Should you be worried about giant rats?

Posted on the 13th July 2020

Rats have been getting a lot of bad press recently. Stories have been circulating about ‘giant’ rats, cannibal rats and rat ‘invasions’. These are often exaggerated and prey on people’s deeply held fears of rats.

Various international stories have reported rats eating each other due to changes in their normal food sources. While this is naturally distressing to read, this is not a sinister behaviour that is unique to rats. Cannibalism has been observed in over 1300 different species, and is not uncommon in the animal kingdom. Stress and sudden changes to food supplies (due to COVID 19) could be causing an increase in this behaviour.

Rats are not the most popular animals with some people, and have historically been demonised. Sadly, this has contributed to immeasurable harm to rats. No one knows how many intelligent and inquisitive rats are killed each year with poisons such as anticoagulants, which cause an inhumane, slow and painful death. Liberal use of rodenticides has also caused suffering to other animals and humans, including young children.  Studies from around the world have found these poisons in the bodies of non-target species. This can not only poison those animals, but also any that eat them, such as birds of prey. While perceived issues caused by rats seem to make headlines, the catastrophic damage done by humans trying to kill rats doesn’t seem to make the news nearly as often.

It is important to note that scare stories are not always as they seem. A BBC article shows how photography has been used to distort images of rats to make them look bigger than they actually are. This distortion can feed fears of rats, and convince people that issues with rats are (literally) bigger than they seem.

Rats are sweet and intelligent animals – just ask anyone with a pet rat! Their caregivers describe how they like being tickled, played with and can even be trained –  just like dogs. Many recent stories quote ‘pest control experts’, who likely benefit from people being more afraid of rats.

Here are some useful resources to help you find out more about rats. Rachie’s Ratirement Home shares lots of photos on their social media of adorable rats in their care. The RSPCA and PETA also have pages with facts and myths about rats, which are well worth a read.

Even if you are afraid of rats and are unhappy with their presence, there is no need to kill them to address any issues you have. Our humane deterrence sheets provide detailed advice on how to humanely resolve conflicts with rats. There really is no need for ineffective and cruel poisons and other lethal methods.

All animals deserve to be treated with compassion, so next time you read something negative about any wildlife, think critically about how the animals are being portrayed.

Download our mice and rats humane deterrence advice sheet

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