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What do they look like?
The common Norway or brown rat typically has brownish fur on its back and grey underneath but its colour can vary from white through to black. Adult body length is 200 - 270mm plus a tail length of 150 - 200mm. The ship or black rat is nowadays rarely encountered in Britain but is smaller than the common rat and usually black in colour. It has large hairless ears and a tail that is longer than its head and body length.

Where do they live?

Common rats live in any situation that provides food, water and shelter. The common rat is the most widespread of its species and is widely found in urban and rural areas. In homes they will live in loft spaces, wall cavities, cellars or under floorboards. In gardens, they will burrow into compost heaps and grassy banks or under sheds. They are also commonly found living in sewer systems. Ship rats are agile climbers and are usually found indoors, living in roof spaces. They are rarely found in sewer systems.

What are the signs of infestation?

  • sightings of live or dead rats • common rat droppings can be 12mm long and taper at both ends
  • runs – rats follow the same routes when traveling and leave trails through the grass and low vegetation
  • footprints and tail swipes – on muddy or dusty surfaces
  • smears – dark grey marks left on surfaces by repeated contact with rat fur
  • burrows – entrance holes 7-120mm in diameter in grassy banks, under tree roots, at the end of paving or drain cover surrounds
  • nests – sometime found indoors, in lofts or under floorboards
  • gnawing – rats gnaw continually, even on non-food materials, in order to wear down their front teeth
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What do they eat?

Their favourite foods are cereal products, although they will eat almost anything that humans eat and some that humans don't – including each other. Most of the damage they do is by gnawing and ripping open packets. They also foul food with urine and droppings.

Why must rats be controlled?

  • rats can transmit many diseases to humans, including Salmonellas (food poisoning) and Weils disease
  • Rats will eat or contaminate food intended for humans. It is estimated that up to 5% of food produced world-wide is lost as a result of rodent activity
  • they can cause damage to buildings and other structures by gnawing and burrowing.

How can I tell whether my house is infested with rats?

Signs of a rat infestation can include the presence of droppings, footprints in damp soil or dust, and burrows in the ground. Indications of an infestation can include signs of gnawing.


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