What Does a Rat Look Like?

In an attempt to define what is obscenity, Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward wrote: “I know it when I see it.” Understanding that this article is on the subject of “what does a rat look like,” raising the way the U.S. Supreme Court has attempted to define what is and is not obscene material certainly (and understandably) may seem like a major disconnect. Understanding that to be a fair point, the adage of “I know it when I see it” actually has an application to the query about the looks of a rat. This article provides you with some essential guidance on what a rat looks like.

A Multitude of Species

The reason why a concise answer to what a rat looks like is a complicated affair stems from the fact that rats really aren’t “one thing.” There are a significant number of different rat species. Moreover, there are an array of other species in the rodent families that look very similar to rats.

The Rat Essentials

As will be discussed more fully shortly, rats come in many different derivations or species. With that said, there are some common physical attributes that are shared by all types of rats. These include:

  • All rats have incisors, teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives
  • Adult male rats weigh between 16 to 23 ounces
  • Adult female rats weigh between 12 to 16 ounces
  • On average, adult rats are between 9 to 11 inches long, not counting their tails
  • Rat tails tend to be about the same length as their bodies
  • Rat ears and tails tend to have very little fur
  • Rats have a 4-toed front footprint and a 5-toed back footprint
  • The fur of rats in the wild comes in a number of colors:
    • Brown
    • Black
    • Tan
    • Gray
    • White

The Most Common U.S. Rats

Understanding that there exists a wide array of different types of rats, far too many to specifically identify in any meaningful way in anything less than a book on the subject, we present some essential information about the physical appearance of the two most common types of rats found in the United States. These are:

Norway rat (also known as the brown rat or sewer rat)

Roof rat (also known as the black rat)

The Norway rat has the general physical attributes discussed a moment ago. In addition, a Norway rat normally has brown fur. When compared and contrasted with other rats, the Norway rat is set apart because it is a particularly round animal. Its tail tends to be a bit shorter than the length of its body. A Norway rat has brown fur.

The roof rat usually is slenderer than its Norway rat cousin. In addition, a roof rat tends to have a body and a tail that are both a bit longer than those of a Norway rat. A roof rat has black fur.

The Importance of Properly Identifying a Type of Rat

As you read through this examination of different types of rats, you may think this is merely some sort of academic presentation that doesn’t necessarily have any practical application. You may think that there is no real purpose for being able to identify one type of rat from another based on its physical appearance. In fact, there are a number of reasons why identifying a rat type is crucial.

First, when it comes to the prospect of a rat infestation in your home or business, or preventing one, what you do in this regard depends significantly on the type of rat inhabiting your area. Your best bet is to identify the type of rat you are dealing with based on what that rodent looks like.

As mentioned previously, Norway rats and roof rats are the most common rats in the United States. These rats each present unique issues when it comes to residential or commercial infestation. Norway rats gain entrance to a home or business via the ground floor or lower levels. On the other hand, roof rats (as their name indicates) garner access to a home or business through a roof.

Thus, if you identify a black rat in your home, you can be relatively certain that you are dealing with roof rats. On the other hand, if you spot a brown rat in your residence, you can be fairly certain you face a Norway rat infestation.

Knowing what type of rat you are dealing with is helpful in addressing issues that range from where the rodent is likely to have entered your home to the types of diseases a particular group of rats in your residence potentially might carry.

The variety of rats in the United States, as represented by the significant number of physical variations, bespeaks the need to consider hiring a professional to assist in identifying and addressing a rat issue in your home or business.