Pest Control Guide

Everything you Need to Know About Rats

Rats can be one of the most nuisance pests you come across around your home or business. They can cause damage to furniture, building structures and more, and are also known for carrying various diseases and helping to spread other pests. Below you can find out all the information you need regarding rats, how to to deal with them and more.

Rats are medium-sized rodents that hold a similar resemblance to a large mouse. Typically they have pointed snouts with a long tail and are known for carrying a variety of diseases.

There are more than 56 known species of rat in the world, of these 56 species there are two main species of rat found within the UK – the brown rat and black rat.

There are two species of rats within the UK, the most common of which is Rattus Norvegicus, otherwise known as the Brown or Common Rat. The other is Rattus Rattus, commonly known as the Black Rat – these are now rarely found within the UK.


These questions cover how to identify a rat and differentiate them from mice. 

Of the two species of rat most commonly found within the UK – the brown rat and black rat. The brown rat is the largest of the two species of rat often weighing over half a kilo and measuring more than 20cm (without counting the tail). The Black rat weighs around half as much as the brown rat and is shorter too. Both species have a pointed snout, with almost hairless ears, a slender body and a long thin tail often longer than their body.

Baby rats begin life hairless and blind. While they may look similar to mice, baby rats have a slightly different body shape. Baby rats tend to have larger heads and feet compared to their bodies while young and are born with shorter tails than mice.

Rats are monophyodonts meaning they only have one set of teeth during their lifetime. Rats have a total of 16 teeth; 4 incisors and 12 molars. Rats incisors never stop growing and must be kept short by chewing on materials and objects while their molars have ‘true roots’ and only grow once.

Rats make a wide variety of sounds, however the large majority of these sounds are ultrasonic and cannot be hard by the human ear. Rats tend to communicate through chirps and squeaks in a variety of pitches to convey how they feel. One noise you may notice hearing from rats is when they grind their teeth, this is known as bruxing.

Rats and mice are both rodents and can look quite similar to one another, however, despite their similarities there are a number of ways to differentiate the two rodents from one another. The main difference between rats and mice is their size, rats tend to be much larger and can weigh much more than mice. Mice also have long slender tails covered in hair, while rats have a thicker, slightly shorter hairless tail.

Rats nests will commonly look like a pile of shredded materials like insulation, cardboard and more. The size of the nest depends on the number of occupants within, with an average sized nest able to fit within a cereal bowl.

Rat faeces is often found in large groupings and can be shiny and black in apperance. Roughly ½ – ¾ of an inch long, rat poop will be almost banana shaped.

Some rats can grow quite large. In the UK, the average rat’s body size is roughly 15-27 cm with a 10-25cm tail. There have been rats found within the UK measuring up to 20 inches long.


These questions all relate to the rat’s incredible survival skills.

There are a number of factors that can affect how long a rat lives for including whether or not it lives within a family or not. The average lifespan of a rat is around 2 years (whether they’re in the wild or captivity). Some rats in captivity can exceed this and live for up to 6 or 7 years in extreme cases.

Rats are excellent swimmers – which is no surprise considering they tend to live in and around sewers and can even get into your house through pipes. Rats are capable of holding their breath for up to 3 minutes and can tread water for up to three days.

Each night, rats will travel up to 300 feet from their nests in order to find food. If they aren’t able to find food around their nest they may venture even further.

Rats are capable of climbing the outside walls of houses in order to get into lofts through damaged soffits and fascia boards in search of warmth and food.

Rats nest in burrows often found outside, however, sometimes they will venture within your home attracted to warmth, food and shelter.

If you think you might have rats within your home some of the most common places to check include;

  • Lofts & Attics – Rats will climb the outside walls of your house in order to gain access to your loft or attic through broken soffits and fascias. Once in your loft or attic they will shred materials such as loft insulation or cardboard to build a nest.
  • Kitchens & Food Storage Areas – Look behind appliances like cookers, fridges and washing machines as these can provide sources of warmth. Also, be sure to check any gaps where piping and cables enter your home from the outside.
  • Out of Sight Areas – Think of any dark and undisturbed areas of your home such as crawlspaces, suspended ceilings and wall cavities as rats can happily live within these.

Rats have surprisingly strong jaws and teeth and are capable of gnawing through a wide range of different materials. The main reason rats tend to gnaw on things is to grind down their incisors which can grow by more than 1.4mm per day.

Rats are capable of exerting more force per square inch when they bite than alligators and sharks. Due to this, rats are able to chew through almost anything, from wood and drywall to concrete and aluminium.

Rats are excellent jumpers and can jump vertically up to 36 inches and horizontally around 48 inches. Drops from more than 50 feet won’t kill or even injure a rat.

Provided they can’t find a way into your home, rats will typically burrow down as deep as 18 inches in order to nest but are capable of digging down as far as 120 feet if they wanted to or believe food may be on the other side.

Rats will seek out basically any space that provides them with warmth and shelter. They’ll often be found outdoors nesting in sheds, under decking and even in burrows they’ve dug in the ground.

Rats generally tend to leave their nest between sunset and sunrise as they are nocturnal creatures and do most of their eating and foraging at night.


These questions relate to the feeding habits and diet of rats.

Rats are opportunistic feeders and will for the most part eat absolutely anything they can get a hold of including trash, compost, pet food and even their own faecal matter. As omnivores, rats will consume a variety of fruit, vegetables and meat. In the wild, rats will commonly feed on grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables as well as, less commonly, other smaller animals or insects.

As opportunistic feeders, rats are partial to just about anything, however, in the wild their diet mainly consists of fruit, berries and nuts. Rotting fruit, nuts and berries are an excellent attractant for rats due to their smell and sweetness.

Rats are most commonly attracted to odours and smells liker pet waste, pet food, garbage and much more. Good sanitation can effectively improve the prevention of rats within your premises.


These questions answer some of the most commonly asked questions around rats breeding habits.

Rats are a frequent breeder with female rats going into heat every 4-5 days and can be in heat again as soon as 48 hours after giving birth. Rats’ gestation period typically lasts between 21-23 days and they can produce as many as 12 pups from one litter depending on the species.

Rats litter sizes usually totally between 8 to 18 pups (baby rats). They are born blind and deaf and reach sexual maturity aged between 3-4 months.

The average gestation period for rats is between 21-24 days depending on the species of rat.

Unlike many animals, rats do not have mating seasons. Instead, they tend to breed when conditions are perfect. Hence, you might find rats living outside not breeding, while rats living indoors may be.

A group of rats is known as a ‘mischief’.

Pest Control

These questions relate to pest control and managing rats in and around your property.

There are a number of common indicators that you may have rats in and around your premises. The most common way to know if you have rats is by actually seeing one – dead or alive.

Other easy ways to identify if you are suffering from a rat problem include;

  • Spotting Droppings – Droppings are a key sign that rats are living on your premises.
  • Rub Marks – rats tend to leave marks from their fur wherever they go, look out for marks along skirting boards, floorboards and walls.
  • Chewed Materials – Finding gnawed and damaged furniture or materials can be an easy sign that you may have rats (bear in mind mice also tend to chew things too). Rats incessantly gnaw at materials in order to keep their incisors short.

If a rats nest has been disturbed by a person or another animal they will leave it almost immediately and look for somewhere else to nest.

Rats can carry a range of bacteria and viruses which can be harmful to human health as well as our pets. Some of the most common diseases carried by rats are;

  • Weil’s Disease – is a form of leptospirosis which can lead to headaches and muscle pain and in some cases can even cause meningitis and kidney failure.
  • Salmonella – Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause upset stomachs, diarrhoea, fever and pain in humans
  • Tuberculosis – a disease that attacks the lungs
  • Hantavirus -can cause a fever-like illness
  • E.Coli – intestinal bacteria which can cause a variety of symptoms including fatigue, stomach cramps and more.

It’s hard to tell exactly how many rats may be living in your house. One of the most common ways to gauge an estimate around how many rats you may have is by the number of droppings found – more droppings = more rats.

Rats will visit your garden in search of food, water, warmth and shelter. In order to deter rats from your garden, you should aim to remove one of these necessities.

Common ways to deter rats from visiting your garden are as follows;

  • Stop Feeding Wild Birds & Animals – Rats will be attracted to the abundance of food left out for wild birds and animals. Aim to stop feeding wild animals in your garden and store any bird or animal food in secure containers.
  • Keep it Tidy – Keeping your garden tidy will attract fewer rats as they have less cover to hide in. Keep grass short, cluttered areas sorted and ensure you remove rubbish and overgrown areas ASAP.
  • Change it Up – Rats exhibit neophobic behaviours meaning when confronted by unfamiliar objects in their environment, rats will be wary and avoid them. Changing your garden every now and then can help to deter rats.
  • Block Decking Access – If you have wooden decking within your garden ensure it is completely closed off and rats can’t get under it as this provides an ideal place for them to live providing warmth, shelter and food.
  • Protect Compost – If you have a compost heap within your garden, you can deter rats by not adding food scraps to the pile, while also keeping it moist by including plenty of green and brown materials. Watering the heap will also prevent rats as they don’t like the moisture. If rats have made it into your compost, don’t use it for edible crops.

If you want to try and rid your garden of rats using natural remedies and options, there are a number of methods you can try. Rats hate the smell of peppermint oil, so it can be an effective deterrent to drive them away. You can also deter rats from visiting your garden by removing any food or water sources as well as keeping it generally tidy.

Whether you want to try and deal with the rats yourself or you’re looking to hire a professional pest control service like VermEx, there are a number of different ways to deal with and eliminate rats;

  • Use Dry Ice – One of the most effective ways to kill rats without the use of poison is to use dry ice. Dry ice produces carbon dioxide, which can anaesthetise and kill rats. Place dry ice at the entrance of burrows and nests for best results and ensure you use gloves and other protective gear.
  • Set Traps – Traps are one of the most effective ways to rid your property of rats. If you aren’t too concerned about humane traps, snap traps are probably one of the most effective traps to kill rats. Prevent other animals from getting into the traps by placing them inside a box or under a milk crate.
  • Use Baits & Poisons – You should only use baits and poisons outside your home as they can be powerful chemicals. If placed within your house, rats can spread it around. If you plan to use baits and poisons be sure to read their instructions carefully and keep them enclosed within a bait station to prevent other animals from reaching it. Also, ensure you check the local laws within your area regarding the use of poisons and baits.

Rats have a variety of natural predators, with some of the most prolific hunters including birds of prey, cats and dogs.

  • Owls are especially great at hunting rats as they commonly feed on small animals and rodents and are nocturnal. This means they come out to hunt at night, around the same time rats come out to forge for food.
  • Domestic cats aren’t the best at hunting rats due to their size but some will take them on. Common breeds known for killing rats include the American Shorthair & the Maine Coon, both of which are said to be descendants of ships’ cats that earned their keep hunting rodents on ships.
  • Many dogs won’t help with a rat problem, but there are some breeds that are known for their prowess in catching rats. Many of these breeds are terriers, a type of small dog that was bred to hunt small rodents and animals.

If you’re a tenant and you notice your neighbours garden or home is attracting rats, you can take this up with your own landlord. As part of common law, your landlord can be held responsible as the rats are still affecting your property. You could also try speaking to your neighbours and have them contact their landlord if they’re also tenants.

Getting rats out of your wall cavity can be difficult. You should probably contact a professional exterminator to handle the problem. In order to remove rats from a cavity wall, you firstly require a complete inspection to determine what attracted the rats in the first place and locating their entrance points as well as removing them from within the cavity.

This depends on where the drain is located. If it’s within the boundaries of your property, you are required to maintain your own drains including repairs – if you’re a tenant, this responsibility is your landlord’s. If the drain is located outside the boundaries of your property it may be your local water company’s responsibility.

If you find rats in or around your rented premises, it is your landlord’s responsibility to ensure they are dealt with as they have a duty to ensure your home is safe.

There are a number of different smells that rats do not like, including; peppermint oil, garlic, cayenne pepper, mint, rosemary, lavender and more.

There are a number of ways to tell when rats are no longer present within your premises. You’ll notice the smell change when the rats have finally been eliminated from your premises, you’ll also notice furniture and materials undisturbed and not damaged.

If you’re looking to try and catch rats on your premises yourself, you can use a number of different traps available online.

Try planting mint or lavender around your garden to prevent rats from visiting – rats dislike these smells. Avoid using poisons as these can also harm hedgehogs.

There are a number of ways you can continue to feed bird while not allowing rats access to the food. One way is to purchase rodent-proof bird feeders along with a tray to stop any seeds from falling to the ground and attracting rats. Ensure you store your bird feed correctly and safely in a location rats can’t gain access to. Generally, if you spot signs of rats on your premises, you should stop feeding any wildlife in order to deter them from sticking around.

Get Effective & Affordable Commercial Pest Control

Pest control problems can be disruptive and inconvenient for businesses. Throughout the North of England, we provide effective and cost-effective commercial pest control services to a wide range of commercial, industrial, and agricultural businesses. 

Over the last 30 years, VermEx has dealt with a wide range of pests with tailored solutions to meet your specific needs. You can be confident that our professional pest control solutions will provide you with peace of mind regardless of what your pest management problem may be. Contact our pest control experts if you have a pest problem on your commercial property. 

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