Rodents (Rodentia) are a group of mammals that includes squirrels, dormice, mice, rats, gerbils, beavers, gophers, kangaroo rats, porcupines, pocket mice, springhares, and many others. There are more than 2000 species of rodents alive today, making them the most diverse of all mammal groups.
Rodents have teeth that are specialized for chewing and gnawing. They have one pair of incisors in each jaw (upper and lower) and a large gap (called a diastema) located between their incisors and molars.
When rat populations are large, a hierarchy develops within a burrow. Stronger individuals become dominant, while weaker ones are subordinate. Males no longer protect female burrows. When a female is estrous, several males mate with her sequentially, in the order of their social dominance.
Rats exhibit aggressive behavior when threatened. They may fight, chase, bite and box. Rats also display some behaviors such as sidling and belly-up defensive postures.
Rats dwell in cities, suburbs and rural areas. They are capable of thriving in human environments are therefore are considered a commensal rodent. Rats are known to travel great distances and are wary of unknown objects in their established foraging paths. This skepticism can make trapping a rat particularly difficult for a homeowner.
Rats are fairly opportunistic feeders. They will feed on a array of items from carcasses to fallen fruit. Human environments provide them an abundance of resources. Particular species of rat may have tendency for certain foods. Norway rats often prefer foods high in protein such as meat scraps or pet food. Roof rats usually prefer fruit, which is why people often refer to them as fruit rats. They may be attracted to areas with fruit tress.
When living near humans, the availability of foods will drive a rodent’s habits. They often will travel outdoors and indoors searching for nutrition. They can take advantage of many food sources such as garbage cans, open containers of food, pet food bowls, and they will even cannibalize their own dead. Homeowners should try to eliminate or minimize the abundance of rodent food sources as well as contacting a pest control professional.