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Rats are perhaps the most well-known animals in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the animals are not so well known. A rat is considered a very filthy animal and used to be seen as a spreader of diseases, including among humans. In well-known plague epidemics, among others, the animals played an important role.

There are an awful lot of different rats, not all of which are by no means comparable. The vast majority prefer to stay away from people and live in the wild. Unfortunately, there are also some that like to live near people because there is a lot of food there.

Although rats prefer to avoid people, they can bite if they get close. If this happens to you, it is advisable to alert a doctor and have the bite treated. Fortunately, there have been few reports of rats biting people.

Species of rats

Worldwide, there are dozens of different species of rats. Some species prefer to live in the wild and as far away from civilization as possible. Other species of rats, on the other hand, thrive better in cities. In some cases this can even lead to a plague. The species that are common in the Netherlands are discussed below.

Brown rat

This is by far the most common rat in the Netherlands. The length of the brown rat can vary greatly from one specimen to another. Usually the length of this rat without its tail is between 15 and 24 centimeters. When the tail is included, it suddenly becomes much longer. In fact, the tail is between 11 and 26 centimeters. The brown rat prefers to live near people. This can be either inside or outside the house. The animal also likes to live near water. It is a notorious spreader of diseases.

Black rat

For a long time it seemed that this species was disappearing from the Netherlands. In recent years, however, the number of black rats has been increasing considerably again. With an average length of 21 29 centimeters, the black rat is quite a bit larger than the brown rat. The tail can reach a maximum length of 23 centimeters. The black rat is also a disease spreader and lives near people. The difference, however, is that this species of rat prefers to live in tall buildings.

Hool rat

A typical water rat. You can therefore find the vole rat mainly along the overs of the water. This somewhat ‘fat’ looking species grows between 12 and 23 centimeters long and with 4-14 centimeters it has a much smaller tail than other species. Although the vole rat prefers to live alone in nature, it can cause a nuisance. This is because this species digs tunnels in the banks. This causes the banks to weaken and even collapse.


After the brown rat, perhaps the most common species in the Netherlands. The muskrat also prefers to live near water. This species can grow up to 40 centimeters long without counting the tail. This is because it can also be just under thirty centimeters long. Although muskrats prefer not to come near people, they can endanger human safety by damaging levees.

Habitat of a rat

By all accounts, rats are native to China. They are one of the most successful mammals in the world. Therefore, they now live all over almost the entire world. Especially the brown rat has a huge range.

Rats in the Netherlands

Of the dozens of different species of rats that exist, only four occur in the Netherlands. However, these are directly the most familiar species that you can encounter almost anywhere. The brown rat, for example, likes to live near people and our garbage is its main source of food. The black rat also prefers to live near people, especially in tall buildings. The muskrat and the vole rat are typical examples of natural rats that like to live near water.

Outward characteristics of a rat

There are numerous different species of rats, yet there are more than enough common characteristics to be mentioned. Perhaps the most well-known characteristic of a rat is the long tail that almost every species possesses.


Almost all rats have a short blunt snout, making them instantly recognizable. In fact, many other rodents have a long and pointed snout. Furthermore, a rat has whiskers and relatively large ears are an important feature.


The trunk houses almost all of the rat’s vital organs. These are protected by the skin with a thick coat over it. The latter is also necessary for the low temperatures in which rats sometimes have to survive. Under the torso, a rat has four legs.


The long tail is a typical feature of most rats. First and foremost, the tail is important for the animal to maintain balance. In addition, the tail helps in eh regulation of body heat.


Whereas voles and muskrats prefer to live in the immediate vicinity of water, the brown rat often chooses a moist and not too warm environment near a human. Incidentally, they can also survive just fine without being near people. The same goes for black rats, which prefer to live in tall buildings. All species of rats are able to swim and prefer to go out at night to find food

What does a rat eat?

A rat is a typical example of an omnivore that basically eats all nutritious things in its path. Most popular, however, are protein-rich foods. Grains, snails, grubs and seeds are favorites on the rat’s menu. However, frogs, bird eggs, dead animals and young mammals are also eaten. Rats living near people like to wander among garbage and always find something edible there.

Enemies of the rat

Whereas rodents usually have quite a few natural enemies, rats have fewer. This is due to their size as well as their aggressiveness. This enables them to chase away small predators. Owls, cats and mustelids are considered the natural enemies of the rat. Humans are also among them, incidentally.

Reproduction and longevity

Rats can reproduce throughout the year. When the population gets smaller, more rats are born automatically. After three to four months, young rats are sexually mature themselves. Most rats do not get old, although this varies by species. Most rats do not age more than two years.

Nuisance and disease

Rats can cause a lot of nuisance to humans. Especially agriculture can be quite a nuisance. They also often cause nuisance around houses. In addition, rats are known to transmit disease. This is mainly a problem in developing countries. Yet even in the Netherlands diseases are transmitted by rats every year.

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