Like snakes, bats and spiders, rats inspire fear and terror in many people. This is not surprising, since rats have caused the more suffering and economic damage than any other pest. The infamous Black Death of the Middle Ages, which reduced the population of the world from 450 to 350 million by 1400, came to Europe through fleas carried on rats. Even now, it is estimated that rats destroy 20% of the world’s food supply every year, directly by feeding and indirectly through contamination. Throughout history, the rat has adapted to all manner of human environments, living in fields, granaries, sewers, on ships, in homes, trees, large buildings and anywhere else where they can find food and water.

Rat Biology

The rat is a tremendously resilient creature. They can jump three 3 feet straight up and up to 4 feet horizontally. They can get inside a pipe as small as an inch in diameter, walk on power lines, swim up to a half-mile in open water and survive a fall of up to 50 feet. Whatever else one might want to say about rats, it is undeniable that nature designed them to survive. They flourish in urban areas, such as Jackson, Lansing, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Flint, but can be found anywhere there are conditions conducive to their survival.

Unlike mice, rats are very intelligent and quite clever. They are suspicious of anything new in their environment, which can make trapping or baiting them somewhat tricky. A mature female rat can give birth to up to 20 young in a year. A mother who has become suspicious of rodenticides or traps can teach her young to be wary of them as well. Rats are social and will live in colonies with well-defined territories that are marked with urine and glandular secretions. Rats do have a hierarchy with a dominant male who has the best nesting site; weaker males are pushed out to less favorable sites or sometimes forced out of the nest altogether.

Rats have very poor vision, but this is compensated by their sense of smell and the use of their whiskers, which they use to feel their way through burrows, pipes and other runways. Rats have a very advanced sense of taste and can taste the presence of chemicals at a parts-per-million concentration, which is why rats will sometimes avoid bait traps. Rats also have an excellent sense of balance that allows them to walk on extremely narrow surfaces (such as wires) and always land on their feet when they fall.

Rats begin foraging for food shortly after dark and will commonly travel between 100 and 150 feet from their nest exploring their territory in search of food and water.

Rats in the Home

If rats are nesting or scavenging in your home, it is imperative that you do all you can to remove them as soon as possible. Rats can do a lot of damage from their constant gnawing. Their teeth are extremely hard, enabling them to chew through materials such as aluminum siding, cinder block, adobe brick, plastic or lead pipes, cabinets and many others. Because rats teeth are constantly growing, they must keep them worn down by gnawing continually. Households with a rat problem will notice gnawings on any variety of objects. Usually, gnaw holes are two inches or more in diameter and tend to be found around floor and ceiling joists, door corners, kitchen cabinets, and around pipes in floors and walls. Chewed wires may also be signs of a rat infestation, as well as squeaks and scrambling noises in the walls.

Other signs of rats are droppings and grease marks. A single rat may produce up to 50 droppings daily. Rat dropping are larger than mouse droppings (usually 3/4 inch in length), are black in color and have blunt ends, as opposed to mouse droppings, which generally have pointed endings. Rats, like mice, will also leave oils behind as they move, commonly called “smudge marks” or “grease marks.” These grease marks build up over time in frequented runways and become visible to the naked eye. Since rats prefer to hug up against structures as they move, these grease marks will usually appear along walls and floor moulding. Rat urine will is also visible under an ultraviolet light.

Rats are also dangerous to have around because of the diseases they carry, as well as the danger from rat bites. Besides bubonic plague, rats are carriers of murine typhus fever, salmonella, leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) and trichinosis. Persons bitten by rats (and there are thousands every year) may contract rat-bite fever, a flu-like disease that can be fatal in infants and the elderly.

Rat Removal

So how can you get rid of rats in your home? The key for effective rat removal is in controlling rat populations, not individual rats. Rat control requires an integrated approach that utilizes rodenticides, habitat modifications and exclusion materials. Rats are naturally fearful of new objects in their territory (traps, bait stations, etc), so a successful rat control program usually requires the services of professionals (such as Creature Control!) who have experience with rats and a tremendous attention to detail. Our technicians utilize the integrated pest management approach of rodenticide coupled with habitat modifications in order to eliminate rat populations and rat-proof structures.