Everybody has heard the saying that you are never more than a few meters away from a rat and while I think this is a bit of an exaggeration its true that the brown rat ‘Rattus norvegicus‘ has always and contiues to live among and alongside us, often totally unnoticed. I remember as a youngster as I did my paper round in the Chorley area I would often see rodents on the streets in the early morning before the rest of the town was awake. As a pest controller within the Northwest I have to deal with rats in all types of situations so before I discuss rats and their lives here are some of the control services I offer-
The brown rat normally measures around 12-16″ (though when younger I caught a one on the canal at Wigan measuring just over 20″) and normally weighs about 10oz. The fur is, as the name suggests, brown changing to grey underneath. There is also a black rat which is much smaller and are now nearly extinct in the UK , with tiny insignificant populations remaining near some of our port towns. The word ‘rodent’ comes from a Latin word which means to gnaw and rats like all rodents carry a large pair of front incisors which are used for this very purpose. In fact many of the most serious problems associated with infestations come from their gnawing, as a pest controller I often see electrical wires in homes and lofts that have been badly chewed. Rats find it no problem at all to chew through some of the softer metals such as lead and even some softer grades of aluminium. Behind the front teeth is a space allowing the rat to spit out soil or inedible material while gnawing, this is especially noticeable as rats often reject the chemical repellents that are often sold to discourage pests, rats will simply eject them while they happily continue gnawing.
Rats don’t have a particularly good sense of sight but the rats senses of hearing, smell and touch are very good. Females can have their first litter as young as 4 months of age, these litters numbering from 4 to 12 with an average of about 8. This ability to breed means that where poor pest control operations have been carried out rats can very quickly re-colonise. The average life expectancy of an adult rat is thought to be about 1 year. Rats are mainly active during the hours of darkness but that does not mean you wont find them active during the day. As the feeding of garden birds has become more popular it isn’t unusual to look out of your window and see an adult rat happily feeding on the bird table at anytime of the day. Young rats will often leave a colony and travel out to find new areas.
Rats are ‘neophobic’ meaning that they are scared of new objects that appear within their environment, as apposed to mice which will often explore new objects. Rats will constantly groom their own fur, they will even continue to do this when caught in a cage trap leading me to believe that in some cases this grooming has a calming effect.
Rats are known to carry many diseases that are harmful to both man, pets and livestock. The most well know of these rat bourne diseases is Weil’s (leptospiral jaundice) which can be fatal. This can be spread via urine, droppings, bites and skin contact.
FOR ANY PROBLEMS WITH RATS IN LANCASHIRE AND GREATER MANCHESTER CALL – IAN SMITH 07821 318954