Rats

Since 31 August 2013 the Council has ceased to offer a pest control service to residents. This information page is a guidance for residents.

If you wish to engage a private contractor to carry out pest control operations, it is recommended you obtain three quotes from professionally qualified and accredited firms who have suitable insurance cover in place. As a guide, suitable contractors may be members of the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) or the National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) or other appropriate professional bodies.

The vast majority of rats in Britain are Brown or Sewer Rats. They have become well adapted to living in close association with humans and may use us for food or shelter. There are other species of rats which are a lot rarer which are outlined below.

Brown or Sewer Rats

What do they look like?

They have brown fur on their back with grey fur underneath their bodies. Their tails are shorter than their head and body, and they weigh between 100 and 150 grams.

How do I spot them?

They are extremely adaptable to different environments and can live both indoors and outside in both rural and urban areas. They are often found within sewer systems.

Black/Ship Rats

What do they look like?

They have either black or brown fur with large almost hairless ears. Their tails are longer than those of Brown or Sewer Rats and are generally longer than their head and body. They are larger rats and weigh between 100 and 300 grams.

How do I spot them?

They are a lot less common, and are mainly confined to port areas. In Britain they only live indoors.

How do they affect me?

Rats are a major hazard to health. They spread many forms of disease such as Leptospirosis (Weil's Disease), Salmonella food poisoning, Typhus, Trichinosis, tapeworms. They may eat food which is intended for human consumption. Through their gnawing habit they also cause considerable damage to woodwork, water pipes, electric cables and so on.

How do they live?

Rats live for about a year. During this time a female may breed five times. The average size of a litter is between seven and eight.

How do I control them?

  • Ensure that your property is in good repair making it difficult for rats to gain access.
  • Rat control requires good housekeeping; rubbish and overgrown vegetation should be completely removed from around the outside of buildings.
  • Clear areas which may offer shelter and remove nesting materials such as piles of timber.
  • Deny a rat cover and you may well deny it access.
  • Remove any sources of food and water. Throwing food out for the birds can encourage rats, so ensure you use proper bird feeders and clear up regularly.
  • If you are composting, do not use meat or cooked products.
  • Good housekeeping is also important indoors. Loose foods should be kept in rodent-proof containers. Take care that all waste foods are disposed of in a suitable waste bin with a tight fitting lid and not left lying around in bags or sacks.
  • If an infestation occurs the only consistently effective method of control is the use of chemical poisons. This type of treatment should be carried out by a professional pest control technician.

Water Voles/‘Water Rats’

Water Vole

The two rats described above can also be confused with the Water Vole, which is a protected species. Water Voles have deep brown fur, chubby faces, short fuzzy ears and rounder noses than rats. Their tails, paws and ears are covered with hair, unlike rats.

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