Friday, May 20, 2011

When rats take over

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 20 May 2011)

Let’s be honest, it is time to address the rat problem. With trash piling up in mounds all over Georgetown, can we expect anything less than for them to start taking over and trying to get rid of the rest of us?

One rat decided to shut down the electricity and make life miserable for a lot of people this past Wednesday.

I have never heard of a rat shutting down an entire city before, but hey, this one did. It is becoming more and more obvious, these rats mean business.

Therefore, I maintain it is time that we know exactly what we are up against with these rats who want to take over. Rats come in many shapes and sizes.

For example, there is the rodent type, like the one that took out GPL this week. There are also the human rats.

We have all met human rats in our lives – they are those squirrelly people with beady eyes just waiting for the right minute when our backs are turned to nibble away at our precious goods. 

Yes, it is most certainly time to learn more about rats and how to protect ourselves from them. I have done some research on the behaviour of rats to be better informed on the matter and I am more than willing to share this research with my readers.

This information could come in handy when dealing with these rats that want to take over. I will not list all of the rat behaviour research I found, but if you are dealing with a rat, you can find more information on

Why do rats hiss? “Hissing is usually a sign of distress and is given at times of stress. For example, a rat may hiss during a tense social interaction with another rat.”

In other words, if you make a rat mad, that rat may react by hissing at you. Be careful.

Why do adult rats chase each other, box, sidle, roll on their backs and squeak? When rats reach social maturity, male rats in particular, they “start to behave more aggressively toward each other.

They shift from harmless play fighting into more serious adult fighting. The consistent winner of such interactions imposes himself on the other members of the colony. Humans describe this as “becoming socially dominant.” Once a dominance hierarchy is established, it may remain stable for a long period of time.

Adult fighting involves contact and defense of the rump. If a rat manages to contact an opponent’s rump, he may try to nip or bite it. A rat tries to hide his rump from attack by running away.
He may also stand and face the aggressor and maintain whisker-to-whisker contact with him (called boxing), or by laying on the back to hide his rump.

As long as a rat keeps distance, or his whiskers, teeth or body between the attacker and his own rump, he has a higher chance of preventing an attack.

To counter the defensive boxing strategy, the attacker may drop to all fours and sidle forwards, and thus reach around and inflict a bite from the side. To counter the belly-up strategy, the attacker may lay perpendicularly on top of the supine rat and try to dig under him to gain access to the rump.”

This explains so much about the rats I have known in my life. It is obviously a good idea to know as much as possible about rat behaviour since we never know when we will have to deal with a rat. Here is another piece of important information.

Why do rats pee on each other? Rats mark each other to some extent. “For example, juveniles mark adults, females mark males, males mark females, dominant males mark subordinates and subordinates mark dominants and each other.

The copious urine marking by dominant males of subordinate rats is probably a feature of his dominance, rather than a cause of dominant status. Through fighting and other behavioral strategies, the dominant rat has won the ability to impose himself on others.

The dominant male can therefore crawl over everyone else and urine mark them with relative impunity. Subordinates cannot crawl over the dominant rat as frequently, but when they do manage to do so they deposit lots of urine on him.

Therefore, frequent urine marking of another rat is contingent on the ability to crawl over him. The ability to crawl over another rat depends on the rat’s status, and the rat’s status depends on the outcome of past aggressive interactions.

Copious and frequent urine marking by the dominant male of other rats is therefore not a cause of his dominance, but an indicator or a consequence of his dominant status.”

I am so glad I took the time to learn more about rat behaviour. It has certainly been enlightening. However, though they may sometimes be deceptively cute, do not be fooled, rats are dangerous and this rat problem should be taken very seriously. Rats are a hazard to your home and your health.

How does one go about getting rid of rats? Since it is vital that you do not give shelter to rats, first, and most important, block the rat’s access to your home. I am of the opinion that the best way to keep a rat out of your life is not to give any access in the first place.

This has always been the best course of action for me and has worked effectively for years. Do whatever is necessary to rid yourself of the rat. It is just too dangerous to let it linger in your home. If all else fails, adopt yourself a cat. I’m not sure why, but I have found that, in general, rats avoid me like the plague. Smart rats.

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