The Common Rat (Rattus Norvegicus)
Rats are medium sized long tailed brown coloured rodents and are typically distinguished from mice by their size. Rats are generally slender with a pointed head, large eyes, and prominent, thinly furred ears. They have moderately long legs and long, sharp claws. The bald soles of their narrow hind feet possess fleshy pads of variable size. The body size of rates can vary between approximately 4 – 7 inches in length.
Rats have 3 – 6 litters a year and their life span is approximately a year. Litter size is between 8 and 10. They have a large appetite and can consume up to a tenth of their body weight per day.
Rat bites and scratches can result in disease and rat-bite fever. Rat urine is responsible for the spread of leptospirosis, which can result in liver and kidney damage. It can also be contracted through handling or inhalation of scat. Complications include renal and liver failure, as well as cardiovascular problems.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), a viral infectious disease, is transmitted through the saliva and urine of rats. Some individuals experience long-term effects of lymphocytic choriomeningitis, while others experience only temporary discomfort.
One of the most historically dangerous rat-borne diseases is the bubonic plague, also called “Black Plague,” and its variants. Transfer occurs when fleas from the rats bite human beings. Fleas transported on rats are considered responsible for this plague during the Middle Ages, which killed millions. From the transmission of bubonic plague to typhus and hantavirus, rat infestations can prove harmful to human health.
Rats also are a potential source of allergens. Their droppings, dander and shed hair can cause people to sneeze and experience other allergic reactions. Furthermore rats can bite through cables, boxes and anything else in their attempt to get at food.