14 March 2024, by Emily Proctor

Experts at the University of Amsterdam have proposed that residents of the city should learn to live alongside rats, rather than trying to cull the animals. At a conference of the Center for Animal Studies of the University of Amsterdam, experts compared rodents to crows, bats and pigeons in terms of presence, number, and disease transmission. 

Should city residents learn to live alongside rats?

For the experts who spoke at the university, the rat is merely a victim of bad PR. “In the conflict between humans and rats, it is usually win-lose. But killing one of the two parties is not a real solution,” animal scientist Maite van Gerwen said, as reported by Het Parool.

Experts Merel Ligtelijn and Christine van Royen argued that the rat has an image problem, and compared to crows, pigeons and bats, they are equal to other species in terms of their prevalence and population size in the city, as well as their propensity to spread disease. 

Rats get too much criticism for spreading diseases

Van Gerwen believes that one of the key reasons for the rat’s bad reputation still goes back to disease, especially Weil’s disease, a risk that Van Gerwen suggested is over-exaggerated. “The rat is associated with Weil’s disease. Thirty cases of this occur every year. In twenty of them, the infection happened abroad.”

At the conference, Van Gerwen advocated for behaviour changes to send clearer signals to rats. “As humans, we communicate very unclearly with the rat, for example, by leaving food lying around everywhere. We don’t want rats in our house, but we leave holes and cracks open so the animals can easily enter.”

That said, Van Gerwen sees no reason why humans and rats should not be allowed to coexist. “Why do we want certain animals around us and not others?” Van Gerwen asked. “In newly-built houses, facilities are made in the cavity to provide bats with a home. At the same time, rats are controlled with traps, glue plates, and poison.”

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