This rodent is closer related to the porcupine than to veld rats. The spiny fur on the back and rounded nose distinguish this animal from true rats. A mature animal reaches a length of about 720 mm.
Foraging individuals systematically cut grass with the upper incisors, which results in a tooth-chattering sound. The upper teeth grow continuously. Although it prefers green fodder, it can survive on the dry highveld grasses since it has digestive microbes in the hindgut. The meat of cane rat is regarded as a delicacy, superior to that of rabbit. For this reason some people hunt it for food.
Females gives birth to two litters per year after a long gestation period of 152 days. Litter sizes are mostly four pups which are well developed at birth.
Social structure normally consists of a male with two or three females.
Always occurs along river banks and near marshes where coarse and cane-like grasses occur. Often becomes a pest in crop areas such as sugar cane plantations in KwaZulu-Natal.
Where they are found
Found in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and further north to the central highveld of Gauteng and the Northern Province, as well Mpumalanga. A sister species, namely the lesser cane rat, is found only in parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique bordering on Zimbabwe.