Rat infestation – should you be concerned?

As winter closes in, many of us start to see our homes as a place of sanctuary in which to avoid the long, dark nights. For some, however, this sanctuary is broken by the sounds of scurrying feet and an unpleasant odour.


When I sat down to write this blog, I did a quick Google search to see if there were any relevant stories. At the top of the results was a story about a landlord in Newcastle who has been banned from renting out a five bedroom house after rats gnawed through electric cabling and left the family-of-11 without heating or hot water.

Elsewhere, Spanish authorities are warning locals and tourists about an invasion of black rats, a Durham car park is overrun with rats that gnaw through car parts, and a Washington D.C. fast food restaurant was closed down after a rat infestation was filmed and posted on TikTok.

Rats aren’t just unpleasant, they also spread disease and can cause catastrophic damage to your property.

Although it’s not all bad publicity – two rats named Carmack and Romero have been taught to play the video game Doom (sort of).

The Brown Rat

In the UK, our biggest problem is the brown rat. It resembles a large mouse, has a thick body, small hairy ears, blunt nose and a tail that is shorter than the length of its head and body. They can grow up to 40cm in length, not including the tail.

The brown rat is larger and more aggressive than black or ship rat, which we all associate (erroneously) with the Black Death. It has therefore largely replaced the black rat, which is now very rare in the UK.

Do You Have a Rat Problem?

Rats don’t really like being in your home, unlike mice, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take advantage of the opportunity for shelter, food and safe harbourage. If they do, you’ll probably notice the following:

  • Gnaw marks in cables, wood and pipes
  • Large droppings the size of a raisin
  • ‘Smears’ – dark marks
  • Foul odour – rats mark their territory by urinating on everything
  • Noises – you’ll hear scurrying in the night

Are Rats Dangerous?

Apart from the damage they can do to your property, and if they are gnawing through electric cables this can be significant, they also spread several nasty diseases through their urine, faeces and fleas. Most of us have heard of the blood infection leptospirosis, or Weil’s disease, but there are several other diseases that they spread, including hantavirus, salmonella, tuberculous and E. coli.

How to Get Rid of Rats

Once rats have gained a foothold in your home, they can be difficult to get rid of without professional help. The best policy to not encourage or allow them into your home in the first place. Firstly, this requires good housekeeping. Secondly, ensure gaps around pipes are sealed. A rat only needs a gap of 15mm to enter your home. Thirdly, make sure the areas around your home aren’t attractive by making sure waste is correctly disposed of and compost heaps are built away from your home.

It can be difficult to identify the places where rats will enter your home, so we often advise people to get a professional pest control survey. A trained surveyor will know where to look, what signs to look for, and what solutions to employ. If you have an infestation, they can also help you to deal with it quickly and in a cost-effective manner.

With Christmas only a month away, we all want to be sure our winter sanctuaries are safe and secure. Make sure you are taking the right precautions to stop a rat infestation and avoid any unwelcome guests!

Read our rat pest guide.

We have the expertise to deal with a wide range of pest problems quickly, safely, and discreetly. If you have a problem, call us on 020 8430 4133 or email here.