UK's Giant Rat Plague: What Should You Do?
The UK has recently been subject to a plague of giant rats. It seems that the city-dwelling rodents have grown extra-large on a diet of rubbish and scraps discarded by restaurants and householders. So brazen are they that they’re regularly seen scavenging during daylight hours and specimens as big as small dogs have been reported.
So should we be afraid of rats? Is it really necessary to get rid of them and if so, how do we go about it?
Why get rid of rats?
Unlike their domesticated pet cousins, wild, brown rats are not nice, cute furry little creatures. They carry e.coli, salmonella, Weil’s disease, tuberculosis and cryptosporidiosis which can be passed on to both us and our pets. Add to that fleas, ticks and mites that also reside on the rat’s skin and you can see that these are the most unwelcome of guests.
Rats in your garden are a real cause for concern. Consider this; rats only need a gap of about 1cm to squeeze through and they’re into your home.
How to recognise an infestation
Rats are generally nocturnal and secretive so it’s unusual to see them. Watch out for tell-tale signs and if you suspect that you do have rats in your garden, always wear protective gloves and a mask when you’re looking for signs.
The most obvious indication that you’ve got rats is finding their droppings. These are dark in colour and tapered in shape, approximately 10 to 14mm long. Rat urine has a distinctive strong, ammonia-like smell which will be strongest in confined spaces; in cupboards, beneath floorboards etc.
Listen carefully at night when it’s quiet. Can you hear scratching sounds? If so, you could have rats in your walls, under your floorboards in the loft or beneath the decking in your garden. Like other rodents, rats continually chew and gnaw on wood and plastic. Look out for signs of this along with teeth marks in food packaging.
Rats nest in sheltered burrows accessed by holes. Favourite spots include your compost heap, under your decking or shed. Have a good look round for nests made of plastic and fabric or newspaper. You could also find obvious rat-runs in long grass or around the side of buildings.
What attracts rats?
Rats are on the lookout for a ready food source and shelter. Have a good look around your outside space and remove any food sources such as open bins, bird feeders and fallen fruit from trees. Don’t put food out for other animals like hedgehogs as this could also encourage rats. Inside, put all food in vermin-proof containers and pick up pet bowls and water dishes.
Look out for any small gaps or holes in outside walls through which rats could gain access to your home and block them up. Be particularly careful about broken airbricks and cat flaps which allow easy access.
Finally, check your sewer. Broken or damaged sewer pipes are notoriously popular places for rats to appear from and should be repaired without delay. A ‘rat-stop’ can be installed within the sewer too which allows water flow but stops the rats. This should be used in conjunction with traps and poison to be sure of getting rid of them completely.
I’ve got rats! What now?
Once you’ve identified rat-runs and potential nesting sites, buy suitable pest control products from DIY and garden centres or your local supermarket. Follow the instructions carefully and make sure that the product you’ve chosen is child and pet safe before use.
Rats can be deterred by using ultrasonic repellers but these won’t work if the infestation is established. If the rats are already in your house or the outside ones just won’t go away, the best course of action is to notify your local council or call a professional pest control company to deal with the infestation.
Cleaning up after rats
Once you are sure that all your rats have been exterminated, you need to clean up the mess they’ve made. If they have been living in your loft, you may find that your insulation is soaked in urine; droppings will be everywhere and there may even be rotting rat carcasses or skeletons. Wear goggles, a protective mask and thick gloves. Remove and bag all the insulation and vacuum up the faeces. Use a weak solution of bleach and water to clean anything that the rats have had contact with.
Better still, call in a professional pest controller to do the clean-up work for you.
About Alison Page
Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at http://www.theladywriter.co.uk