The term "rat" generally refers to one of two species: the black rat (Rattus rattus), which is also known as the gray rat, roof rat or climbing rat, and the Norway rat (Rattus Norvegicus), which is also known as the barn rat, brown rat, sewer rat or wharf rat.

Rats are omnivorous and adaptable animals which can be found in every part of the world where humans live. They breed rapidly, producing 7 litters a year of 6-22 young.

The head and body of the black rat are 20 cm long, and its tail is somewhat longer. It is good at climbing and jumping.

The Norway rat has a shorter tail than the black rat, smaller ears and a more robust body. It is good at burrowing and swimming.

Norway rats and black rats may live in the same area but will usually have separate colonies. For example, Norway rats may live on the bottom floor of a deserted building while black rats live on the upper floors.

1. A stool pigeon; betrayer; an informer; one who secretly aids the police to apprehend criminals. 2. To assist authorities secretly in bringing criminals to justice. 3. To act as a stool pigeon or informer for officialdom, either openly or covertly. "If he rats on me, I'll mark his kisser (cut his face). With my bit (long prison term), I got nothing to lose."

- american underworld dictionary - 1950
At paramilitary schools like Virginia Military Institute or the VTCC subset of Virginia Tech, first-year (or first-semester) members of the cadet body, lowest-ranking in the military hierarchy of students.

Rats are treated in a way that walks the fine line between discipline and hazing, in an effort to instill uniformity and obedience to orders, as well as creating a bond between fellow rats (VMI calls this the Rat Line). Rats may be subject to treatment like:

  • no locks on their doors
  • severe restrictions on entertainment (television, music, Web sites)
  • the lack of a first name (throughout your rat time, you may be simply known as Rat Smith)
The superior cadets directly responsible for the indoctrination of rats are the cadre, usually sophomores. Contrast this with the dyke, an upperclassman cadet who serves as a sort of mentor and refuge from rathood's troubles.

The one joy of being a rat is the knowledge that it will be over eventually. Then, of course, the former rat turns around and inflicts the same punishment on newer generations.

Rats actually make excellent pets. They are much more intelligent than mice (although that's not saying much), and this makes them more fun to play with and less fish-like. The hooded rat is the most popular, as it is colorul, cute, and docile. Unlike mice, pet rats are clever enough to know that food is always easily available in its cage, so it will return there eventually even if it escapes, provided it can't find much else to eat.

All rats are voracious and will eat pretty much anything. Feeding them only rodent pellets is a good idea, although table scraps are a good treat. Feeding a pet rat red meat is not a good idea, as they sometimes start biting fingers if they get used to chewing on meat. They don't seem to like things that are cold. They do not know what to do with grapes and other such "sealed" fruits unles you break the peel first.

Hooded rats are very clean, and aside from allergic reactions to their claws and fur they pose few health risks if you keep them carefully. They are much more interesting to watch, and especially to play with, than gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, or mice. In particular, they will search relentlessly for hidden objects, such as food or feathers. Playing hide and seek with a rat is usually an excercise in frustration, as they are extremely difficult to find in a big room.

In colloquial English, to "rat" something or someone out is to follow clues relentlessly and find the problem or person. This is just an obvious parallel between what rats actually do (relentlessly follow clues until they find your stash) and what humans would like to be able to do.

"Rat" is also slang for a 454-CID big-block Chevy V-8.

Example: "Hey Jeb, check out the radical cam on that ol' Rat!"

The Rat competes mainly with the Mopar Hemi big-blocks and Ford's 428/429 and 460 engines.

Everything Guitar Project:Guitar Pedals

Distortion pedal manufactured by Pro Co, company based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Rat was created 25 years ago and many boxes from that initial production run are still around - these pedals are really built to last. Nowawadays, this pedal can be found in several varieties:

Vintage Rat

A reissue of the original Rat, features a steel chassis with a military-specification epoxy glass PC board, and a pretty tough footswitch too. A great example of how a relatively simple design can outperform far more "modern" designs, the tone runs from a light crunch to some seriously messed-up distortion. Also has a true bypass system so it doesn't interfere with your guitar sound when off. Very recommended, and I've yet to hear of a malfunctioning Rat.

Rat 2

An updated version of the original Rat. Features mostly the same characteristics as the Vintage Rat, but with fluorescent controls and an LED. Also a little heavier (weighs in at 1.7 lbs, where the Vintage is 1.5)

Turbo Rat

This pedal takes the Rat 2 even further and, though I've never played one, features "more than double the maximum output", according to the manufacturer. A favorite of bass players, along with the . . .


This bass-oriented pedal features both a distortion circuit and effects loop capability, for further external processing.


This is one I'd love to get my hands on - two separate Rat pedals in one casing, with Vintage, Turbo, Dirty and Clean Rat settings. You can run the pedals separately, in stereo, or cascade them together. "Four sounds, two channels, one Rat" goes the slogan.


Pro Co (


This writeup will be centred primarily around the two most common rats. The black rat,Rattus Rattus and the brown rat, Rattus Norvegicus. For completeness, here is a list of all the genus "Rattus":

  • Rattus annandalei - Annandale's rat
  • Rattus argentiventer - Ricefield rat
  • Rattus bontanus - Lampobatang rat
  • Rattus exulans - Polynesian rat
  • Rattus feliceus - Spiny Seram, Pepina's rat
  • Rattus foramineus - Mekongga rat
  • Rattus fuscipes - Southern bush rat
  • Rattus hoffmanni - Hoffman's rat
  • Rattus leucopus - Southern spiny rat
  • Rattus marmosurus - Monkey-tailed rat
  • Rattus morotaiensis - Maluku prehensile-tailed rat
  • Rattus nitidus - Himalayan rat
  • Rattus norvegicus - Norway rat or Brown rat, Rat gris, Surmulot, Rat d'égout
  • Rattus praetor - Large spiny rat
  • Rattus rattus - Black rat, House rat, Rat noir, Rat des Champs
  • Rattus sordidus - Canefield rat
  • Rattus steini - Small spiny rat
  • Rattus tanezumi - Asian house rat
  • Rattus tiomanicus - Malaysian rat
  • Rattus xanthurus - Yellow-tailed rat

Let's get physical

The rat belongs to the mouse-like family of rodents (in contrast to the squirrel-like rodents and the the cavy-like rodents). The brown rat weighs between 250-500g and it is 30-45cm long. The black rat, is usually between 35-45cm long but is much lighter than its cousin weighing between 100-300g.

Rats are great acrobats (the Black rat is more agile than the brown): they can leap up to 2.5 metres from standing and as much as much as 1 metre vertically.

Rats' worst sense is sight; they are colour blind. Despite this hangup, they can still judge distances well, which is useful when jumping. Rats have a very highly attuned sense of touch, and they are have long tactile hairs scattered about their body which help the rat negotiate tight spaces. Their sense of smell is also keen, and is integral to the rats breeding. A rat has good hearing, its range is 1,000-50,000Hz (in contrast to humans with a range of 20-20,000Hz and cats with a range of 100-60,000 Hz). A rat can taste about as well as a human can, and have an especial taste for sweets.


Rats originate from Asia, notably China, India and the Southeast Asian islands. The shipping trade assured the rat travelled, and Rattus Rattus, the black rat, arrived in Europe in the twelfth century. Rattus Norvegicus didn't arrive until the eighteenth century.

People began to keep rats at first for "sport" in the 1800s. Rat baiting involves pitting a terrier against a small swarm of rats to see how long it would take to kill all the rats. The albino rats were often spared, as were some of the other unusual pelted rats, and they were taken to shows or used for breeding. Rats also began to be used by scientists in the furtherment of science.

Rats used in scientific research travelled the Atlantic and in the late 19th Century they became a popular animal for experimentation; no doubt as a result of their rapid growth, tamability, intelligence, and because there were plenty of them. Their intelligence and trainability led to them eventually becoming accepted as pets (although some people will still cringe when you tell them what your pet is).

Rats and diseases

The Bubonic Plague is perhaps the most famous of rat-borne diseases. As most people are aware, it is not the rat that carries the disease, but the rat's fleas. The plague comes as a result of the bacteria, Yersinia pestis which is also fatal to rats.

Also on the list is another bacterial disease, Leptospirosis, or Weil's disease.

Colours, patterns, varieties etc

Whilst Rattus Norvegicus has naturally agouti in colour with a white or cream belly, domestic rats come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes.

Standard: Bog-standard rat.
Rex: Curly hairs and even curly whiskers
Hairless: Self-exlanatory
Tailless: Also fairly self-explanatory
Satin: Longer and thinner hairs, giving them a fine coat.
Dumbo: Yes, these little ones have big round ears.

Rats come in a wide range of colours. Rats that consist of one uniform colour are known as 'selfs' or solid. The colours these rats come in are: beige, black, blue, blue-beige, champagne, chocolate, cocoa, Lilac, mink, platinum, Russian blue, sky blue, black-eyed white and finally pink-eyed white.

Sometimes rats may be of the same uniform colour, but the hairs themselves may be several banded colours, these include agouti, amber, blue agouti, chinchilla, cinnamon, cinnamon pearl, fawn, lynx and pearl.

Rats often have many combination of colours in their coats, in varying patterns. A rat that is one colour, but who's body is flecked with white hairs is known as a silvered rat. There are a few other recognized colour combinations:

Blue Point Siamese: Their body is ivory, with slate-blue nose, ears, feet, tail, and tail-root (these parts of the body are the rat's 'points'). Their eyes are red or ruby coloured.
Himalayan: White body with dark sepia points.
Seal point Siamese: You need to see a picture of one of these to get an understanding of their name. They have a brown body, with rich dark sepia points which blend gradually into the body.
Merle: These are any colour, but they are dotted with darker shades over their body so that they resemble a Merle dog.

Rats can come in patterns as well as colours; these marked, or spotted rats are quite popular, the most common of which is the hooded.

Hooded: Look how you'd expect them to look, they have white bodies, with a dark head and shoulders; this dark hair extends down their back.
Bareback: Bare back rats also have a hood, but are missing the dorsal stripe.
Capped rats: Also similer to the hooded rats, although the dark hair covers a much smaller area (not much past the ears).
Masked: Masked rats are white with a dark face (around the eyes and nose).
Dalmation: Spotty, can be varying colours, but black and white is the most common.
Blaze: Blazes have a wedge of white extending from their muzzle to their ears, tapering to a point at their ears.
Variegated: These have the white blaze on their forehead, with a variegated coat.
Berkshire: Berkshires have a coloured back, and a white underbelly, feet, tail and a white spot between their ears.
Irish: The Irish have any coloured coat, but their distinctiveness comes from having a small white patch on their underbelly, as well as tail with white tip to it.
English Irish: A strange name one might say. They are similar in looks to the Irish, the prime difference is that the patch on their underbelly is located between the front legs, and resembles an inverted equilateral triangle.

Aww, OK, now I want a pet rat!

Good. I must first tell you that rats are social creatures, so please, if you can, get at least two rats (and make sure they are the same sex!). Take into account were you live, do you have a cat (cats and rats can get along, but you have to have nerves of steel to let them play) or a python? (pythons and rats never get on, a cat thinks a rat is a plaything at a python a rat is dinner pure and simple), or young children? (tails are not a convenient way of 'leading' the rat to your bedroom) You'll need a home (may I recommend Martin's Cages?), food, toys, and a water dispenser before you should even think of acquiring a rat. It might also be wise to check around your local vets...make sure that one of them is confident and competent in dealing with small animals, ie., rats.

If you can, avoid buying rats from the local pet store. Most rat owners will sadly tell you the stories of rats being mass bred and if they aren't getting sold, they become snake food. It might be a convenient business idea, but its not a convenient business idea I like to support financially. Instead, buy from a proper private breeder. There are plenty of websites out there that will list your local breeder. If you are lucky, your pet shop will buy from a breeder themselves. If you have experience with rats you may also want to try local animal sanctuaries and rescue a rat. This is extremely rewarding.

Female rats tend to be more perky, whilst male rats tend to prefer lying around.


Rats are nesting animals, and they like to have some private space away from prying human eyes. Please avoid wood shavings(especially pine and cedar), whilst these are fine for other rodents, there is some evidence which links them to kidney and lung problems in rats. Also, you might want to avoid straw because this can irritate rattie eyes. A popular choice of bedding is Care Fresh; I recommend you search around the internet and in books for information about this subject. Opinions vary wildly so its best for you to make your own mind up about it.


Before you even think about breeding rats bare in mind that the average litter is between 6 and 12 pups and you should plan for the 'worst case' scenario...over 20 pups. If you can't house that many rats stop right now.

Sometimes you won't have a choice. I myself have picked up a girlie rat, only for her to strangely gain a lot of weight before dropping 8 babies underneath my bed one morning three weeks later. If this should happen to you, don't panic. Baby rats are adorable, really.

A female should not be bred before 4-5 months, and for her first pregnancy she should be no older than 6 months. Her gestation period will be 21-23 days, although this can sometimes be a little longer. Although the male may be left in the same cage during this time, once the big day draws near it is time to separate them. Oh yes, you will need two proper cages, since rats do not have any qualms about breeding with their mother or brothers...The father should be seperated before the birth because the mother will come onto heat within 24 hours of giving birth (I'd hate to be a female rat!), and she is quite capable of getting pregnant again. If you are breeding, don't be cruel to mom and give her a break of several weeks.

Baby rats are hairless, blind and deaf. They are even unable to defecate or urinate by they are completely dependent upon their mother. Female rats are excellent mothers, and are usually very you may notice her becoming more aggressive towards the end of the pregnancy and during the first week or two after it. Male rats make excellent fathers too, helping the mother-to-be get food and water, and defending her (my fingers (and even my lip!) will attest to that).

It takes about 10 days before hair starts to grow on the pups, and their eyes open soon afterwards. It takes less than a month before the babies can eat solids, although they will still feed from the mother from time to time.

Sickness and Death

Sick rats are no fun. Because of their size, their is often little that can be done for them except anti-biotics. Rats can get colds, develop pneumonia and develop cancer, amongst other ailments. Losing your rat will be painful, and is something you should think about before getting him/her. What arrangements do you have planned for them once they pass? A rat will live for 2-4 years on average, so these arrangements are not a distant eventuality.

Trust me, losing rats is not easy. They are full of personality and love and you never forget them. With that in mind, I'd like to dedicate this w/u to Justin, Jenner, Caligula, Castor, Pollux, Astaroth, Asmodeus, Nero Trillian and Nazumi.

Rats: A complete Pet Owner's Manual, Carol A. Himsel

Rat (?), n. [AS. raet; akin to D. rat, OHG. rato, ratta, G. ratte, ratze, OLG. ratta, LG. & Dan. rotte, Sw. r�x86;tta, F. rat, Ir. & Gael radan, Armor. raz, of unknown origin. Cf. Raccoon.]

1. Zool.

One of the several species of small rodents of the genus Mus and allied genera, larger than mice, that infest houses, stores, and ships, especially the Norway, or brown, rat (M. Alexandrinus). These were introduced into America from the Old World.


A round and tapering mass of hair, or similar material, used by women to support the puffs and rolls of their natural hair.

[Local, U.S.]


One who deserts his party or associates; hence, in the trades, one who works for lower wages than those prescribed by a trades union.


"It so chanced that, not long after the accession of the house of Hanover, some of the brown, that is the German or Norway, rats, were first brought over to this country (in some timber as is said); and being much stronger than the black, or, till then, the common, rats, they in many places quite extirpated the latter. The word (both the noun and the verb to rat) was first, as we have seen, leveled at the converts to the government of George the First, but has by degrees obtained a wide meaning, and come to be applied to any sudden and mercenary change in politics." Lord Mahon.

Bamboo rat Zool., any Indian rodent of the genus Rhizomys. -- Beaver rat, Coast rat. Zool. See under Beaver and Coast. -- Blind rat Zool., the mole rat. -- Cotton rat Zool., a long-haired rat (Sigmodon hispidus), native of the Southern United States and Mexico. It makes its nest of cotton and is often injurious to the crop. -- Ground rat. See Ground Pig, under Ground. -- Hedgehog rat. See under Hedgehog. -- Kangaroo rat Zool., the potoroo. -- Norway rat Zool., the common brown rat. See Rat. -- Pouched rat. Zool. (a) See Pocket Gopher, under Pocket. (b) Any African rodent of the genus Cricetomys. Rat Indians Ethnol., a tribe of Indians dwelling near Fort Ukon, Alaska. They belong to Athabascan stock. -- Rat mole. Zool. See Mole rat, under Mole. -- Rat pit, an inclosed space into which rats are put to be killed by a dog for sport. -- Rat snake Zool., a large colubrine snake (Ptyas mucosus) very common in India and Ceylon. It enters dwellings, and destroys rats, chickens, etc. -- Spiny rat Zool., any South America rodent of the genus Echinomys. -- To smell a rat. See under Smell. -- Wood rat Zool., any American rat of the genus Neotoma, especially N. Floridana, common in the Southern United States. Its feet and belly are white.


© Webster 1913.

Rat, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Ratted; p. pr. & vb. n. Ratting.]


In English politics, to desert one's party from interested motives; to forsake one's associates for one's own advantage; in the trades, to work for less wages, or on other conditions, than those established by a trades union.

Coleridge . . . incurred the reproach of having ratted, solely by his inability to follow the friends of his early days. De Quincey.


To catch or kill rats.

<-- rat on (someone), to inform on an associate,to squeal. -->


© Webster 1913.

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