Rats breed quickly and a healthy female can produce several litters a year, with between six to 11 young and offspring reaching sexual maturity within an eight to 12 week period. It is quite easy for infestations to build up without ever noticing a rat - their nocturnal habit tends to keep them away from human contact and if rats are seen during the day it is usually a sign of a large infestation. Signs of infestation are droppings, gnaw marks, runs, burrows in the ground and smear marks produced by the continual rubbing of their fur against surfaces. Rats need a good food source, water and somewhere to shelter to survive and it is important that anyone with a rat problem on their land takes this into consideration when trying to get rid of them. If rats are affecting an individual’s property and there is no other proven source, it is the owner’s responsibility to organise treatment and deal with any safety issues.


Rats are a hazard to public health. They can transmit a number of diseases which can be potentially fatal to man, such as Weil's disease and murine typhus. They also carry disease organisms such as Salmonella bacteria, viruses and parasites such as worms and fleas. In addition to this, they cause damage to structures through gnawing and burrowing. Problems can range from minor holes in walls and doors and gnawed materials, to structural collapse, flooding and electrical faults and fires.

How do I get rid of them?

Removing easily accessible food and getting rid of shelter for rats are among the most basic and important preventative measures. A rat problem can easily be resolved if the guidance detailed below is followed:

  • Do not feed wild birds or other animals to excess and do not put any food waste or bird seed down on the ground. Use bird feeders and sweep up any spillages.
  • Have a good housekeeping system for any outdoor pets, for example, rabbits in hutches or pigeons in lofts. Pet food should be kept in sealed containers and any spillages cleared up. Any soiled pet bedding should be cleared up and disposed of.
  • Keep your property in a good state of repair to prevent rats gaining access.
  • As far as possible, eliminate gaps under sheds, loose piles of wood and cut back overgrown areas. Keep yards and gardens clean and tidy.
  • Do not leave household waste where rats can get at it – make sure all domestic rubbish is kept in a refuse bin.
  • Only compost garden waste. Any food waste placed in compost heaps or bins are another potential food source for rats.
  • Clear up any dog faeces in gardens or yards as this can attract rats.
  • Do not ignore a rat problem. Organise treatment or seek advice from an expert straight away. If you decide to carry out your own baiting, you must make sure that any rat bait is completely covered up in order to prevent poisoning of other wildlife or domestic animals. Secure bait stations and poison can be purchased from local hardware stores or garden centres and any product information should always be followed.

We can provide a pest control service to treat rats on domestic property. For further information please see our pest control service costs. To arrange a pest control treatment please complete the online pest treatment form or contact our customer service centre on 01395 571517.

If you would like us to investigate a pest infestation on other land, or you have other insects or pests in your own home, please fill in the online pest investigation form and our environmental health team will contact you to provide advice and information.