Many people are creeped out by rats’ tails. They think that they are grose and hairless. The former may be a matter of taste, but the latter is simply not true. A rat’s tail is covered in short delicate hairs and in my opinion feels quite pleasant: warm, dry* and slightly fuzzy.
Their tail helps rats with thermoregulation. For example, during intensive physical activity, rats don’t sweat like us, but the blood flow to the tail is increased which helps them lose heat (in humans the blood flow to the skin also increases when we overheat). At lower temperatures, the blood flow to the tail decreases.
Additionally, their tails help rats to keep their balance when climbing or running on narrow surfaces. Although not prehensile, the tail can hook onto, for example, a hand when the rat suddenly loses its balance.
Remember to never to pull on your pet rat’s tail or, even worse, use it to pick the rat up. It’s not only painful but can lead to removal of part of the skin, together with the underlying tissue (so-called degloving).
* There is also a common misconception that reptiles such as snakes are slimy, but they are actually have dry skin.
Polską wersję tego wpisu możesz znaleźć tutaj.