Introduction: The Rat
Rats are medium sized, long-tailed rodents originating in Asia
. They are distinct from mice, easily recognized by their relatively bigger size. There are many different subspecies, such as the Norway rat (Rattus norvegcus
) or the roof rat (Rattus rattus
). Their populations can expand exponentially – if unchecked, one pair can produce six to twelve young in twenty one days. Their sexual maturity is reached at three months. Assuming suitable food, water and shelter, a single pair of rats is able to multiply into more than a six hundred forty rats in one, single year. They have been often used as subjects of scientific research mostly because of their display of their substantial ability to learn. They are considered an actively prosocial species. Currently, they have been spread throughout the Earth with the only rat-free remaining continent being Antarctica, due to its severe for rat survival living conditions and climate.
There have been many different associations with the rat in all the many cultures around the world. In European cultures, for example, associations with the rat generally have a pretty negative tone. In Asia, on the flip side, the rat is the first of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac
with people born under that sign possessing positive qualities such as intelligence, ambition and creativity. Notably, in Indian tradition, rats are seen as the vehicle of Ganesha
Human understanding is very muddled when it comes to rats and there are many myths circulating the widespread rodent. For example, one such myth concerns their potential for size: While it is true that many species are able to grow very large, they are in no way anything close to catlike in size – a large rat weights typically around three pounds whereas most domesticated cats weight around eight to ten pounds on average.
Another myth is how rat populations can supposedly effectively be controlled by cats. Healthy adult rats are often too big for cats to manageably oppose, with a cat’s interest in hunting a rat greatly depending on the individual. Moreover, rats tend to escape to confined spaces
cats simply cannot access.
Another myth concerns how one should best approach rat baiting. While traditionalists might think that cheese
would be the ideal rat bait, there are a lot more effective foods and substances to bait them with – such as peanut butter, meat, chocolate or dried fruit.
What is certainly true, though, is that when rats do make themselves at home, their inhabited space tends to rapidly become decidedly unhealthy
. They are able to pass on multiple diseases to other species, both directly and indirectly – through infected fleas or mites. They are also able to spread disease by biting people or contaminating food and water through their fur, urine and dropping.
Are Rats Nocturnal?
A big question is whether rats are nocturnal or not – and whether seeing them on daytime is a sign of an infestation or disease. The short answer is that rats are usually nocturnal. They are usually seen during daylight hours when their populations have greatly expanded. A major exception would be the brown rat
, a subtype of the species that is active during both day and night. In most normal situations, what typically occurs is that in times of rat overpopulation juvenile rats are pressed to seek food during the day. Therefore one should safely assume that seeing a rat in daylight is a sign of a sudden increase in their numbers
As for why rats have evolved to be nocturnal there are sound survival reasons for them to be so. The answer is two-fold. One the one hand under the cover of darkness they are much safer against danger as they are hidden from a great number of their natural predators. Waking up at night, therefore, works as natural protection against danger. On the other hand, at night, it is much easier for rats to find prey and food. Their great sense of smell and sight works great during the night giving them a significant advantage over their competition.
Rats, even domesticated ones, sleep during the majority of the day for up to fifteen hours, so that they wake up energized during the night. Under night’s camouflage they are able to roam around more safely as fewer predators are about. Despite lots of them living in urban environments, they are still in tune with their nature and thus tend to stick to this schedule.
Keep in mind that rats are considered very social animals by experts and thus, it is possible for them to wake up during the day in order to socialize. Should this happen, it is very likely that they will still stay awake during the night. So, should you happen to wake your domesticated rat during the day, don’t feel too worried as they are likely to grab enough sleep during the quiet hours of the clock – and still stay up for you in order to play with you
To summarize, rats are a widespread rodent species people are able to encounter pretty much anywhere, from the countryside to a city’s sewers, in abandoned buildings or dirty places. They are often domesticated, but they mostly roam around wild. Their staggering reproduction rate safely allows them to survive most things hostile to their health – aggressive cats included. There are many lasting myths circulating this animal, and hopefully this article dispelled some of them.
As on whether rats are nocturnal or not, the correct is answer is: Mostly. With the exception of the brown rat, most rat species do sleep during the day and wake up during the night where there are fewer predators hunting them. Their sleeping schedule, however, is malleable. Due to their social nature, they are able to wake up during the day to play with their human masters and at times of great hunger, mainly in cases of significant overpopulation, their juvenile members wake up during daytime in order to search for adequate sources of food to sustain them.