Rats are opportunistic, invasive survivors, often living with and near humans. They have long been considered deadly pests spreading diseases such as Salmonella, e.Coli and Tuberculosis which can be passed on to us and pets. Not only that, they carry fleas, ticks and mites. Enough said? Here is some advice about rats for you....
Identifying a rat problem
Rats tend to be concentrated in specific locations; if you believe you have rodents in your property there are several ways to identify the problem:
- Rat droppings: 15-18mm rod-shaped droppings
- Scratching noises: black rats are agile and known as good climbers. They can easily access loft spaces and upper floors so listen for noises around these areas that might indicate their presence. The brown rat is less agile and more likely to be heard scratching under floorboards, they also make a chattering noise.
- Footprints: rodents will leave foot and tail marks in dusty areas, using a flashlight at a low angle will help to identify these. Try sprinkling flour along the area you have heard scratching to see if the area is actively used.
- Rub marks: rats have an oily underbelly which leaves dark marks on objects and surfaces commonly used.
- Burrows: brown rats have a tendency to dig extensive burrow systems for shelter and nesting, usually near a solid structure that acts as a protective roof for the tunnel section (garden sheds, garages, decking).
RAT FACT: Rat day
July 22 is traditionally known as Rat Catcher’s Day following Robert Browning’s poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin – this was the day Hamelin town was saved from a rat plague by the Pied Piper
How to deal with rats
No one wants to live with rats. Many people try to eradicate the problem themselves using DIY methods but there are a lot of risks to consider such as rats that die in the walls of your house – this will lead to a nasty smelling rat corpse problem that you are unable to get to, even leading to a risk of fly infestation. It is always recommended to speak to a professional who will propose an appropriate solution suitable to your requirements such as poison or setting traps.
- Rats can get through ridiculously small gaps and doorways. Fitting strips to these areas will deter them.
- Gaps in exterior walls: fill these with concrete or steel wire wool, the wool is like walking on glass to a rat.
- Roofs: rats can climb along electrical cables and branches to gain access to loft space, repair any roof damage and use wire mesh to seal the gaps.
- Drains and sewer pipes: rodents can swim up sewer pipes and get round U-beds in toilets – a horrifying shock to anyone victim to this! Use metal grates or screens to cover drains, especially in basement areas.
- Rats, unlike mice, need a regular water source to thrive so ensure all damaged water pipes are fixed.
RAT FACT: Rat in the kitchen
Despite their small size, rats have an incredibly large appetite. It's estimated that rodents get through one-fifth of the global food supply every year, making them substantial contributors to famine, not to mention millions of pounds worth of damaged goods. According to the journal Nature, rats' anatomy allows them to wriggle into spaces as small as a quarter.
As a general rule, rats are more problematic in the winter months as they look for warmth in people's houses. Although they will do their best to stay out of the way of humans, rodents are very opportunistic when it comes to finding their next meal. They will always scavenging for scraps of food, which is why it is so important for people to keep their homes as clean and tidy as possible. Unsurprisingly, rats are more likely to pop up in places where there is a lot of shared waste, so as well as keeping your own property in good order; it is worth keeping an eye on your neighbours' waste disposal habits if you want to keep your street rat-free.
RAT FACT: Rat manners
It is unparliamentarily language for an MP to refer to another MP as a 'rat'
Problems caused by rats
While mice and rats may be cute in the pet shop, their wild relatives are troublesome pests. They carry all manner of diseases and germs, and could cause serious damage to your property - so acting quickly with suitable mouse or rat control products is a must.
Diseases carried by rodents can be spread in a variety of ways, for example bites could transmit diseases through the animals' saliva. More commonly, however, people become infected by coming into contact with the creatures' faeces or urine. In fact, you may not have any idea that you are being exposed to these, as they may dry or turn to dust before you notice them in your home. In terms of disease, a rodent infestation can actually bring even more pests into your home as the animals often carry fleas, ticks and mites. These insects can carry a variety of other illnesses and multiply quickly, making vermin control even more important.
As far as property damage is concerned, rodents are known for their chewing and nesting tendencies. The animals will gnaw through walls and flooring, as well as the more structural elements of a building. What's more, vermin munching through wires could create a serious fire hazard, as well as sudden power outages.
RAT FACT: Rat sense
Rats have poor eyesight and are colour blind, but have acute hearing and good sense of smell and taste
More Rat facts
You can eat rat
Rat is a somewhat forbidden food since the rodents are known to carry an assortment of diseases, including typhus, trichinosis, salmonellosis and rat-bite fever. However, China and a handful of other Asian countries cook up rat on a regular basis. Street vendors in Thailand sell both uncooked and roasted rat to passersby. Visitors to Vietnam and Cambodia can sample barbequed rat, which reportedly has a stringier consistency than chicken. The price of rat meat was reported to have quadrupled in Cambodia in 2008 as inflation put other meat beyond the reach of poor people.
Rats aren't exactly ideal mothers as they're known to eat their young. Scientists think rat mums feed on their weaker young to save the energy they'd otherwise have to spend caring for the runts.
Rat Island, Alaska
Rat Island off the Alaskan coast is a prime example of the rodent's impressive reproductive powers. In 1780, a Japanese boat infested with sewer rats shipwrecked on its shores and the pests subsequently took over the unspoilt habitat. Rats killed off masses of resident seabirds and kept the avian population in check for the next two centuries.
Rats get huge
Scientists stumbled on a new, giant rat species while researching in Papua, New Guinea, in 2007. Unlike wild city rats that act skittish around people, the Mallomys rat approached the scientists' camp repeatedly during their stay. The Mallomys rat grows to be about 6 pounds (2.7 kilograms), or five times larger than the average rat.
Rats like to urinate—a lot. Both male and female rats will mark their territory by urinating. Rats will even pee on top each other's scent (counter-marking) in order to establish dominance.
At the Karni Mata Temple in Deshoke, India, rats are actually treated with respect. The temple was built in the early 20th century and was named for the Hindu rat goddess, Karni Mata. Inside, the temple houses at least 20,000 rats that religious devotees visit in hopes of receiving blessings from the rodents. Sighting a rare white rat, eating food nibbled on by a temple rat or having a rat runs across one's feet are all considered signs of good fortune.
All in the (rat) family
When it comes to mating, rats don’t discriminate. A mother may copulate with her son, a brother and sister may get it on and so on. Since rats are so incestuous, they are the largest single group of mammals in the animal kingdom.
Rats and the Plague
Rats are to blame for the Black Death, Bubonic Plague and other notorious plague outbreaks. Infected fleas spread the Yesinia pestis bacterium (aka plague) to rats, and the rats then passed it along to humans. For this reason, a sudden spate of dead rats often portends a plague epidemic.
Rats teeth grow continuously, they are worn down by gnawing on hard surfaces and working them against each others teeth (bruxing).
Nobody knows how many rats there are in the UK. Recent estimates vary between 10.5 million and 81 million.