Why do rats have tails?
The Rat Tail
Rat haters often squeak and squeal over the sight of a rat tail. Personally, I have no idea why, as I believe every part of the rat is adorable. Like the tail of most mammals, the tail is an extension of the rat’s spine (Which is why you should never pick a rat up by the tail). A bone runs through the middle of the tail, which is surrounded by tendons, that are covered in skin. Check out the diagram below.
Cross-section of a rat's tail. Drawing adapted from Vanhoutte et al. 2002
If you have rats, you know they are expert climbers! Rats are curious critters that LOVE to explore and play. This means every object in your room is just another obstacle for your rat to test their limits on. While climbing, the tail is constantly moving and rotating to adjust the rats weight. If the rat feels off balance, they can also hook their tail around nearby objects to keep stabilized. This gives them great agility allowing them to climb surprisingly high and balance on thin surfaces.
Rats are unable to sweat, so in place of perspiration the tail works as a heat loss organ. The process is known as thermoregulation. Because the tail is hairless, blood vessels are able to expand and dilate allowing the rat to regulate its body temperature by 18 percent. Although this ability is present, it is important to keep your rats in the recommended environment. Anywhere from 65 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit is the recommended temperature for rats.
Do all rats have tails?
Although very rare, there are several known mutations that can cause rats to be born without tails. Breeders call them manx rats, and they are quite controversial within the rat community. If not bred properly, rats with this mutation can be born deformed and more prone to sickness as their tails are not able to fully regulate their body temperature. Check out the healthy manx ratties below! :)
Are you sick of your rats pooping everywhere? Check out our last blog!!