Frequently asked questions on RATS. 

We have heard noises in our loft at night, do you think that these are caused by rats? 

Rats and mice are generally more active at night, these are not strictly nocturnal animals and as pest controllers we tend to see night-time activity like this as either mice or rats whereas squirrels will be more active by day. 

How do rats get into my loft? 

Rats will use any access point to get into a building as they offer the rodents warmth, security and a possible food supply. Rats are good climbers and will use a variety of routes to get access into the loft of a property, rough brickwork and climbing plants like ivy and wisteria are used to get into the loft. Probably the most common way for rats and mice to get into the loft is via the inside of the cavity wall of the building

We can hear rats in the walls, and it sounds like they are breaking things in there? 

When rats climb up inside the cavity wall they are using the metal ties that hold the walls together as a ladder and they are also using the ‘snots’. These are the bits of cement that get squidged out when the two inner brick faces are laid and as these can be quite brittle they can snap off when the rats climb over them. What you are hearing is small pieces of masonry falling down inside the cavity wall, no real damage is being done as the snots have no function. 

If we have cavity wall insulation, how do rats still get into my loft? 

Cavity wall insulation is very light and the rats will either crush the material down or burrow through it; if you have the type of insulation that’s made up of small polystyrene balls, you can sometimes see these on the outside of the building and the entrance point won’t be far away. 

How do I know if its rats or mice in my property? 

The easiest way to determine whether it’s a mouse infestation or rats is to look for the animal’s droppings, mice have pointed droppings which are smaller than a grain of rice. These will be found in huge numbers usually in a corner while rats have a much bigger dropping which is bigger than a grain of rice and these have rounded ends. Rat droppings tend to be deposited in smaller numbers and can be found randomly wherever they roam. 

We have a strong smell of urine in the house, is this from rats? 

This is from the rodents as rats will urinate wherever they roam and it has an unpleasant pungent smell, if you can smell this then the answer is yes its probably rats. Mice will urinate is one place to mark their territory so if the smell seems to be localised then it could be mice. 

We saw something run across the kitchen floor, do you think it was a rat? 

Rats and mice move very quickly and their reaction times are mush faster than ourselves; around 12 times faster in fact. If you get a glimpse of a rodent the general rule of thumb is to look at the tail, a mouse has a longer tail than its body while a rat has a shorter, thicker tail which will be hairy. Ears are another feature if you time to notice, rats have very small ears whilst a mouse has fairly big ears – think of Mickey Mouse. 

What colour are rats? 

Rats are generally grey in colour with a paler almost white belly, sometimes rats will have a ginger patch of fur along the spine. It is also not unheard of to have an infestation of escaped pet or ‘fancy’ rats which may have bred with the wild rats giving rise to patches of white fur, its a rare occurrence but it has been known. 

If rats are in the sewers how do they get into our loft? 

The sewers connect to our domestic waste system and rats will exploit uncapped redundant ends of lateral drains, if you’ve had an extension then you may have a section of pipe that is now unused as the bathroom has been relocated to the rear of the building. Likewise where clay pipes are used any breaks in that pipe will allow rats to climb out of the drains. Once through the break they are faced with the soil or the shingle that surrounds the pipe and this material is easily dug away by the rats. 

How do rats get from the drains into the house? 

All drains sit inside a void or a trench and when the waste pipes are internal to the building these voids run through the walls and under the floor of the property. A broken drain allows rats to dig away at the surrounding soil eventually getting to part of the structure where they can access the internal voids like the cavity wall. 

If our sewers are broken allowing rats to get into the loft, why don’t we see sewerage everywhere? 

If the pipe has a hole in the walls that is above the usual liquid level then until such time as the pipe blocks you will not be aware of the defect, occasionally our customers say that they can smell the drains and that information means that we will carry out a drain survey as this is the link we’re looking for. With any uncapped redundant lengths of pipe work you’ll find that the opening is upstream from the flow of waste water so nothing ever passes through – apart from the rats that is. 

We’ve seen rats in the garden, where are they coming from? 

Rats generally live outdoors, we think of rats living in the sewers and old buildings which they do but as an omnivore, rats are ideally suited to living outside in the environment. They are very successful at exploiting our habit of storing food, so we will often find them in warehouses, barns and people’s homes as there is a ready food supply for them. 

What do rats eat? 

Rats will eat just about anything; opportunistic and clever rats will eat seeds and cereals along with insects like snails and worms. They will eat fruit, vegetables, nuts, tubers and soft bark when food is scarce and even if hungry enough they’ll eat dog feaces. Any scrap of food waste is a banquet to a rat, the contents of waste bins and compost heaps are often places where we find rat activity. 

Are the rats living in our loft? 

Yes they will take up residence in your loft because it is warm and dry along with being a safe place from predators. If they have access to your loft it stands to reason that food and water can’t be far away so once inside a building the only real surefire way to get rid of them is to determine the access point and seal it up with something that the rats cannot gnaw through. 

Why do we only have a rat problem in the winter months? 

Rats like us tend to be busier in the summer months and as opportunists they will move out of houses and into the outdoor environment, the summer months mean time of plenty and as rats are predators they will seek high energy food like smaller rodents, young birds, discarded food left by us and fruit. Houses tend to get too hot in the summer months so an undiscovered route into a building will just be visited from time to time as the rats are territorial and they will want to keep marking their winter quarters. 

Do rats carry diseases? 

All wild animals carry some form of harmful bacteria but with rats due to their nature and the fact that they will be often found in sewers and still water courses they carry some really harmful bacteria; salmonella being one of them which can make people extremely ill. Then there is Listeriosis which is another bacterium that is especially dangerous to pregnant women, the most dangerous bacteria found in rats is Leptospirosis or Weils disease and this is found in rat urine. Rats also carry some harmful viruses like the Hantavirus

What are the symptoms of Weils disease? 

Weils disease symptoms are a very high temperature, headaches and nausea with aching joints and muscles; this all sounds like the flu so it can go undiagnosed which is one reason why the disease is so dangerous. If you have these conditions and start to get jaundice or swollen ankles, feet and hands and begin coughing up blood you need urgent medical treatment. 

How do you catch Weils disease? 

Rats urinate as they run along to mark their territory so if you have a problem with rats, either indoors or in the garden it stands to reason that there is a chance that you will come into contact with their urine. Make sure that you wash your hands before handling food or drink and cover cuts as you can be directly exposed through the blood stream. The most effective way to avoid this disease is to deal with any rodent infestation immediately, call out a professional pest controller and seek their advice. 
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