A wood rat is often called a pack rat because it collects shiny objects for its nest.

A wood rat is sometimes called “pack rat” because of its curious habit of stealing and “packing off” shiny buttons, silverware, buckles, colored rocks, or any other small, bright object that catch its fancy.

Pack Rat

Sometimes the pack rat will drop and leave a pebble or something equally useless he is carrying in order to “pack off” a more attractive button or coin.

This accounts for his often being called a “trade rat.”

A pack rat looks much like the common house rat, but it has cleaner habits.  It does not like to live in sewers and garbage dumps.

Instead, some pack rats live in the mountains and make their homes in bulky piles of sticks, which they build on rocky ledges, under trees or in branches.

Other pack rats live in the desert and build their  homes in clumps of cacti or cover their nests with cactus spines to keep enemies out.  A pack rat home may often tower as high as three or four feet.

Pack rats go out only at night to look for berries and seeds to eat, or any nice shiny objects that they find in your yard or camp site that they can “pack off.” – Dick Rogers