Rats: advice and information
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The most efficient way of getting rid of an infestation of rats is to remove their access to food, water and shelter.
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Britain is home to two kinds of rat:
- The Ship Rat (or Black Rat) is rare in the UK
- The Common Rat (also known as the brown or sewer rat), is the most abundant and widespread species found throughout the UK
This information applies to the Common Rat:
The adult rat weighs 100 to 500 grams, measures about 24cm long (excluding tail) and is brown/black with grey fur underneath. Its tail is shorter than the head and body together.
Rats are efficient burrowers and favour compost heaps and the ground underneath hedges and sheds, where they will dig shallow burrows and form nests with dry grass and leaves - in houses they nest in wall cavities and beneath floorboards
They are good climbers and can climb vertical brick walls. They are also proficient swimmers and are at home in sewers where they have food, water and shelter
The front teeth of rats grow continuously and they gnaw on hard objects such as lead water pipes, brickwork, electric cables, wood etc. to keep them at a manageable length.
Rats are usually active at night, but may also be seen during the day.
They usually have well worn runs between their living area and source of food and water.
The life expectancy of a rat is approximately one year, during which time a female will typically breed five times with an average litter of 8. Female rats will have their first litter at the age of 4 months.
Rats can be a major hazard to health as they can spread many forms of disease (especially through droppings and urine). Some of these diseases, such as leptospirosis, can be fatal to humans although incidences are rare.
They may eat food which is intended for human consumption and their gnawing can cause structural damage to woodwork, water pipes, electric cables etc.
Rat infestation can be characterised by the following signs:
- Damage caused by gnawing - packaging will often show tooth marks which will indicate whether it is a rat or a mouse
- Holes made by rats in doors and walls, and the entrances to nests, are about 80mm (3inches) in diameter, and nests may be made in wall and floor cavities
- Rat runs: once the best route has been established, rats tend to use this run frequently and it will become soiled with the grease and dirt and be very apparent in even moderate infestations
- Smears and droppings: a good indication of the size of infestation and how long it has been there
- Footprints can be seen on soft or dusty surfaces