Rats commonly seen in the UK are either the Norwegian or Brown Rat. They are generally brown in colour with an off-white under belly. They can grow to 270mm long and have a tail length of up to 200mm.

Rats live in close association with other animals and humans, and are usually nocturnal. The rat has very poor eyesight and is colour blind. However, the rat has an excellent sense of touch, taste, smell and hearing. Rats are good swimmers, climbers, jumpers and burrowers. In favourable conditions, populations can grow rapidly.

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.
  • They can cause damage to buildings and other structures by gnawing and burrowing.

Where do they live?

Common rats live in any situation that provides food, water and shelter. In homes, they will live in roof spaces, wall cavities or under floorboards. In gardens, they will burrow into compost heaps and grassy banks or under sheds. Rats are often found living in sewer systems, they are agile climbers and excellent swimmers. 

Signs of infestation

  • Sightings of live or dead rats.
  • Common rat droppings can be 12mm long and taper at both ends.
  • Runs - rats follow the same routes when travelling and leave trails through the grass and low vegetation.
  • Footprints and tail swipes - on muddy or dusty surfaces.
  • Smears - dark grey marks left on surfaces by repeated contact with rat fur.
  • Burrows - entrance holes 7-120mm in diameter in grassy banks, under tree roots, at the end of paving or drain cover surrounds.
  • Nests - sometime found indoors, in lofts or under floorboards.
  • Gnawing - rats gnaw continually, even on non-food materials, in order to wear down their front teeth.

How to treat and control measures

A high percentage of rat infestations are due to bird feeding. You should not feed birds during the summer months.

If you wish to treat the rat problem yourself, you can either buy rat poison or break back traps from any hardware store.

Warning: Use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.

If you choose to purchase poison or traps from any hardware store, you must follow the instructions carefully.

Preventive measures

You can help prevent infestation by some simple measures:

  • Remove potential nesting sites by keeping yards and gardens clean and tidy, and by cutting back overgrown areas.
  • Stored materials should ideally be at least 19 inches off the ground to make access harder and identification of infestation easier. Products should also be kept away from walls.
  • 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.
  • Do not leave household waste where rats can get at it. Food and food waste should be stored in sealed containers, including compost bins.
  • Having a good housekeeping system for any outdoor pets, eg rabbits in hutches or pigeons in lofts. Poor housekeeping can easily result in a rat infestation.