Rats. Big or small, we are all familiar with these furry mammals that tend to raid our pantries and chew on cords. These highly reproductive creatures have historically been a nuisance for centuries all over the world. Unfortunately, the relationship between humans and rats is not a reciprocal relationship meaning both parties do not benefit from each other. Rats within the walls of this relationship gain nothing but benefits. When connected with the human world, rats can gain shelter from the elements, protection from predators, and a food source. In comparison, humans receive diseases and destruction of property in return.
Rats hibernate in the winter, though, right?
The short answer is NO. Rats do not hibernate in the winter, but their activity might lessen due to the colder weather. Over time rats have obtained skills and habits that enable them to survive the harsh climate of the winter months. These survival skills include:
To keep their body temperatures up in the cold weather, rats will increase their food intake, sometimes as much as doubling their usual intake. To accommodate this change in nutritional intake, rats begin storing food in late summer/ early autumn. During this time, rats will become more active because they need to gather as much food as possible before the temperatures drop. What do rats eat, though? Anything they can get their tiny paws on! Clothes, wires, garbage, nuts, vegetables, etc. These small creatures will collect foodstuffs and hide them away in their burrows to avoid having to leave their cozy little home as much as possible.
Like other rodents, rats are masters at digging. In the winter, rats are looking for warm places to live, like houses and barns, to protect themselves from the weather. If they cannot access a person's home or a shelter of the same sort, rats will dig small tunnels called burrows to keep warm and out of the elements. The problem with these burrows is that they can be located near electrical wires and under walls of homes and other structures. Rats have an incredible talent for chewing and can chew through various materials like cinder blocks, glass, vinyl, and concrete. So even if there is not an immediate access point to your home, rats can create their own. Rats are extremely intelligent as well. With their innate ability to problem solve and their incredible memories, rats can find new entrances to their desired locations and can return to them time and time again. These rodents can even efficiently work in teams to accomplish their goals. This intelligence and creativity make them unpredictable, sometimes making it difficult to catch them without professional help.
Diseases Transmitted by Rats
Diseases can be transmitted from rats in various ways, such as handling items that came in contact with rat feces/urine or breathing in dust that came in contact with feces/urine. Indirect contact is through a third party like fleas and ticks is another way for diseases and illnesses to be passed on from rats. Some of the potential diseases that could be passed along include:
· Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
· Lassa Fever
· Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM)
· Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever
· Rat-Bite Fever
So, what do you look for to see if you have rats in your home/ business?
Great question! Rats are nocturnal and tend to be pretty discrete, so it can be challenging to detect them at first. There are several things to look out for, though:
· Rat droppings around places where food is stored
· Holes chewed into walls and floors
· Nesting materials such as fabric, shredded paper, pine needles, etc.
· The smell of decaying food coming from areas that are hidden away (that's a sign that you may have found their 'home' where they store their food)
How do you keep rats out of your home?
The key to lowering your chances of obtaining these unwanted house guests is by creating an environment that they would find undesirable. You can do this by:
· Keeping your home/business clean and organized (rats thrive in mess and disorganization because it provides extra hiding places)
· Empty garbage cans regularly and keep a tight-fitting lid on top
· Do not leave pet food out and keep it in a container with a locking lid to minimize access for rats
· Hire a professional company to aid in the prevention and removal of rats
· Patch any access points you may identify
Rats are clever creatures with a knack for finding creative entrances into homes looking for food sources, especially around the winter months. Rats are persistent will eat through anything to accomplish their goals. It is crucial to practice prevention. If you find yourself with a rat infestation, make sure to call a professional company to aid in safely excluding them.
Written by Lindsay Watson (2021)