Animals / Rodents

The Black Rat

Синонимы и названия на других языках

The ship rat, the roof rat, the house rat, the old English rat, the Alexandrine rat


Order: rodentia

Family: muridae

Subfamily: murinae

Genus: rattus

Species: rattus rattus 


Rats can be found all over the world except for the Antarctic. It is the dominant species in Europe and North America. They originated in south-east Asia, where they are particularly common.  A few hundred years ago development of navigation contributed to rats’ expansion throughout the world. Rats travelled with people by ships and got to India, Middle East and Africa and Europe, where they first appeared in the 16th century.

In Russia rats can be found everywhere, incl. Altai, Baikal region and Prymorye. But due to the harsh climate they didn’t move further north. In dry areas rats prefer to settle near people. In the absence of people they prefer damp environment. It is often said that in cities the number of rats approximately coincides with the number of inhabitants.

Due to different number of chromosomes, scientists were able to distinguish 4 main types of black rats: the Asian rat, the Ceylon rat, the Mauritius rat and the Oceanic rat. 

Внешний вид

It is a medium sized rat with large ears and a long tail (nearly always longer than the body).  The body length reaches 16-22 cm, and the tail length is around 19 cm. An adult rat weighs between 80 and 300 g. They can be black or brown, with a light belly. 


In the wild rats usually live in groups. Females are normally more aggressive than males. It is a nocturnal species. They are excellent climbers.

When a rat is scared or wants to socialize, it produces squeaks. 

Содержание и уход

Rats are active animals, so they need spacious multi-level cages with different accessories for climbing (hammocks, ladders, tunnels, ropes etc.)

As a bare minimum the cage should contain a water bottle, a food bowl and a litter box. For bedding you can use wood cuttings or any litter for rodents. It would be great to have a special area for bathing in the cage, rats love water.  You will have to clean the cage every day and disinfect it regularly. Once a rat is used to people, you should let it outside its cage under careful observation (rats can gnaw on furniture or other objects in your house). At times you can take your pet rat outdoors: fresh air is good for it. 


Rats are omnivore; they eat basically anything they see. In general they prefer plant feed with occasional insects or larvae, sometimes offal. Also they like animal protein; they hunt smaller rodents, destroy birds’ nests and sometimes they are even prone to cannibalism. Rats cannot stand starvation; they die after 3-4 days without food.

Usually it is very easy to feed a rat. In captivity it is best to feed rats with specialized commercial feed that contains all necessary nutrients and minerals. You can add to it small pieces of fruit, vegetables and greens. Rats love gnawing on things, so you can give them chicken bones. Their menu can also contain raw and cooked vegetables, some grain, apples, cheese, boiled eggs and white bread.

Rats have to drink about 50-60 ml of water daily.


Rats tend to gnaw and chew on everything they see.

Each specimen has its personality; they can be aggressive. 


Rats are prone to get viral, bacterial and fungal diseases that can occur due to contaminated food or water or through the contact with infected animals. Also diseases can be transmitted with the parasites’ bites.

Average life span in the wild is about 1 year; however in captivity black rats can live up to 4 years. 

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