A particularly plump rat had an adventure this weekend after it got stuck in a manhole cover and had to be freed by local firefighters and animal rescuers.
Typically, rats can squeeze through the smallest of spaces because their bodies are long, flexible and cylindrical, giving them the ability to wriggle through holes as little as 0.25 inches (0.6 centimeters), according to Wildlife Animal Control, a wildlife removal company.
Moreover, rats can use their whiskers to gauge whether they will fit through holes, Wildlife Animal Control says. But, in this case, the furry rodent may have misjudged its girth. [Gallery: A View of Rat Island]
Rescue workers got the call on Sunday afternoon (Feb. 24), when the rat got stuck in the manhole cover in Bensheim, a town in central Germany.
"She had a lot of winter flab and was stuck fast at her hip — there was no going forward or back," animal rescuer Michael Sehr told local media, according to the BBC.
Rescuers, including the local fire brigade, used a pole with a loop at the end to hold the squeaking rat still while they lifted up the manhole cover. Then, they released the rat, unharmed, back into the sewer, according to the rescue group's Facebook page.
Some people questioned why such a large operation was needed to save a single rat, the BBC reported. But Sehr responded to these questions by referring to the golden rule. "Even animals that are hated by many deserve respect," he said.
Despite most rats' extreme flexibility, it's not uncommon for a chubby rat to get stuck in holes. Most overweight rats have fat around their bodies, including their abdomens, and this added layer can make it difficult for them to squeeze through small spaces, according to Wildlife Animal Control.
This often happens when rats underestimate their body size. "In most cases, rats can get stuck by the head and shoulder and it could be difficult for them to get loose, however rats that get stuck by the abdomen may still find it easier to escape," Wildlife Animal Control reported.
You can see the video of the full rescue here.
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Originally published on Live Science.
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Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.