New Philadelphia, OH
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Rats are moderately sized, long-tailed rodents that resemble mice in many ways. One of the chief distinguishing characteristics of rats is their large size in comparison with mice. The most common and best-known type of rat are the black rat and the brown rat. These types of rats are known as Old World rats and are believed to have originated in Asia and are larger than most Old World Mice.
A group of rats may be referred to as a pack or a “mischief”. Male rats are known as bucks, and females that have not yet mated are called does. Pregnant female rats or parent females are called dams. Infant rats are known as kittens or pups. Most rats do not live longer than one year due to predation.
Rats are opportunistic creatures and survive by living off of humans. If they get into food supplies, they can cause significant losses. The rat is well-known for carrying a variety of pathogens, the most famous of which is Black Death. The rat itself is not responsible for causing the disease, but rather acts as the carrier of the rat flea. The rat flea preys on black rats living in European cities and during the epidemic outbreak of the Black Death during the Middle Ages, the rats transported the fleas to human environments. The fleas then bit the humans and transmitted the pathogen Yersinia pestis which was responsible for the actual Black Death infection.Rats can also cause toxoplasmosis, classic swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, and campylobacter infections.
Some rats may be kept as pets. These are usually variants of the brown or black rat species. Another species known as giant pouched rats have also been kept as pets. These animals behave differently than wild rats. The extent of their domestication depends on how many generations of the rats have been kept as pets. Pet rats are much calmer and less likely to bite than a wild mouse. They also have a higher tolerance for situations involving crowding. A pet rat carries about the same level of health risk as a pet cat or pet dog. Pet rats can be very friendly and trained to perform tricks.
Rats are commonly used in scientific studies to help scientists better understand genetic issues as well as diseases, and the effects that certain pharmacological agents have on the body. Brown rats are most commonly used as model organisms in scientific studies. These rats are highly intelligent, aggressive, and adaptable. Psychologically, the brown rat is very similar to humans. Lab rats have been extremely valuable in helping scientists in various genres learn more about learning and different psychological processes. Group behaviors and behaviors related to overcrowding have also been studied using rat populations in a laboratory setting. One study in 2007 demonstrated that rats have metacognition, which was a psychological ability that was only previously demonstrated to exist in humans or primates. Because rats have general intellect that rivals that of larger or more complex types of animals, they are often used in psychological studies.