It could well be a Halloween movie theme that Hammer House of Horror envisaged or the latest x-box game along the lines of The Plague Tale – Giant, Urban Rats invading the UK’s cities as we speak! Yet we as urban dwellers have a lot to answer for when it comes to providing rats with all they need to flourish.
Despite many reports and news articles, the majority of rats found in the UK are approximately 25 cm long (excluding their tails) and weigh in the region of 250g. Rodent pests are a symptom of their environment, whilst rats are an obvious problem they are present in certain locations because of specific issues, for example fly-tipping or drainage defects.
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Rats are a synurbic species, that have learnt to thrive in urban habitats. They will actively move into urban areas such as towns, cities and areas of urban sprawl because we have created the perfect environments – warm homes, derelict buildings and sewers offering warmth and protection as well as easy access to food.
Rats are focused on finding food and shelter and once they have discovered a reliable supply of food and favorable conditions to live, they will stay, prosper and grow to a very decent size. Rats living in urban areas have almost unlimited access to food from rubbish bins and discarded left-overs from cafes, restaurants and takeaways to foraging in garden compost bins and our kitchen cupboards if they manage to get in.
Access to the high carbohydrate, sugars and fats in our urban waste offers rodents a high energy, good quality food source that can give them a longer lifespan. They also tend to grow more rapidly on such a diet (as such junk food can cause obesity in people) also rats continue to gain weight as they age, allowing them to reach a higher body mass.
Where rats in rural areas live near farms and access animal feed units, they are able to feed on the proteins designed for bulking up animals for slaughter, which will have the same effect on the intruding rodents of increasing their size.
To help control rodents we need to do the basics, and not give them the ideal conditions in which to thrive. Things like ensuring food waste is properly and securely sealed and disposed of can make a big difference, as can proofing (to stop them entering) in cutting rodents access to food.
Proactive prevention is always a better option than having to get rid of rats. Proofing your property and taking a few precautions can help reduce the risks of an infestation. Rats and mice are constantly seeking new sources of food, so eliminating this access is vital.
- Ensure rubbish is securely stored in sturdy bins with tight fitting lids and do not leave bird or pet food out overnight.
- Keeping gardens, garages and sheds clean and tidy will reduce opportunities for rodents to nest and shelter.
- Check your property for entry points, around plumbing and pipes, unscreened vents or gaps in eaves, under doors and roof edges, seal or screen these as necessary.
Rats can grow to a decent size if given the right conditions and some, due to genetics and accumulated resistance may not be as susceptible to baits as others. None of this however makes them indestructible, super rats!