Rats: Character Traits and Facts

Behavior and Prevention

Rats are medium sized rodents (non-flying mammal) whose origins can be traced back nearly 56 million years ago. Rats are a diverse species but share a common feature: single paired jaw incisors and large jaw. They are active all year round and mate up to four times a year (average litter size of 8, peaking in summer and autumn). Particularly, during the colder months is when rats will enter various types of structures to seek warmth and food. It is widely known that rats live in densely populated areas, but this varies depending on climate, living conditions and other factors. If their nest is where a concentrated food supply is available, rats will often stay in that area for extended amount of time. New York City is susceptible to rat infestation due to the aging infrastructure, high moisture, sewers, and alleyways. There is a higher rate of survival in a mild climate.

The most problematic and prevalent to our area are the Norway Rat and Roof Rat. Norway Rats, or sewer rats, are stocky rodents that are larger than Roof Rats. They are known to burrow in order to create shelter, store food, and protect themselves from environmental hazards. Rats can be found beneath building foundations, rubbish, wood piles, garbage and most areas such as gardens and fields. They invade buildings and remains on ground floor and in basements. Roof Rats, or black rats, are slightly smaller than Norway rats. They are agile climbers residing above ground in shrubs, trees, and in dense vegetation like ivy, for example. People don’t often see rats, but signs are easy to detect. Rats are most often found in enclosed or elevated spaces such as attics, walls, ceilings, and cabinets.

Some interesting facts about rats: they have poor vision and cannot see in color. They will sometimes wag their head from side to side, using motion to get a better look at what’s in front of them. A group of rats is known as a “mischeif.” Rats will sometimes lay on their back and “sweat” through their feet to regulate their body temperature. They are omnivores and tend to feed on trash as well as livestock. Rats are foragers, stocking up of fruit, grain and other plant material. They are primarily nocturnal and social.