Rats are incredibly intelligent and adaptable creatures that have become quite successful at living alongside humans. If you’ve ever wondered whether these agile rodents can flatten or squeeze their bodies to fit into tight spaces, you’re not alone!

Keep reading as we dive into the details and explain everything you need to know about rats’ ability to flatten their bodies.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Yes, rats have an impressive ability to flatten their bodies and bones to squeeze into very small spaces.

Rat Anatomy Allows for Compression of the Rib Cage

Rats, like many other animals, have an incredible ability to adapt their bodies to fit through tight spaces. One of the key features that enables them to do so is their flexible rib cage.

Rats Have a Flexible Rib Cage

The ribs of rats are not rigid like those of humans. Instead, they are made up of flexible cartilage that allows for a significant amount of movement. This flexibility allows rats to compress their rib cage, making their bodies narrower and more streamlined.

As a result, they can squeeze through openings that may seem impossibly small.

Collapsible Lungs Aid in Compression

In addition to their flexible rib cage, rats also have collapsible lungs that assist in their ability to flatten their bodies. When a rat needs to squeeze through a narrow space, its lungs can collapse to reduce their size.

This allows the rat to further compress its body and navigate through tight gaps with ease.

Loose Skin Allows for Changes in Body Shape

Rats also have loose skin that allows them to change their body shape. This loose skin enables them to stretch and contort their bodies as needed, making it easier for them to flatten themselves and maneuver through narrow passages.

It’s almost like they have their own built-in “stretchy pants” that adapt to their surroundings!

These remarkable anatomical adaptations highlight the incredible flexibility and agility of rats. They are able to navigate through spaces that would be impossible for many other animals. So, the next time you see a rat effortlessly squeezing through a tiny opening, remember to appreciate the amazing design of their anatomy.

Behaviors That Rely on Body Flattening

One of the fascinating abilities that rats possess is the capability to flatten their bodies. This unique behavior allows them to perform various tasks and navigate through tight spaces that would otherwise be impassable.

Let’s explore some of the behaviors that rely on their remarkable ability to flatten themselves.

Squeezing Through Small Passages and Holes

Rats are known for their exceptional agility and flexibility when it comes to maneuvering through small passages and holes. By flattening their bodies, they can easily squeeze through narrow openings that seem impossible for creatures of their size.

This ability is due to their flexible skeletal structure and the absence of a rigid collarbone, which allows them to compress their bodies and slip through tight spots.

According to a study published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology B, rats can flatten their bodies to a thickness of just 1.5 centimeters, enabling them to navigate through gaps that are only slightly wider than their heads.

This extraordinary skill helps them access food sources, escape predators, and explore new environments.

Fitting Into Tight Burrows

Another behavior that relies on body flattening is the rat’s ability to fit into tight burrows. Rats are skilled diggers and often create burrows for shelter and nesting. Their ability to flatten their bodies allows them to enter and explore burrows with ease, even if the entrance is narrow or obstructed.

This way, they can find secure places to rest, raise their young, and protect themselves from harsh weather conditions.

Research conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, found that rats can compress their bodies to fit through burrow entrances as small as 3 centimeters in diameter. This flexibility gives them a significant advantage in their survival and reproductive success, as they can access hidden and protected areas that larger predators cannot reach.

Hiding from Predators

Body flattening also plays a crucial role in rats’ defense mechanisms. When faced with potential threats or predators, rats can quickly flatten themselves against the ground or squeeze into tight spaces, making it difficult for predators to grab or reach them.

This behavior increases their chances of survival by reducing their visibility and minimizing the chances of being caught.

A study published in Animal Behaviour revealed that rats use body flattening as a defensive strategy when encountering predators such as cats. By flattening their bodies, they can hide in narrow crevices or flatten against the ground, making it challenging for predators to detect and capture them.

Limits to Rats’ Body Flattening Capabilities

Compression Depends on Age and Health

Rats are well-known for their ability to squeeze through narrow openings and tight spaces. However, their body flattening capabilities do have limits. One important factor that affects their ability to compress their bodies is age.

Younger rats, with their more flexible skeletons, are able to flatten and squeeze through smaller openings compared to older rats. Similarly, the overall health and fitness of a rat can also impact their ability to flatten their bodies.

Rats that are overweight or have health issues may struggle to compress themselves as effectively as healthier individuals.

According to a study conducted by the University of California, younger rats were able to flatten their bodies to a greater extent than older rats. The researchers found that the maximum compression capacity of a rat’s body decreased with age.

This suggests that as rats grow older, their ability to squeeze through narrow spaces may diminish.

Very Small Spaces Are Still Off Limits

While rats are incredibly skilled at fitting into tight spaces, there are still limits to what they can squeeze through. Despite their impressive flexibility, there are certain spaces that are simply too small for a rat to flatten its body enough to pass through.

For example, gaps that are narrower than the rat’s skull or ribcage would be impossible for them to squeeze through, no matter how much they can flatten their bodies. In addition, rats may struggle to pass through openings that are lined with sharp edges or obstacles that could injure them.

It’s important to note that rats have a natural instinct to explore their surroundings and find shelter, which drives them to attempt to squeeze through small openings. However, it’s crucial to ensure that these openings are not hazardous for the rats.

Blocking access to potentially dangerous areas can help protect both the rats and the surrounding environment.

Interesting Examples of Rat Body Flattening

Rats are incredibly adaptable creatures that have developed unique physical abilities to help them survive in various environments. One fascinating ability they possess is the capability to flatten their bodies in order to navigate through tight spaces.

This article will explore some interesting examples of how rats use this skill to their advantage.

Escaping Laboratories through Drain Pipes

When rats find themselves in laboratories or other confined spaces, they often need to find a way to escape. One clever method they employ is squeezing their bodies through drain pipes. Rats can flatten themselves to fit through narrow openings, allowing them to slip away undetected.

This ability has made it challenging for researchers to keep rats contained, leading to escapees and potential issues with experiments.

Infesting Homes through Tiny Crevices

Another example of rat body flattening is their ability to enter homes through tiny crevices. Rats can squeeze their bodies into incredibly tight spaces, such as gaps under doors or cracks in walls. This enables them to infiltrate homes and buildings, seeking shelter and sources of food.

Homeowners often find themselves surprised at how rats manage to enter their houses even though they believed all entry points were sealed off.

Surviving Natural Disasters

Rats have proven to be resilient in the face of natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes. During these events, rats can flatten their bodies to fit into narrow crevices or cracks in buildings, allowing them to seek refuge and survive the chaos.

This ability to squeeze into tight spaces gives them an advantage in finding shelter and avoiding potential dangers.


In summary, rats are remarkably able to flatten and contort their bodies in order to fit into very small spaces. Key aspects of rat anatomy like a flexible rib cage, collapsible lungs, and loose skin enable impressive compression of their bodies.

Rats rely on this ability to access food, escape predators, infest buildings, and survive in their environments. However, there are still physical limits to how much rats can flatten themselves. While the exact measurements may vary by species, age, and health, rats cannot normally squeeze themselves to two dimensions like a pancake.

Their body flattening capabilities are nonetheless a testament to their adaptability and survival skills.

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