Rats cause a lot of damage. As the teeth of rodents continue to grow over their lifetime, they need to gnaw on hard substances such as lead and plastic pipes, insulation material and electric wiring. This habit increases the risk of short circuits and fires. In addition to this, they transmit a number of dangerous diseases such as Salmonella, Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease), Tuberculosis and even tape worms.
Rats cause a lot of contamination. One single rat equals more than 25000 droppings per year, which contain allergens that can cause acute allergic reactions.
Rats introduce secondary pests. Rats are also known to introduce other pests, such as fleas, mites and ticks into the premise, causing additional damage.
Signs of rat problem
Rats are nocturnal and usually hide from humans. The typical signs of a rat problem in the home are:
- Scratching noises in walls or under the floor as rats scurry around.
- Droppings – rats leave dark, tapered droppings about 10-14mm long.
- Distinctive smell – rats leave an ammonia-like smell that will be particularly strong in enclosed areas such as under cupboards.
- Bite marks – rats have teeth that grow continuously and gnaw on wood and plastic to keep them trim. Rats can even cause fires by chewing through cables.
- Ripped food packaging – rats will tear open food which may leave teeth marks.
- Nests – rats build nests in warm, hidden places using shredded material such as newspapers and fabrics. Nests will often contain young rats.
- Burrows – in gardens, rats will dig burrows especially in compost heaps or under sheds. They will also build nests under garden decking.
- Smears – the build-up of dirt and grease from the rat’s fur, commonly on walls and surfaces where rats commute.
How to identify signs of rats
As nocturnal creatures, rats are most active between dusk and dawn and usually hide from humans during the day. It is often easier to spot signs of a problem, rather than the actual pest.
Rat droppings – usually found in concentrated areas as rats produce up to 40 droppings per night. Brown rat droppings are dark brown in a tapered, spindle shape about 9–14mm long. They can resemble a large grain of rice.
Scratching noises – Think you might have rats in your roof? Black rats (also known as the roof rat) are agile climbers and can easily gain access into loft spaces and upper floors of buildings. Hearing scratching noises at night from above may suggest their presence. Brown rats on the other hand, are less adept climbers. You may hear them scurrying under decking, sheds and floorboards. They are more likely to be identified by a grinding noise they make with their teeth known as bruxing.
Footprints (running tracks) – Rats leave foot and tail marks in dusty, less-used areas of buildings. Shining a strong flashlight at a low angle should reveal tracks clearly. To establish if an infestation is active, sprinkle fine flour or talc along a small stretch of floor near the footprints and check for fresh tracks the next day.
Rub marks – Rats use established routes along skirting boards and walls due to their poor eyesight. Grease and dirt on their bodies leave smudges and dark marks on both objects and surfaces they repeatedly brush against. These marks may indicate rodent activity, but as smears may remain for a long period of time, they are not a good gauge of an active infestation.
Damage – Rats have teeth that grow continuously. They need to gnaw on wood and plastic to keep them trim. They have the potential to cause fires by chewing through electrical cables. You may also notice ripped food packaging, as rats tear open food, leaving visible teeth marks.
Nests – Rats build nests in warm, hidden places using shredded material such as newspaper and fabrics. Nests will often contain young rats and are usually located close to a food source. Check behind and under appliances, such as fridges and freezers in or near your kitchen.
Burrows – Brown rats are well known for digging and excavating extensive burrow systems for shelter, food storage and nesting. Look for burrows in compost heaps, under decking or garden sheds, or in garages.
Have you spotted rat droppings?
It is extremely serious if rats are getting into your home even if they are not entering a direct living area. Any rat problem inside the home must be treated urgently. Rats in the garden and other external areas can also be high risk, particularly in areas used by children or pets. Large rat species such as Bandicoot rats can also damage plants with extensive burrowing activities.
It is important to get rid of rats in the garden to reduce the risk of them trying to enter the home. Special care is needed for properties with integral garages or with dog or cat flaps as rats can use these to get into the home.
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