Is a Squirrel Related to a Rat? The Surprising Truth About Rodents

Many people have wondered about the relationship between squirrels and rats. They look somewhat similar, but they also have many differences. Are they cousins, enemies, or something else? In this article, we will explore the surprising truth about rodents and answer the question: Is a squirrel related to a rat?

What Are Rodents?

Rodents are a group of mammals that have one thing in common: they all have a pair of continuously growing incisors in their upper and lower jaws. These teeth are used for gnawing on various materials, such as wood, seeds, nuts, and even bones. Rodents are the largest and most diverse group of mammals, with over 2,000 species living on every continent except Antarctica. Some of the most well-known rodents are mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, beavers, porcupines, and of course, squirrels.

Squirrels and rats are both rodents, but they belong to different suborders within the rodent group. Squirrels are part of the suborder Sciuromorpha, which includes animals that have large cheek pouches for storing food, such as chipmunks and marmots. Rats are part of the suborder Myomorpha, which includes animals that have long tails and whiskers, such as mice and gerbils. These suborders diverged from a common ancestor about 50 million years ago, so squirrels and rats are only distantly related.

What Are the Differences Between Squirrels and Rats?

Squirrels and rats have many differences in their appearance, behavior, habitat, and diet. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Appearance: Squirrels have bushy tails, furry ears, and bright eyes. They come in various colors, such as gray, brown, black, red, and white. Rats have scaly tails, naked ears, and small eyes. They are usually brown or black in color.
  • Behavior: Squirrels are mostly diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They are agile climbers and jumpers, and can use their tails for balance and communication. They are social animals that live in groups called dreys or colonies. Rats are mostly nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. They are excellent diggers and swimmers, and can use their whiskers for sensing their surroundings. They are also social animals that live in groups called packs or mischief.
  • Habitat: Squirrels live in a variety of habitats, such as forests, parks, gardens, and urban areas. They build nests in tree holes or branches, or sometimes in attics or chimneys. Rats live mostly in human-made environments, such as sewers, garbage dumps, warehouses, and farms. They build nests in burrows or crevices, or sometimes in walls or ceilings.
  • Diet: Squirrels are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They mainly feed on nuts, seeds, fruits, flowers, and fungi. They also occasionally eat insects, eggs, young birds, and small mammals. Rats are also omnivorous, but they have a more varied diet. They eat almost anything they can find or scavenge, such as grains, vegetables, meat, cheese, breads etc.

Do Squirrels and Rats Get Along?

In most cases a rat and squirrel would simply ignore each other if they happen to be near each other. Furthermore various factors prevent rats and squirrels from spending time together. These factors include their contrasting habitats and what they feed on.However there are some situations where squirrels and rats may come into conflict or competition with each other.

  • When food is scarce: Squirrels may attack rats or mice that venture outside their nests. Squirrels have been observed killing and eating rats when other food sources are limited. Rats may also raid squirrel nests for food or try to steal their cached nuts.
  • When space is limited: Squirrels may invade rat territories if they find suitable nesting sites. Rats may also encroach on squirrel habitats if they find abundant food sources. This may lead to territorial disputes or fights between the two species.


So is a squirrel related to a rat? The answer is yes but only loosely so. They are both rodents but they belong to different suborders that diverged millions of years ago. They have many differences in their appearance behavior habitat and diet that make them distinct from each other. They usually do not interact much with each other but they may sometimes clash or compete over food or space. Squirrels and rats are fascinating animals that have adapted to various environments and challenges. They deserve our respect and appreciation for their remarkable abilities and diversity.

Doms Desk

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