throughout the year. Hispid Cotton Rats adapt very well and are very fast-moving animals. Due to all these reasons, there's an increase in their population throughout the American continent.

Cotton Rat Fun Facts

What do Cotton Rats look like?

A Cotton Rat is a short-sized rodent and appears like a fluff ball. The Cotton Rat has a stout body that is covered in fur.

The color of its fur is a mixture of tan, black, and brown on the dorsal side of its body giving it a hispid look. While the inner part of its body is whitish-grayish in appearance. It has a medium-sized tail and small prominent ears.

Cotton Rat habitat is widespread across North America and South America.

How cute are they?

Cotton Rats are pretty cute. They are small in size and have smooth light-colored fur. However, they breed very often so their numbers can be quite staggering.

How do they communicate?

There's not much data available that may give us a clear understanding of how Hispid Cotton Rats communicate. But we do know that Rats have very sharp senses. They possess very good hearing and smelling abilities. This assists them well in fending for good food and alerting them about the presence of threats.

How big is a Cotton Rat?

A Cotton Rat can grow up to a total length of 7-7.5 in (17.78-19.05 cm). Usually, the females are shorter in size than the male Cotton Rat. Regional differences in their sizes are also seen. For example, the Virginia Cotton Rat is smaller than those found in North and South Carolina.

How fast can a Cotton Rat run?

Rats in general are fast animals. They can run at speeds of about 8 mph (12.9 kph). Their ability to run fast is due to their overall body structure and legs that are long enough and flawed enough to hold onto the surface.

How much does a Cotton Rat weigh?

The body of a rat is mostly composed of fat tissues to keep them warm during harsh weather. An adult Cotton Rat can weigh about 3.53-7.93 oz (0.1-0.22 kg). These are short species of rodents and do not weigh much. An adult female Cotton Rat can weigh slightly less than the adult male Cotton Rat.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male Cotton Rats can sometimes be called bucks while the females are referred to as does. Owing to their notorious nature the group of rats are called a mischief.

What would you call a baby Cotton Rat?

Baby Cotton Rats are called pups or kittens. Baby rats are born with their eyes all closed and their bodies without any fur. They weigh around 0.21-0.3 oz (0.005-0.008 kg) and measure around 1-2 in (2.54-5.08 cm). These mammals stick around with the female rat till they are mature enough to live on their own.

What do they eat?

A Cotton Rat is an omnivorous animal. It feeds on both dicot and monocot plants and insects such as crayfish and fiddler crabs dwelling in coastal marshy areas. These mammals also sometimes feed on quail eggs.

During their reproductive phase, they shift to a diet that consists of dicots in the majority. This helps them in gaining proper nutrition and growth. Their predators include snakes and ground-nesting birds.

Are they dangerous?

These animals are notorious breeders and destroy crops in the fields these mammals breed in. Their bite can cause tetanus disease.

Hence if a person is bitten by a rat, it is recommended that they may take TT injection immediately to prevent tetanus infection. These rats are also sometimes hosts of Hantavirus which is a deadly disease in humans. A rat bite can lead to Rat bite fever, diseases of the lymphatic system, and leptospirosis.

They are even responsible for causing plague amongst human beings. In conclusion, rats are dangerous to a certain degree.

Would they make a good pet?

A Cotton Rat likely does not make a good pet but other species of rat can be adopted as pets. Rats are social animals and possess a high level of intelligence.

The Rattus norvegicus domestica, also called a fancy rat, can be adopted as a pet. These animals do not require much maintenance and you do not need to go around them the whole day. So this species can be adopted as pets.

Did you know...

What is unique and very important about rats is that these mammals have a similar genomic structure to humans. Rats are most similar to humans in their genetic makeup, even more than monkeys and apes.

This is one reason why they are the best models to carry out biomedical research on. Similarly, the Sigmodon hispidus or Cotton Rat was used as the very first being for researching Polio disease and the vaccine to be administered.

Different types of Cotton Rat

Depending on the regions and habitats, there are about 14 species of Cotton Rats found in America. The difference in size is their one distinguishing characteristic.

Different types of Cotton Rats are Hispid Cotton Rat, Tawny-bellied Cotton Rat, Arizona Cotton Rat, Southern Cotton Rat, and others. These rats vary in their body sizes and their fur color. Their overall appearance and features are the same.

How to get rid of Cotton Rats

An infestation of rats can be a big problem. Since Cotton Rats dwell in grassland and fields, they tend to infest these habitats. But there are various ways with the help of which you can get rid of these rats.

Remove the burrows and nets occupied by them.

There are different types of mouse traps available in the market. These also include sticky pads to catch hold of these small rodents. Placing these traps near the entry point can help get rid of these obnoxious little animals.

Keeping proper sanitization of the area can also aid in preventing rat infestation.

Using rat poison and raticide. Rat poison comes in various forms, such as the phosphorus poison tube. Put the paste inside the piece of tomato or a nut and place these near the entry points in the field. This rat poison will help kill the rat and hence prevent infestation.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our black bear hamster facts, and mice facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our cotton rat coloring pages.

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Written by Aashita Dhingra

Bachelors in Business Administration

Aashita Dhingra picture

Aashita DhingraBachelors in Business Administration

Based in Lucknow, India, Aashita is a skilled content creator with experience crafting study guides for high school-aged kids. Her education includes a degree in Business Administration from St. Mary's Convent Inter College, which she leverages to bring a unique perspective to her work. Aashita's passion for writing and education is evident in her ability to craft engaging content.

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Fact-checked by Smriti Chaudhary

Bachelor of Technology specializing in Information Technology

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Smriti ChaudharyBachelor of Technology specializing in Information Technology

Smriti, a student data scientist, and coder, is pursuing her Bachelor of Technology at K.J. Somaiya College of Engineering. She has achieved top rankings in the International English Olympiad, National Spelling Bee, and PSAT/SAT English Section. She is experienced in content creation and editing for various academic institutions.

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