Rats | Pest Control for Rats
Have you seen a rat, in or around your house or property? Rats are no laughing matter and create a serious need for a professional pest control company. It's easy to see why rat populations can grow exponentially. Under ideal conditions, a pair of rats could produce 15,000 offspring in one year. Fortunately, breeding slows markedly as rat populations increase.
- Rats are 12-18 inches long, and weigh up to 16 ounces.
- Rat muzzles are blunt, and their bodies look thick and heavy.
- They have small eyes, naked ears, and coarse fur.
- Rat tails are 6-9 inches long, scaly and nearly naked.
- They have brown to dark gray fur, with scattered black hairs, and are gray, grayish brown or dirty white underneath.
A rat will shed over 500,000 body hairs each year. Left untouched, a rat's incisor teeth would grow 4 inches in a year. So rats must chew continuously to wear down their incisors. Rats will chew on wood, aluminum siding, wallboard, plaster, paneling, frozen ground, concrete...anything but glass and most metals.
- Their life expectancy is 9-12 months, although some rats have lived as long as 3 years.
- They are good swimmers, jumpers and climbers, and they have keen senses of hearing, smell, taste and touch.
- They are largely nocturnal, leaving their nests to forage at dusk.
Because they are so adept at hiding and scurrying, rats can exist in large numbers unbeknownst to their human neighbors. Unlike mice, rats are fearful of anything new. Even so, they quickly adapt to new places to live, new routines, new places to eat, and new kinds of food.
People see rats more often from April through June (spring breeding), and again in October and November as the season changes. But rats are active year-round. Outdoors, rats burrow in earth banks, along walls, under rubbish or concrete slabs, but they always locate close to sources of food and water. Rats follow the same routes as they make their rounds foraging for food each night, so they leave obvious runways in the grass. Rats often travel under objects like bales, planks, granaries and machinery to conceal their movement. A rat will normally travel no more than 150 feet from its nest, but at harvest time rats will travel much further to forage for corn, wheat or beans left in farm fields.
Outdoors or indoors, rats leave obvious oil stains on their trails and entrance holes. They can enter any opening larger than ½-inch in diameter, which means they can squeeze into your home through:
- the space around a pipe or conduit
- under the door (especially garage doors that are left open, or do not seal properly)
- a hole in the screen or floor
- a gap between a window and its frame
Rats will make holes in walls or floors soon after invasion. Rat holes are circular, average 2-3 inches in diameter, and are usually just inches off the floor. Holes in floors are generally close to walls. Rats leave behind a distinctive musk odor, particularly if they are confined to a small space.
Like mice, rats establish territories and colonies. The dominant male continuously guards his harem of females and aggressively prevents other males from mating. Females actively defend their group against strangers and often nest together. Their nests are constructed from leaves, paper, rags, twigs, or anything else they can find. Rats are nocturnal, but in areas having large rat populations some low ranked rats will forage during the day, because other rats have denied them access to food at night.
Rats are also profoundly prolific. If food and shelter are adequate, rats will breed throughout the year, although fewer litters are produced in winter.
- Breeding occurs mostly in the spring and fall.
- A female rat will begin breeding at 40-45 days of age.
- Females often mate within 18 hours of giving birth.
- Gestation is as short as 21 days, and a litter is 2-14 pups (the average is 7).
- Females produce 8 or more litters per year.
- Rats continue to breed until 18 to 24 months of age.
- Newborn rats have no fur and are blind. But they grow rapidly.
- In 2-3 weeks their eyes and ears are open.
- Pups are weaned in 3 weeks, and are sexually mature in 3 months. However, male pups must develop sufficiently to challenge an adult male for supremacy.
Rats have voracious appetites. A rat can eat a third of its body weight each day. The rat is a true omnivore. It will eat anything, including soap, leather, furs, candy, milk, meat, vegetables, poultry, eggs, grain, seeds, fruit, nuts, snails and other rodents. Rats will catch fish, and they readily eat carrion. Near homes, rats thrive on pet food, birdseed, grass seed, garbage, dog feces, and the uneaten or spoiled food we discard. While rats will eat nearly anything, they prefer grain, livestock feed, and meat. Unlike the mouse, which nibbles a little at a time, rats will fill up at one sitting, if possible. Rats will hoard and cache food, which can result in insect infestations. Like mice, rats will live in freezers, feeding only on frozen food. Rats eat so much that one rat can leave behind 25,000 droppings per year. The rat's main constraint is that it cannot go long without water unless its diet supplies enough. Rat’s need up to one ounce of water every day.
The number and behavior of rats change throughout the year. Many rats die during winter, as outdoor foods become hard to find. Breeding in winter is comparatively low, so rat populations are at their lowest. A mild winter means fewer rats will die of natural causes, so more can be expected in the spring. But if rats are controlled in winter, fewer will be available to resume the breeding cycle in spring. Heavy breeding begins in March when the weather turns. Spring rains spur vegetation, which provides cover and additional food. So rats are more abundant in late spring. Young rats have to seek food and new nests. In summer, food and vegetation are abundant, so rats continue breeding. Breeding peaks in early September as temperatures begin to fall. Sources of food and shelter start to diminish in fall, so rats look for shelter inside buildings and homes.
Getting rid of rats is difficult. Capturing or poisoning a few rats in the neighborhood makes little impact. To defeat them, a community has to cooperate in capturing or killing them, at the same time starving them, denying them shelter, and cutting off their sources of water. Denied a source of food, rats will turn to killing and eating each other, which further reduces the infestation.
If you think you may have a rat problem, either inside or outside your home or business, please contact one of our professionally trained and licensed pest professionals. They can determine the severity of your problem and outline a plan to help you get rid of these unwanted rats! Get a free rat inspection here.