Rats are no fun to have as house guests and every effort should be made to prevent their entry into your home. While your first instinct may not be to instantly kill rats, they should not be ignored. Once they have moved in and nested, getting rid of them can be a challenge that needs the services of a pest control professional. The first reason for denying them occupancy is, of course, the fact that they are simply stomach-turning creatures, whether you spy them scurrying across the floor or merely find evidence of their presence – like their droppings.
Our visceral reaction to rats is not based in prejudice or folklore. They have brought horrifying disease and death to humans for ages, being responsible for wiping out swaths of humanity through the spread of epidemics like the Bubonic Plague. The physical damage they cause can destroy building structures. They keep their constantly growing teeth in check by gnawing on almost any available material. The chewing serves two purposes, serving not only as dental maintenance but also gaining them access to the indoor nesting sites they love to create. They dig and chew to form burrows that undermine building foundations, destroy the integrity of both plastic and lead pipes as well as door frames, furniture and upholstery, and even electrical wiring.
The fact that they are truly talented athletes, able to swim great distances, climb rough vertical surfaces, and jump vertically 2 feet and horizontally 4 feet gives solid proof of the wisdom of stopping them from getting inside any building. Their rapid and frequent reproduction gives further impetus to the need to pay close mind to prevention.
Among the various types of rats commonly encountered in Humboldt, the Norway Rat and the Roof Rat top the list of invasive and unwanted pests.
Roof rats can be identified by their slender body, big hairless ears and dark black to brown color. They can measure from 13 to 18 inches when the tail is included, and typically weigh between 5 to 9 ounces. Their droppings, which are cylinder-shaped and long, are an additional clue to identifying them.
These rodents can be seen using overhead power lines as freeways and generally spend about 90% of their time at least 4 feet above the ground. They can get into a building through a hole no bigger than a nickel and seek nesting spots in attics. They will chew their way through the wood, sheetrock, and even soft metals to gain entry. They are nocturnal creatures, typically ranging from a few hundred feet of their nests.
The other common invader in the Humboldt area is the Norway Rat, often referred to as the “super rat.” These rodents can grow up to 16 inches long and can sport a coat that, while usually gray-brown, can run anywhere from solid gray to a foxy reddish brown. Weighing in at a hefty 10 to 16 ounces, the Norway Rat is larger than his Roof Rat cousin. The Norway Rat sports a thick, heavy body and a truncated nose, with small ears, positioned close to his body. Distinctive ¾ inch long, blunt-ended dark droppings are usually found in groups.
One female rat can cause huge infestation problems with her ability to produce as any as 84 pups each year. Consider on top of that statistic the fact that each of those pups reaches sexual maturity in less than three months. You don’t even want to do that multiplication problem!
While the Roof Rat lives up to its name, preferring to nest in attics and higher levels of a structure, the Norway Rat prefers to set up housekeeping in lower areas of buildings. They will be found in sewers, basements, and even in the soil of foundation areas. They also tend to stick closer to home than the Roof Rats, maintaining a range between 25 and 100 feet from their nesting place. Like must rodents, they are nocturnal. They generally prefer to fit their dining experiences into the 30 minutes following sundown and the half hour before sunrise.
Regardless of the specific rat family in which these rodents claim membership, they are pests that must be controlled. Action to rid your home of them must be taken at your first suspicion of their presence. When you alert to the fact that Hantavirus, Rat Bite Fever, Bubonic Plague, Typhus, and Leptospirosis are just a few of the many diseases that they can carry, the necessity of keeping your home free of rodents is starkly apparent. There are some DIY jobs you can do that should help - like sealing all possible entry points - but because these creatures bring the possibility of serious disease and damage, they deserve the attention of a pest control company.
Recognizing their presence can be accomplished through an awareness of some common signs, including the following:
- The presence of droppings, usually in dark places like cupboards and cabinets
- Sounds of scratching, gnawing or skittering in the walls
- Evidence of chewing on hard surfaces
- Traces of dirt rubbed from rats’ coats on the wall5. The unsettled behavior of pet dogs. A rat – and where you see one, you can rest assured more are hanging around nearby.
Preventing damage and disease from rodent infestation is important to your family’s health and well-being, and you should call a professional exterminator at first hints of the presence of these pests. At a minimum, adopt a cat that can instantly kill rats while you seek the help of a qualified specialist to make your home safe!