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How long do rats live?

Rat species that we consider to be pests in the UK generally have a lifespan of one to two years.
But that can vary markedly dependent on environmental conditions, genetics and the prevalence of predators.

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Given that the rat you’ll encounter in your home or garden will live an average of 1.8 years, it might not sound long. But in that time (roughly the equivalent of 45 human years), Ratty and his clan can do a whole load of damage, and produce an enormous family to continue their legacy.

How long do common UK rat species live?

The UK is home to just a few different rat species.

Little Brown Rat On White Background. Pest ControlBROWN RAT

The brown rat is the most common. Usually found in farms and open fields, the brown rat will often find its way into our homes and gardens in search of food and shelter.

The brown rat can live up to three years but few survive more than 12 months in the wild. During that time, the female can breed five to seven times, producing litters of between and six and twelve.

That’s over 80 pups a year and rats can become sexually mature by the age of six weeks. Some estimations put the UK’s brown rat population to be over 80 million!

Black Rat


The black rat is also found in the UK. It tends to frequent port and seaside areas but is also common in towns and cities. The black rat infamously carried the parasite responsible for the bubonic plague.

In the UK, black rats will tend to survive for around a year but can live for up to two. Originating in India, the black rat arrived on our shores carried aboard Roman ships.

Its population declined when the brown rat made its way here in the 18th century. It is estimated that there are now around 1,300 black rats living wild in Great Britain. Though this number is thought to be creeping up once more.

The lifespan of the UK’s less common rat species

Though less common, or confined to certain habitats, we do have other rat species in the UK.

One you might come across in the occasional newspaper headline is the “giant rat”. In fact, the giant rat is just an oversized black or brown rat. They can be dangerous because of their sheer size and should only be approached by a professional pest control company. The giant version will usually live around two years.

The naked mole rat has a set of unusual adaptations that allows it to live far underground. The naked mole rat lives in large colonies with a queen. They’re cold blooded, virtually hairless and will rarely surface except in search of food. You’re more likely to see a naked mole rat in a zoo than the wilds of the UK but they are incredibly interesting to scientists due to their resistance to cancer and to pain. They can even live up to 30 years of age.

Finally, avid fishing fans will recognise the water rat which frequents our lakes, ponds and waterways. Also known as the water vole, this variety of rodent is dark brown and will live up to five years in the wild.

End of life – dealing with live and dead rats

It is a commonly held myth that rats who become ill in your house – for example as a result of poison – will make their way outdoors to die. Most will simply curl up inside walls or under floorboards to see out their days. This can be a smelly business and only a professional company, armed with tools could then get rid of a dead infestation.

The best way to deal with rats is to know when you have a problem and to take action early. Rats can be dangerous. They are known to attack humans, particularly females guarding a nest. Rats also carry a variety of dangerous bacteria which can cause disease. Read about what diseases rats carry here.

Simply the most effective way to deal with a rat problem is to call in an expert.

We have a team of technicians experienced in tackling rodent infestations. Contact us today for free advice and a no obligation quote.

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