Do Rats Hibernate?

Written by Janet F. Murray
Published: July 25, 2022
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Many wild animals hibernate during the winter to survive the cold. Examples of hibernating animals are bears, chipmunks, hedgehogs, and bumblebees. However, these animals also have to consume large amounts of food during the fall or create food stores to survive the winter. For example, rats will eat larger quantities of food during fall and naturally hoard food, but do rats hibernate during winter?

Group of Rats

A group of rats living together is known as a mischief, but rats do not

hibernate

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in winter.

©Kylbabka/Shutterstock.com

Rats Do Not Hibernate

Rats do not hibernate, but people have this misconception because rats are known to become less active during the winter months. However, during colder temperatures, rats reduce their activity to conserve energy and start practicing certain winter survival habits.

Rats’ Winter Survival Habits

Rats are excellent survivors and can create a nest almost anywhere. However, these industrious creatures prefer nesting in homes or buildings where it is dry and warm. But, they will dig burrows if they have no other options. Surprisingly, these animals are strong diggers and create small dens to build their nests and store food. Rats often build their nests under walls and near electrical lines going into homes.

These animals also sometimes create winter food reserves. To maintain their body weight and temperature during the colder months, rats must eat more significant volumes of food, sometimes doubling their regular intake. During the fall, they also become more active and gather food to store in their burrows or nests. Rats do this to conserve energy during winter. By having food stores, they do not need to leave their nests. For domesticated rats, it is the opposite. They neither burrow nor create winter food reserves as they have a warm nest indoors and a constant food source.

Do Pet and Domesticated Rats Hibernate?

Wild rats are exposed to natural elements and are forced to practice winter survival habits. Pet and domesticated rats are often born and raised in captivity and live very different lives from wild rats. Because of this, pet rats are often spoiled and docile and do not behave in the ways wild rats do. But they do have some behaviors in common.

Grey and white dumbo rat with a stuffed rat doll in a dress

Pet rats or domesticated rats do not hibernate.

©iStock.com/Irina Ilina

Pet rats, like wild rats, also hoard. This hoarding is a natural instinct, and they will do so even with a constant food supply. Pet rats living in colonies are also known to be selfish with their food as they try to hoard and hide it in piles. You will often find piles of food under materials and little burrows that rats make.

Pet rats are also sneaky and often steal food from other rats in their colony to add to their hidden food stash. These pets rarely fight but become aggressive when this happens because of the constant food supply. If you have pet rats, you should allow them to store food, but not so that it rots. Rotting food could lead to bacteria growing in their cage, causing health issues.

How to Rat-proof Your Home During the Winter

As homes are a source of warmth, shelter, and food, rats are often drawn to them during the winter. But there are other reasons why rats find human homes attractive. For example, if your home is messy, you leave food lying around for long periods, or your trash bin is full of leftover foods, you are creating a buffet for these rodents. These animals also seek comfortable spaces to build their nests, such as woodpiles, leaf piles, shrubs, or debris. Moreover, hungry rats aren’t picky eaters and will eat your pet’s food and sometimes even their excrement as quick, easy meals.

Largest rats - lesser bandicoot rat

Rats are excellent foragers and will do this to store food for the colder months.

©iStock.com/Kichigin

The best way to rat-proof your home during the winter is to limit the resources rats may want and prevent them from entering your home. To rat-proof your home, you should:

  • Ensure there are no drinking water sources or leaking faucets outside your home.
  • Close any holes or cracks outside your home where rats may be able to enter. Rats can enter through a space that is ΒΌ inch in size, so don’t bypass the smaller gaps.
  • Suppose you have trees outside your home. Trim branches close to your home. Rats are excellent climbers and jump off these branches onto your roof. Rats can also climb ivy and vines along the side of your house, so trim these too.
  • Keep your home, inside and outside, clean.
  • If you have pets, it’s advisable to store their food in sealed containers. If you can, feed your pets inside your home. If you leave their food and water bowls outside, this can encourage them to stay. You should also ensure that you regularly safely remove their feces.
  • If you keep your garbage containers outside, ensure that you always close the lids securely to prevent access.
  • If you have trees and plants in your garden that produce fruit, you should remove fallen produce as the smell of fresh or decaying fruit attracts rats.
  • If you keep firewood outside your home, it is advisable to keep it as far away as possible from your home.

A Group of Rats Is Known as a Mischief

A group of rats is a mischief, which is appropriate as rats are typically playful. Because rats are inquisitive by nature, they love exploring new areas and human homes and gardens as these have all the resources they need to survive. But, having rats in your home is unsafe as they cause structural damage. Rats also have a reputation for gnawing on things to keep their teeth in check. The problem with this behavior is that they can chew through electrical cords and cause house fires. Besides causing structural damage, rats also carry diseases that they can transmit to people. Examples of these diseases are the Hantavirus, rat-bite fever, and salmonellosis.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ukki Studio/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with more than eight years of content creation experience. My content writing covers diverse genres, and I have a business degree. I am also the proud author of my memoir, My Sub-Lyme Life. This work details the effects of living with undiagnosed infections like rickettsia (like Lyme). By sharing this story, I wish to give others hope and courage in overcoming their life challenges. In my downtime, I value spending time with friends and family.

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