Do I Smell a Rat?

Rodent Control

Rat infestations are extremely common, and are largely due to rats’ ability to move, reproduce, and survive better than most species of animal. If they aren’t sneaking in through openings to the outside, they can also find their way through the plumbing pipe highway as these critters are capable of squeezing through extremely narrow pipes and are excellent swimmers.

Although it’s fairly easy to identify a rat from any other animal, there is a substantial difference in how different types of rats act.

Most Common Rat Species Found in South-East Queensland

The two most common rats around the world and very common in South-East Queensland are the Roof Rat and the Norway Rat.

Roof Rat

Roof Rat

The Roof Rat (also sometimes referred to as Ship Rat) is quite a sleek rat and their fur is smooth. They are usually black in colour and have tails longer than their bodies. They also tend to have bigger ears, pointed noses, and are surprisingly good at climbing. They can be up to 45cm in length including the tail. It’s not uncommon to see Roof Rats scurry up certain bushy trees for shelter. Roof Rats (as the name suggests) like to build nests above ground and can be found in the upper areas of houses. They like eating meat scraps and proteins and will essentially eat just about anything if they are hungry enough. They are nocturnal and forage for food at night. They are also able to chew through plastic and metal pipes to get water.  They like the warmth and in South-East Queensland can be found in roof cavities. Outside, they nest in trees, shrubs, and wood piles.

As well as droppings and urine being a health hazard, roof rats can also cause damage to your home as they chew on electrical wires; knaw on wood beams; chew on pipes to water; and tramp down insulation.

Norway Rat

Norway Rat | Image courtesy of AEPMA

The Norway Rat (sometimes referred to as Sewer Rat or Brown Rat), however, are more of the floor scurrying type of rats. They tend be be grown or grey, but colour can vary from black to white and they often have dirty white colour on their belly. They have shaggy fur. They have thicker tails and bodies, and smaller ears compared to Roof Rats. They don't climb and enjoy the lower parts of a building. They like wharves, warehouses, tunnels, drains and sewers. Chances are if you’ve seen a rat in your kitchen or garage, it was most likely a Norway rat. They are nasty and like feeding on meat and scraps. They have large droppings which are pointed at one end.

Know Your Enemy: Rats

Rodents need very little food to survive, and can make do with nearly anything they can find. Rats only need one to two ounces of food every night and two to four ounces of water. Mice need much less food and don’t even need water every day.

Sydney and Melbourne have both experienced a change in rat behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Age has reported that with cafes and restaurants closed or restricted, rats have gone in search of food which means they have been moving out to the suburbs. There are plenty of opportunities for rats to get their feast on outside of your home, and they often seek to residential areas for an extra bite to eat or shelter.

Rat problems are extremely urgent issues, as they can quickly turn into huge infestations. Two rats are also capable of making over 6,000 babies before they die by the age of 2 or 3. These 6,000 babies, assuming they survive, will start breeding by the age of 3 months.

Like the vast majority of creatures when provoked, rats can lash out aggressively to protect themselves. Getting bitten by a rat isn’t a pleasant experience and requires medical attention. Rat bites, contrary to popular belief, aren’t likely to transmit the rabies virus to humans. Regardless, a bite-free human is a happy human so try not to corner these critters and grab at them.

6 Signs You Might Have Rodents

Noises:

Rats and Mice are particularly active at night. If you listen closely enough, they can often be heard squeaking or running up and down your walls and across your roof. You might also hear them dragging wiring along the roof; which can be particularly concerning.

Gnawing:

Rats will constantly be chewing on things to grind down their teeth as they are always growing. This means they will be chewing on timber in your roof, metal and wiring/conduit. Chewing on wiring and conduit in the roof can be very dangerous as it can result in exposed wiring, which as we all know can short out our power or even worse; lead to fires.

Nests:

Whilst most nests will be built in the roof where Rodents can live without disturbance, these can also be found outside. Keep an eye out for nests containing materials such as paper, insulation.

Rub marks:

Rodents will leave rub marks on walls and surfaces where they track into areas on a regular basis. Their fur leaves a grease like a residue (which often just looks like brown marks) on these areas and can be an indication of a more established colony.

Smells:

Musty smells can often be experienced in the areas where Rodents live (excreting large volumes of urine throughout the roof).

Droppings:

Often the first sign of an infestation. Just like their size comparison; Rat droppings can be quite large (up to 12mm in length) and Mice droppings being quite small (between 2 & 6mm in length). Don’t confuse mice droppings for Gecko droppings!!!

What Do You Do If You Have Rodents

Run the Trap

When it comes to rat control, rat traps are one of the oldest tricks in the book. Whether mechanically spring loaded or adhesive-based, these traps are a very effective means to get rid of rats. The traps also have the added benefit of knowing whether they are working because, well, if the trap has a dead rat in it, you’ve got it. Other pest control methods leave a degree of uncertainty, and a sudden disappearance of rats without evidence still leaves an uneasy thought in many people’s minds that they may someday return.

In order to use rat traps successfully, however, you must first eliminate all sources of food for them. When rats find a source of food, they tend to prefer the safety and security of a guaranteed meal rather than explore new potentially dangerous options.

You can also eliminate their sources to water by covering your drain covers, fixing leaky faucets, and reducing the amount of open water outside. As for the bait, rats are not particularly picky. Some of the foods they tend to prefer include bacon grease and peanut butter.

While rat traps are an effective means of neutralising a rat by turning a live rat into a dead rat, the downside is that you now have to deal with getting rid of a dead rat. This task isn’t suited for those that are particularly easily nauseated for obvious reasons. If the dead rat isn’t found for a few days, it is likely to produce a dreadful odour – especially in hot roof cavities being battered by the sun all day. These traps also present a health risk to the handler.

While they can work, poison traps aren’t as effective because rats tend to only try a little bit of a food to make sure it doesn’t make them sick before consuming it in potentially lethal doses.

Hire a Pest Technician

Hiring an expert in dealing with and removing pests can easily make your rat problems go away with limited interaction with the live or dead critters. Contacting a pest management expert is not only best for those anxiety-inducing moments of finding or hearing rats, but scheduling regular appointments can keep your house free and clear of the myriad of pests Mother Nature likes to throw into our homes.

Take Preventative Measures

The absolute most important way to get rid of rats in the future is to make sure that they can never enter your home to begin with.

mice rodent control

1. Keep your pantry completely closed and food packaged.

Rats are built to survive, and the distinction between what is “food” and what isn’t food can be very broad. This is why it’s imperative to make sure your spaces are extremely clean to get rid of the little feasting opportunities that keep rats coming back.

Rodents come with teeth that are capable of chewing through a vast majority of material. Savvy home owners do a great job at preventing any future rodent problems by eliminating access to any potential food sources.

2. Put a lid on it.

Your garbage cans inside and outside the house must be completely sealed. Rodents have an extremely liberal approach when it comes to the food they eat, and just because you haven’t thrown out a full meal doesn’t mean rodents won’t make use of whatever they can find.

3. Block all entranceways.

Perhaps the best rodent preventive control is to block any potential means for rats and mice of accessing your home. This may require you to play detective and do a full inspection of your home to check for whatever crevices and cracks that could be a potential entryway.

Doing so will not only ensure that your home is optimised for rodent control, but it will also prevent a slew of a bunch of other pests from coming in.

a) When you find any potential gaps, seal them with an exterior-grade sealant or cement.

b) Cover large areas around pipes with mesh and seal them with cement.

c) Insert metal panels at the bottom of windows and wooden doors to prevent rodents from chewing their way in.

d) Cover ventilated areas with mesh.

4. Keep your exterior neat.

Rodents like to use exterior trees, weeds, and other vegetation as a place of temporary shelter before entering a more permanent dwelling, like your home. Trees provide an exceptionally easy way for rodents to climb into a home via branches. Therefore, keep your grass, bushes, trees, and other vegetation near your home trimmed tight. Consider using concrete or rock landscaping around the perimeter of your home to keep a distance from exterior vegetation.

5. Don’t hoard cardboard.

Cardboard boxes make for excellent dwellings for rodents, and homeowners who leave cardboard boxes laying around their garage are pretty much inviting rodents to sleep over.

6. Schedule regular pest management.

Once you’ve ensured that your home is at a low risk for rodent infestations, it would be wise to schedule regular appointments with a pest management professional to ensure that your home is rodent free.

Final Thoughts

You now know more about rats, and by following these tips, you will be able to prevent rat infestations in future.  While setting traps and hiring pest technicians are great steps in your rat control journey, it’s very important you take proactive measures to ensure rats aren’t coming back at any given time.

Pest control is more than simply getting rid of pests, it’s about securing your peace of mind. You’ve got enough to worry about, seeing rats scurry from end to end across your kitchen or staying up at night listening to the pitter patter of tiny footsteps in the roof is no way to relax.

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