Fun Rats Facts For Kids

Joan Agie
Feb 08, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Kidadl Team
Read on for all the amazing facts about rats.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.0 Min

Rats are rodents, and one of the most populous mammals, not far behind humans. To account for their 60+ species, these tiny creatures range in size from 32.2 in(81.8 cm) for the Bosavi woolly rat on one end of the spectrum to Osgood’s Vietnamese rat at about 5 in (12.7 cm).

A few facts about rats are that they tend to prefer living underground and are mainly nocturnal creatures, which is why we don’t see them quite often despite their huge population. The Rattus novergicus Domestica, or fancy rat, is the rat most commonly kept as a pet with its name coming from ‘to fancy something’. The Norway rat is a non-domesticated relative of this species.

Throughout history, rats have stowed away on ships and traveled with humans across the world, inhabiting every landmass apart from Antarctica, even now. They fed on food that was thrown away and served as carriers for various diseases like the bubonic plague, or Black Death. Their teeth never stop growing which leads them to chew on everything, making people consider them a pest.

You may also check out the fact files on marsupials and short-beaked echidnas from Kidadl.
 

Rats Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a rat?

Rats are a part of the rodents, falling under the Murids, which is the largest family of rodents and mammals.

What class of animal does a rat belong to?

Rats fall under the Mammalia class of animals.

How many Rat are there in the world?

There are huge populations of rats present everywhere except Antarctica, with their populations going into the billions. China alone is believed to house over two billion rats.

Where does a rat live?

Different rat species live in different habitats, including the woods, sewers, houses, forests.

What is a rat's habitat?

Rats populate all parts of the world be it rural or urban areas, especially someplace near a water source. A water source is necessary for rats to survive. Owing to their excellent swimming abilities, these water rats can navigate sewers and drains for up to three days. Rats can also hold their breath for significantly long periods of time. They can even survive being flushed down a toilet!

For staying outside, rats, particularly roof rats, prefer living in trees or rooftops and are wonderful climbers. They often enter houses via the roof. These rats have excellent memories allowing them to memorize their routes quickly and for a long amount of time. Roof rats were found mostly in houses located in temperate regions but have been driven out by Norway rats since.

The brown rats tend to burrow in contrast to their arboreal roof rat relatives. They are also more aggressive and changes in housing preferred the survival of brown rats over black rats. These rats are more resistant to weather changes and can eat a larger variety of food, allowing them to spread further than other rats.

Bush rats are a common species of rat found in and indigenous to Australia. Norway rats are found nesting in houses, offices, barns, sewers, garbage dumps, and any other places with ample food and water supply. For shelter, they build nests below or at ground level.

Who do rats live with?

Rats are very social creatures. Even with regular human contact for those kept as pets, rats need contact with others of their kind, otherwise, they could get depressed. In nature, a group of rats lives together. They can live in colonies of about 150 members with a social hierarchy. It is more pronounced between males with one being dominant and several subordinates based on fighting abilities. Female rats do not typically display a hierarchy, but it can be seen. These packs are further divided into subgroups like harems or pairs. These facts describe a general pack.

Rats form tight family bonds especially between a mother rat and her infants. They communicate using high-frequency sounds, touch, and smell. Outside their burrows, they have trails with olfactory markings to help demarcate sites of food and water. Rats love huddling and playing together and often share food with each other.

How long does a rat live?

A rat’s lifespan is largely dependent on where it lives. In the wild, a rat can usually survive for one to two years while domesticated pet rats live up to four years. For wild rats, females often outlive the males in a colony. The cause of death for urban rats could be pest control or predation by cats, vehicles,  dogs, or birds like hawks. Some rats of the subspecies Rattus norvegicus Domestica, commonly known as lab rats, have a life expectancy of two and a half to three and a half years.

How do they reproduce?

Rats reproduce sexually. Their peak mating seasons are in summer and autumn. Female rats have the ability to mate about five hundred times in a six-hour period with different males, producing as many as 2000 babies a year if left to breed freely. Brown rats may have up to 22 pups at once while tropical rats tend to have only up to six per litter.

The gestation period is between 21 and 26 days, with the rats being ready to reproduce at the age of three months. Females produce up to five litters per year, with the population possibly growing from two to one thousand two hundred and fifty in a year. Babies usually weigh around 0.21- 0.28 z (6-7.9 g) when born.

What is their conservation status?

Their conservation status is that of Least Concern.

Rat Fun Facts

What do rats look like?

Rats are medium-sized rodents that originated in Australia and Asia and are now found all over the world. Rats are larger than mice, with thinner and longer bodies and legs. They are usually thin-tailed and have colors varying from brown, black, gray, or white.

Black rats, or roof rats, are medium-sized rats with large ears and a tail longer than their body. Males are usually heavier and longer than females.

Brown rats, or Norway, rats have a blunt snout, furry ears, and a tail shorter than their body. They are usually larger than black rats.

How do they communicate?

A group of rats is called a mischief. They are highly social creatures that always live in packs. They are fairly friendly with humans and other domestic rats. In their burrows, they often leave olfactory cues to help mark paths, and once they learn a route, they never forget it.

When they are happy their teeth may chatter. Sometimes their eyes might vibrate too. Rats also make sounds of 'laughter' while playing. Rats tend to fall under peer pressure as well. They might go as far as to eat unappealing food to fit in with the other rats.

These rodents are curious and shy, they run away from facing a threat. Their poor eyesight leads to their dependence on their whiskers to get an understanding of their surroundings. They use their tail for many purposes, including that of balance, maintaining temperature, and communication.

Rat in a burrow

How big is a rat?

A typical rat which is 5 in (12.7 cm) in length is 0.4 times the size of a chihuahua which is 12 in (30.5 cm) in length. A rat weighing 0.4 lb (0.2 kg) weighs 0.1 times the size of a chihuahua weighing 4 lb (1.8 kg).

How fast can a rat run?

Rats can reach speeds of up to 8 mph (12.9 kph).

How much does a rat weigh?

The weight of a rat can range between 3.3 lb (1.5 kg) for a Bosavi woolly rat to the average rat weighing less than 1.1 lb (0.5 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male rats are called bucks. Female rats are called does.

What would you call a baby rat?

A litter of baby rats is called an intrigue of kittens or puppies.

What do they eat?

Rats are omnivorous creatures and their teeth never stop growing. Thus, they have to constantly chew hard objects to control their growth. In terms of preference, rats will eat anything. They are found mostly feasting on garbage in dumpsters, human food scraps, carcasses, and any other available food source. Wild rats tend to eat fruits and seeds making their diet largely vegetarian. City rats on the other hand scavenge trash cans or other open food sources that they come across.

Are they dangerous?

Rats often transmit diseases to any humans in their vicinity. It might spread through bites or scratches. People might get sick when rats run across countertops or other surfaces where food is kept, contaminating the food. These rodents can also cause structural damage by gnawing any surface including plastic, often leaving large holes in walls and floors.

Would they make a good pet?

Pet rats are usually Rattus norvegicus or Norway rats. They are friendly and easy to tame and need plenty of exercise, one hour per day. It is best to house them in pairs as they get depressed if left alone for long. They are also very clean animals, grooming themselves at regular intervals of time. However, they too like other pets can act as carriers of disease. Some people find cute rats to be their ideal pets.

Did you know...

Here are some fun facts about rats:

  • A rat may leave up to 25,000 droppings per year.
  • A rat is the first animal of the Chinese zodiac.
  • Female rats may go into heat quite soon after giving birth. This is called postpartum estrus.
  • Rats are revered in Indian culture as Lord Ganesh’s vehicle and are worshiped at Karni Devi temple.
  • Their amazing sense of smell has been used to detect landmines and underlying diseases in humans.
  • The location of their eyes enables rats to see what is happening above them.

How long do pet rats live?

Pet rats have a life expectancy of about two or three years.

What are rats afraid of?

They are afraid of predators like cats, birds of prey like hawks, snakes, and weasels.

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 giant anteater facts and water vole facts pages.

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

Rats Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Smaller Animals, Insects

What Type of Animal were they?

Omnivore

Average Litter Size?

20

How Much Did They Weigh?

Brown rat- 0.3-1.1 lb (140-500 g) Norway rat- 0.4-1.3 lb (200-570 g) Black rat- 0.2-0.5 lb (75-230 g)

What habitat Do they Live In?

trees, sewers, rooves, tall grass, coastal areas

Where Do They Live?

all climates except antarctica

How Long Were They?

Brown rat- 7-10 in (17.8-25.4 cm)Norway rat- 15 in (38.1 cm)

How Tall Were They?

N/A

Class

Mammalia

Genus

Rattus Fischer

Family

Muridae Illiger

Scientific Name

Rattus rattus

What Do They Look Like?

Brown, Black, Beige

Skin Type

Fur

What Are Their Main Threats?

humans, habitat loss

What is their Conservation Status?

Least Concern
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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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