In this business you spend a lot of time talking to people about rats and their experiences with them and just like talking to a fisherman on the bank, sooner or later a pair of hands and some wide eyes get used to explain to you just how big this animal was.
Just like fisherman we’ve noticed that a lot of exaggeration goes on.
There’s something about the thought of massive rats that seems to grab people’s fascination – as you know certain medias regularly run stories headed along this theme as it universally grabs people’s attention in the same way that ‘shark attack’ does.
If you spend all day shoving cameras up and down drainage and lifting manholes like our surveyors do then you regularly bump into rats and we probably see more in a week then most people see in a lifetime.
So how big do they get?
Well pretty big on occasion but nothing close to what the media would have you believe.
When you see a big rat its almost certainly going to be a male – they can go up to 800g in weight versus 500g for a female.
That’s nearly 2lbs in old money (or for the fishermen out there).Given that the average large can of lager weighs 500g, you get a feel for what it would feel like if you picked an 800g rat up – quite a handful.
Rats this size have tails the same thickness of a man’s little finger and eyes the size of garden peas.
Yes we’ve seen them and when we do they pretty much fill up the inside of a 6” waste pipe.
However its still relatively rare and we think its down to the fact that rats simply don’t typically live long enough to have time to get big.
Firstly they don’t live very long anyway in the wild – you are looking at 12-18 months tops.
Given its 7 months just to get fully grown, then in reality most rats only have another 5-11 months to go beyond ‘normal adult’.
The rats life is usually a competitive one as they co-evolve in large numbers usually so they will have to regularly fight for resources – food, territories, shelter and access to mates.
They won’t always win at this and will suffer injuries during the process so many rats simply die young through disease, injuries and infections & murder.
They are also something very close to the bottom of the food chain too so foxes, cats, dogs and humans also all play their part in reducing life expectancy.
Given rats will only usually eat around 20g of food in a day and generally have a very active lifestyle, the odds are against them in terms of achieving gigantism.
The other consideration is that it isn’t really in the rats interest to become massive.
These creatures need to be able to climb, jump, travel large distances, creep about un-noticed and squeeze through small holes to find food and escape trouble.
If you morph into a sumo wrestler then none of these requirements are that achievable anymore and in rat-world most likely you would starve, get run over by a car, stuck in a wheelie bin or swallowed by a fox.
Sure some genetic freaks will pop up from time to time but in the main most of the rats we see are in that 300-500g bracket.
So not really too much to be scared of.
But do show respect for rats of any size to incur you massive cost by shredding your fixed electrical and your plastic plumb ware causing leaks, floods and fires.
Do be amazed out how rats of any size can generate powerful & unpleasant malodours making your house smell permanently like a monkey cage.
Understand that rats of any size will contaminate foods & food preparation surfaces with their constant urination and 40 droppings a day.
Respect that they readily transmit diseases such as Salmonella, E Coli, Weils disease and a host of other nasties that still kill people every year.