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What Do Rats Use Their Claws For?

Rats are opportunistic prey animals renowned for their elusiveness, agility, and flexibility. They can scale rough surfaces and pass through the tiniest spaces., largely due to the design of their claws.

Rats use their claws for locomotion, scavenging, hunting, digging, and fighting.

Their claws are long and sharp, allowing them to climb and grip textured surfaces as they climb up and down. Their feet help them burrow through small holes to escape predators and gain entry to homes.

Rats use their claws for balance and navigation, as running across narrow rope is easier with sharp, long claws that can dig into the fibers. Also, rats can gain traction on rough terrain and sprint with long claws to propel them forward.

Rats have 18 claws, one for each toe, which gives them an impressive grip.

Do Rats Have Claws Or Paws?

Like most four-legged mammals, rats have claws and paws, which form their feet. They have 4 feet, which they use for various functions, ranging from movement to fighting.

Their foot anatomy consists of a pair of forefeet and hindfeet. The forefeet have 4 toes each, while the hindfeet consist of 5 toes. Rat claws are non-retractable since they use them often for daily activities.

The claws consist of two parts:

  • Nail plate (dorsal unguis)
  • Sole plate (subunguis)

The nail plate is the hard, external part of the claws. Meanwhile, the sole plate is the soft underside of the claws that forms a cushion-like pad.

According to the American Association for Anatomy, rats have paws adapted for:

  • Climbing
  • Foraging for food
  • Handling prey

Their paws consist of multiple deformable pads that assist in movement. Rats usually walk on their toes, mainly toward the front of their paws. So, their pads remain clustered on the anterior of the foot.

do rats have retractable claws?

How Many Claws Does A Rat Have?

Rats have 18 claws: 8 on their front feet and 10 on their hind feet.

Each front foot has 4 toes, translating to 4 claws per paw. Each back foot has 5 toes, which is equivalent to 5 claws per hindfoot.

Rats have forefeet and hindfeet, similar to other members of the order of Rodentia. The claws enable rats to scale walls and sprint across roofs without falling or losing balance.

Rats have paws, which they use to reach out for food. According to Gaziantep University, rats show a preference for their right paws.

Rats’ nails continue to grow throughout their lives. However, their claws wear down naturally as rats run on various terrains and hard surfaces.

If the claws grow too long, rats may trim them by biting them down to an appropriate length.

Rat Claws Functions

Rats use their claws for different purposes, from running to foraging. Their long, sharp, non-retractable claws are a survival adaptation.

Here’s how a rat uses its claws:

Running

Rats are cautious animals that spend most of their time running rather than walking. They’re fast runners, and they use their claws for traction when sprinting across different surfaces and terrains.

Even though rats prefer to run, they’ll walk if they feel safe in their environment. Their claws enable them to maintain balance on smooth and unstable surfaces.

Climbing

Rats are good climbers. Due to their long, sharp claws, they can scale walls, trees, and rope with ease. They can climb brick and concrete walls effortlessly when searching for food or escaping threats.

Burrowing

Rats dig underground pathways and tunnels to build their nests and hiding spots. They also use these holes for food storage and insulation during harsh weather.

Their burrows have one main entrance with two or more emergency exit points, and the tunnels often lead to food sources. Creating these burrows is possible due to their sharp claws.

Swimming

Rats can swim for more than a mile without stopping and wade in the water for 3 days without drowning.

Rats use their claws and paws for swimming in open water, sewers, and plumbing traps. The extra drag created by claws propels rats forward and helps them tread water.

Scavenging

According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, rats are natural scavengers.

Rats use their claws to forage for food in:

Sometimes, rats may have to scale trees when searching for fruits, bird eggs, and young chicks to devour. This is where their long, sharp claws come in handy.

Hunting

Rats aren’t active hunters, with most preferring to scavenge on leftover food in homes and the wild.

However, that doesn’t mean that rats can’t hunt for food. When there’s little food available, rats usually go hunting to compensate when their normal food sources run out.

Even though rats are usually the prey of other animals, they prey on lizards, birds, fish, small snakes, and insects. They use their claws for grip, tearing their prey apart.

Fighting

Rats are territorial animals that live in colonies.

They act aggressively toward strange rats and will fight to protect their family. Even in the same family, rats usually fight each other over food, using their claws to gain supremacy.

Whoever has the sharpest, strongest, and longest claws will have a distinct advantage in a grabbing-and-slashing match. Also, rats’ claws are beneficial for self-defense against larger predatory animals.

Do Rats Have Sharp Claws?

Rats have long, sharp claws, which is essential for navigating various terrains.

Rats couldn’t scale walls, trees, and other exterior surfaces without them. Their claws are vital for gripping different surfaces, ensuring optimal movement and balance.

Aside from movement, rats also need sharp claws to forage and grasp their food. Even though rats aren’t active hunters and prefer to be scavengers, they hunt when food sources run out.

Rats’ sharp claws are useful when hunting:

  • Insects
  • Lizards
  • Chicks

Since rats dig holes for hiding and nesting, they require sharp claws to create burrows and tunnels. They use their strong legs to broaden narrow cracks, making it easier to pass through tight spaces.

Do Rats Have Long Claws?

Rats have long claws that grow throughout their lives, and their claws naturally reach these lengths as a structural and survival adaptation.

They use their claws for different purposes, including;

  • Digging
  • Foraging
  • Climbing trees
  • Grooming
  • Self-defense

Rats prefer to scavenge for food at night when no one is watching. They like being out of sight and only come out during the day when starving and there’s no other option.

Having long claws increases traction, allowing them to run to food sources and back to their hiding spots.

do rats have sharp claws?

Do Rats Have Retractable Claws?

Rats’ claws are non-retractable since they use them regularly to climb, forage, and gain traction. They’re often a target for predators, so they must be ready to run and scale surfaces at any moment.

How Do Rats Trim Their Claws?

Rats’ claws continue growing throughout their lives, but they keep them at a reasonable length.

Rats do this by running around on hard surfaces to wear down the nails. Also, they trim their nails down by biting off the ends with their strong teeth.

If rats didn’t maintain their nails, they’d grow into the paws and cause discomfort. With teeth hardness greater than a human’s, rats have no problem biting through their claws when necessary.

Is A Scratch From A Rat’s Claws Dangerous?

A scratch from a rat is dangerous, as they carry numerous diseases they transmit to humans through bites and scratches. Also, rats’ saliva can contain bacteria, viruses, and other deadly pathogens.

Diseases transmitted by rats to humans include:

  • Salmonella
  • Leptospirosis
  • Tularemia
  • Hantavirus
  • Rat-bite fever
  • Bubonic plague
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis

According to the American Society for Microbiology, diseases spread through bites, such as rat-bite fever. However, they can also be passed on to humans through scratches from a rat’s sharp claws.

Rats primarily use their claws for balance, running, and climbing surfaces. You’ll find rats using their claws to explore, forage, and dig burrow more effectively.