No one wants to live with rats - but once they're in your home and garden, how do you get rid of them?
Rats carry salmonella, e.coli, Weil's disease, cryptosporidiosis and tuberculosis, which they can pass to us and pets. Not only that, they carry fleas, mites and ticks and can cause acute allergic reactions. Enough said?
It is most certainly a problem if you use your garden - and if they're in the garden it's only a matter of time before they find their way into your home, particularly if you have a cat flap. But they needn't have this type of access - rats only need a gap of about 1cm; anything more than that and they can squeeze their body down to push their way through.
It's unusual for you to see rats because they are nocturnal and tend to hide from humans. Instead, you need to watch out for signs of them. If you are digging about for them, make sure you wear a protective mask and gloves.
Rat droppings - look out for dark, tapered droppings about 10 to 14mm long.
A nasty smell - rats leave a strong ammonia-like smell (abit like stale wee) that will be stronger in lofts, beneath floorboards or in cupboards.
Scratching noises - ever lain awake at night and heard scratching noises? It's not the neighbours, but it might be rats in cavity walls, under the floorboards, in the loft or under decking in the garden.
Teeth marks on food packets - check your food cupboards - have packets got teeth marks in them?
Signs of gnawing - like other rodents, rats gnaw on wood and plastic continuously.
Holes - check your compost heap, under the deck or shed, even for holes under the eaves - these will undoubtedly lead to food sources or nests.
Nests - look in warm, dark, well-concealed places for nests made of newspaper, plastic and fabrics - often full of baby rats.
Like any other animal, they're looking for sustenance and shelter. So, check in and around the shed, outbuildings or garages for signs of nest; remove food sources, such as open bins, compost heaps with the wrong type of food in them and easy-to-get at food indoors - put anything they can access in sealable containers, and only buy squirrel-proof bird feeders; remove access to water, such as dripping pipes or pet bowls, and stop up access to the house - small gaps around doors, broken airbricks and pet flaps will all allow them indoors.
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