Everyone knows the urban myth that you are never more than 6 feet away from a rat – and while this may not be technically accurate, we know that the UK does have a large rat population, numbering somewhere between 10.5 and 80 million.
So it’s worrying to hear that not only are rats getting bigger and stronger, but they are also becoming resistant to the over-the-counter poisons we use to get rid of them. As normal brown rats are killed off by poison, these new more resistant species are replacing them. And their numbers are growing.
The British Pest Control Association has warned that increasing numbers of these larger, poison resistant rats are set to invade UK homes this winter, as they seek to avoid falling temperatures and food shortages.
What are the Dangers?
So should we be worried about this new breed of rats? Do they really pose a threat to UK homes?
In a word, yes. While there is no need for mass panic just yet, rat infestations can cause a number of problems, and the more difficult it is to get rid of them, the more of these problems we can expect to see.
The most obvious problem with rats is the risk they pose to people’s health. Rats carry a number of diseases which can be harmful, and even deadly, to humans. These include diseases such as Weils Disease, Salmonella and Hantavirus. They can also contaminate water supplies, leading to further health risks.
Rats can also play havoc with the buildings they invade. They have incredibly strong teeth and jaws and can chew through a wide range of materials, including brick and metal. As well as causing structural damage, rats can cause floods or gas leaks by chewing through pipes, and their gnawing on electrical cables increases the risk of fire.
‘Rat-proof’ your Home
The idea of a horde of poison resistant rats is slightly terrifying. But, as with most things, prevention is usually better than cure – and there are steps you can take to protect your home from rodents.
Rats are notorious for being able to squeeze through small spaces such as vents, holes and pipes, and this is the main way in which they gain entry to many properties. ‘Rat-proof’ your home by inspecting the perimeter of your property and sealing up any possible gaps that rats could use for entry. Remember, rats only need a gap of 15mm to gain entry, so close up any hole, no matter how small. We’ve all read the stories about rats crawling out of toilets so make sure any drain inspection covers are in a good state of repair and can be closed properly.
Food is one of the main lures for rats, and they will eat almost anything. Minimise your risk of rats by clearing away any leftover food and making sure bins are secured. If you put out food for birds in your garden, make sure you use a feed basket or bird table.
If the worst does happen and you find yourself with a rat infestation, the best course of action is to contact a pest control company. While there are traps and poisons that you can purchase yourself, professional pest controllers are properly trained and will have access to a range of stronger, more effective rat poisons – essential for getting rid of those rats who are resistant to over-the-counter remedies, and ensuring that your home is rodent-free.
Tony Bond is the Founder of Essex Pest Control, one of the leading pest control firms in Essex