Rat Facts

“The Norway rat is also referred to as the brown rat, house rat, barn rat, sewer rat, gray rat, or wharf rat. The word ‘rat’ is generally used to describe these medium sized rodents with long thin tails, beady eyes, and odious looking teeth that send shivers down the spine.

The Norway rat, a stocky burrowing rodent who weighs an average of 1 pound and can grow up to 21 inches long, was unintentionally introduced into North America by settlers who arrived on ships from Europe around 1775. The Norway rat has abundantly spread throughout the lower 48 states. Norway rats live in close proximity to people in both rural and urban areas. They tend to find and make homes in and around residences, in basements, storage areas, stores, docks, and in sewers. On farms they may inhabit barns, granaries, livestock buildings/pens, silos, and kennels. They often burrow to make nests under structures on properties, beneath concrete slabs, along stream or pond banks, in garbage dumps, underneath animal pens/manure piles and at other locations where suitable food, water, and shelter is present.

Norway rats have physical capabilities that enable them to gain entry to structures by gnawing and chewing (their teeth grow on average 4.5-5.5 inches per year), climbing, jumping, swimming, and other tactics. They can fall 50 feet without being injured. They can tread water for days and even survive a flush down the toilet.

Norway rats will eat nearly any type of food; they will even eat their own feces, purely for the nutritional value. Food and waste items found in everyday household garbage offer a balanced diet also satisfying moisture needs.

Norway rats usually construct nests in underground burrows. Females may come into heat every 4 or 5 days, having live litters of 6 to 12 which are born 21 to 23 days after conception. They begin the cycle again within a day or two after a litter is born. The average female rat has 4 to 6 litters per year. Thus a pair of brown rats can produce as many as 2,000 descendants in one year’s time if left to breed unchecked. Rats mature sexually at 3 to 4 months, and have an average life span of two to three years. [Do the math, that’s a lot of rats!]

So in review: Rats are smart, cunning, easy to attract, reproducing demigods, and like Steven Segal hard to kill. ”

Source: Mid Atlantic TerrierClub, Amanda Truitt


Would you believe that a rat can:

  • squeeze through a pipe the width of a quarter
  • scale a brick wall, straight up
  • fall off a five-story building and land safely on its feet
  • rear up on its hind legs and box with its front paws
  • get flushed down a toilet and live
  • climb up a drainpipe into a toilet bowl
  • gnaw through bone, wood, a sheet of iron a half inch thick, or a slab of concrete four inches thick
  • “speak” to other rats 40-50 feet away with high-pitched sounds human ears cannot detect
  • paddle for 1/2 a mile in the ocean; rats love water! They also dive into streams to catch fish, using their tails to mimic worms.

(Facts about rats from the book “Oh, Rats! The Story Of Rats and People” by Albert Marrin.)

A few links with extensive information about our prey: