It is the job of a pest control professional to know their enemy, and none of their enemies are more difficult or more rewarding to get to know than rats. Rats are in fact very intelligent: they have been tamed and domesticated, and ‘fancy rats’ are kept as much-loved household pets the world over. Wild urban rats, however, are not like those sleek little companions. They’re bigger and rougher and meaner, they carry disease and parasites, and they’re incredibly unhygienic to have around. But what else is interesting or useful to know about them?
Rats Are Friendly, Loving, Social Animals
A rat can very quickly learn to distinguish between different humans, and form
bonds with humans who are kind to them in much the same way that they will form
a bond with another rat. Tame rats will almost never bite a human, particularly
not one they know: like dogs they practice bite inhibition, which is indicative
of a genuine and conscious desire not to cause pain to the human or rat in
question. They get lonely if they’re alone for too long, and actively seek out
the company of other rats (or, in the case of tame rats, humans). While there
are valid reasons to call in pest control if they are living uninvited in your
home, they are by no means all bad.
Fancy Rats Are Tamed More Than Bred
Domesticated dogs were bred from grey wolves, but they’re now a distinct
subspecies – Canis lupus familiaris rather than Canis lupus lupus. In
domesticated cats, this process has gone even further; the cat asleep on your
sofa belongs to Felis catus, while even their closest wild relatives are Felis
silvestrus and plenty of other common non-domesticated cats are not Felis at
all. Rats, however, have not been subject to this process. The rats people keep
as pets are Rattus norvegicus, just like the rats that infest their homes
without their permission. The offspring of a tame rat will be easier to tame
than those of an untamed one and many lines have been bred for specific markings,
but they are essentially exactly the same animal.
You Can Train A Rat To Save Human Lives
There are plenty of working rats in the world, just as there are dogs. You can
train a rat to detect landmines, for example, and alert you to their presence
without detonating them. There are rats that can detect diseases by smell, and
these rats are working in medical facilities helping the advance of science. Police in the Netherlands use rats to sniff
out drugs and explosives instead of dogs, because they find them easier to
train for it. They can identify damaging muscle spasms in the disabled, serve
as therapy animals for damaged children, and even help to lay cables and wires
in old buildings. Not all rats require pest control services.
Wild Rats Are Usually Very Shy Indeed
It’s a myth that wild rats are big and bold and liable to run squeaking and roughshod all through your home. Untamed rats hide from humans as much as possible, only make that squeaking noise when they’re in pain or other serious distress, and by and large just want to keep out of your way. This is a source of frustration to some pest control professionals, who occasionally have trouble locating them!