There are two species of rat in Britain, Rattus norvegicus which is commonly known as the Brown Rat and Rattus rattus which has the common names Black Rat or Ship Rat.
The Brown Rat is the larger, often weighing over half a kilo and measuring about 23cm, without counting the tail. It has a blunt muzzle, small hair-covered ears and a tail that is shorter than its body length. The Black Rat weighs only half as much and is slightly shorter. It has a pointed muzzle, large, almost hairless ears, a more slender body and a long thin tail that is longer than its body.
The Brown Rat is the commoner species and stays near ground level. The Black Rat still occurs in seaport towns and is a more agile climber, often entering the upper floors of buildings. It is possible to identify the species present from the different shaped droppings, footprints in dust (the Brown Rat is flat footed, the Black Rat runs on its toes) and presence of tail swipes. In towns, Brown Rats often live in sewers but in the countryside there is a constant background population in fields and hedges.
Both species breed rapidly and become sexually mature in about three months. Each female may produce from three to 12 litters of between six and eight young in a year. That is 70 rats from one pair per year!
Brown rats will burrow underground or into suitably soft material to make a nest. Compost bins and heaps, loose soil under sheds and green houses and earth banks are all likely sites and chewed paper, straw or insulation material may be incorporated as nest material. The young are born blind, helpless and naked and depend on their mother for food for about three weeks before they are sufficiently developed to take solid food.
Rats, like mice, need to gnaw to keep their constantly growing incisor teeth worn down. They damage woodwork, plastic and lead pipes and will sometimes strip insulation from electrical cables by their gnawing a potential case of building fires.
Rats will hoard food for future consumption and numerous cases of "theft" have been found to be the work of rats. They feed mostly at night and an average rat will eat 50g of food a day.
Creatures of habit, rats leave regular "runs" to and from feeding areas. They can be a menace to poultry, eating eggs, chicks and animal feed.
They are also attracted to gardens because of people feeding the birds which is a easy food source for them.
They are also capable of spreading many diseases from their filthy surroundings in sewers or refuse tips and can transmit food poisoning, Weil's disease (from which about ten people and a number of dogs die each year in the UK), murine typhus, rat bite fever, trichinosis and other diseases. They contaminate more food than they consume and their urine can pollute stagnant water.
How we can help:
We can treat rats with anti-coagulant poisons that are put in tamper proof boxes in areas that children and pets have access to. We also use traditional trapping systems.
Before our visit
- Do not encourage rats by leaving scraps of food out of doors.
- If you have poultry, do not scatter feed, put in poultry feeders and bring in at night.
- If you feed garden birds, use a bird table or feeder basket and bring it in at night.
- Please move furniture etc. to allow us access to your loft space.
- If the problem is in the kitchen, please ensure we can get access under your kitchen units.
- If the problem is in the bathroom, please ensure we can get access under your bath.
During our visit
If we can retrieve rats that have died then we will, but sometimes this is not possible.
After our visit
- Please clean up all droppings that were found at the visit, so that we know if the problem is on – going.
- If we can retrieve rats that have died then we will, but sometimes this is not possible.
- We may need you to eliminate harbourage areas for us such as gaps under sheds, loose piles of wood or neglected weed patches.