Rats: Friends or Foes?

Posted: 6th October 2011 by admin in Situations

As a kid, I love holding newborn mice or rats on the palm of my hand. I was fascinated by their almost soft see-through skin and tiny pinkish paws. I could almost see their internal organs moving while I gently stroke their fragile heads with my finger! Wow! But to some, perhaps even for many, that would be gross, right?

Rats and mice are among the most common members of the order Rodentia; more popularly known as rodents. They are also known as the gnawing mammals.  Other members of the rodent family include the squirrel, woodchuck, prairie dog, chipmunk and the gopher. The hardworking beaver is the largest known rodent in the North American continent. The muskrat is another fur-bearing rodent.

Rodents are doubtless the most successful group of mammals. They outnumber all other mammals combined, and are found in nearly every area of the world and in all climates. Most rodents are terrestrial or living on land, living on trees, or burrowing underground forms, but the beaver and the muskrat live a semi-aquatic existence, and the flying squirrel, with its ability to glide easily from tree to tree, is well suited for its arboreal life.

Why have rodents been successful? Most of them as small, which allows them to live in environments not suitable to larger animals. They have a rapid rate of reproduction, which enables them to occupy new areas and adapt quickly to changing conditions. Rats can live up to 18 months, but most die before they are one year old. Rats are scavengers. Smell, taste, touch and sound help lead them to their food sources. There is very little specialization in the body build in rodents. All have strong, chisel-shaped teeth. These teeth have sharp edges that become even sharper with every use, because the front edge is harder than the back edge, causing the biting surface to wear at an angle. The forelimbs of the rodents are adapted for running, climbing, and for getting their food.

In some Asian countries, some variety of rats is purposely caught to be cooked and eaten. In the Philippines, for example, field rats are a delicacy for the local residents. White mice, on the other hand are either bought as pets, or also used in laboratories to test new drugs and for other experiments worldwide.

Rats are said to be shy, intelligent, nocturnal rodents that seek food, water, shelter and safety in our homes. They have an excellent sense of taste and, get this, have a good memory! A rat can identify certain substances. including rat poison, after just a tiny taste of it! In many cases rats don’t live inside a house but visit only during their active hours at night. An adult rat can squeeze into a house through a hole on the wall, window, door, floor or ceiling as small as the size of a quarter. Because of that, eliminating these destructive creatures requires two way strategies: catching and killing them, and preventing them from entering your home.

Just how does one keep these pesky rodents out of their house?  Well, first of all, block the rat’s access to your home by either filling all cracks and holes both inside and outside of your house using metal screen or cement, or nailing a small piece of wood on these ‘openings’. You can also buy rat ready bait granules and put about a teaspoon of these on a small saucer and place each saucer at places where you usually see rats. Before doing this, make sure that, if you have a pet, put it in his cage, chain it up or keep it way beyond his reach. Children too must not be able to get hold of these saucers with rat poison. Rat tracking powder can also be by sprinkling a small amount just outside the cracks and holes both inside and outside your home. Again, make sure that your pet and children can’t reach these places. Lastly, there is the also the rat traps with food baits on them that quickly snaps on the rat once it is touched.

Rats are also known to be excellent climbers and can really jump a fair distance. Even openings that are way above the ground certainly need to be blocked. Any relatively tall plant on your home may make a perfect ladder for a rat to climb up the side of your house. Removal of shrub, ivy and tree branches is important for rodent control.

So, there you have it. Whether you like rats or not, at least now, you’ve gotten to know more of these amazing furry creatures.