Rat FAQ's: Info about Pest Rodents
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Rats are usually portrayed as nasty, wicked, and disgusting animals – and if they are anywhere near you, you probably feel the same. Rats are social animals by nature, which is why if you see one you probably have more lurking about somewhere. They are proven to suffer from depression if they are not in a group, and cannot thrive on their own. Occasionally, a group of rats is referred to as a mischief – which is a great indication of why you wouldn’t want them in your home. While they look mean and are often depicted as evil, rats are actually shy creatures and would likely rather run from you than attack you. As you may have seen in some science experiments, rats are equipped with a phenomenal memory, this can make it particularly tricky to eliminate them.
Rats are mid-sized members of the rodent family. They are similar to rats, with the main difference being the sheer size difference. Rats are often found to be longer and thinner than mice. There are about 60 different types of rats found all over the world, all of which are at least over 5 inches in length.
Rats are often found to be nocturnal, meaning they are only out during the evening time. Rats travel in large groups and eventually a male and female will break off to nest and create a new group, thus spreading the population further. Rats are omnivores and enjoy eating meats as well as fruits and veggies, however they prefer meats when they are available to them. The waste that we throw out on a daily basis makes suburban areas the perfect habitat for rats. Female rats are able to produce up to 2000 babies in a single year, no wonder the rodent population is not hurting! Rodents have gestation periods of only 21-26 days, meaning that they can continuously produce litters. Which is why once you have rats in your home, you only have a short amount of time before they are mass producing babies.
Rats are extremely complex animals, which may make them hard to trap and eliminate for good. That is why we created this very helpful article about rats, so that way you'll be able to identify when you've got a rat issue and hopefully prevent it from becoming a major infestation.
Types of Rats Found in the U.S.
When there are 60 different species of rats, you may be thinking about how you are going to know what kind of rat is living up in your attic. Fortunately, you can cut down your list to two different types of rats. Only the Roof Rat and the Norway Rat are common in the United States.
Roof Rats are commonly found throughout warmer regions, as they live primarily outdoors. When they aren’t taking up residence in your attic, Roof Rats will make their homes in piles of wood or other debris they can find. They measure to about 13-18 inches in length, including their tail. They are often seeking out your attic as a source of shelter, from weather as well as their natural predators Rats are relatively small animals and as such, they face multiple predators – namely birds of prey, snakes, or household pets.
You will find the Norway Rat in larger cities, as they typically reside in sewer systems. Sadly, rats in the sewers are not just a horror story, they actually do live there. The Norway Rat is actually originally from Asia, they then travelled to England on Norwegian Ships. These rats are often bigger than Roof Rats and may grow up to 18 inches! They love human food, and can chew through most containers in order to get to it. Typically, if you are encountering a problem with Norway Rats, they have come through your plumbing and you may have a problem with your pipes.
Regardless of what type of rat you’re dealing with, both are superior climbers and can squeeze into extremely small holes. It is crucial to take action immediately after a problem is noticed.
Rodent Activity: Areas You May Find Rats In Your Home
Although rats will most commonly be found in your attic, rats can be found in other areas in your home as well. Aside from the attic, the next most common place to find rats is inside the walls, oftentimes they start in the attic area and will then find ways into the wall through cracks or holes. If you’re dealing with Norway Rats, they could easily enter the walls through a break in a pipe running up a wall.
Rodents will be attracted to any place they have easy access to food and won’t be bothered. Some other common places to find them are laundry rooms, pantries, and garages. It really depends on the amount of usage that the space gets, rats are looking to have easy access to the area. Rats will squeeze through holes that many other animals can’t, so if they are able to find a hole that they can fit through they will at least try to investigate the area it leads to.
Rats will also hide behind kitchen appliances, such as refrigerators or dishwashers. The holes that the wires for these appliances are fed through are often cut too large, and rats will use them to gain access to the space behind the appliance. These large appliances provide them a hiding place with complete access into the kitchen so they can feast on the food they find.
If you go long enough without addressing your rodent issue, they may even start to find their way into your main living area. Once the infestation has reached this level, it is significantly more difficult to get rid of. They will still attempt to hide under furniture and behind things, as they are probably still shy and cautious. However, once they are in the living space they have a continuous access to food sources. Meaning that they would not be attracted to baited traps.
Rats in the Attic: Evidence of Having Rats in the Attic
There are lots of identifying factors when it comes to being able to tell that you are having a rodent issue, and it is important to recognize the signs immediately before you are dealing with a larger scale issue. Unfortunately, since rats are shy creatures, you likely won’t be able to see one (unless you’re dealing with a major infestation) meaning that you will have to rely on other ways to know rather or not you’re dealing with rats.
You will probably first notice strange sounds, these can come from the attic or inside the walls. Rats will make a quick scurrying noise and light scratching sounds as they run about scouring for food, you will most likely be experiencing these noises throughout the evening. You can often hear the noise all over, it will not be concentrated to one small area. While the noise may not be exceedingly loud, it is often annoying enough to keep many people experiencing it from sleeping.
Food from in your kitchen may also have the appearance of being messed with, it may go missing or have chunks taken out of it. Even if you thought the food was safely packaged, rodents can use their sharp front teeth to chew through all sorts of barriers. Rats will often start to eat food while still in the kitchen and will then carry the leftovers into the area where they ae nesting. This may be one of the worst signs of rats, as no one likes the mental image of their little paws all over your favorite snacks.
Since rats are rodents, they have the constant urge to gnaw – which actually helps to keep their front teeth from becoming too long. Looking for gnaw marks will provide you with another significant indication of rats. If you're discovering little chew marks on food, wood, or perhaps on electric wires there is a fairly good probability that you're dealing with a rat issue.
You can also tell that you are dealing with rats by the droppings you can locate. Rats will leave behind countless droppings, making identifying their droppings one of the easiest ways to identify a rat as your unwelcome guest. Most of their droppings resemble miniature brown grains of rice, similar to all rodent droppings. However, rat droppings are larger than mice and smaller than squirrel droppings. Rats are also known to utilize the "latrine method" so they usually try to leave droppings in a set area. Often found in corners away from whatever area they are nesting in.
Rat Diseases: Health Risks From Having Rats in Home
While rats are most commonly known for their role in spreading the Bubonic plague, it is highly unlikely that they will be bringing the plague into your home nowadays. However, just like any other wild animals, there are many health risks that come up with having rats in your dwelling. They are able to bring a multitude of bacteria’s, diseases, and bugs into your home.
Today rats are linked to being carriers of multiple diseases that they can spread to you in your home. Meningitis is the most common one found today, however they are also associated with 30 other diseases. Most of these are transmitted by ingesting foods that rodents have touched. Which makes the idea of them in your kitchen even worse. You should throw away any food that has the potential to have been touched by rats as it could potentially be contaminated. Diseases can also be spread through rat waste, such as urine or feces. Additionally, if the rat has a disease and fleas and a flea that bites the rat then bites you, you will contract the disease; exactly how the plague was spread.
Many times, rats will bring fleas into the home. If you have a household pet, you may understand how frustrating fleas can be. However, even without pets fleas can prove to be a difficult pest to get rid of.
Along with the diseases that they can bring, rodents are also linked to anxiety attacks. Anxiety is triggered not only by the notion of rodents living in your attic and being in your home but are also encouraged by the lack of sleep that people experience when they are dealing with rats. Rats have a tendency to chew through electrical wiring which can put your family at risk, as this can become a major fire hazard.
Rats in the Attic: How Do Rats get Into your Attic & Home?
Many individuals dealing with rats find themselves asking “why?”, you should be asking “how?” as in HOW did they find a way into your home. When you focus on the how, you will be able to identify how they're getting to your dwelling and seal it to prevent future intrusions. Rats are great climbers and very agile, so they are able to fit into many small and tight areas. Rats are actually able to fit into holes the size of a quarter, which makes your job harder when you are looking for potential entry points. To make things more difficult, even if a hole isn’t the size of a quarter rats are able to gnaw around the opening to create an access big enough for them to squeeze through. Additionally, once they are inside, they can chew through different mediums – such as wood or drywall- to gain access to other rooms inside the home.
Rats are also able to navigate through the plumbing of your home. Older homes were built with lead pipes, which are soft and rats can easily chew through. This just makes your problem worse, since you now have a plumbing break AND rats.
Oftentimes, roof rats will climb trees outside of the house and leap from the tree limb to the roof. You may be able to spot a rat scurrying into the access point if you’re lucky, which would make your hunt for that spot even easier. If you have any branches that are hanging close to your roof, you should cut them back to make access more difficult. Cutting back your branches is a precautionary maneuver that would benefit you greatly, many animals besides rats also use branches as a way to gain access to your home.
How to Get Rid of Rats: Trapping, Exclusion, Sanitation
After you have determined that you are dealing with a rodent issue, you may just want to burn your house down with all of them inside. However, there is a more effective method for getting rid of rats, while not burning down your home. When you are attempting to get rid of rats, there are three steps that you should be taking. Trapping them, sealing up access points, and cleaning up the mess the rats left.
Sealing up your home, also known as an exclusion, should be one of your first steps. This prohibits rats from gaining entry to your home, and rats that are trapped inside are unable to exit (which makes them easier to trap). Keep in mind that rodents are able to fit through holes as small as a quarter, so you may want to go over your house several times to ensure that you were able to find and seal all openings.
While you are sealing up your home, and then continuing afterwards, you will want to have traps set up to try and catch as many of the rats as possible. Once the home is sealed completely, you will have better luck with trapping as they will no longer have access to outside food. They will be forced to take the bait in the traps.
After the house is sealed and you are not experiencing any rat activity, you should be ready for the clean up – or the sanitation. While this part is probably the nastiest out of all of the steps, it is also the best way to protect your health from any leftover bacteria. You should more than likely invest in latex gloves and a face mask, this way you are not risking coming into direct contact with their feces or any diseases that maybe left behind. After removing all feces, and disposing of it, you should go over the entire area that rats were living with a disinfectant. If you do not have a strong disinfectant, bleach and water will work also.
If the damage is bad enough, you may have to consult with a professional for attic restoration processes.
Rodent Trapping: Snap Traps vs. Glue Traps
There are different traps that you can set for rats, however the two most common that you will find are glue traps and snap traps. While each may have its own set of pros and cons, snap traps have been proven more effective when catching rats.
Glue traps are less expensive than snap traps and are able to be used in more locations in the house – as they are not dangerous to curious pets or little hands. However, on the flip side, these traps are often not strong enough to actually trap a full grown rat. The rat is able to pull loose and escape, leaving only a tuft of hair to prove that there was something on the trap. Not only will you have lost a rat, but the rat will now be more cautious of the traps (excellent memory, remember?). He may even pass the information along to other rats in the group and thus your likelihood of trapping rats will decrease.
While snap traps are lethal, they are also the most effective method in trapping rats. The trigger activated trap will snap down on the rat, killing it instantly. The drawbacks to using snap traps is that if they happen to close on your finger on accident, it is not the most pleasant experience. Additionally, you cannot store them in the living space, as household pets and small children may accidentally get ahold of them, causing the trap to snap down on whoever is messing with it.
There are also live traps on the market, however, live traps are not very effective when it comes to trapping rats. If you are deciding to live trap, make sure you buy the smallest live trap you can, otherwise the rat will not trigger the trap door and they can possibly escape if on the off chance they do close the door.
What do Rats eat: Best Bait for Catching Rats
While you may have noticed, rats are not very picky eaters. They will eat pretty much anything that they can get their paws onto. Which may be causing you to ask the question “what baits can I use that will lure a rat to my traps?” Fortunately, there are some baits that have been proven to be effective when dealing with trapping rats.
One of the most popular baits is peanut butter, as rats are often not able to chew through the containers that peanut butter is stored in – it comes as a new and exciting treat. They will also be lured in by greasy meats, like Slim Jims. However, if you’ve noticed that there has been a certain food that they have been going after in your kitchen, you may try to use that. They may get excited when they recognize their favorite treat and let their guard down.
Rodents are relatively intelligent animals, so trapping them may take a while. They are naturally cautious so they may stray away from your traps to start. While this may make you want to trade the bait immediately, it is best to try and give it a couple of days before you change it. This way you are not confusing them by altering it every day, plus they have some opportunity to become accustomed to the food just sitting there. It will build their trust in the bait and increase your chances of catching them.
Rodent Control: Rat Poison FAQs
When you go shopping for rodent traps, you’ll more than likely see rat poisoning sitting right next to the traps. So why not try to poison them? Not like you want to keep them around. While you may successfully kill rats, it may not go down exactly as you have thought out in your mind.
Rats are extremely smart and incredibly observant rodents. Frequently, they'll eat little pieces of food from different angles rather than simply cramming the entire thing into their mouth right off the bat. This is not because they have excellent table manners, this is actually their own form of testing for poison. This method makes it so that they do not ingest all of the poison and will only experience mild side effects, such as getting extremely sick. Afterwards, they will spread the word to others in the group and they will all be significantly more cautious. Similar to when you choke on a food and then avoid it for a couple months afterward.
On the off chance that you do manage to poison the rats, you may have another problem on your hands that you weren’t expecting. If you have ever had an older pet pass away, you are aware they attempt to isolate themselves in a darkened space when they sense that their time is coming. A rat will do the same thing, and locate a dark isolated place to pass on, or perhaps worse, he stumbles around and ends up falling behind a wall. Either way, he could pass away in a spot that you are not able to reach or even to locate. So, while he is decomposing, you may be left with a terrible odor while unable to locate the carcass. If the rodent is trapped, they are unable to escape meaning you can remove carcasses before they start to emit an odor.