Why Do Rats Have Such Long Tails?

People often get confused between rats and mice. The best way to tell them apart is by looking as their physical characteristics. For example, rats are far larger than mice. Another distinctive feature is their tails. Rats have tails which are much longer. In fact, a rats tails is often as long as it’s body. But why this is? Well, there are several reasons why rats have long tails.

rat outside

It’s not just all about balance 

The primary purpose of a rat’s tail is temperature control. You see, rats do not have the ability to sweat. This means they need to find another way to stay cool. Their tail allows them to do this through heat dissipation. Basically, rats have long tails so that they can stay cool during warm weather. This is also why they have no hair on their tails. Rats tails are hairless so that they can lose heat more easily.

Their tails can even adjust depending on the weather. Their tails contain blood vessels which open up when it gets warm. This allows them to lose more heat. When it cools, these blood vessels narrow, helping the rat to stay warm. Rats can also use their tails as a way to stay warm. If it becomes especially cold, rats will wrap their tails around their bodies.

rat eating

Another reason why rats have long tails is so that they can balance. You’ve probably noticed rats running along high and narrow objects, for example fences which is how they get indoors. When doing this, the rats tail helps them balance. In this way, a rat’s tail is almost like a tight rope walkers pole.

Rats’ long tails have many advantages

Rats can also wrap their tales around things. This provides stability and helps them climb high objects. This is another reason why rats do not have hair on their tails. Having no hair allows them to grip objects more easily. Finally, rats also use their tails as a height boost when reaching for objects.

rat control in surrey

The third reason why rats have long tails is for protection. These common invading rodents will sometimes use their tail as a way to distract predators. The predator will attack the tail, allowing the rat to escape. Even if the rat’s tail is injured, or bitten off, it can still survive.

Despite all this, rats’ long tails can become a disadvantage and why we offer 24 hour pest control. One example of this is a phenomenon known as a “rat king.” This happens when rats’ tails become entangled with each other. The rats cannot untangle their tails and so they die. In some cases, up to 13 rats have been found in one of these rat kings. That being said, this is extremely rare (there have only been 60 sightings of this in the last 500 years.)


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