We've searched high and low for 10 fun facts about rats that will have you squeaking anew!
Folks, Christmas might be over but it’s time to say hello to the year of the rat and welcome a new lunar cycle! If you’ve been busy scurrying about setting plans in motion, like where to feast as a family for reunion dinners or where to get some snazzy new threads for the kiddos this Chinese New Year, take a breather and nibble on these fun facts about rats instead.
1. The rat race
Have you ever heard about the popular story of the Chinese zodiac race? It’s the one where the opportunistic rat wins by hopping off the back of the hard-working ox and races straight to the finish line. But did you know about the hidden tale between the rat and the cat? The rat and cat were once the best of companions… However, that all changed on the day of the Jade Emperor’s zodiac race. The cat had requested to be woken up from his nap prior to the race, but instead of doing so, the cunning rat simply snuck off in pursuit of victory. Waking only after the race was over, the cat was furious and swore to despise rat forever. Maybe that’s why your pet cat is bent on chasing anything and everything that looks like a rat…
2. Rats can laugh
Rats have the ability to experience joy and laugh while socialising – they do so by emitting a high-pitched chirping sound. Isn’t that cute? Definitely a strong point for rats as pets… if you’re keen on getting one!
3. A beloved rat was an inspiration for this popular character
Sure, mice and rats may be totally different species but hey, tomay-to, tomah-to. (Also, did you forget we’re huge Disney fans here at HoneyKids HQ? Even for Mickey!) Well, in case you didn’t know, Disney’s Mickey Mouse has been bringing joy to kids and adults for a total of nine decades, having just turned 91 earlier this November. This iconic character was inspired by the pet mouse Walt Disney had as a child (Walt Disney later lent his voice to the character in its the early beginnings!). Mickey Mouse was also the first cartoon character to ever speak, and its first words were “Hot dogs!” By Jove, a fun fact indeed!
4. Rats’ teeth grow constantly
Rats (and mice) are recognised for their constant chewing and are known for gnawing through just about anything and everything, from lead, plastic and cinder blocks to wood and aluminium sheeting. The list goes on, and suitably so – because their teeth are constantly growing and need to be worn down before it gets too difficult for them to eat. A little similar to the kiddos when they’re teething, if you ask us!
5. Rats were once much larger in size
Well, here’s a fun fact you might not know: Earth was once home to the largest rats in the world, with the largest weighing an estimated five kilograms – the size of a small dog! Not only that, researchers have identified seven different species of giant rat from fossilised remains on East Timor from some 40,000 years ago. Imagine seeing a huge rat like that in your neighbourhood – we’ll pass, thank you very much!
6. Rats are (pretty) similar to humans
Ever wondered why scientists frequently use rats and mice for scientific research? Besides having similar genetic, biological and behavioural characteristics to humans, a recent study from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience revealed that rats use the same brain region we use to empathise with others. It’s an interactive process where emotional cues are exchanged and aligned, a factor that contributes to a rat’s amazing ability to avoid danger. Here’s the really interesting bit – their ability to empathise has to be learned, just like how it’s easier for us to empathise with others when we’re able to match our experiences to the person we’re connecting with. Cool!
7. Rats are not the pests you might think
Rats haven’t had a good rep despite the bevvy of beloved anthropomorphic cartoon characters. Well, it isn’t surprising given their track record as well-known carriers of diseases. Though they’ve contributed to the spread of more than 35 diseases such as the bubonic plague and typhus, contrary to prior belief, scientists have recently determined gerbils to be the real culprits responsible for the 14th century’s deadly Black Death, as they were more likely to flourish in the wet weather conditions then. Shocking, we know.
8. Rats inspired this author to write a well-beloved classic
Ever heard of the classic American novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck? The author chose this title for his book after reading a poem called ‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns, in which the poet regrets unintentionally destroying a mouse’s nest. The title alludes that the most vulnerable of us are just as fragile and easily displaced as mice… A good and essential read, we think!
9. Rats taste like rabbit
This is not for the fainthearted, but yes, rats do taste like rabbit. Rat meat is proudly served in many communities around the world, despite the general revulsion across most of the globe. The Adi tribe, a village in the hills of north-east India, celebrates Unying-Aran, a yearly festival that features the rat as a culinary centrepiece. One of the tribe’s favourite dish is a stew called bule-bulak oying, composed of the rat’s stomach, intestines, liver, tail and more, all boiled together with salt, chilli and ginger. Bon appetit!
10. Rats can swim
Who knew these rodents had aquatic abilities? Some rat species have been noted to be able to swim over a mile, tread water for up to three days, and hold their breath for three minutes… meaning they can make their way up your pipes, and surprise you in your toilet or your kitchen a la Ratatouille. Here’s hoping they don’t this coming Year of the Rat!