Do Rats Carry Disease? Can Rats Climb Up through the Toilet? Can Rats be Pets?

Urban folklore would have us believe that we’re never farther than a few feet from a rat. The thought is enough to make your skin crawl, but are there really that many rats around us?

Why are rats so reviled? Not everyone hates rats. The Jainist religious sect South Asia honors all life, even that of a rat. People love their pet rats. Your weird friend, you know which one, even likes wild rats. Of course, that might change when he contracts bubonic plague.

Beyond that, the only creatures that like rats are rat predators. The same animal lover who would feed and care for stray dogs would likely pay an exterminator good money to dispose of stray rats. Wild rats carry diseases and filth, eat unspeakable things, are very difficult to kill, can grow to an enormous size, and run in large packs that could overwhelm any human. To the majority of people, rats are the stuff of nightmares, as Winston Smith finds in George Orwell’s 1984.

So just how close to us are they? Do you spend a lot of time in the alleys of a large city’s slums, cuddled up next to a garbage can, drinking in the smell of fermenting everything? Do you often seek shelter in the cool, tranquil comfort of your favorite sewer pipe? Do you spend Idle afternoons sifting through that landfill you love so well. in search of rare treasures? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’ve been in real close proximity to rats. Then again, if these are your preferred haunts, you know that already.

For your safety, you might want to peruse the February 13th, 1998, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In it you’ll find an article that describes a couple of bona fide cases of rat-bite fever.

Then we’ll just avoid those places? Unfortunately, rats aren’t picky about where they live. Some estimates say there is one rat per US resident. This is hard to confirm because vermin don’t answer the census. But suppose there are that many. They’d be concentrated in big cities, where there’s also a lot of food and places to hide and scurry. Any poorly secured storage of food, either fresh or discarded, will attract them. People living in immaculate suburban neighborhoods probably don’t have a homey woodpile or trash heap in their backyards, but that’s not to say rats don’t roam idyllic family neighborhoods.

What should you do if you encounter a rat? The number of rats reported to health officials in the suburbs has been steadily increasing and it’s now common for municipalities to offer some sort of Rat Patrol to assist citizens in the fight against these critters. Have you heard the horror stories about rats that get into residential toilets after swimming up through sewer pipes? I’d like to say that those are also urban folklore, but they’re not.

Rat Facts
Number 1
Rats can live from 2 to 7 years. They rarely reach the upper end of that range

Number 2
Rats have lousy eyesight, but they make up for it with their acute senses of smell and hearing.

Number 3
A single female rat can birth more than 60 Offspring per year.

Number 4
Rats keep their teeth sharp partly by grinding them. They develop a chiseled edge with the beveling in back.

Number 5
Rats use their tails somewhat like monkeys do, for balance and gripping on narrow perches.

Number 6
According to some estimates, rats destroy a fifth of the food that people produce each year.

Number 7
Rats aren’t a kosher food (permitted food for observant Jews), nor are they halal (edible by Muslims). Nonetheless, throughout history rats have been a last-resort food source during many sieges and famines.

rats in the trash

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