Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Year Of The Rat: Furry Creatures Are Misunderstood, Vet Says

Date:
January 30, 2008
Source:
Texas A&M University
Summary:
It's the Chinese Year of the Rat, and if there's ever been an animal that needed a total image makeover, it's the rat. Many people loathe rats and associate them with disease and filth -- hardly a four-star recommendation for the furry creatures. But the truth is, they are highly intelligent animals, have been amazingly beneficial in medicine and can be very affectionate pets, says a veterinarian and rat expert.

Rats are highly intelligent animals, have been amazingly beneficial in medicine and can be very affectionate pets.
Credit: iStockphoto/Oleg Kozlov

It’s the Chinese Year of the Rat, and if there’s ever been an animal that needed a total image makeover, it’s the rat.

Many people loathe rats and associate them with disease and filth – hardly a four-star recommendation for the furry creatures. But the truth is, they are highly intelligent animals, have been amazingly beneficial in medicine and can be very affectionate pets, says a Texas A&M University veterinarian and rat expert.

Dr. Kristina Kalivoda, a small animal instructor in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, believes rats are among the most misunderstood of all animals and are not the horror from the sewer people tend to think they are.

“Rats are very smart and are known for their problem-solving skills,” says Kalivoda, an admitted rat fan.

“Many people believe they are nasty, filthy creatures, and that’s not true at all. In fact, rats wash themselves several times a day, about as often as most cats.”

The name itself poses a rat problem.

Rats are rodents, and rodent comes from the Latin word meaning “to gnaw.” Rats do like to chew and they are constantly searching for food. They tend to live where humans live for two reasons – food and shelter.

They have been parodied by Hollywood – who can forget James Cagney’s immortal line, “You dirty rat!” – while last year’s hit film Ratatouille showed the humorous side of the creatures, and Disney’s Mickey Mouse has been appealing for decades, as have Tom and Jerry.

Comedian David Letterman often jokes about New York City’s countless rats, bragging that “our rats can whip your honor students.”

Some rat facts include:

  • Their lifespan is between 1-3 years;
  • They have no gallbladder;
  • Rats have a bellybutton;
  • Rats can’t vomit;
  • They are prolific breeders: A pair of rats can produce 15,000 descendants in their lifetime, and female rats spend almost their entire lives pregnant;
  • Rat teeth are incredibly strong and can chew through walls, plumbing and even concrete.
  • Rats come in different colors such as silver, blond, grey, black and albino. Some have short ears and some have floppy ears;
  • The largest rat, the African rat, can be 3 feet in length – about the size of a small dog;
  • Rats are expert swimmers;
  • Rats can laugh and do so with a high chirping sound when amused.

“Rats are very smart and they can figure out things quickly,” Kalivoda adds. “If you put them in a maze, they can find their way out in no time at all. They are social creatures and can be very affectionate. They are also easily trained and many can do tricks.”

The difference between a rat and a mouse, Kalivoda explains, is size. Rats are much larger than mice, often three to four times as large, and mice don’t live as long as rats.

Despite their frisky mannerisms, many rats have internal health issues, mainly cancerous tumors. Kalivoda says rats often develop mammary tumors or other cancers, and rats also frequently suffer from respiratory illnesses.

But their benefits in medicine have been phenomenal. In research laboratories around the world, rats have contributed to more cures than any other animal, and in that regard, have no doubt saved millions of lives.

“In my opinion, rats do a get a bad rap,” Kalivoda believes.

“I can tell you firsthand that rats can make great, fun pets. A lot of people have rats as pets, and they will tell you they’re the best pets they’ve ever had.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Texas A&M University. "Year Of The Rat: Furry Creatures Are Misunderstood, Vet Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124202633.htm>.
Texas A&M University. (2008, January 30). Year Of The Rat: Furry Creatures Are Misunderstood, Vet Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124202633.htm
Texas A&M University. "Year Of The Rat: Furry Creatures Are Misunderstood, Vet Says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124202633.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins