Rats feed on all kinds of food, including ours! And when they do, they contaminate our food with their urine and faeces. In this way, rats transmit diseases such as leptospirosis. The infamous Black Plague that caused millions of deaths in England and Europe was the result of the disease being spread by rats.
Rats carry fleas and mites on their bodies which also transmit diseases to humans through their bites. Moreover, rats have been known to bite humans. To prevent their front teeth (called incisors) from growing too long, rats need to gnaw constantly. This gnawing habit destroys household items. Buildings have gone up in flames because rats have gnawed through the insulation around electrical wires.
Rats and mice are social animals and prefer to live in nests. Outdoors, their nests can be found in garbage dumps, in the ground, in drains and other areas where food and shelter are nearby. Indoors, they hide in wall and floor voids, roof voids and furniture.
Although rats cannot see well, they have very sharp senses of smell, hearing and touch. They eat all types of food and search for food during the night. They are good climbers and jumpers.
This is also called the brown rat or sewer rat, and can grow quite large. It is this rat that we commonly see running in drains, around eating places, in bin centres and in warehouses. They live in colonies outdoors and make burrows in the soil, underneath sunken pavements and floors.
The greyish roof rat is smaller and more slender than the Norway rat. It is very agile and a great climber. They prefer to nest above ground, such as in attics, false ceilings and among unwanted articles stored indoors. They live in small family groups.
These species are very small. As such, they can enter buildings easily. They are also very good at climbing, jumping and swimming. They live in small family groups and nest in gaps between walls, false ceilings, furniture and rubbish dumps .
SIGNS OF INFESTATION
- Gnaw marks – New gnawings or holes tend to be rough whereas, old gnawings are smooth from wear .
- Droppings – Fresh droppings are soft and moist whereas, old droppings are dried and hard.
- Tracks/footprints – Front footprint is 4-toed and is in front of usually longer hind print with 5 toes. Fresh tracks are clear and sharp.
- Damaged goods – Roof rats prefer fruits, vegetables, and cereal whereas, Norway rats prefer meat, fish and cereal
Rat control can be effected with good housekeeping and sanitation. These creatures are very intelligent and will search out food sources unless they are kept inaccessible.
- Store all foodstuff out of the reach of rats. Food should be kept in strong containers. Rats are able to gnaw through plastics.
- Remove food wastes and spillage by throwing them away in a tied plastic bag. Bags should then be placed inside bins with tight covers. Rats will have no problem eating through plastic bags left on the ground.
- To prevent rats and mice from entering your house, block all possible entry points with strong wire mesh. Wire mesh can also be placed around pipes to stop rats climbing up or down into houses.
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