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General Information on the Rat Life Cycle

There are many different types of rats that can be found in the United States. Two of the most common types are the Norway rat and the roof rat, both of which tend to be found around populated areas. These rats are sometimes referred to as “Old World” rats because they were originally transported to North America on ships from Europe.

Despite having some different habits, the rat life cycle for both species is similar.

A nested interest

Rats are social animals. Most species of rats live in nests comprised of an alpha male, several females and the young rats. The dominant male will prevent other males from mating with his group of females, and watches out for the family.

Many rat families have multiple nest sites, and move between them depending on the availability of food and a good water source. Access to water is crucial for rats.

Depending on the type of rat, nest sites are located at a high or low elevation. Roof rats seek out locations in trees, shrubbery, attics or crawl spaces. Norway rats are more likely to be found on the ground floor, or below ground.

These rodents normally travel up to 300 feet from the nest in search of food and water and to patrol their territory. However, if food and water dry up, they will venture much farther to get what they need.

In a family way

A female rat will have six to 10 babies at one time. They are born blind and without fur. The gestation period for rats is quite short – around three weeks for most species. The young rats are weaned about three weeks later and are sexually mature at 3 months old.

Rats tend to mate close to where they were born, but will also move to new territory if the space is crowded.

How long do rats live?

The average rat in the wild will live for around one year, with female rats often outliving the males.

The rat lifespan may be shortened by predation. Common causes of death for a rat include vehicles, domestic cats and some dogs, winged animals such as hawks or owls, coyotes, foxes, weasels and snakes.

For urban rats, death often occurs due to various pest control methods. This includes use of traps, baits and other forms of rat control.

If you suspect you have rats in or near your home, it is best to call a pest management professional. Controlling a rat population requires a multi-step approach, and Terminix® Service Technicians are trained to know what methods will work best in your home. Call today for a free pest estimate.