The rat has plagued the land for thousands of years, responsible for the Black Death that killed almost 50% of Europe’s population in the 14thcentury and the great plague of London in the 17thcentury. There are two species of rat in Britain; the Rattus norvegicus which is more commonly known as the brown rat and the Rattus rattus which is more commonly known as the black rat or ship rat.
What they look like
Rats are vermin very similar to mice, with the main difference being rats are much larger in size, the brown rat is the largest weighing up to 500g and a fully grown adult is about 20-23cm in length without counting the tail. It has a blunt muzzle, with small hair-covered ears and a tail shorter than its body length.
The black rats weighs about 250g and is slightly shorter, it has a pointed muzzle and larger hairless ears, a more slender body and a long thing tail that is longer than it’s body. The type of rat can be determined by the footprints it leaves, a brown rat is flat footed and the black rat runs on its toes.
Both species of rat breed rapidly and become sexually mature at about three months old. A female will typically breed about six times in its lifetime and each litters of between six and eight young, when multiplied this can be a serious problem if left untreated. The maximum lifetime of a rat is about three years but most are lucky to survive one; the young are born blind and will not full vision until a few weeks old.
Problems Rats cause
The brown rat is the usually only seen at night as they tend to stay in hiding during the day and will stay around ground level or in sewers, the black rat still occurs in seaport towns, the black rat is a more agile climber, often entering the upper floors of buildings.
Brown rats will burrow underground or into suitably soft material and make a nest. Refuge tips/Recycling centres, lose soil under garden sheds and earth banks are all suitable nesting spots as well as chewed/shredded paper, straw or insulation material.
Rats, like mice need to continuously gnaw to keep their constantly growing incisor teeth worn down. Rats will damage woodwork, plastic and lead pipes and chew threw cables and wires. Rats will collect extra food for future consumption, rats feed mostly at night and the average rat will eat 50g of food a day, a brown rat can not survive long without water.
Rats pose a significant health risk to humans and pets. Common diseases carried by rats include; Food poisoning, Salmonella, weil’s disease, E coili, Cryptosporidiosis and Tuberculosis. Rats are known to carry foot and mouth disease on farms and also carry and spread Fleas, Mites and Ticks and can acute allergic reactions. Rats can contaminate much more food than they can consume and their urine can pollute stagnant water.
What to do about rats
If you find signs of Rat inhabitancies there are a few easy steps you can take; eliminating any harbourages such as gaps under sheds, loose piles of wood and neglected weed patches. Do not encourage rats by leaving scraps of food out, if you feed garden birds, use a bird table or feeder basket.
The most effective way to kill off rats is to poison them. Specialist baiting traps and rodenticide are available to licensed professionals, for serious or persistent rat infestations give us a call for a free quote.