Rats: Essential Facts and Effective Control Methods

Up close image of a rat with a white background.. Rats Blog

Rats—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Rats, medium-sized long-tailed rodents belonging to the genus Rattus, are among the most widespread and adaptable creatures on earth. Originating in Asia and Australia, these thin-tailed mammals have managed to colonize almost every part of the world, thriving in numerous environments. Due to their size, adaptability, and keen survival instincts, rats have been able to live alongside humans for centuries, often exploiting human resources for their benefit.

The genus Rattus encompasses a diverse group of 56 species, displaying various characteristics and behaviors in their respective habitats. Their ability to adapt and survive in a wide range of environments has made rodents a fascinating subject for study. 

They have developed numerous ways to communicate with each other and regulate their body heat, which has contributed to their survival in various climates. These creatures also can reproduce rapidly, enabling them to maintain a presence in occupied areas despite ongoing efforts to control their populations.

Though rats are an intriguing species to observe, humans must remain cautious due to the potential health risks associated with rat infestations. These pests are known carriers of various zoonotic pathogens that can transmit diseases to humans. By implementing effective pest control measures, we can promote a safer, more sanitary environment for both humans and the fascinating rodents that share our world.

What attracts rats to your home?

Rats are clever creatures that are always on the lookout for food, shelter, and a safe environment to breed. Understanding what attracts them to your home is essential in preventing an infestation. 


Diet plays a significant role in attracting rats to your home. Rats are omnivores, meaning they will eat almost anything. However, they are particularly drawn to foods with strong smells and high sugar or protein content. Unsecured garbage bins, pet food left outdoors, and even fruit fallen from trees in your yard can become a feast for rats. To reduce the risk of attracting rats, ensure that all food sources are tightly sealed and stored properly.

They have a strong sense of smell, which helps them locate food sources from considerable distances. They are also attracted to the smell of other rats, and if a rat has already found its way into your home, it is likely to bring more with it. To keep rats away, maintain a clean and odor-free environment, disinfect surfaces regularly, and address any rodent issue promptly.


The environment in and around your home can also affect the likelihood of rat infestations. These rodents prefer to live in spaces that provide them with cover and warmth, such as overgrown vegetation, wood piles, and clutter. Additionally, rats are skilled climbers and swimmers, so they can easily access your home through overhanging tree branches, broken roof eaves, or gaps in the foundation. To minimize the chances of attracting rats, keep your yard well-maintained, remove thick vegetation, and seal all possible entry points.

Nesting Opportunities

Finally, rats are skilled foragers who can easily identify places where they can find shelter and establish nests. They are attracted to cluttered areas like garages, basements, and crawl spaces. As they can compress their bodies, they can squeeze through remarkably small gaps and holes. Therefore, it is important to declutter your home, inspect for any signs of rat activity, and effectively seal any openings or cracks they may be using to enter your living space.

By addressing these factors and maintaining a clean, well-organized home and yard, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of attracting rats and creating an environment that is less inviting for these unwelcome guests.

Why do I have rats all of a sudden?

Rats can suddenly appear in your home or yard for a variety of reasons, primarily related to their habitat requirements and survival instincts. 

The first and foremost reason for a rat infestation is the availability of food and water sources. These pests are attracted to locations where they can easily scavenge for food. They are especially interested if there’s an abundance of waste or improperly stored food items. Maintaining proper sanitation, storing food in sealed containers, and cleaning up trash and debris on your property can help prevent rat infestations.

Rats also seek shelter in areas that provide warmth and safety from predators. Overgrown shrubbery, piles of wood or debris, and cluttered storage spaces can serve as ideal hiding spots for these rodents. Sealing up any potential entry points, such as cracks or gaps in walls and foundations, can help keep rats out of your home.

Changes in their existing habitat, such as construction work or heavy rain, may also drive rats to seek new locations for shelter. If there are disruptions to their previous nesting sites, they may be forced to find new places to call home, which could include your property. 

Natural predators in the vicinity, such as cats or birds of prey, can also influence the sudden movement of rats. If the rats in the area perceive these predators as a significant threat to their survival, they may opt to move to a more secure location, potentially your home.

Does one mean more?

If you happen to spot one rat, understand that this sighting may indicate a larger rat population. Rats are social creatures and live in colonies. The colonies often consist of 2-10 or more individuals. Discovering a single rat should serve as a warning sign that more could be hiding nearby.

In terms of breeding and reproduction, rats are known for their fast reproductive rate, which contributes to multiple rats within a colony. Female rats have a gestation period of around 21 to 24 days and can give birth to a litter of 6 to 12 pups. Within a few weeks, these pups become sexually mature and can begin to breed as well, rapidly increasing the rat population.

Although they are mostly nocturnal, rats may venture out during daylight hours when competition for resources is high. This could mean that the rat infestation is more extensive.

Are rats a danger to humans?

Rats have been associated with various health risks and dangers throughout history. One infamous example is the spread of the bubonic plague, or “Black Death.” Black Death was primarily transmitted by rat-borne fleas. While such large-scale pandemics are rare today, rats can still pose significant threats to human health.

Rats are carriers of numerous zoonotic pathogens, which can be transmitted to humans through bites, contact with their urine or droppings, or contaminated food. Some common rat-borne diseases include

  • Leptospira: This is a type of bacteria that causes leptospirosis, a disease that can lead to severe health complications, such as kidney and liver damage or even death in extreme cases. 
  • Toxoplasma gondii: This parasite is responsible for toxoplasmosis, an infection that may cause flu-like symptoms in humans and can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems. 
  • Campylobacter: This is a leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis, resulting in diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. 
  • Rat-bite fever: As the name suggests, this illness is often contracted through bites or scratches from infected rats, producing symptoms such as fever, joint pain, and rash.

Apart from transmitting diseases, rats can also pose a danger to property by chewing through various materials. Their sharp teeth can damage furniture, wiring, and structural elements, leading to potential fire hazards and costly repairs.

Rats are indeed a danger to humans, due to the multiple diseases they can spread, and the risks they pose to property.

Will rats move on if there’s no food?

Rats are known for their omnivorous diet, willing to consume a wide variety of food sources. Their survival depends largely on the availability of food and shelter. When facing a scarcity of resources, rats are likely to search for new locations to find nourishment.

Over time, rats have evolved as opportunistic feeders, capable of eating both plant and animal-based materials. This characteristic grants them the ability to thrive in diverse environments. However, their need for frequent feeding makes it hard for them to survive without food for more than a week.

In an environment where food becomes scarce, rats are likely to relocate to areas with more abundant resources. Although rats can survive without food for a short period, it is not sustainable in the long run. A constant need to eat every 12 hours presses rats to continuously look for food sources.

A successful strategy to deter rats from a specific location involves eliminating accessible food. This encourages rats to search for nourishment elsewhere. Combining this method with other pest control measures can result in a more effective solution.

Will they go away on their own?

Rats are a common problem faced by homeowners, and many people wonder if these pests will eventually leave on their own. It is essential to understand that rats are attracted to human settlements due to the abundance of food and shelter opportunities.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of rats leaving on their own is incredibly low. As long as there is a consistent food source, warmth, and a place to nest, rats will persistently stay. This is because rats are intelligent and social creatures that adapt well to their environment.

Native species of rats may have a higher chance of leaving since they are generally more adapted to surviving in the wild. However, commensal rats like the roof rat and ship rat are infamous for their resilience and ability to thrive in urban environments. These rats have long been associated with human settlements, making it less likely for them to leave voluntarily.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are rats dangerous to humans?

Yes, rats can be dangerous to humans due to their potential to transmit diseases and cause physical harm. They can carry numerous pathogens that can cause illnesses such as salmonella, hantavirus, and leptospirosis. Rat bites and scratches may also lead to infections and allergic reactions. It is crucial to take precautions when handling or encountering wild rats.

How do I get rid of rats?

To effectively get rid of rats, consult with a professional pest control service, like 855bugs. Our team will ensure the safe and efficient removal of these rodents from your property. Remember to also address the underlying issues that encourage rat infestation, such as accessible food sources and entry points.

What diseases can rats transmit?

Rats can transmit diseases to humans, directly through contact or indirectly via urine, feces, or parasites. Some common diseases carried by rats include Hantavirus, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, and rat-bite fever. It is essential to maintain proper sanitation and take precautions when dealing with rats to minimize health risks.

How do I prevent rats from entering my house?

Take proactive measures to rodent-proof your home. Some effective methods include sealing gaps and cracks in walls, floors, and foundations. You should also install door sweeps and screen vents. Keep your living spaces clean and free of accessible food sources. Store food in sealed containers and dispose of waste properly. Regularly clean your property to discourage rat infestation.

What is the difference between rats and mice?

Rats and mice are both rodents but differ in size, appearance, and behavior. Rats are generally larger measuring up to 18 inches, with a thicker, longer tail. Mice measure up to 8 inches, with thinner, harrier tails. Additionally, rat heads are more blunt, whereas mice have more pointed snouts. Behavior-wise, rats are more cautious and take time to investigate new objects. Mice are more curious and readily explore their surroundings.

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