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How to get rid of rats

Information, facts and resources to help you deal with an infestation of rats and, if the worst happens, how to destroy the rats and prevent this household pests return.


What does a rat look like?

common rat

Common Rat

common brown rat

Common Brown Rat

Rat Description

  • The common rat typically has brownish fur on its back and grey underneath but colour can vary from white through to black.

  • Adult body length is 200 - 270mm plus a tail length of 150 - 200mm.

  • Rats have hairless ears.

  • The ship rat, which is nowadays rarely encountered in Britain, is smaller than the common rat and usually black in colour.

  • It has large hairless ears and a tail that is longer than its head and body length.

Where do rats live?

  • Common rats live in any situation that provides food, water and shelter.

  • In homes they will live in loft spaces, wall cavities, cellars or under floorboards. Any undisturbed sheltered area in a home can house rats.

  • In gardens, they will burrow into compost heaps and grassy banks or under sheds. They are commonly found living in sewer systems. Piles of uncleared rubbish and refuse attract rats and can serve as shelter for families of rats.

  • Ship rats are agile climbers and are usually found indoors, living in roof spaces. They are rarely found in sewer systems.

What are the signs of rat infestation?

  • Sightings of live rats - If you see a live rat then you know rats are a problem and are either living and breeding on your property or very nearby.

  • Rat Droppings - Common rat droppings can be 12mm long and taper at both ends. Take droppings (use rubber gloves and good hygeine) to your local Department of Health or Environmental Health Service for identification.

  • Rat Runs - Rats follow the same routes when travelling, and leave trails through the grass and low vegetation. It is possible to spot these rat runs and then look for other signs of a rat infestation.

  • Rat Prints - Footprints and tail swipes can be seen on muddy or dusty surfaces. Once spotted, other signs of rat infestation can be looked for.

  • Rat Smears - Rats can leave dark grey marks left on surfaces by repeated contact with rat fur.

  • Rat Burrows - Rats use entrance holes 7 - 120mm in diameter in grassy banks, under tree roots, at the edge of paving or drain cover surrounds.

  • Rat Nests - Rat nests are sometimes found indoors, in lofts or under floorboards and at the back of undisturbed furnitures such as wall-fitted cupboards and units.

  • Rat Gnawing - Rats, being rodents, gnaw continually, even on non-food materials, in order to wear down their front teeth. This gnawing and damage by rats can be spotted and then other signs of rat infestation looked for to confirm.

What do rats eat?

  • The favourite foods of rats are cereal products, although rats will eat almost anything that humans eat.
  • Most of the damage thet rats do is by gnawing and ripping open packets. Rats also foul food with urine and droppings.

Why must rats be controlled?

  • Rats can transmit many diseases to humans, including Salmonellosis (food poisoning) and Weils disease.

  • Rats will eat or contaminate food intended for humans. It is estimated that up to 5% of food produced world-wide is lost as a result of rodent activity.

  • Rats cause damage to buildings, furniture and other structures due to rat gnawing, nesting and burrowing.

  • Rats chew on many objects like wires, which causes fires, and rats chew on pipes, which causes leaks.

  • Rats carry fleas that can live on humans and other mammals and thus spread diseases to people and animals.

  • Rat urine and rat droppings contaminate food and work surfaces.

  • Rats spoil food and food containers by knawing.

How can I get rid of rats?

  • Rats are adaptable, highly mobile and breed rapidly. This combination makes rat control a difficult task for the untrained individual.

  • The Local Authority provides a service for the treatment of rats in domestic properties. Fully trained Pest Control Officers will survey the infestation, then place poison bait in the most appropriate locations. Follow up visits will be made to ensure the success of the treatment.

  • Householders can assist in preventing infestation by some simple measures:

  • Remove potential rat nesting sites by keeping yards and gardens clean and tidy, and by cutting back overgrown areas and clearing rubbish.

  • Do not feed wild birds or other animals to excess - you may be feeding rats as well.

  • Keep your home in good repair so that rats cannot gain access to it. Ensure that the drain inspection covers are in place and are in good repair. Block holes and small accesses to the loft and cellar of the building. A walk around visual inspection may reveal opportunities for rats to access a structure, which can then be blocked.

  • Do not leave household waste where rats can get at it. Rats have a keen sense of smell and are competent knawers. Consider storing household waste for collection in rat-proof containers.

How can I prevent Rats from returning?

  • Good hygiene is important. Secure foodstuffs from rats in rat-proof containers. Clear waste and rubbish immediately.

  • Block up access routes. Prevent rats from accessing roofs, lofts, sheds and cellars.

  • Remove all food sources. Do not leave out waste food and make sure stored food is inaccessible to rats.

  • Bait and trap. Practice zero tolerance to rats. They are a dangerous, and potentially life-threatening helath pest to humans.

Rat Poisons and Rat Pesticides

  • When using pesticides always follow the instructions on the label.

  • All major DIY stores have a selection of Rat Poisons and Rat Pesticides.

  • Check with your local authority before paying for expensive poisons and pesticides - some councils have a FREE pest control service, that includes the poisons. - My local coucil will attend for a fee, and then return an unlimited number of times should the rats return.

The "Green Option" - Environmentally friendly control of Rats

  • Consider investing in traps - rats can be then be killed without the use of harmful pesticides or poisonous chemicals.

  • A large cat or small terrier-type dog may be a good natural defence against rats.

  • Perhaps ask a neighbour or friends terrier to run and seek through your home - just the smell of the terrier can be an effective deterrent to rats and other rodents.

  • In the past, Jack Russell Terriers were part of the Rat-Catchers standard stock-in-trade.

  • Fresh mint leaves, lavender, cayenne pepper, camphor or mothballs are known to repel mice and rats.

  • A mix of cement dust and sugar is an effective poisonous bait against rats.

Rats : Household Pests

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