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What Are Citrus Rats?

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The citrus rat (Rattus rattus) is a southern Asian native rodent that has a handful of other common monikers, which include gray rat, ship rat, black rat and roof rat. The "citrus" part of their name comes from their habits of wreaking havoc onto citrus cultivation efforts. Though citrus rats hail originally from southern Asia, they live in regions all over the world.

Physical Appearance

These rats are typically either deep brown or black in color, with body lengths of approximately 15 inches, according to the Natural Science Research Center of Texas Tech University. Citrus rats can weigh upwards of 7 ounces or so. Their overall physiques are narrow and thin. Some citrus rats have whitish or grayish undersides. Their tails are lengthy and hairless. Female citrus rats are smaller than the males.


When food comes into play, citrus rats are anything but choosy animals. The omnivorous creatures do not shy away from eating many things, but are especially partial to vegetables, grains and fruit. They also occasionally eat bugs. Citrus rats are often considered to be agricultural pests because of their preferences for consuming fruit. These rats don't only eat citrus fruits such as lemons and tangerines, but also watermelons, cantaloupes, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches and apples, among others. Other things that citrus rats eat are bark, paper, pet food, soap and lizards.

Social Habits

Citrus rats are companionable creatures, and they generally reside in units. These units typically consist of mature females, their youngsters and single male "leaders." Like many other rodent species, citrus rats are usually awake during the nighttime.


As far as living settings goes, citrus rats are usually not too far away from people. They seek out nesting spots in a wide array of manmade environments, such as barns on farms, trash dumps and basements. It is not uncommon to spot citrus rats below buildings. Citrus rats have strong climbing skills, and because of that spend a lot of time up high -- whether in trees or in attics. They are especially prevalent in coastal regions, although they do not swim very frequently.


Mating activities for citrus rats take place all year long, especially in the months of February, March, May and June. Female citrus rats are usually pregnant for roughly 21 days or so. One litter generally produces around seven offspring. The mothers are capable of bearing a maximum of five litters annually.