Rats!!!! "Now what do I do?" Don't panic!! Rats rarely bite or attack humans. Only under very rare circumstances will they confront a person. If a rat is cornered, starved or directly threatened they may bite. They do spread a variety of diseases both through the fleas they carry and the droppings they leave. Another problem with rats is the damage they cause by chewing.
Rats are a true commensal pest. If all of humankind disappeared the number of rats in the world would decline tremendously. This is why it is very important to change the environment around a structure to inhibit the occurrence of these loathsome creatures.
"The rat I saw was the size of a cat." That is not very likely. There are two common rat species found throughout the U.S. Norway rats and roof rats are both found in California.
Norway rats are the larger of the two types. A full sized adult is 7 to 9.5 inches long and will weigh between 7 and 18 ounces. Thickly built and varying in color from brown to gray or even dirty white the Norway rat has a blunt snout, small eyes, small ears, and leaves a capsule shaped dropping ¾ to 1 inch long. Although a good climber he prefers vertical surfaces and is more likely to burrow than his more agile cousin the roof rat. The average litter size is seven to eight babies with an average delivery frequency of three to six times a year. The new rats are capable of reproducing within 2 to 4 months. These rats prefer fatty foods and lots of water but will eat anything if their preferred food source is not available.
Roof or black rats are highly successful in warm regions. They are extremely agile and have been known to climb straight up stucco or brick. A full sized adult is 6 to 8 inches long and weighs between 5 and 9 ounces. They have a slim build and vary in color from gray to black. The snout is pointy and the eyes and ears are large. Droppings are usually ¼ to ½ inch long and pointed rather than blunt. They are more frequently found in trees and burrow far less than Norway rats. The average litter size is six to eight babies with an average delivery rate of three to six times per year. The new rats are capable of reproducing within 4 months. These rats prefer seeds nuts and vegetables and require much less water than Norway rats but will eat anything if their preferred food source is not available.
Movements and ranges of rats vary greatly with each situation. Norway rats will range over a larger area than roof rats. Sometimes an individual rat will range over several acres. Generally, a rat of either species will stay within 100 feet of the nest if possible. Food sources, water sources, and predators all play an important role in determining the range of a given rat.
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