There are very few animals in this world that are as reviled as rats. In fact, rats are so contemptible to people that their name is commonly used as a form of insult! That being said, are all rats to be feared? Are they as evil and as dangerous as they are typically perceived to be in the movies? 

In this article, we’re going to talk about how many species of rat there are in Australia. What is the most common rat? And are there any native species of rat in Australia? 

If you’d like to learn more about these fluffy little fiends, read on and we’ll explore it further…

Why do rats get a bad rap?

Rats are commonly referred to as “the second most successful mammal on the planet” – besides us of course. Could that be why we fear them so much? Because their numbers are so vast and they seem to do just as good a job as us at surviving? 

Ultimately, the fear is well justified. Rats are invasive, fast spreading, and are known to spread infection and disease. Most commonly, The Black Death that ravaged Europe in the 1300s was spread by black rats and ended up taking millions of human lives. 

Ever since, we as a species have been a little dubious of them – and rightly so.  

How many species of rats are there in Australia?

It’s difficult to say with absolute certainty, however, it is believed that there are nine distinct species of rat in Australia – seven of which are considered to be native. 

There are many, many different rodents in Australia, a number of which have ‘rat’ in their name, but that does not necessarily make them so (e.g., the brush-tailed rabbit rat or the plains rat). 

When we think of the name ‘rat’, we are typically picturing the most common pests of all: the common black or brown rat. 

What is the most common rat in Australia?

The most common rat in Australia is the black or brown rat. Coincidentally, these rats are not native to Australia. Instead, they were first introduced in the late 18th century when Europeans first began settling in Australia. 

The common black and brown rats made their way onto the ships and, much like the European settlers, made Australia their new home and began to spread rapidly throughout the nation. 

Today, the black and brown rat are among the most common household pests in Australia.  

Are there any native rats in Australia?

There are approximately seven native Australian rat species. It is believed that they arrived in Australia some 5 million years ago. This was when the Earth’s tectonic plates buckled, thus creating a land bridge between Australia and Asia. 

Then, as sea levels began to fluctuate some 4 million years ago, it is believed that at least four or five different species of rat moved to Australia.

Another recent settler was the native water rat (or Rakali) which arrived in Australia about 1 million years ago. 

Of course, any rodent with the word ‘rat’ in its name gets a bad rap. However, it is important to note that, while seemingly similar, there are a great number of differences between Australia’s native rat species and that of the two invasive rat species that came over with the early European settlers in the late 1700s.  

Here’s a look at some of the key features that differentiate Australia’s native rat species from the black and brown rat:

  • Tail length: in comparison to its body, the black rat has a very long tail. Most other rats and rodents in Australia have much shorter tails – so this is typically an easy indication if you have rodents in your home. 
  • Ear size: black rats have large, rounded ears that protrude from the skull. They are so large in fact that if you were to pull them forward, they would cover the rat’s eyes. Other rodents in Australia have much smaller ears. 
  • Location: another easy way to differentiate black and brown rats from the Australian native species is where they can be found. Generally speaking, Australian native rats are very shy and skittish and thus are rarely found in areas dominated by humans. However, black and brown rats are far bolder and thus can be seen running along fences, clambering up trees and drain pipes, and tearing down public pathways at night. 

What is the most dangerous species of rat? 

The most dangerous species of rat are the black and brown rat. They are an invasive species that spread like wildfire and are known to spread a variety of diseases. Not only are you at risk of being bitten or scratched by these rats, but they also spread disease through their urine and faeces. 

What should I do if I see black or brown rats in my home? 

There are many things you can try to get rid of a black or brown rat infestation in your home, however, your best bet is to call your local pest control experts immediately. 

These pests transmit all manner of diseases and if left to their own devices, can be very difficult to get rid of. 

If you are in Sydney and the Blue Mountains area, do not hesitate to call Expert Pest Control. Mitigate the risk for your family and call the experts. We can eradicate their presence from your home and help you restore your property to safety once more.