Rats are common throughout the world and have a nasty reputation. Many of the rodents are believed to be carriers of disease, bacteria, and even other pests like fleas. Many of these assumptions aren’t wrong, and rats can be a troublesome and dangerous pest to have around a home or business. In California, there are two chief categories of rats: the roof rat and the Norway rat. Both species were introduced to the environment a long time ago by immigrants and settlers who accidentally carried them aboard their ships and wagons. As with many other pests, it can take a long time for a person to notice when they have a rat infestation.
Roof rats are also known as ship rats or black rats, and are one of the most common types around the globe. A roof rat tends to be a nondescript brown with bits of black, white, and grey on their bellies. They range between 12-16 inches long, with half of their size coming from their body and the other half from their scaly tails. Roof rats are nocturnal and search for food in groups. If they are in a building, people might encounter food packages which have been nibbled through, crumbs in the kitchen, or their feces. They will return to the same food source for as long as they are allowed, and open containers or weak packages are usually the primary targets. People should be careful not to handle roof rats as they are carriers of multiple diseases, including salmonellosis, rat bite fever, and typhus. They can also transfer fleas.
The Norway rat is a separate breed. It is known by many other names such as the brown rat, the street rat, and the common rat. These names are indicative of their commonality. The Norway rat possesses brown or dark grey fur with a lighter belly. Their bodies are 8-10 inches long, and their tails range between 7-10 inches. As with many other breeds, Norway rats will eat almost anything they can get their paws on, but they prefer a surprisingly balanced diet which includes fresh foods. However, cereals make up a large portion of their diet, as do other grains. Like with the roof rat, Norway rats invade homes and businesses in search of food and will often choose open or weak packages. They are nocturnal, possess strong senses of smell and hearing, and have been known to eat through walls and piping to find their food source. People should not handle Norway rats because they can transfer rat bite fever, salmonellosis, jaundice, cowpox virus, and other pests like fleas.
Once a rat infestation has been identified, what can be done? One of the first steps would be to identify what the rats have been eating and to cut off their food supply. People should not eat the food that has been contaminated by rats as it could now be a carrier of bacteria or other pests. People should also locate where the rats have been living, but should not try to eradicate the rodents. Rats have large teeth and will bite when threatened. Even healthy rats are carriers for bacteria and can transmit diseases like leptospirosis. It’s also possible for a human to develop a tetanus infection from a bite.
Instead, a professional pest control service should be called. Experts can identify all of the rats’ hiding places and eliminate them all safely and effectively. Professionals can also help home or business owners identify the conditions that made their building desirable to rodents. Sometimes, even having a sufficient amount of standing moisture, crumbs on the floor, and a crack leading inside is enough to attract a large rat population. Even one of these factors can be enough to invite a rat in. Once these items have been identified, pest controllers can explain methods to help keep rats out and home and business owners safe from future pest problems.
Jose D. has been providing pest control solutions to North County San Diego residents since 2000!