The Norway rat, also known as common rat and brown rat, is a vermin introduced in Britain in the early 18th century. The average specimen reaches up to 18 inches (45 cm), total length, although there have been reports of 27 inches (70 cm) Norwegian rats. It has a blunt nose with small eyes and ears. The Norway rat has a coarse, thick fur, usually black, grey or brown in colour. The underbelly of the rat is in lighter grey or brown. The tail is not covered in fur but in scaled skin. The average adult Norway rat weights 350g. Although there are frequent reports of one-metre-long Norway rats, they are either an exaggeration, or other species of rodents.
Albeit its name, Norway Rat does not originate from Norway. It was introduced in the Nordic country after the name Rattus Norvegicus was already popularised. Scientists speculate Norway rats originate somewhere in China or Eastern Mongolia. During the Middle Ages, they spread to other parts of the world.
The Norway rat is cosmopolitan and lives on every continent. Antarctica was declared rat-free in 2012, when the population of Norway rats on Rat island was eradicated. They were introduced to the island after a Japanese ship wrecked nearby. There are several other rat-free zones in the World—namely Iceland and Alberta, Canada.
As an omnivore, the Norway rat has a rich diet. It consists of, but is not limited to, cereals, seeds, grains, nuts, meat, pet food, eggs, dairy products, and even chocolate. There are just a few foods they avoid—raw beets, raw celery, and peaches. Rats get their food from both outdoors and indoors locations.
Urban tales of rats preying on cats and dogs are exaggerated. Although they are omnivores, they are not keen on hunting. Rats are scavengers and will attack only when starving. However, it is not unlikely for a rat to attack and potentially kill a dog or a cat in self-defence.
Rats are well-known disease vectors and carry numerous infectious pathogens. The list includes serious illnesses such as typhus, Weil’s disease, rat bite fever, Q fever and leptospirosis. They contaminate food and water sources with saliva, droppings and urine.
The disease most commonly associated with rats—plague—is not carried by Norway rats. It is transmitted by fleas leaving an infected black rat and attacking man. Black rats are now extinct in the UK but can be found throughout Europe. They were driven out of Britain by the Norway rat. Black rats also spread Hantaviruses.
However rats are one of the few mammals not known to spread rabies. Although there are incidental reports of rats infected by the disease, there are no known cases of rat-to-human rabies infection. Rats are also extremely resistant to the rabies virus.
Norway rats cause huge harm to world economy. They cause structural damage to building and can cause a fire by chewing on a cable. The can also destroy flood defences, bridges and security fences. Rats feed on wheat and rye. Tons of harvest are destroyed each year due to disease contamination, caused by them. They also infect domesticated animals.
Unlike spiders and insects, rats don’t hatch miniature eggs in tiny cracks in the wall, thus there’s a much smaller chance of a re-infestation. This means rat control must focus not only on exterminating the population but on preventing the re-entry of rodents inside your property. There are several different methods of rats control—poison, traps, cages and prevention.
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