Spotting a rat is one of the most scary experiences you can have in your home. A place that is supposed to be safe and secure is suddenly exposed to an unwanted guest that is a far larger, more destructive and more intelligent animal than your common house mouse.
With four clawed feet that can scramble up almost any surface, sharp teeth that can gnaw through walls and a tail that acts as a fifth limb, rats are capable of infiltrating even the most clean and well-built home, where they steal food, damage property and spread disease.
No one shrugs off spotting a rat, and the first thing you think is, how can I get rid of this dangerous pest?
Step 1: traps. Step 2: Patience
Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to do when you spot a rat is go on the offensive. The tricky thing is, rats are intelligent creatures that have adapted to have a trait called neophobia, or, fear of anything new – very handy for surviving in unknown territory.
This can makes traps frustratingly ineffective for killing rats. Often, they’ll spot a trap, their neophobia kicks in and tells them it might be dangerous, and they simply walk around it. Thinking you didn’t put it in the right spot, you move the trap to somewhere else, resetting the rat’s neophobia again.
You need to be patient. After about four or five days, that neophobia wears off and they accept the trap as part of their environment and they’ll then be too tempted for the bait to resist it.
If you have more than one rat (which is usually the case), you’ll then have to start the process from scratch, which is why we have to perform three or four visits to a premises spaced a few days apart.
Never use poisons
With mice, we advise against using poisons that aren’t professional-grade desiccating poisons as the rotting body may provide a food source for maggots or even other mice. However, if you do use a poison, the corpse isn’t likely to cause any extreme issues other than an unpleasant smell.
With rats, it’s a different story. Rats have much bigger bodies than mice, which means a bigger corpse. A dead rat causes a truly disgusting stench that releases particulates that can make people and pets very sick, often more sick than the rat itself would have made you.
This corpse also provides a much larger food source for maggots. We once visited a house that had maggots falling out of the light fitting above the dinner table while the family ate because they had – against our advice – used poisons, leaving a dead rat in the ceiling that they couldn’t get rid of.
Rat poison is also a highly lethal poison that can kill pets, children and make adults very sick. It’s not something that you should use lightly, and far too many preventable pet deaths in the UK are caused by people being irresponsible with rat poison.
So, even if they feel frustrating at first, be patient and stick to traps.
Find out how and why they’re getting into your home
Congratulations! You checked your tap in the morning and the rat that’s been bothering you is finally dead. But you shouldn’t get too happy: unless you sort out whatever pushed or attracted the rat into your home in the first place, more will inevitably show up.
Rats, like mice, are social creatures. They live in large, rapidly growing families that can go from a single breeding pair to 1000 rats within a year. So killing one or even a handful isn’t going to do the trick. Prevention is more important than extermination.
Rats are opportunists, but they’re also shy, and would much prefer to stay out of sight from humans. They will quite happily live their entire lives in the darkness of our sewers, feeding on food waste without ever coming into contact with us.
This means that there is often a direct correlation between the appearance of rats and an external influence, meaning something must have happened to push these rats into your home.
Examples of these external influences are:
- Neighbouring building works may have destroyed their original home, causing them to flee into yours. This is particularly common for basement excavations that have dug deep into the ground and have disturbed a once-hidden rat colony.
- Flooding of the drains or sewers beneath your property might be driving the rats up through the drains and into your house. People often report having blocked drains a few days before spotting a rat, which usually tells us that the rats have had to evacuate.
- Proximity to empty, derelict or rarely used buildings that may be providing a perfect habitat for a rat family may be strolling into your home as they explore their surroundings, or their population has reached a point where there’s not enough food or water to sustain them, sending them hunting for more.
Then, on the other side, we have the internal influences, the things that are attracting rats to your property.
Rats don’t hang around where they can’t find food and water (unlike their much smaller cousins, mice, rats don’t get enough moisture from their food to be able to survive) and – if they’re settling in your home – a safe place to breed and raise their young.
If you’ve spotted rats in your garden, check that you don’t have bird feed or fruits or seeds dropped from bushes and trees that could be providing a food source. If they’re inside your home, common food sources are big sacks of pet food stored away and forgotten in cupboards, basements or attics.
As for water, they may be living in the drains and getting their water from there, then coming up into your home to find food. Or, if they’ve settled in your home, they may be drinking from a leaking pipe.
Finally, hidden routes into your home such as broken air bricks or cracked pipes may be providing such easy access into your home that rats can’t help taking a peak inside. Sometimes, simply sealing these up will stop rats ever coming back, especially if they’re coming in from the garden rather than the drains.
Call the experts
While every case is unique – and we’ve seen some truly bizarre causes for rats invasions over the years – the external and internal factors above will be the first things we look for when we’re investigating a rat infestation.
To ascertain the exact cause, we deploy almost CSI-level techniques and equipment. UV-activated powder on your floors and surfaces will let us follow their footprints and narrow down their point of entry, while tiny CCTV cameras placed in your drains will quickly expose any rats sneaking in through there.
Naturally, this probably goes above and beyond what you are willing or capable of doing yourself. You can fumble around with DIY solutions for months or even years, or you can call our team of experienced, fully insured and BPCA/RSPH certified pest controllers – plus our favourite team member, our Jack Russel, Kimba.
We promise to not only kill the rats, but also control the population and seal off any access points into your home. We don’t want you to be stuck in protracted contracts or have to keep paying pesties for the same job year after year: we offer permanent solutions that let you get back to enjoying your home in peace.
Give us a call on 020 3875 8225 or click here to to get in touch and book your assessment today.