The black rat (Rattus rattus), together with the house mouse (Mus musculus) and the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), is one of three rodent species that have become globally spread as a result of a close commensal connection with humans. These species are extremely important to human society, both as pests responsible for billions of euros in food store damage each year and as vectors and/or reservoirs that have led to the spread of several diseases, most notably bubonic plague. The following is an answer from our black rat extermination experts to the question: How Long Do Black Rats Live?


Despite its importance, we know very little about the black rat’s evolutionary history and taxonomy. Previous genomic investigations have reported a black rat complex with numerous recognized species and the possibility of introgression across various lineages. Mitochondrial DNA research has contributed to the resolution of taxonomic squabbles by linking a monophyletic mitochondrial lineage to certain South Asian (now globally spread) black rat populations with a karyotype (previously referred to as lineage). The Asian house rat, which is native to Southeast Asia, has been identified as the black rat’s closest relative.

AppearanceHow Long Do Black Rats Live?

Black rats (Rattus rattus) are medium-sized rats. A full-grown black rat has a 7-inch body and a 6-inch tail. The robust rodents are black, brown, white, and fair green.


Black rats are cosmopolitan; some subspecies are only found in certain regions, however they can be found on every continent. They also live in temperate, grassland, forest, rainforest, scrub forest, tropical, etc. They’re also weatherproof.


Because black rats are omnivores, they eat both animal and plant matter. Animal flesh, smaller animals, insects, leaves, fruits, seeds, stems, and other associated things are commonly consumed. Black rats consume a significant amount of food each day by eating little amounts of various foods available and traveling from one to the other. Because they are nocturnal, they only come out to eat these items during their active times at night.

The Life Span

Because they are inherently polygamous, a single male can mate with two or more females. Each mother has an average of 7 to 12 offspring per litter and about 5 litters per year. Gestation periods last about 23 days on average. Females care for the offspring after birth until they can fend for themselves.


Black rats live around a year. Only a few have lived for three years. Predation from larger animals significantly reduces the lifetime of the black rat. Owls, coyotes, snakes, foxes, hawks, and other birds of prey, as well as nearly all predatory creatures, are their natural predators.


Behavior Because these medium-sized rodents are nocturnal, they are usually active at night. They are excellent climbers and can swim a little. Females also provide maternal care to their offspring throughout their first few days.


Pet rats live 2-4 years, but rabbits and ferrets can live up to ten years in captivity. Some people love them because of their low maintenance, but others want a longer-term partner. For more information on roof rats, call our AND exterminators at (773) 945-0727 and ask our specialists “Are Black Rats Dangerous?

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