The greater cane rat is much more widespread in Africa than the lesser cane rat, and although there are overlaps in their distribution, they occupy different ecological niches. They occur in grassland or in wooded savanna areas of Africa south of the Sahara. Because of specialized habitat requirements, their distribution is discontinuous. They do not inhabit rainforest, arid regions, or deserts. The only exception being forests where there are clearings with a grassland invasion. Cane rats (or "grasscutters" as they are known in West Africa) can be found in virtually all countries of west, east, and southern Africa, as far south as the eastern Cape, South Africa.

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