Rat Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Rats are a kind of animal found in most parts of the world. This lesson will teach you about rats, where they live, how to tell them apart from mice, what they eat, and some other cool facts you might not know about these animals.

What Is a Rat?

Imagine sitting in your room doing homework when you hear a scratching and thumping sound in your roof. At first, you think your ears are playing tricks on you, but then you hear it again. You look up into the vent on your ceiling and see two beady little eyes looking back at you. You have rats living in your attic!

Rats are rodents, which are small animals with sharp front teeth that gnaw. Rats have pointy noses, long, hairless tails and brown, gray, black or white fur, and they're known to chew through things like concrete cinder blocks and metal sheets. They can cause a lot of damage and are usually considered pests.

Rats have big, gnawing teeth.
Rat with Gnawing Teeth

Mouse or Rat: Telling the Difference

People often confuse rats with mice--after all, they both look very similar. However, rats are much larger than mice. While a mouses body is usually only about 3 inches long and has a tail the same length, a rat's body is typically 9-11 inches long and its tail is an additional 7-9 inches.

Rats also tend to have much longer legs than mice. Those legs are what help to make rats the acrobats of the animal world--they can plunge 50 feet without being injured. They can also jump 3 feet straight up like they have springs on their feet, and they can hop about 4 feet straight out like they're doing a long jump.

Where Do Rats Live?

No matter where you live, there are rats living around you, even if you don't always see them. Rats are great travelers and have spread to every continent on Earth. They live wherever people live, including the sewers of cities and towns, and even freezing Antarctica has rats. If you do see one, you can be sure that there are others lurking around, because they like hanging out with other rats and live in packs.

There are over 60 species of rats that live all over the world. One of the biggest known rats is called a Bosavi wooly rat and it lives in a rainforest in Papua New Guinea. It weighs more than 3 pounds and is about 32 inches long, or about the same length as a medium sized dog. Be glad that rat isn't living in your attic!

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