How Long Can Rats Survive Without Food?

Rats, remarkable creatures that they are, can typically endure for 5 to 7 days without food or water.

Florida is home to a diverse range of rat species, each with differing lifespans. A rat’s lifespan is influenced by its species. It is also influenced by the environment in which it lives and the availability of food.

Rats are omnivorous and consume a wide array of foods, making starvation highly improbable when food is scarce. So, if we remove the variable of limited food, what is the typical lifespan of rats?

Rat Survival When Food and Water Are Scarce

How long can a rat go without food? Rats can survive without food for one to two weeks, although the exact time can vary. Their smart behavior is one reason; like squirrels, rats hoard food. If rats suddenly lose their food source, they usually have reserves that can sustain them for several days without eating.

Now, you may wonder, “What about water?” Rats, being small creatures, do not require as much water as they do food. They often obtain water from the amount of food they consume.

This is different from humans, who can survive longer without food than water. For rats, it’s the opposite; they have a greater capability to go without food than water.

Effects of Poison Consumption

After consuming poison, it typically takes around 2 to 3 days for a rat to succumb to the effects. When a rat ingests poison, it often experiences a loss of appetite, causing it to stop feeding. This behavior significantly reduces the risk of secondary poisoning, where other animals or predators could be harmed by consuming the poisoned rat. 

It’s important to note that while the rat may no longer pose a risk of spreading poison through its consumption, proper disposal of the deceased rat is still essential to maintain a clean and safe environment.

Average Lifespan of a Rat

In the UK, a study estimated that rats have an average lifespan of 1.8 years. Only about 5% of rats live for three years or more.

In general, how long rats live is highly individualized and primarily dependent on its living conditions, genetics, and diet. Rats living in safe environments with ample food and water, and without genetic issues, can live beyond three years.

Rats, often seen as pests, typically live for one to two years. This can vary depending on the species and other external factors. Although their chances of survival beyond three years are minimal, they reproduce rapidly. Consequently, even a single rat can rapidly give rise to an infestation requiring intervention by a professional rat control team.

Lifespan of Domesticated Rats, or Pet Rats

Many rat species can be domesticated, and there are communities dedicated to rat enthusiasts. Pet rats, similar to hamsters and guinea pigs in terms of care, unfortunately have a negative reputation.

When tame rats are well-cared for, they can live up to five years if they are healthy. However, some pet rats are descendants of lab rats and are predisposed to tumors, which can significantly curtail their lifespan.

Lifespan of Wild Rats

Wild rats have varying lifespans based on their species. Predatory attacks by creatures such as foxes or owls can abruptly end their lives, resulting in a reduced average lifespan.

With sufficient access to food, water, and shelter, wild rats can live up to three years with a bit of luck. The Black rat typically has a lifespan of approximately one year, while the Brown rat can live up to two years. Some may exceed the average lifespan if conditions are favorable.

Lifespan of Sewer Rats

Sewer rats encompass rodents of various species found in plumbing systems, both outdoors and indoors. Contrary to popular belief, flushing a live rat down the toilet does not guarantee its demise. Rats are adept swimmers and may re-enter the home via the toilet. Sewer rats usually have shorter lifespans than wild rats due to the dirty environment, despite their resilience to bacteria.

Where Do Rats Die?

Many people think that rats run away and die somewhere else after eating poison. However, in reality, they are more likely to meet their fate right inside the home. If you’re fortunate, you’ll locate it swiftly due to the odor and dispose of it.

Sometimes, unfortunate as it may be, rats have a tendency to pass away within the confines of walls or beneath floorboards. In such cases, seeking professional help or patiently waiting for the odor to dissipate over time might be necessary.


In conclusion, understanding the survival capabilities and lifespans of rats can shed light on their behavior and the challenges they pose in various environments. Whether you’re dealing with rat infestations, seeking to care for domesticated rats, or simply curious about these fascinating creatures, it’s important to approach the topic with knowledge and caution. 

If you’re facing rodent problems and require professional assistance, On Demand Pest Control’s experts can provide the expertise and solutions needed to effectively manage and control rat populations. With their experience and tailored approaches, you can regain peace of mind and create a rat-free environment. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts for reliable assistance in dealing with rodent issues.

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