Rats

Do the Council provide a service to treat for rats?

Cornwall Council no longer provide a pest control service, however information on rats is available below, including how to prevent them.  For any specialist advice/treatment we recommend you contact a private pest control company - a list of which can be found in the Yellow Pages or online.  We would recommend that you obtain a number of quotes to ensure you are getting value for money.  If you feel able, it is possible to carry out your own treatment, however we do recommend you use a qualified pest controller.  If you do decide to undertake your own treatment, ensure you follow the manufacturers instructions.

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If you see rats in a property you do not live in and would like to report this, or require further advice or information, please contact the Community Protection Team using the contact details on this page.

The brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) is the most commonly sighted rat in the UK – it normally lives in groups (colonies).  Brown rats often measure between 12 and 17 inches (32 – 43cm) from nose to tail when fully grown.  They have small, close-set ears, a blunt muzzle and very sharp teeth.

Rats can reproduce rapidly (termed post-partum oestrus) unlike many mammals, rats and mice do not have to wait until the original litter is weaned before coming back into oestrus. Under the right conditions an adult female can produce an average litter of seven or eight young every three or four weeks.

Rats live in burrows or within the fabric of buildings and other structures, and they rely on the availability of suitable harbourage (shelter and nesting area), food and water in order to thrive.  Rats are capable of exploiting a wide range of different habitats and situations.

Gnawing is part of the innate behaviour of rodents and is not necessarily associated with the search for food. Rodent incisors are continually growing and have to be kept in check. Their gnawing behaviour often results in damage to various materials. They are good climbers and reasonable swimmers.  These characteristics need to be taken into account when considering measures to exclude these animals.

Rats are nocturnal, most active during the evenings, although in certain circumstances can be active during daylight.

Rats are known to carry numerous diseases such as the potentially fatal leptospirosis or weils disease, with up to 50% of rats likely to be carriers.  The bacteria are excreted in rat urine and are passed on when humans come into contact with contaminated surfaces/materials.

Rats may be discouraged and infestations prevented by improving hygiene to make sites less attractive, and by proofing buildings and other structures against access.  This should include removing any access to food, by ensuring rubbish is adequately protected and stored, and any spillages are immediately removed and the area cleansed.

It is important to remove rubbish and disused fixtures or equipment that may provide harbourage.  Vegetation should be controlled around buildings and materials should not be allowed to accumulate in these areas.

Where practical, structures should be proofed to prevent rats gaining access.  This includes blocking holes in walls and doors; repairing or replacing damaged covers to manholes/drain access, and filling in gaps around entry points of services.  Baffles can be fitted to rainwater down pipes and cables.  Metal sheeting, crushed wire mesh and concrete are examples of materials that are likely to resist gnawing by rats.

There are some signs to look for when checking for rats, the main ones being:

Holes in material (can often have teeth marks around the outside)

  • Rat droppings
  • Damaged materials (teeth marks or holes can be an indication)
  • Runs – rats often use the same routes, and leave trails or footprints/tail marks)
  • Smears on walls – shows signs of a well used route

Do it yourself baits are available from several sources, but you should only consider DIY baiting if you are confident of success, otherwise call in the professionals.

Traps can be effective in cases of smaller infestations, although are normally only effective if placed in the correct position, which often forms part of (or very close to) the rats normal trail.

Many poisons require the rats to feed a number of times (multi-feed baits) before they have eaten enough rodenticide to cause death – this is to minimise risk to pets and non-target species.  Rats are neophobic which means they react to any changes in their environment. So called ‘new object shyness’ will result in the rats treating anything placed in their habitat with suspicion, so it may be several days before they start to feed on the bait. 

Once the rats have started taking the bait, follow up visits will be required to replenish baits and thus gauge the seriousness of the infestation. Bait must be available to the rodents throughout the treatment period.  During these visits, any bait spillages should be cleared up and any rodent bodies disposed of safely.  When using any poisons/traps the location should be carefully considered to minimise the chance of injuring pets/children and non target species.