When you think of rats, what comes to mind? The fabled giant rats of New York City sewers? The leader of the teenage mutant turtles Splinter? Your friends pet? What-ever it may be, there are many types of rats: kangaroo rats, Norway rats, cotton rats, pack rats, wood rats, greater stick-nest rats, roof rats, naked mole rats and even the giant Mallomys rat. These fur laden critters are instrumental in helping researchers develop medical cures, and despite the fact that they are not considered as cute and cuddly as hamsters and gerbils, rats are affectionate, intelligent, friendly creatures. To learn some facts about the amazing animal that is the rat continue reading.
Rats are not very picky omnivores. They have poor vision, they’re colorblind, and they mostly rely on smell and whiskers to sense what is going on. They have some very strong teeth and can chew through wood, metal, even concrete. They’re also highly social, enjoying play and cuddling with other rats. They develop deep bonds with their rat pack, and if a member of the group becomes sick they will care for it. A lonely rat is an unhealthy rat. It will quickly develop uneasiness and depression.
Unlike dogs, rats enjoy chocolate, and it won’t hurt them. They love games and are as highly curious as cats. They even enjoy snuggling up on your lap while you watch a movie or read a book. While they chow down on Ritter and other types of chocolate bars, they do not have thumbs or canine teeth, and can be selective on what they eat. From mating to hook-up rats will find mates quickly, and more often than not, get there freak on before you even know what’s happening, in as little as 2 seconds. They can go with out water longer than a camel, and fall 40 feet without being injured. In North American culture a rat is associated with dishonesty and cunning, but in other cultures, particularly Asian, they are viewed with favorable characteristics like honesty, hard work, intelligence and good luck. They’re not considered dirty or undesirable and are actually very clean. The Year of the Rat is the first year of the Chinese zodiac they are even an important part of eastern spirituality.
The rats of New York are infamous, from foot-long critters living in Central Park tree´s, attacking people, taking up residence in the rubble of 9/11, and popping up out of toilets. They are associated with a disaster that claimed 1/3rd of the global population during the spread of the Bubonic Plague in medieval Europe. Yet they have changed the course of history for the better. They exposed the squalor of Chinatown in San Francisco, driving rent strikes in the 1960s and there amazing memory, rapid learning ability, curiosity, hardiness and friendliness make them ideal for research and service to humans. They can sniff out land-mines, bombs and identify tuberculosis; they can be used in search and rescue however unfortunately for them, they’re also very tasty. Pets, medicine, helpers, and yes – dinner.
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The common house mouse has found to spread another new significant disease. Currently still considered rare, Lymphocylic choriomeningitis (LCM) infection occurs when a human encounters the rodent’s urine, droppings, saliva, or nesting material. Little or no symptoms result in those with regularly functioning immune systems however those with weaker immune systems (the very old, or very young), will initially have flu-like symptoms, it can then progress to the symptoms of meningitis or encephalitis however most people do fully recover and about 1% die.
Studies have shown that about 5% of urban populations are infected and other rodents, such as hamsters and guinea pigs can become infected if exposed to the virus in pet stores or homes.
Although it is not known to transfer from one human to another, take precautions there are many rodents in the Sea to Sky, and more often than not there pooh, pee, saliva, and nesting material are not taken seriously. For no charge, at Critter Get Ritter we recommend contacting us if you have a question or want something looked at. Take the Center for Disease Control’s advice: If you have rodents in your home, do not touch or stirrup the droppings but call a professional to assist in there control.
Doing your best to keep rodents and other small critters out of your structures while also using less energy, and money just became a lot easier. Critter Get Ritter Pest Control in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton has a special offer that using some special skills and tools can assure your home or business a better place (and hopefully special too):
Believe it or not small rodents can squish through tiny gaps as small as a pencil width often nibbling or chewing there way through just about anything. To stop dirty filthy and unsanitary rodents, we have thrived on hands on mechanical work such as installing door trim, re-aligning doors, and replacing trim on sliding screen doors. Structural repair and work is often the foundation for any IPM (integrated pest management) program especially when your pest control technician is skilled in carpentry and handyman work.
Other critter problem areas can include areas on exterior buildings where gaps are left like between siding and panels, where foundations meet framing, slabs meet siding, soffits, roofs and so on. If you ever have questions about exclusion, rodents; and even bats, raccoons and squirrels, please contact us any time.
Research in Science suggests that rats are capable of a human characteristic: empathy. The study below tested response when a fellow rats was trapped, and they found that not only do they spend time and energy deliberately helping the trapped companions, but they would even share food after rescuing them.
Using a small square arena, with a cage in the center; rats were trapped, and sometimes not. When another 2nd rat was released, it would either wandered around of let his fellow rat go (Traps release mechanism eventually picked up in the 12 day study).
The rats were noticeably agitated when one was trapped, and tended to circle the center, dig, and call to the trapped; when the cage was empty, these behaviors were absent. Over the course of the experiment, the rats learned to open the cage, and became much faster at doing so. A extremely higher percentage that were inside the arena, with a trapped rat, opened the cage (23 out of 30); compared to the rats that were in the arena with an empty cage (5 out of 40). Clearly, these annoying little furballs are excited to open a cage when a fellow companion is stuck inside.
.::Interesting Fact::. During the 12 trials, female rats were more likely to open the cage than males were (100% vs. 70%).
Researchers then upped the ante with another 2nd trap filled with chocolate chips, (rats really like chocolate). Rats were as likely to open the cage with there companion, as they were to open the cage with the chocolate, suggesting that the motivation to free a trapped companion is about as strong as the motivation to eat the chocolate. Additionally, in more than half of the trials, the free rats shared the chocolate with the trapped rat after freeing it. The free rats actually ate fewer chocolate chips when there was another rat in the arena than they did when they were alone, indicating a willingness to share the bounty.
.::Interesting Fact::.We don’t know whether rats were trying to alleviate other rats distress, or to make themselves feel better about the whole situation…
Residents of an impoverished area of Vancouver were infested with bed bugs carrying antibiotic-resistant bacteria, said researchers today Wednesday May 11th, 2011, and warn doctors to watch out for the potential problem.
A letter in todays issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases reported that two types of drug-resistant bacteria were isolated from bedbugs found on three patients.
The resistant bacteria were methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), a less dangerous form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Christopher Lowe of the University of Toronto and medical microbiologist Marc Romney of Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital suggest bed bugs carrying MRSA could transmit the bacteria during a blood meal. Included is a citation to the full article which is being released in June, here:
“Because of the insect’s ability to compromise the skin integrity of its host, and the propensity for S. aureus to invade damaged skin, bedbugs may serve to amplify MRSA infections in impoverished urban communities,” Lowe and Romney write. The three patients lived in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which has high rates of homelessness, poverty, HIV/AIDS and injection drug use.
Similar to other cities worldwide, Vancouver has seen an alarming increase in bedbugs, particularly in Downtown Eastside, where 31 per cent of residents have reported infestations, the researchers said.
Likewise, MRSA is also a substantial problem in the neighbourhood, with nearly 55 per cent of skin and soft tissue infections in patients treated at St. Paul’s emergency department showing MRSA, the authors said.
In drug injection users with wound infections, an earlier study showed 43 per cent were colonized or infected with a community-acquired MRSA strain found outside of hospitals.
The study was small with just five bedbugs and very preliminary, but “it’s an intriguing finding” that needs to be further researched, said Romney.
Both resistant strains are often seen in hospitals, and experts have been far more concerned about nurses and other health-care workers spreading the bacteria than insects.
Given the high prevalence of MRSA in hotels and rooming houses in Downtown Eastside, the insects may act as “a hidden environmental reservoir for MRSA and may promote the spread of MRSA in impoverished and overcrowded communities,” the authors said.
So: This could be sticky but is it currently significant?
The authors point out that several research groups have tried in the past to link bedbugs and disease transmission (hepatitis) and failed. They certainly have not proven transmission in this case. But they also say that there is a density of these two organisms in the area where the men live that make it more likely that bedbugs could be involved in diseases pingponging through the neighborhood. First, there’s the high density of bedbug presence, in 31 percent of Downtown Eastside residents. Second, there’s the high prevalence of MRSA, in 58 percent of the skin infections in the St. Paul’s ER. And third, there’s the previously recorded and persistent presence of VRE in in-patients at St. Paul’s.
The US CDC believes that crowding, poor hygiene and skin disruption increase the likelihood of MRSA infection; crowding and poor hygiene are common in homelessness and shelter living, and bedbugs by definition disrupt the skin’s barrier by their bites. Meanwhile, in the ill and hospitalized, VRE frequently causes infections in disrupted skin, such as a surgical incision or a diabetic ulcer.
The authors have commented:
“…These insects may act as a hidden environmental reservoir for MRSA and may promote the spread of MRSA in impoverished and overcrowded communities. Bedbugs carrying MRSA and/or VRE may have the potential to act as vectors for transmission.”
To be clear: The victims here are also the ones who are likely to be most at risk. What this paper says, first of all, is that the substandard living conditions of being poor and homeless make those who are poor and homeless more likely to be vulnerable to yet more dangerous and difficult diseases. As with so many other health disparities in North American society, this is a social justice issue.
But if I am candid, it is also a reminder to the more-privileged rest of us that bedbugs have spread explosively, especially in poor communities, in a manner that is not completely understood, and that they pose a disease-transmission risk that is not yet well-defined.
We can assure you there will be more bed bugs to come and in the mean time I am going to check my box spring…