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6 important rat facts you should

Rats can be found anywhere and will chew on just about anything. If left untreated, they can be a huge hazard for you and your home. Below are some common questions about rats. 


What are some common characteristics and traits of rats?

Rats are social creatures. They like to be with other rats and tend to form very tight family bonds. Inevitably, a hierarchy develops in rat populations, consisting of one dominant rat and several subordinates. Although this is typically found amongst male rats, female rats display hierarchies as well.

Rat populations can be found in rural, suburban and urban areas, especially if there’s a water source nearby.  Rats need a water source in order to survive. They are excellent swimmers and can tread water for up to three days, holding their breath for a long time. This is how rats can survive being flushed down toilets or come back up through them to access your home. 

Rats are outstanding climbers and will climb trees and get into your home via the roof. They have great memories, so once they map out a room they will remember all of the routes for a long time. However, rats do have poor eyesight, so they have to use their whiskers to get around. They use their tails for balancing purposes and to regulate their body temperatures. They can also communicate with other rats via their tails.

What do rats eat?

All rats are omnivores and opportunists. They have very sharp teeth that are constantly growing so they have to chew on hard or rough objects to control the growth. They like to chew on just about anything. But, what do rats like to eat? Rats will eat pretty much anything that they come across - including carcasses. 

City rats, wild rats, and non-urban rats all tend to eat different things. In the wild, rats will eat things like fruit, plants, and seeds, and are more likely to be vegetarians. However, city rats like to eat garbage and meat. They will consume pet food and any human food that they come across. That's why it is important to make sure food sources and trash bins are secured. If you have outdoor pets, their pet food needs to be stored securely and indoors if possible.

How long do rats live?

One of the most common questions we get is: how long do rats live? Of course, this is not an easy question to answer and there is not just one answer that is applicable to all rat species.

The lifespan of a rat depends largely on whether it lives in the wild or in captivity. Rats that are kept healthy as a family pet can live up to 4 years. Rats in the wild only live 1-2 years – sometimes less.

Where do rats nest?

When looking for a nesting site, rats are looking for several key things:

  • Warmth – Rats are looking for some place cozy that will keep them and their babies warm. They also want to stay dry during rainy and cold seasons, which is why they tend to come indoors during fall and winter months.
  • Easy access to food – Rats are always looking for food and they want it to be close to the nest. Rats have terrible eyesight and don’t want to wander too far (although they will if the pickings are sparse).
  • Nest-building materials – Rats will use newspapers, garbage, paper towels, old sheets, insulation, grass, vegetation, leaves and just about anything else they can use to create a soft, warm, dry place to sleep, give birth and raise their young. 

As for where rats like to nest in particular, it depends on the species. 

  • Norway rats (Brown rats) will create tunnels in lawns and fields. The actual nest is usually at the center and will consist of soft materials, vegetation, sticks, leaves and other materials the rats scavenge. There will be a main entrance and exit, but there might be some dirt-covered “bolt-holes” that allow the rat to quickly escape if threatened.
  • Roof rats (Black rats) are usually found in elevated places and in the wild will live on cliffs and among rocks. Near urban areas, they can end up in your attic. Roof rats will climb trees and get onto the roof of structures, using any damaged tiles, as well as their sharp teeth, to get inside wall spaces and attics. They will use soft materials to make the actual nest for themselves and their young which can include chewed paper, insulation and other materials found around the home.

Rats become active at night, particularly around dusk and near dawn. Norway rats that have created burrows in your yard can use plastic drain pipes to get into the basements and look for food. Black rats that have nested in the walls or attics will run between the walls, using their remarkable climbing abilities to get around and look for food.

What are the risks of rats?

It turns out there are a few risks that come with a rat infestation. It’s these that make the need for contacting a professional rat control expert so critical when rats are found around the home. Here are some of the risks of allowing rats to stay on your property or within your home.

Health risks

You may have heard that rats were to blame for the Black Plague that devastated Europe in the Dark Ages. It was actually the fleas and parasites on the rats that caused the disease, but the fact that rats are prone to parasites like fleas and ticks means that they can bring those and underlying diseases closer to you and your family. Rats are also associated with hantaviruses and Leptospirosis.

Fire hazards

Yes, rats can create fires. Their tendency to chew, combined with their ability to get into walls and other spaces means that they can become a danger when they come in contact with electrical wires. The insulation around electrical wires is often a very tempting treat for rats.

Once the insulation has been stripped from the wires, they pose a serious electrical hazard. This can end up causing something as relatively simple as the malfunction of an electrical device or something more serious. The exposed wires can create an electrical short that can set drywall and wood on fire. There have been cases where fires, and even explosions, have been traced back to shorts in wires that were chewed on by rats.

How do rats get into homes?

Rats will get inside using any crack or crevice. Norway rats have been known to climb up sewer pipes and into toilets. They can even chew their way through the wall. Black rats are known to use sewers for transportation and to get inside when they need to, and if all else fails, to climb to your roof and enter through your attic.

So, as for how to get rid of rats one they are inside? It is usually best to contact a professional. It can also be very hard to find and reach rat nests that are within walls and crevices in attics or basements. Getting rid of rats once they have established a nest inside is difficult, but there are things you can do to prevent rats from invading at all.

Western Exterminator gets rid of rats

Western Exterminator has been the leading expert in rat control services for decades. If you think that you have rats, contact us online for a free property inspection and to discuss your options for rat control and prevention. We’ll work with you to find the right solution to remove and keep rats away from your property for good.

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