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12 Rat Myths You Need to Stop Believing

You may see them in alleys, under a patio and even find them living in your attic. Rats can be found in nearly every corner of the world, yet there is so much misinformation out there regarding these rodents. Here are 12 rat myths you need to stop believing.

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Soda Can Kill Rats

There’s a common urban legend that says soda can kill a rat. Rats aren’t able to burp but there’s not enough carbonation to affect a rodent, says Tim Husen, a technical services manager with Orkin.

“There simply wouldn’t be enough carbonation to affect a rodent,” Husen said. “Using Coca-Cola or another soda as a control tactic is not a recommended strategy. Instead, you may unintentionally attract rodents to your home, as they are attracted to sweet, sugary substances as a food source.”

Caffeine is certainly harmful for rats, too, but a rat would have to drink near a full 12-ounce can of soda to have serious consequences.

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Major Cities Have a 1-to-1 Ratio For Rats to People

This plays off another thought that people are never more than 6 feet away from a rat, which is simply impossible. The myth comes from a study published in 1909 in England. W.R. Boelter conducted the study and came up with a guess that England had one rat per acre of cultivated land. England had 40 million acres of cultivated land and a population of 40 million at the time so it kind of fit that there’d be one rat to every person.

In 1949, Dave Davis studied the rat population of New York City and determined that there were really about 250,000 rats in the city—a ratio of one rat for every 36 people.

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Rats are Mean

Rats are rarely aggressive. While rats may get into squabbles with fellow rats over territory or food, rats rarely become aggressive toward humans, unless they are provoked.

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Rats Cause Disease

Despite what you’ve likely heard, rats didn’t cause the Bubonic plague. While rats can carry some diseases such as rabies, rats aren’t responsible for causing the plague, which killed millions of people worldwide over several centuries. Fleas infected with the plague spread it as they found different hosts.

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Rats Aren’t Good Pets

Of course, the concept of what makes a good pet is all a matter of opinion, but some people find rats make ideal pets because they are easy to care for and they are quick to train. Rats are also intelligent, take up little space and don’t require as much money for upkeep.

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Rats are Dirty

Rats can surely be a little dirty, but they aren’t any dirtier than other animals. If you have one as a pet, you’ll find that a rat’s personal hygiene is on par with that of a domesticated cat or dog.

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Rats Eat Anything and Everything

A rat isn’t a living garbage disposal. Rats are like any other animal in that they certainly have preferences when it comes to food. For those who keep rats as pets, rat nutrition is a hot topic as rats can suffer from diabetes and obesity, just like cats and dogs. Rats will eat grains, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables in the wild, as well as smaller animals and insects. They’ve been known to each trash, compost and pet food, too.

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Rats Grow as Large as Cats

Rats may seem large, but most rats rarely weigh more than a pound. On average, domestic cats weight 8 to 12 pounds.

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Rats Can’t Eat Cheese

There is a myth out there that rats can’t eat cheese, though it seems counterintuitive since mice seem so fond of it. Rats are like humans in that some of them are lactose intolerant. While some rats may not eat cheese, others may think of it as their favorite treat. Rats should never be fed blue cheese because the mold is toxic to them.

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Rats Smell Bad

It is true that male rats can be smellier than female rats, but rats clean themselves and their odor isn’t usually a problem. If you have a pet rat, just remember to clean its cage regularly.

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Rats Don’t Show Affection

Rats are social animals, so they can show affection just like many other domesticated animals. You may be surprised to find that pet rats will crawl up on your lap and chatter to show their love.

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Cats Control the Rat Population

While cats may be experts at keeping the mice population under control around your home, rats can put up too much of a fight for most cats. Plus, rats often hide in spots that aren’t accessible to cats, such as in sewers and in tight spaces under porches.

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