Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea. "True rats" are members of the genus Rattus, the most important of which to humans are the black rat, Rattus rattus, and the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus. Many members of other rodent genera and families are also referred to as rats, and share many characteristics with true rats.
Figure 1 The common Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus)
Rats are typically distinguished from mice by their size; rats are generally large muroid rodents, while mice are generally small muroid rodents. The muroid family is very large and complex, and the common terms rat and mouse are not taxonomically specific. Generally, when someone discovers a large muroid, its common name includes the term rat, while if it is small, the name includes the term mouse - scientifically, the terms are not confined to members of the Rattus and Mus genera. Compare the taxonomic classification of the pack rat and cotton mouse
Species and description
The best-known rat species are the Black Rat (Rattus rattus) and the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus). The group is generally known as the Old World rats or true rats, and originated in Asia. Rats are bigger than most Old World mice, which are their relatives, but seldom weigh over 500 grams (1 lb) in the wild.
The term "rat" is also used in the names of other small mammals which are not true rats. Examples include the North American pack rats, a number of species loosely called kangaroo rats, and others. Rats such as the Bandicoot rat (Bandicota bengalensis) are murine rodents related to true rats, but are not members of the genus Rattus. Male rats are called bucks, unmated females are called does, pregnant or parent females are called dams, and infants are called kittens or pups. A group of rats is either referred to as a pack or a mischief
In Western countries, many people keep domesticated rats as pets. These are of the species R. norvegicus, which originated in the grasslands of China and spread to Europe and eventually, in 1775, to the New World. Pet rats are Brown Rats descended from those bred for research, and are often called "fancy rats", but are the same species as the common city "sewer" rat. Domesticated rats tend to be both more docile than their wild ancestors and more disease prone, presumably due to inbreeding.
The common species are opportunistic survivors and often live with and near humans, therefore they are known as commensals. They may cause substantial food losses, especially in developing countries. However, the widely distributed and problematic commensal species of rats are a minority in this diverse genus. Many species of rats are island endemics and some have become endangered due to habitat loss or competition with the Brown, Black or Polynesian rat.
Wild rats can carry many different "zoonotic" pathogens, such as e.g. Leptospira, Toxoplasma gondii and Campylobacter, and may transfer these across species, for example to humans. The Black Death is traditionally believed to have been caused by the micro-organism Yersinia pestis, carried by the Tropical Rat Flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) which preyed on Black Rat living in European cities during the epidemic outbreaks of the Middle Ages; these rats were used as transport hosts. Today, this cycle still exists in many countries of the world and plague outbreaks still occur every year. Beside transmitting zoonotic pathogens, rats are also linked to the spread of contagious animal pathogens that may result in livestock diseases such as Classical Swine Fever and Foot-and-mouth disease.
The normal lifespan of rats ranges from two to five years, and is typically three years.
Main article: Fancy rat
Specially bred rats have been kept as pets at least since the late 19th century. Pet rats are typically variants of the species Brown rat, but Black rats and Giant pouched rats are also known to be kept. Pet rats behave differently than their wild counterparts depending on how many generations they have been kept as pets. Pet rats do not pose any more of a health risk than pets such as cats and dogs. Tamed rats are generally friendly and can be taught to perform selected behaviors.
As subjects of scientific research
Main article: Laboratory rat
Figure 2 A laboratory rat strain known as a Zucker rat. These rats are bred to be
genetically prone to diabetes, the same metabolic disorder found among humans.
In 1895, Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts (United States) established a population of domestic white brown rats to study the effects of diet and for other physiological studies. Over the years, rats have been used in many experimental studies, which have added to our understanding of genetics, diseases, the effects of drugs, and other topics that have provided a great benefit for the health and wellbeing of humankind. Laboratory rats have also proved valuable in psychological studies of learning and other mental processes (Barnett, 2002), as well as to understand group behavior and overcrowding (with the work of John B. Calhoun on behavioral sink). A 2007 study found rats to possess metacognition, a mental ability previously only documented in humans and some primates.
Domestic rats differ from wild rats in many ways. They are calmer and less likely to bite; they can tolerate greater crowding; they breed earlier and produce more offspring; and their brains, livers, kidneys, adrenal glands, and hearts are smaller (Barnett 2002).
Brown rats are often used as model organisms for scientific research. Since the publication of the Rat Genome Sequence, and other advances such as the creation of a rat SNP chip, and the production of knockout rats, the laboratory rat has become a useful genetic tool, although not as popular as mice. When it comes to conducting tests related to intelligence, learning, and drug abuse, rats are a popular choice due to their high intelligence, ingenuity, aggressiveness, and adaptability. Their psychology, in many ways, seems to be similar to humans. Entirely new breeds or "lines" of brown rats like the Wistar rat have been bred for use in laboratories. Much of the genome of Rattus norvegicus has been sequenced.
Rats are edible by humans and are sometimes captured and eaten in emergency situations. For some cultures, rats are considered a staple. Bandicoot rats are an important food source among some peoples in Southeast Asia. Reasons why rat meat is not more widely eaten include the strong proscription against it in Halal and Kashrut tradition, and the fact that eating rat is not socially accepted in many cultures.
Another argument against eating rat is the risk of Weil's disease: the British SAS's rule book lists rat as the only meat which its members in action are not allowed to eat.
As a food, rats are often a more-readily available source of protein than other fauna. Some African slaves in the American South hunted wood rats (among other animals) to supplement their food rations. The Aborigines along the coast in Southern Queensland, Australia regularly included rats in their diet. In the Mishmi culture of India, rats are essential to the Mishmi traditional diet, as Mishmi women may eat no meat except fish, pork, wild birds and rats. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that rat meat makes up half the locally produced meat consumed in Ghana, where cane rats are farmed and hunted for their meat.
Ricefield rats have been traditionally used as food in rice-producing regions, like in Valencia, where along with the eel and local beans known as "garrafons" the rata de marjal was one of the main ingredients of the original paella (later replaced by rabbit, chicken and seafood). The rat-eating habits of the people of the rice growing region of Valencia were immortalized by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez in his novel Cañas y barro.
Ricefield rats (Rattus argentiventer) are also consumed in the Philippines and the Isaan region of Thailand, as well as Cambodia, particularly when meat prices have been inflated. In late 2008, Reuters reported that the price of rat meat had quadrupled in Cambodia creating a hardship for the poor who could no longer afford it. Cambodia also exports about a metric ton of rats daily to Vietnam as food.
In some cultures, rats are or have been limited as an acceptable form of food to a particular social or economic class. The Musahar community in north India commercialised rat farming as a exotic delicacy. In the traditional cultures of the Hawaiians and the Polynesians, rat was a common food. When feasting, the Polynesian people of Rapa Nui could eat rat, but the king was not allowed to due to the islanders' belief in a "state of sacredness" called tapu. In studying pre-contact archaeological sites in Hawaii, archaeologists have found that the concentration of the remains of rats associated with commoner households counted for three times the animal remains associated with elite households. The rat bones found in all sites are fragmented, burned and covered in carbonized material, indicating that rats were eaten as food. The greater occurrence of rat remains associated with commoner households may indicate that the elites of pre-contact Hawaii did not consume them as a matter of status or taste.
The taboo against consuming rats as food is not unique to the world's major religions or Western cultures. Both the Shipibo people of Peru and Sirionó people of Bolivia have cultural taboos against the eating of rats.
Rats are a common food item for snakes, both in the wild, and as pets. Captive-bred ball pythons in particular, are fed a diet of mostly rats. Rats, as food items, are available from many suppliers who supply to individual snake owners as well as to large reptile zoos. In Britain the government in 2007 ruled out the feeding of any live mammal to another animal. The rule says the animal must be dead (frozen) then given to the animal to eat. The rule was put in to place mainly because of the pressure of the RSPCA and people who found it cruel.
Rats can serve as zoonotic vectors for certain pathogens and thus cause disease, such as Lassa fever and Hantavirus. Rattus rattus, and the rat flea Xenopsylla cheopis, are notorious for their role in epidemics of bubonic plague.
Ancient Romans did not generally differentiate between rats and mice, instead referring to the former as Mus Maximus (big mouse) and the latter as Mus Minimus (little mouse).
On the Isle of Man (a dependency of the British Crown) there is a taboo against the word "rat." See longtail for more information.
In Eastern cultures
In Imperial Chinese culture, the rat (sometimes referred to as a mouse) is the first of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. People born in this year are expected to possess qualities associated with rats, including creativity, honesty, generosity, ambition, a quick temper and wastefulness. People born in a year of the rat are said to get along well with "monkeys" and "dragons," and to get along poorly with "horses."
Figure 3 The indigenous rats are allowed to run
freely throughout the Karni Mata temple.
In Indian tradition rats are recognized as the vehicle of Lord Ganesh and a rat's statue is always found in a temple of Ganesh. In the northwestern Indian city of Deshnoke, the rats at the Karni Mata Temple are held to be destined for reincarnation as Sadhus (Hindu holy men). The attending priests feed milk and grain to the rats, of which the pilgrims also partake. Eating food that has been touched by rats is considered a blessing from god.
In Western cultures
Western associations with the rat are generally negative. For instance, "Rats!" is used as a substitute for various vulgar interjections in the English language. These associations do not draw, per se, from any biological or behavioral trait of the rat, but possibly from the association of rats (and fleas) with the 14th-century medieval plague called the Black Death. Rats are seen as vicious, unclean, parasitic animals that steal food and spread disease. However some people in Western cultures keep rats as pets and conversely find them to be tame, clean, intelligent, and playful.
Rats are often used in scientific experiments; animal rights activists allege that treatment of rats in this context is cruel. The term "lab rat" is used, typically in a self-effacing manner, to describe a person whose job function requires that they spend a majority of their work time engaged in bench-level research (i.e. a scientist or research assistant).
Rat in terminology
Rats are frequently blamed for damaging food supplies and other goods, or spreading disease. Their reputation has carried into common parlance: in the English language, rat is often an insult. Rat is generally used to signify an unscrupulous character. Writer/Director Preston Sturges created the humorous alias "Ratskywatsky" for a soldier who seduced, impregnated, and abandoned the heroine of his 1944 film, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. It is a term (noun and verb) in criminal slang for an informant - "to rat on someone" is to betray them by informing the authorities of a crime or misdeed they committed. Describing a person as "rat-like" usually implies he or she is unattractive and suspicious.
Among unions, "rat" is a term for non-union employers or breakers of union contracts, and this is why unions use inflatable rats.
• In Leviticus 11:29, rats are prohibited as food. (See 'as food' above.)
See also: Fancy rat and Laboratory rat
Figure 4 Imperial Japan depicted as a rat in
a WWII United States Navy propaganda poster
Depictions of rats in fiction are historically inaccurate and negative. The most common falsehood is the squeaking almost always heard in otherwise realistic portrayals (i.e. non-anthropomorphic). While the recordings may be of actual squeaking rats, the noise is uncommon - they may do so only if distressed, hurt, or annoyed. Normal vocalizations are very high-pitched, well outside the range of human hearing. Rats are also often cast in vicious and aggressive roles when in fact it is their shyness which helps keep them undiscovered for so long in an infested home.
The actual portrayals of rats vary from negative to positive with a majority in the negative and ambiguous. The rat plays a villain in several mouse societies; from Brian Jacques's Redwall and Robin Jarvis's The Deptford Mice, to the roles of Disney's Professor Ratigan and Kate DiCamillo's Roscuro and Botticelli. Rats are also used as a mechanism in horror; being the titular malevolence in stories like The Rats and films like Willard, a symbol of evil as in H.P. Lovecraft's The Rats in the Walls and Michael Pendragon's The Rat-Catcher, or used as a method of torture like in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum. Farther along the spectrum, rats enter the realm of ambiguity with depictions of selfish helpfulness—willing to help the main characters, for a price; Templeton, from E. B. White's Charlotte's Web, repeatedly reminds the other animals he is only working to save the main character's life because it means more food for him, and the cellar-rat of John Masefield's The Midnight Folk requires bribery to be of any assistance. Occasionally a fictional work centers on rats themselves as characters. Notable works include the society created by O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, the award winning Doctor Rat, Ben (a sequel to Willard in which the title rat becomes the hero, Rizzo the Rat of The Muppets, and films like Ratatouille. The movie Mon oncle d'Amérique ("My American Uncle"), a 1980 French film directed by Alain Resnais illustrates Henri Laborit's theories on evolutionary psychology and human behaviors using short sequences in the storyline showing rats experiments.
The Pied Piper
One of the oldest and most historic stories about rats is The Pied Piper of Hamelin, in which a rat-catcher leads away an infestation with enchanted music—the piper is later refused payment, so he in turn leads away the town's children. This tale, placed in Germany around the late 1200s, has inspired the realms of film, theatre, literature, and even opera. The subject of much research, some theories have intertwined the tale with events related to the Black Plague, in which black rats may have played an important role. Fictional works based on the tale that focus heavily on the rat aspect include Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, and Belgian graphic novel Le Bal du Rat Mort (The Ball of the Dead Rat).
Taxonomy of Rattus
The genus Rattus is a member of the giant subfamily Murinae. There are several other murine genera that are sometimes considered part of Rattus: Lenothrix, Anonymomys, Sundamys, Kadarsanomys, Diplothrix, Margaretamys, Lenomys, Komodomys, Palawanomys, Bunomys, Nesoromys, Stenomys, Taeromys, Paruromys, Abditomys, Tryphomys, Limnomys, Tarsomys, Bullimus, Apomys, Millardia, Srilankamys, Niviventer, Maxomys, Leopoldamys, Berylmys, Mastomys, Myomys, Praomys, Hylomyscus, Heimyscus, Stochomys, Dephomys, and Aethomys.
The genus Rattus proper contains 56 species. A subgeneric breakdown of the species has been proposed, but does not include all species. The five groups are:
• norvegicus group
• rattus group
• Australian native rat species
• New Guinea native rat species
• xanthurus group
The following list is alphabetical by the binomial name.
Species of rats
• Sunburned Rat (Rattus adustus) – Enggano Island, Indonesia
• Sikkim Rat (Rattus andamanensis) – Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam
• Annandale's Rat (Rattus annandalei) – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore
• Rice-field Rat (Rattus argentiventer) – Southeast Asia
• Summit Rat (Rattus baluensis) – Malaysia
• Bonthain Rat (Rattus bontanus; obs. Rattus foramineus) – Indonesia
• Nonsense Rat (Rattus burrus) – India
• Dusky Rat (Rattus colletti) – Australia
• Sula Rat (Rattus elaphinus) – Indonesia
• Enggano Rat (Rattus enganus) – Indonesia
• Philippine Forest Rat (Rattus everetti) – Philippines
• Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans) – Fiji and most Polynesian islands, New Zealand, Easter Island, and Hawaii
• Spiny Ceram Rat (Rattus feliceus) – Indonesia
• Bush Rat (Rattus fuscipes) – Australia
• Giluwe Rat (Rattus giluwensis) – Papua New Guinea
• Hainald's Rat (Rattus hainaldi) – Indonesia
• Hoffmann's Rat (Rattus hoffmanni) – Indonesia
• Hoogerwerf's Rat (Rattus hoogerwerfi) – Indonesia
• Japen Rat (Rattus jobiensis) – Indonesia
• Koopman's Rat (Rattus koopmani) – Indonesia
• Korinch's Rat (Rattus korinchi) – Indonesia
• Cape York Rat (Rattus leucopus) – Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea
• Lesser Rice-field Rat (Rattus losea) – China, Laos, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam
• Mentawai Rat (Rattus lugens) – Indonesia
• Australian Swamp Rat (Rattus lutreolus) – Australia
• Maclear's Rat (Rattus macleari) – Christmas Island
• Opossum Rat (Rattus marmosurus) – Indonesia
• Mindoro Black Rat (Rattus mindorensis) – Philippines
• Little Soft-Furred Rat (Rattus mollicomulus) – Indonesia
• Nillu Rat (Rattus montanus) – Sri Lanka
• Eastern Rat (Rattus mordax) – Papua New Guinea
• Molaccan Prehensile-tailed Rat (Rattus morotaiensis) – Indonesia
• Bulldog Rat (Rattus nativitatis) – Christmas Island
• Moss-forest Rat (Rattus niobe) – Papua New Guinea, Indonesia
• Himalayan Field Rat (Rattus nitidus) – Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Palau, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam
• Brown Rat or Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) – worldwide except Antarctica
• New Guinean Rat (Rattus novaeguineae) – Papua New Guinea
• Osgood's Rat (Rattus osgoodi) – Vietnam
• Palm Rat (Rattus palmarum) – India
• Peleng Rat (Rattus pelurus) – Indonesia
• Spiny Rat (Rattus praetor) – Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands
• Turkestan Rat (Rattus pyctoris; obs. Rattus turkestanicus) – Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, and Pakistan
• Kerala Rat (Rattus ranjiniae) – India
• Black Rat (Rattus rattus) – worldwide except Antarctica
• Glacier Rat (Rattus richardsoni) – Indonesia
• Sikkim Rat (Rattus sikkimensis) – Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam
• Simalur Rat (Rattus simalurensis) – Indonesia
• Dusky Field Rat (Rattus sordidus) – Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea
• Stein's Rat (Rattus steini) – Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
• Andaman Rat (Rattus stoicus) – Andaman Islands
• Tanezumi Rat (Rattus tanezumi) – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam
• Tawi-Tawi Forest Rat (Rattus tawitawiensis) – Philippines
• Timor rat (Rattus timorensis) – Timor
• Malayan Field Rat (Rattus tiomanicus) – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand
• Pale Field Rat (Rattus tunneyi) – Australia
• Van Deusen's Rat (Rattus vandeuseni) – Papua New Guinea
• Slender Rat (Rattus verecundus) – Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
• Long-Haired Rat (Rattus villosissimus) – Australia
• Yellow-Tailed Rat (Rattus xanthurus) – Indonesia
|Rodent control system
- Inspect all critical areas, rat habitat, rat entrance and exit; place glue board to indoor area, for example, above ceiling, shaft cavity, storage room, kitchen, restaurant etc.
- For outdoor area: our staff will lay rat bait (food mix with chemical) to all outdoor area for rat control from outside area to live or seek for its food inside the building, therefore, we will lay rat bait in the kitchen, area around building, and all critical areas.
- Check glue board laid for the previous visit, if found glue board with trapped rat, we will replace with the new glue boards, and we will add more glue boards if the rat problem is causing more.
- Chemical use: KED-R Bromadiolone