Can Rats See in the Dark?

Can Rats See in the Dark?

Can Rats See in the Dark?

Rats, like most rodents, are nocturnal creatures. If you have pet rats, then you know they often come out during the evenings to play. Unfortunately, if you have an unwanted infestation roaming about, then you’ve also noticed that nighttime is usually when you start to hear the noisy critters scratching in the attic or rummaging around in your kitchen. With how rambunctious and active rats are during these late hours, it’s only logical to assume that these rodents must have some kind of rat night vision to help them navigate through the darkness.

But you’d be surprised! For being nocturnal creatures, rats have rather poor eyesight, forcing them to rely on their other senses during exploration and foraging hours. It’s not that their eyes are useless, however. Being creatures of prey, their eyes are not only placed on the sides of their head, giving them a broader range of vision, but those eyes are also built with a depth of perception that’s better than that of humans! This enables the rat to avoid predators such as owls, falcons, and hawks, as these birds can be spotted from over a great range of distance. Unfortunately for the rat, that’s about as good as it gets. Their eyesight remains far too blurry and unfocused for it to be of much use when exploring, not to mention, it’s also hypersensitive to light, which is why they tend to avoid bright places.

So, if these guys don’t have any sort of cool rat night vision at their disposal, you might be wondering how these furry critters adapt so well to their environments at night.

Rat Whiskers

That’s where these tiny ticklers come into focus. Rat whiskers play a very significant role in navigation. In fact, a rat is fully capable of managing their surroundings with just their whiskers! Consider albino rats. These rats are even more visually impaired, if not fully blind, compared to normally pigmented rats, yet they seem to explore their surroundings just as easily as other rats do. This is because they need nothing more than to rely on their sense of smell and their sense of touch.

Rat can see the dark using its whiskers

Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures

How do rats use their whiskers?

They’re used same way all other whiskered animals use them, through a process called whisking. This is when a rat changes the direction of their whiskers to suit their needs. Similar to how a human navigates through his house with the lights off, putting his arms out to feel surrounding objects, that’s precisely what a rat does! Rats will further extend their whiskers outward when traveling through new terrain at night, moving slowly as they do so. Scientists have found that when the critters adapt to the placement of objects, they move much faster throughout the territory and retract their whiskers toward the ground. This is also similar in the way we, humans, extend our arms further outward and around ourselves when traveling blind on unfamiliar ground, but when placed in the comfort of the home, tend to move much faster, using our hands and fingers mostly as an assurance of location.

Rat Sense of Smell

Whiskers are one way of getting around, but when it comes to finding food, there’s no greater asset to a rat than their sense of smell. Rat sense of smell is far greater than that of humans and should make you think twice about how you store your foods, lest you attract an unwanted visitor! Rats can smell just about anything, even if a human can’t, and are highly attracted to nuts, seeds, grains, meats and other foods. What’s interesting about rats, though, is that just because they smell something, doesn’t always mean they will eat it. In fact, these little critters are designed to be extra wary of new foods in order to avoid becoming poisoned. Because of this precaution, rats typically hunt for food in one of two ways. First, they will use their super sniffers to sniff out what’s safe to eat from smelling other rats. Whatever scent an older, adult rat has on its fur and breath, is likely what a young rat will scavenge for as well. Following by example is one way they keep themselves safe, but unfortunately for the rats, sometimes when the adults consume poison, the youngsters will simply follow suit and consume the same toxin, oblivious to the dangers.

Another way they keep themselves from poisonings is to try little bits of everything! Rats are samplers. In fact, 80% of what they consume is left uneaten. Talk about a lot of wasted food. This is to ensure that their tiny bodies are capable of handling the food. If they don’t get sick, they’ll likely go back for more. What they don’t eat, they cover in urine and feces as a way to mark their territory. This is a good way for them to establish their domain to other unfamiliar rats in the area, so that they understand not to trespass onto their territory.

rat sense of smell outdoors

Courtesy of Shashank Kumawat

Do rat eyes have any other use?

As was stated prior, rat eyes are not completely useless at all. They are below subpar when it comes to human eyes in color and sharpness, but they were designed to see just what they need to see. Rats are mostly colorblind, but can interpret muted colors such as green, certain dark shades of red, and blue ultraviolet. For a long time, rats were believed to see only shades of black and white, but it was later discovered that the creature’s eyes contained two types of color cones within their retina.

It’s mostly a mystery as to why rats are capable of seeing these colors, but one interesting fact lies in their uniqueness to interpret ultraviolet light. Scientists suspect that the ultraviolet light may be, essentially, a black light for rats, enabling them to detect urine markings as well as the fur of other rats. Although, ultraviolet light is not present during the night, so however a rat uses their ability to see this color is strictly reserved for the daylight.

All in all

Rats are highly intelligent creatures capable of exploring just about anywhere at any time thanks to their whiskers, keen sense of smell, and incredible depth perception, enabling them to see potential predators moving about in the distance. Because rats have difficulty seeing during the daytime you can use this to your advantage in keeping rats out of your home! These pests love dark, grungy areas for shelter, which is why attics often become a common culprit of infestation. Keeping your home clean, organized, and well-lit is one way to deter rats from settling. Read here for more tips on how to prevent an infestation of rats and other pests!

An infestation is not something any homeowner should have to handle alone. If these sneaky rodents have already found their way onto your property, don’t hesitate to contact your local pest control. Green Rat Control has over 20 years of experience in rat removal, rodent proofing, and attic cleaning, and we’d be glad to get rid of your pests for good. Enlisting professional help is the safest way to dealing with rodents, especially since many of them carry harmful diseases that can be dangerous to your health and the health of your loved ones.

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