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Eight Facts About Norway Rats

Posted February 20, 2013 4:35 p.m. EST

Norway rats are, for the most part, the rats that populate American cities. If you have ever lived next door to an excavation or demolition site in a city, you probably know these little guys all too well. Here are eight facts about Norway rats that might help you to prevent or cope with an infestation.

1. The scientific name for a Norway rat is Rattus norvegicus. They are commonly referred to as "rats", "brown rats", "sewer rats", and "wharf rats."

2. Norway rats are not really from Norway. The Norway rat, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is actually a native of Asia that arrived in England via Norwegian ships.

3. Norway rats do not have collapsible skeletons. The myth that Norway rats have collapsible skeletons is most likely based on their ability to squeeze through small holes. However, Norway rats have skeletons made out of bones and cartilage, just like other mammals. While young rats are often able to squeeze through half-inch holes, large and fat Norway rats cannot squeeze through such small holes.

4. Norway rats can be over a foot long. According to the Baltimore County municipal website, which is an excellent resource for Baltimore exterminators and remodeling contractors, Norway rats can grow 12 to 18 inches long, with five-to-eight-inch-long tails. Have you ever come face to face with an 18 inch rat? It sounds horrifying.

5. Norway rat droppings are a half inch long. One sign of an infestation of Norway rats, again according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, is rat droppings. A single rat can make 50 droppings per day. They describe the Norway rat droppings as being about half an inch long, and blunted.

6. To get rid of Norway rats, cut off their food supply. Norway rats love to eat garbage, and they are well nourished on it. Norway rats can chew through plastic garbage cans. Metal garbage cans are more resistant to being chewed through by rats. Rats are attracted to human food, especially bulk grains and meat. Seal up your pantry food supplies in Mason jars or metal tins to prevent Norway rat infestation. Norway rats are especially attracted to pet food, so it is vital to clean up spilled pet food, especially outside, as well as to store pet food in a metal bin.

7. Norway rats live in burrows. According to the Baltimore County municipal website, rats live in burrows that are 12 to 18 inches underground, and about 10 inches in diameter. You can usually tell where a Norway rat burrow is by the "rat run" leading to the burrow's opening. Unfortunately, Norway rats are very good at burrowing. They can burrow through cement foundations, causing major damage to buildings. Concrete barriers can be buried to prevent rats from burrowing under foundations.

8. Norway rats can climb. They are very good climbers. To prevent Norway rats from climbing buildings, trim vegetation and do not allow creeping plants, like ivy, to grow up the sides of the building. Install tree guards to prevent Norway rats from climbing trees, where they are known to harm birds' nests.

Have you had a problem with Norway rats that you were able to solve? Please share in the comments.

Chaya Kurtz writes for

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