20th June 2003 at 01:00
John Stringer presents worksheets and activities about one of our least favourite neighbours.

Few animals are better adapted to their environment than the rat.

All our efforts to eradicate it have had little effect, and suggestions that rat populations in big cities outnumber humans may be a serious underestimate.

Rats breed ferociously, eat anything and have few natural enemies. They destroy and pollute food, can eat through electricity cables and telephone lines and carry a wide range of diseases, among them salmonella, pork roundworm and Weil's disease (which has closed ponds, pools and even rivers used for water sports). You may not want children to have personal experience of rats, but you can introduce them to these most unwelcome "neighbours" of ours.

Children's natural curiosity about the morbid and distasteful is likely to tempt them to find out more about these creatures who make themselves at home where we live. The worksheets and activities given here, which you can adapt as you wish, will add to their interest and also provide ideas for English and drama as well as science.


- Rats eat almost anything.

- A mother rat can have as many as 70 babies a year.

- Rats have few natural enemies.

- Rats can get anywhere. They can climb, squeeze through 2cm holes and run along ropes and wires.

- Rats are well camouflaged and hard to see.

- Rats are most active at night.

- Rats have good hearing, taste and smell.

- Rats quickly learn to live with a dog or cat and will even eat their food.

- Rats' teeth grow all the time and they can chew through thick plastic and even metal.

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