Eli5: How did Rats end up being domesticated by humans?

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Eli5: How did Rats end up being domesticated by humans?

In: 50

Most mammals that live in groups are easy to domesticate if needed.

Rats are cheap, intelligent, very easy to breed and live in groups.

They’re very intelligent, very social, and basically eat the same things we do. Turns out that makes them *really* easy to domesticate.

Plus they’re super affectionate, which is a plus in general.

In addition to the other answers: Because rats (sadly) don’t live that long, it’s easier to breed for specific characteristics like fur color or being tame.

So at first, you had professional ratcatchers, who operated on a purely exterminatory basis. But once there was a formalized profession in place, the ratcatchers started side hustles with the produce of their work, the most lucrative of which was bloodsport—supplying live rats to sporting houses where people would bet on the performance of terriers and other ratting dog breeds. This became so lucrative that wild-caught rats weren’t enough to meet the demand, so the more prolific ratcatchers started breeding their feeder stock. Over time this produced a sub-genus of docile rats that would become the domesticated species we know today, and once the breeders started selecting for unique fur patterns, public interest in pet rats exploded.

Can domesticated rats transfer diseases to humans or there’s some gene preventing it?

Selective breeding for desired traits the same way you do for any species. Rats can have babies by 3 months so you can select the rats that have your desired traits and breed pretty quickly. Rats that don’t have your desired traits don’t get to breed and/or are used for other purposes.

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Eli5: How did Rats end up being domesticated by humans?

In: 50

Most mammals that live in groups are easy to domesticate if needed.

Rats are cheap, intelligent, very easy to breed and live in groups.

They’re very intelligent, very social, and basically eat the same things we do. Turns out that makes them *really* easy to domesticate.

Plus they’re super affectionate, which is a plus in general.

In addition to the other answers: Because rats (sadly) don’t live that long, it’s easier to breed for specific characteristics like fur color or being tame.

So at first, you had professional ratcatchers, who operated on a purely exterminatory basis. But once there was a formalized profession in place, the ratcatchers started side hustles with the produce of their work, the most lucrative of which was bloodsport—supplying live rats to sporting houses where people would bet on the performance of terriers and other ratting dog breeds. This became so lucrative that wild-caught rats weren’t enough to meet the demand, so the more prolific ratcatchers started breeding their feeder stock. Over time this produced a sub-genus of docile rats that would become the domesticated species we know today, and once the breeders started selecting for unique fur patterns, public interest in pet rats exploded.

Can domesticated rats transfer diseases to humans or there’s some gene preventing it?

Selective breeding for desired traits the same way you do for any species. Rats can have babies by 3 months so you can select the rats that have your desired traits and breed pretty quickly. Rats that don’t have your desired traits don’t get to breed and/or are used for other purposes.