The types of rats that are the biggest problem are Roof rats and Norway rats. They are nocturnal, or active during the night time. They are not diurnal like people; however, they can be found running around during the daytime if there is a serious overpopulation of rats. The Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment warns that for every 1 rat you see, there are approximately 25 rats that are unseen. Gross, but true.
How sensitive are a rat’s senses?
Speaking of not seeing the whole picture, rats have very poor eyesight and rely heavily on their other 4 senses such as smell, taste, touch, and hearing to survive in the dark. These heightened senses help the rats memorize pathways to and from food and water, the way to their shelter, as well as known barriers and recently set traps.
Rats are so adaptive and sensitive to their surroundings that they even have a built-in sense of suspicion when it comes to new bait and traps.
When are rats the most active?
Both Roof and Norway rats can be seen running around during the daytime, but they are typically the most active from dusk to dawn and spend a lot of time breeding in the spring and fall.
The University of Florida’s agricultural team says that the winter months are an active time for rats. During this time, they are looking to collect food and find better shelter indoors to prepare for the scarce environments of the cold, windy, rainy, and snow-covered months.
What kind of nocturnal behavior or habits do Roof and Norway rats have?
Roof rats, according to the Internet Center For Wildlife Damage Management, are climbers and tree and attic dwellers that like to live in and enter spaces through roofs and other resourceful entrances. They live and scurry among areas that have lots of trees and vines like those found in residential and farming areas.
They make their way to homes, farms, and businesses by traveling along fences, walls, trees, vines, power lines, and within cargo shipments. They will eat and chew through pretty much everything including wood walls and plastic, and thrive on farm animal feed, dog and cat food, as well as human food, which can contaminate it and spread disease.
Norway rats, according to the Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, love to dig and burrow in the ground and alongside buildings, living primarily at ground level. They like being hidden in garbage, piles of wood, compost heaps, and anywhere they can find coverage. They like moist areas where there’s dew, leaking water, standing water, and beach areas.
They chew and shred through materials like vegetable, fruit, and plant fibers, as well as wood, paper, plastic, and cloth for their homes and nests. They favor dwelling in basements, walls, and in anything they can find that’s located on lower floors. This includes living or hiding inside or outside of buildings, homes, gardens, parks, chicken coops, barns, and farmhouses.
Where do rats go to live and nest?
Roof rats live and nest indoors; however, they can be found doing so outside as well. While indoors, roof rats will live and sleep in attics, ceilings, closets, garages, rafters, overhead storage rooms, inside walls, and inside farm houses, stables, and anywhere they can climb to. If they live outdoors, Roof rats will live and nest in fruiting and non-fruiting trees and among thick vines and bushes.
Norway rats live in holes and tunnels they’ve burrowed outside or below structures like houses and farm houses. Depending on the area and the environment, these tunnels can get very long and complex. These burrowing tunnel systems can hold up to as many as 11 Norway rats in one of the largest parts of a tunnel. Within them are shredded up pieces of various materials such as cloth, paper, and even plastic that the rats can find and use for nesting.
What diseases can rats pass onto humans?
Rats have been known to live among filth and are carriers of disease. The CDC reports that rats can transmit various diseases to humans. Many of these are caused by being in proximity to, touching, or breathing in dust particles that have infected rat urine and feces. These rat-borne diseases can be contracted by being bit by a rat, through contact with or a bite from another animal, or by a flea that was exposed to the disease.
- Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (Virus)
- Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (Virus)
- Lassa Fever (Virus)
- Leptospirosis (Bacteria)
- Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (Virus)
- Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever (Virus)
- Plague (Bacteria)
- Rat-Bite Fever (Bacteria)
- Rabies (Virus)
- Salmonella (Bacteria)
- South American Arenaviruses (Virus)
- Tularemia (Bacteria)
Can pets and farm animals pass on diseases that rats carry?
Yes, diseases like those carried by rats can be passed from an animal to a human. This is called zoonosis, or a zoonotic disease. Wild rats like Roof and Norway rats can carry and transmit disgusting diseases like the plague, Lassa fever, rabies, and salmonella to animals and humans.
If your beloved pet or farm animal is exposed to contaminated food, surfaces, cloth, or bitten, they can contract these diseases. Although it would be terrible to see a pet or farm animal get sick or even die from a rat-borne disease, being sick or dead yourself would be worse.
What can I do during the day to prevent rats and rat borne diseases?
Get rid of their food source. When rats are actively traveling through spaces during their nocturnal hours, they tend to chew, pee, and defecate on surfaces. A good way to ensure that rats don’t hang around is to take away the access to their food source. Make sure to get a thick and strong plastic or metal (preferably) food container or feed container.
The University of Missouri says: “One rat can eat about 30 pounds of grain a year and may contaminate 10 times that much with its urine, feces, and hair.” Replacing food bins, feeding troughs, or storage units may be expensive for farmers and pet owners initially, but it will save them more money in the long term from having to repurchase expensive livestock, feed, veterinary care, and having to replant or give up on their crops.
If you have pets like cats and dogs, make sure to never leave their food outside overnight. One way to keep pet food safe is by making sure any leftover kibble isn’t left behind outside or even indoors. Store it in a cabinet or a special food container that’s sealed off from holes or openings. This will keep pets safe from being infected by rats directly feeding from their food source and their dish, preventing pets and their owners from contracting anything.
The University of Florida suggests that if the rats are getting into your fruit trees and vegetable gardens, or your vegetable or grain farm, then you will need to look at traps and rodent poison as an option. Cut them off from a free food buffet by getting rat guards for the base of trees. Or, try implementing an animal intervention by introducing snakes, cats, dogs, hawks, and even owls to the environment. Watch the population of rats go down.
Clean up any piles of stuff. The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Crops, Dairy, Livestock, and Equine Program informs that it’s a necessity to get rid of any piles of material or junk the rats are living in, or could potentially live in. This goes for wood piles, garbage piles, hay stacks, boxes, old clothes, and even random junk in the garage or storage shed. Norway rats love to burrow under piles of compost in gardens, or any leaves you may have left behind in your yard. Anything that’s ground level is fair game to a Norway rat. If there is ground beneath your concrete foundation they will tunnel beneath it.
Roof rats will chew through and make houses and nests inside piles of things or inside of objects in the attic, roof, or ceiling that are unprotected. When you organize and neatly store things it will make it harder for rats to live there. Make sure to get rid of anything you think the rats could have or obviously have made contact with.
Before touching those dusty or seemingly untouched objects, make sure to use gloves and a face mask to prevent directly touching and inhaling any particles from the rats. You may have a hard time getting rid of rat-bitten collectibles or keepsakes, but those things are contaminated and have to be thrown out to reduce the risk of anyone contracting a disease.
Find where they enter and exit. Go through your home, garage, garden, chicken coop, barn, or anywhere where you’re getting rats and check for where they are entering and exiting from. Search high up in the attic or roof, or anywhere where there may be trees, vines, or a wall nearby. Also search low on the ground and around the perimeter of your home, farm, garden, or business for holes. When you find these areas, seal them off and lay down rat-only traps.
Also look at your doorways and garage doors. If doorways have even ½” space between the bottom of the door and the floor rats can still get underneath. You will have to seal beneath your doorway by getting a new refitted door for the long term, or door draft stoppers for a short term fix. For larger doors like garage doors or barn doors, you’ll have to hire someone to fix it or replace it. This can be costly, but effective for long-term rat removal.
Clean everything. If you’ve done all of the above, make sure to clean or hire someone to clean the area that the rats overtook. When cleaning up after rats you really risk exposure to disease and germs. The University of Denver insists that you protect yourself by wearing gloves, a face mask, and protective clothing during cleaning. They also warn you to wash your hands and clothing after cleaning to minimize further exposure.
Whether it’s a single time or happens frequently, make sure that you clean and disinfect areas with rat feces or urine, get a plastic bag and throw away any food or object that has been chewed on or bitten, and then seal it and throw it out immediately away from the home, farm, or business.
Rats are nocturnal animals that can be seen during the daytime if there is an overpopulation problem. A telltale sign that you have rats is hearing squealing, squeaking, fighting, or repetitive scratching and gnawing. Depending on the rat type—Roof or Norway rat—you’ll be able to find evidence of them throughout your home, garage, garden, farm, crops, or business.
Look high and low for the smell and sight of rat feces and urine. Make sure to look for any signs of chewing like food crumbs, pieces of paper, cloth, plastic, or wood in little piles. Look for walls that aren’t fully built or covered properly, as rats can crawl in between this space, make a home, and can die there. Look for wall holes and ground openings. If you find them, cover them immediately with something until you can lay a trap or eliminate the structural problem.
If you have fruit trees, a garden, or have a lush landscape with trees, vines, or bushes, be cautious and vigilant in preventing a rat infestation by using tools and strategies that prevent rats from getting into your fruits, vegetables, and plants. Help pets and livestock stay healthy by limiting the amount of time their food is outside, only give them food before dusk and after dawn, or give them only the amount they’ll eat without any left over.
Don’t let nocturnal rats keep you up at night with their chewing or with worry. Don’t let the rat problem get out of hand—one can turn to twenty-five quickly—so act fast! Make sure to keep yourself safe and healthy above all—wear gloves, a face mask, and wash your hands—when discovering, cleaning, and trapping rats. Protect your family, pets, and home, as well as your farm, crops, and livestock by preventing and eliminating hazardous and unsanitary rat infestations.