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Kangaroo Rat Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: April Gwen Ellsworth

April has a master's degree in psychology and has experience teaching special populations from preschoolers to adults.

It jumps like a kangaroo and looks like a rat, but isn't related to either one of them. Find out more interesting facts about the desert kangaroo rat, including why it never has to drink water, by reading on.

Where Do We Find Kangaroo Rats?

The kangaroo rat lives in deserts, where it is hot and dry most of the time, but it has a special way of handling this. This small mammal never has to drink water because it gets all the water it needs from the seeds it eats. You can find kangaroo rats in the deserts of California, Arizona, Nevada, Canada, and Mexico.

What Does the Kangaroo Rat Look Like?

Using its tail, which is longer than its body, the kangaroo rat jumps up to nine feet in one leap, darting left and right to avoid predators. This little rodent is only 3 ½ to 5 ½ inches long, which would fit very easily into your hand. It has big eyes and small ears that hear so well it can even tell when a silent owl is swooping in to catch it.

The kangaroo rat's sandy brown hair blends in well with its environment, making it harder for predators to see it. It has a white belly and its tail has a white, fluffy tip. Its back feet are large, helping it to hop around, and it uses its short front paws for digging and eating seeds, which are its favorite food.

The kangaroo rat has big eyes and a tuft of white fur at the end of its long tail.
tail tuft

What Does the Kangaroo Rat Eat?

Besides seeds, the kangaroo rat also eats mesquite beans, which come from mesquite trees that often grow in deserts. Sometimes the kangaroo rat also eats green plants and insects.

When you go to the grocery store, what do you put your food in to carry it home? Well, the kangaroo rat doesn't have a bag for its seeds, but it does have a handy pocket built right into its cheek. It can store seeds there for weeks while it's looking for a place to make its home.

The kangaroo rat has large back feet for jumping and small front feet for digging and eating.

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