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The secret lives of wild rats

Wild rats have a pretty bad reputation. Filthy, pest, vermin – you name it, they’ve been called it! When people think about rats, they might not think of words like curious, social and shy.

close up of wild one eating bread

The reality is that rats have had a close relationship with people for a long time. Our towns and cities draw them in, providing a constant supply of food and plenty of shelter. As humans moved around the globe, rats followed – and multiplied. In fact, rats outnumber humans on almost every continent in the world!

When you take a closer look, you’ll start to see that rats are amazing animals.

Rat chat

Rats make a wide variety of noises to communicate.

They have different sounds to express things like pain, happiness, play or aggression, and baby rats will vocalize to let their mother know where they are. They have been found to “laugh” when tickled! Mostly, rats communicate in sound frequencies too high for humans to hear.

Rats don’t just communicate with sound. They also use a combination of body language and behavioural cues and scent cues from their droppings, urine, or by rubbing against things.

A rat sniffing at droppings on the ground or the corner of a wall might just be getting a secret message from a fellow rat!

Social life

Wild rats have busy and complex social lives. They’ll eat, forage, play and sleep together, and groom each other… Even in barren laboratory settings, rats show incredible empathy for their fellow rats.

They have been observed doing things like learning how to free a companion from a cage, taking care of sick or injured rats in their social group, and even saving treats for a friend – which is a lot to expect from any animal!

Part of what makes wild rats so successful in urban environments is that they can multiply at an astounding rate.

Females can have up to 12 litters in just one year, with anywhere from six to 12 young per litter. As long as there’s enough food, water and shelter, rats will keep reproducing.

Grey rat on wooden planks, closeup. Pest control

Diet and exercise

Teeth are essential to a good life for a rat. Rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives. This means they need to gnaw to help wear down these ever-growing teeth.

They use their teeth to get food, create nest cavities, assist in climbing, and even use them as a defence in a fight.

In wild areas, rats gnaw through things like tree roots, logs or trunks. They get into trouble in urban spaces because they use their incredible jaw strength and hard teeth to gnaw through things like doors, walls, windows and floors – all for a safe place to stay or a tasty meal.

There are two types of wild rats in B.C. – Norway rats and roof rats. Learn how to tell the difference between them.

Norway rats are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of plant and animal matter. Roof rats are mostly vegetarian.

In general, you’ll find Norway rats living at ground level, building tunnels and burrows. As their name suggests, roof rats prefer to live higher up, climbing up vegetation like trees and vines.

No matter the species, rats are agile athletes when it comes to climbing, digging and jumping.

Choose AnimalKind

Knowing everything that makes rats amazing, it’s no wonder people are looking for humane pest control.

True, rats can cause trouble in homes with their gnawing or contaminate food and possibly transmit diseases, so control is a necessary reality.

The best way to manage problems with rodents is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Learn how to rodent-proof your home and if needed, how to deal with rodent problems the poison-free way. If DIY isn’t your style, you can hire a BC SPCA–recommended AnimalKind pest control company to help you deal with rodents in a humane and effective way.