Next time you're walking down the street, point with your finger, then shout 'Rat!' – and see how people jump! But why is it that these little creatures evoke such a strong reaction in us humans? To help you answer these and other rat infested questions, here are our top 10 ratty facts...
1. What are they?
Rats are rodents, there are many different species but the most common one in the UK is the brown rat or sewer rat, thought to have originated in Asia.
2. Rats are tough
They are The Terminator of the animal world – nothing stops them. Like Arnie, they are hard to kill. Through time, rats have become immune to some poisons put down to kill them. Rats are very adaptable and can easily survive in any environment. A rat can climb brick walls, fall five storeys, bounce and not die, eat things that’d kill you and go longer than a camel without water. In fact, rats love water – they’re just as happy in it as on land. A rat can swim half a mile in open sea, tread water for three days and dive 100 feet underwater.
3. Breed like rats!
Rats live on average for 18 months, becoming sexually active at 12 weeks.
During her life, a female rat can breed five to seven times, producing up to 2,000 baby rats a year who can then in turn go on to breed and breed…
4. They’re getting bigger
In 2014, on an industrial estate in Liverpool, a pest controller caught a rat which measures 2ft from nose to tail. A rat as big as a cat (as far as we know, no hat).
5. Rats teeth
A rat’s teeth can grow up to 13cm in a year. To keep them at a manageable size, a rat must constantly gnaw to wear them down. Their teeth are super-strong and will cut through anything –brick, asbestos, wood, breeze blocks, 10cm-thick concrete, even 2mm-thick metal.
Once in your house, rats can be very destructive, causing thousands of pounds of damage. They often chew through electric cable, causing fires, or water pipes, causing flooding.
6. Never drink beer from a bottle!
Rats love to pee and will go up to 80 times a day. Their urine spreads Weil’s Disease.
These little fellas are often found in pub cellars where its nice and dark and where crates of beer are kept. Just saying…
7. I smell a rat
Rats thrive on your stinky, leftover food. They eat the equivalent of 10 per cent of their body weight daily and will feast on cat food, dog food, bird food and – as a special treat – dog excrement. In desperate times they’ll even eat each other.
8. Like a rat up a drain pipe
It has been known for rats to get into your house by sneaking into your sewer, crawling up the soil pipe, swimming round the u-bend and popping up in your toilet.
Be careful – like squirrels, rats love nuts!
9. Not guilty
Although for centuries it was believed that rats were responsible for spreading The Black Death, (which arrived in Europe from Asia in 1347), in fact our furry friends were innocent. It was all down to their cousins the gerbils, which carried infected fleas.
10. But they’re not all bad…
Rats are affectionate and social animals. They enjoy the company of other rats, and domestic rats love the company of humans. When they’re happy or playing, rats will grind their teeth, chatter and vibrate their eyes while making little laughter sounds. Rats will take care of sick or injured rats in their group and will even save their friends from drowning. Like elephants, rats have great memories, once they’ve found a safe route they never forget it.