October 2, 2019

At SenesTech, we devote a great deal of time and effort to sharing company news and providing information about our flagship rat birth control product, ContraPest. While we also share some biological information about rats in order to illustrate how and why ContraPest is so effective, we rarely focus on the rats themselves.

That’s why we’re shining the spotlight on them in our latest newsroom post. Check out these radical rat facts and discover details about rats you never imagined… and possibly never wanted to know in the first place.

Spring is Their Season

Granted, rats are out and about all year long, but as winter shifts to spring, rat activity increases, primarily with respect to reproduction. The reason behind this isn’t surprising. Warmer temperatures give rats one less thing to worry about. Rats are concerned with three essentials — food, water, and warmth. Springtime delivers all three in spades. Between April showers and rising mercury levels, spring provides a kind environment for rats.

And so do we. Humans also increase their activity as the weather warms and this leads to another rat-beneficial result: food. With more activity, we produce more waste. Think outdoor dining — whether at a restaurant or picnic-style. Better yet, just think of Templeton in Charlotte’s Web gorging himself on all the discarded food at the fair.

Totally Wacky, but True

Rats are ticklish. Research has revealed a specific area of a rat’s brain — the trunk of the somatosensory cortex (associated with physical touch) — that is the source of their ticklishness.
Specifically, rats are ticklish on their tails, stomachs, and backs.

How can the average, non-scientist tell that rats are ticklish? They let you know by either vocalizing at very high pitches or jumping around enthusiastically. Arguably even stranger is that a rat’s level of ticklishness is mood-dependent. Stressed rats won’t respond to a tickle fight, where happy ones will.

Fertile to a Fault

A single female rat can ovulate up to one dozen eggs every four days. 12 eggs approximately every four days potentially adds up to 1,095 eggs annually. This helps explain the fact that two rat’s descendants are able to reproduce up to 15,000 rats in a single year.

Kind of puts rat infestations into serious perspective. What’s more, since rats can reach sexual maturity in a mere two months, they don’t have long to wait before multiplying their numbers. On average, female rats live up to one year, producing anywhere between 3-6 litters during that time, featuring an approximate 5-12 pups per litter. Gestation is super speedy, averaging about three weeks, which also accounts for persistent rat populations.

Super Sniffers

You’ve probably heard that rats can’t see well. Their vision is best described as blurry and rats are seriously lacking in depth perception. However, their sense of smell is something to brag about. For instance, rats are adept at directional smell, meaning they can pinpoint where a smell is coming from with just a sniff or two.

In addition, rats feature a second smell organ: the vomeronasal organ (VNO), used primarily to detect pheromones and other chemical exchanges among animals. In fact, although dogs are revered for their heightened sense of smell, in a study designed to measure both rat and dog olfactory receptors, a whopping 1,493 rat genes compose their olfactory receptors compared to 1,094 in dogs.

Super fun fact: thanks to their sense of smell, rats have actually been trained to sniff out nearly undetectable traces of tuberculosis in human saliva. Ultimately, this provided an opportunity for early intervention and treatment for the afflicted patient.

The Nose Knows

Ever heard of olfactory bulbs? Critical parts of a rat’s brain that are actually located in the nose, these bulbs help rats distinguish odors, increase the sensitivity of odor detection, filter other odors in order to detect specific odors, and working with other brain functions on necessary modifications of these functions.

Without their olfactory bulbs, rats exhibit behavioral changes no unlike a human being diagnosed with depression.

Serious Squeeze Skills

One of the creepy factors that inspire fear of rats is their uncanny ability to squeeze through just about any opening. Of course, when it comes to these squeezing skills, you must remember that size matters. Smaller rats can obviously fit into smaller holes compared to their larger brethren.

But, size notwithstanding, rats are very flexible by nature and actually have a flexible rib cage, able to hinge at the base. Clearly, this allows for safe passage through some seriously small spaces.

Before even attempting to pass through a narrow opening, a rat will evaluate if it can actually fit. Relying on their whiskers to measure the size of the entry, it’s a green light if both the nose and whiskers can fit through. Once confirmed, the rest of a rat’s body can follow with no problem.

Swimming Suits Them

Although specific swimming skills are dependent on species, food sources, and geography, all rats are able to swim and can do so for up to three days without stopping. Using their back legs, rats paddle relying on their tails as a rudder, helping to steer them towards their destination. Rats will even take the plunge underwater and can hold their breath for up to three minutes. Some can swim up to one mile in open water, while others are game to traverse sewer lines, no matter the current.

Apologies in advance, but in areas of dense rat populations, roof and Norway rats have gained entry into residences and businesses via toilets. Just another reason to keep the lid closed.

They’re a Tough Sell

It’s tough to fool a species that is so skeptical by nature. In fact, rats will restrict themselves from consuming large quantities of food until they determine it’s safe. This natural behavior is known as bait shyness. They are wary of unknown food sources.

However, bait aversion is a learned behavior that follows when a rat ingests a food source (or poison) and then exhibits unusual behavior or negative effects. These observations result in rats avoiding similar food sources, which they will do for weeks or even up to months at a time.

An Iron Will

Rats have tough teeth, so tough in fact that they allow rats to chew through wood, metal, and even concrete. Because of this, rats are often cited as the culprits behind house fires, having chewed through electrical wires. Their biting pressure extends up to 7,000psi with a fierce bite rate of up to six per second.

These tough teeth are ever-growing, too, at a rate of 0.4mm daily. This is why rats grind their upper and lower teeth against each other regularly — to keep them shorter and super sharp. And did we mention strong?

Of all the mammals, rats have the hardest dental enamel. Mohs scale of scratch hardness indicates that rats’ incisors measure 5.5, which is harder than aluminum (2.75), copper (3.0), and even iron (4.0).

Interested in learning more about rats? Check out SenesTech’s online resources, rich in data and images about the realm of rats and the sound science keeping their numbers in check.