Rat Control

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5 important questions about rats

Rats have been around for a very long time, constantly adapting to the world around them. As humans became the dominant species, rats began changing their behaviors to survive, targeting man-made buildings and homes to find food, warmth and places to nest.

The problem is that rats bring with them a number of problems that make them very unwelcome visitors.

Western Exterminator has been the expert in rat control solutions for homes and businesses for decades. If you think you need to discuss a rat problem with one of our highly trained professionals, we can help!

Here are five key things you should know about rats (click one of the questions below and be taken to the answer!)

If you have a problem with rats around your home or anywhere on your property, contact your local Western Exterminator office today.

1. What do rats look like?

Rats look a lot like other rodents, like mice. This similarity to other rodents can sometimes lead to confusion over what kind of animal is in the house or building. Rats vary slightly in appearance depending on which species of rat being discussed.

There are two common rat species in Northern America, the Norway Rat and the Roof Rat (also known as the Black Rat).

The Norway rat

Also known as the Brown rat, Norway rats are generally brown or gray in color, with white on their stomachs. It is larger than the Black rat and more aggressive, too. They are ground rats, and will dig burrows beneath lawns and into homes and businesses. They are usually about 16 inches long from nose to tail, but their tails are shorter than their bodies. They usually weigh around 12 ounces.

Norway rat

The Roof rat

Also referred to as black rats, roof rats get their name because they’re famous for their climbing abilities. They can climb up walls and trees near buildings and homes, which usually gives them easy access to roofs and attics. They are about 8-12 ounces in weight and roughly 16 inches long, but the difference from the Norway Rat is that their tails are usually much longer than their bodies and, overall, they have a thinner, sleeker look than their cousins. Some roof rats really are entirely black, while others can be dark gray or brown with white on their abdomens.

Rats have long teeth (called incisors) that continually grow, which is why they like to gnaw on things. Their teeth are amazingly strong and can chew through things as tough as aluminum, sheetrock, soft cement, asphalt and even soft metals such as copper and lead. This is why they can easily chew through siding and walls to get inside.

Common characteristics of rats include a narrow head with large whiskers that help them navigate and sense where they are going since they have terrible eyesight.

Roof Rat

2. What do rats eat?

Rats are not very particular about what they eat. They are, even in the wild, opportunistic feeders. It also depends on if the rats are being kept at home as pets, if they are in the wild and rural area, or if they are inhabiting an urban environment in the city.

What rats eat depends on which species of rat is being discussed. The Norway Rat is a burrowing rat and prefers to be outdoors, which makes it a prolific devourer of cereals, seeds and grains. However, it will also eat snails, insects, earthworms and slugs. The Black Rat, being a tree-climber, tends to live a little more of a vegetarian lifestyle. They prefer fruits, nuts and vegetables. They like berries and other fruit, but will sometimes also eat snails and smaller invertebrates.

Rats in the wild will eat fruits, seeds and nuts. They will seek out whatever they can find and gain easy access to, so anyone who leaves food out for pets or animals can often find rats trying to take their fair share of grains, seeds and other food.

Rats kept as pets are fed specialized rat pet food that is purchased at local pet stores. It is also recommended that they be fed fruits and vegetables several times a week to keep the healthy.

Rats in urban environments will eat scraps of meat and just about anything else. This is why they want to chew their way through the walls of your home and get inside. They are looking for easy access to food and a home’s pantry is full of convenient food for them. They will get into cereals, fruit, vegetables and any meat that they can access.

In the city, you find a lot of rats around dumpsters and garbage cans. Humans tend to throw out a lot of food scraps which rats are not shy about taking for their own purposes.

As for why rats come out at night – it all has to do with feeding. Being opportunists, they will come out in the middle of the night, if need be, but most rats prefer to feed at dusk and again just before dawn.

3. 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 seasons and winter months, 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 have been known to if the pickings are sparse). They will keep a fairly tight perimeter in which to search for food from their home base.
  • Nest-building materials – They 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. Rats have even used old, unused, bait stations filled with soft material for their nests.

As for where rats like to nest in particular, again, it depends on the species. Norway rats, being the type of rat that prefers to be underground, will create tunnels in lawns and fields. The actual nest is usually at the center and will be comprised 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 more than likely 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. Just like their Norway Rat cousins, 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.

Fire hazards

Yes, rats can create fires and it’s not because they know how to use matches or lighters. Instead, their tendency to chew, combined with their proclivity for getting 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, who have a built-in compulsion to gnaw on things constantly because their teeth never stop growing. Gnawing on anything and everything is what helps them maintain a healthy size for their teeth.

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 making the electrical device stop working 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.

4. What are the risks of rats?

What are the risks of having rats in and around your home? Well, it turns out there are a number of risks that come with a rat infestation. It’s this that makes the need for contacting a professional at rat control and removal so critical when rats are found around the home. Here are some of the risks to allowing rats to stay on your property or within your home.

Common rat

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 closer to you and your family. That’s just one potential health risk, and here are more:

  • Lyme disease – thanks to rats with ticks, this can be a serious risk to those bitten by ticks and create long term serious health problems.
  • Bubonic plague – while it had its strongest hold on the world during the Dark Ages and even though there are treatments these days for it, the Plague is still a serious health risk and it comes with rats. The disease itself is usually carried by fleas that have been feeding on rats and then jump to humans.
  • Rabies – rats and other rodents are prone to this disease. It attacks the nervous system and causes foaming at the mouth and aggression in people and animals. Left untreated, it can lead to a long, protracted and painful death.
  • Toxoplasmosis – most commonly associated with cats, rats can also be a vector for this illness. For most people, there is no serious cause, but for those battling cancer or with weakened immune systems, this disease can be extremely dangerous.
  • Listeriosis – a bacterial disease that causes an infection of the central nervous system in humans. It can be of particular risk to pregnant women and is also a risk to those with compromised immune systems.
  • Rickettsia – another serious bacterial infection that is passed along by parasites such as ticks and fleas, which can hitch a ride into your home thanks to rats. It is actually an umbrella term that covers a number of bacterial diseases such as typhus.
  • Salmonella – most commonly known as a type of food poisoning, this can be transmitted due to rats interfering with food and food preparation areas. Since rats are not exactly known for being clean, living in sewers and rooting through garbage, they can easily transfer bacteria like Salmonella to cooking surfaces and that can make people very sick.
  • Asthma and respiratory illness – it is believed that one of the leading causes of respiratory illnesses among city dwellers can be traced back to rodents. Rodent feces can dry out and turn into a dust that can spread throughout a house and affect the lungs. In addition, rat dander can cause allergic reactions among those with respiratory ailments.
  • Hantavirus – a virus that humans can contract when they come into contact with rat urine, feces or saliva. It can be fatal to humans and can cause renal (kidney) failure.

Do not delay dealing with a rat infestation. Instead, contact us and find out more about how Western Exterminator can help you remove rats and prevent them from coming back.

The face of a typical rat

5. 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 will also use cracks in the cement and foundation. They can even chew their way through wall. Even Black Rats are known to use sewers for transportation and to get inside when they need to.

So, as for how to get rid rats one they are inside? It is usually best to contact a professional because just a couple of missed rats can breed and create a brand new infestation. 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.

Remove vegetation from around your home can prevent rats from entering or coming near your home. Trimming back trees and branches so that they do not provide easy access to your roof can discourage Black Rats from trying to get into your home. Removing vegetation also decreases the amount of available material for building nests.

Cleaning your property and removing paper and garbage also discourages rats from building nests around your property.  Remember, anything that is soft and warm can be used, including old clothing, mattresses, insulation and other soft materials. If you are doing construction around your home or property, materials left behind from that can encourage rats to build their nests.

Keep food and garbage sealed tight and remove it quickly. Although rats have been known to chew through plastic garbage cans, the harder it is for them to get to the food scraps, the more likely they are to go somewhere else. If you have a home that has outdoor pets, make sure that you secure their food. Rats will take anything they can eat and if you put more food out for them, they’ll just keep coming back and are more likely to set up a nest nearby.

Inspect your property! One of the best things you can do is take the time to inspect your property. Patch up cracks in cement and foundations that rats can use to get inside. Remember, rats have the ability to compress their bodies down to very narrow sizes and squeeze through seemingly impossible crevices and holes. Also, make sure that any holes in door sweeps and at the bottoms of doorways (including garage doors) have been repaired and sealed. Areas around pipes should be cemented or filled using metal plates. Roof tiles that are damaged should be replaced and holes in the roof repaired.

Western Exterminator gets rid of rats

Of course, Western Exterminator has been the expert in rat control services for decades. If you think that you have rats, contact us today for a free property inspection and to discuss your options for rat control and prevention.

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