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Rats: Pest Rodents

Rats can be pests in homes, businesses, and outdoor areas. Here are a few things to know about rats as pests:

  1. Rats often invade homes and other buildings in search of food, water, and shelter. They can cause damage to structures by gnawing on wires and pipes, and they can also contaminate food and surfaces with their urine and feces.
  2. There are two main types of rats that are considered pests in the United States: the Norway rat and the roof rat. Norway rats are larger and burrow underground, while roof rats are smaller and tend to live above ground.
  3. Rats reproduce quickly and can have litters of up to a dozen offspring several times a year. This means that a small infestation can quickly grow into a larger problem.
  4. Rats can transmit diseases to humans through their bites, urine, and feces. Some of the diseases that rats are known to carry include salmonella, leptospirosis, and the plague.
  5. The best way to prevent a rat infestation is to eliminate any sources of food, water, and shelter. This includes sealing off any entry points to the home or building, keeping trash in covered containers, and regularly cleaning up any spills or crumbs.
  6. If you do have a rat infestation, it's important to call a professional pest control company to safely and effectively remove the rats and prevent their return. Do not try to handle the situation on your own, as rats can be carriers of diseases and can also bite if they feel threatened. Contact us today to learn more.

What are rats?

Rats are large rodents, a type of small mammal known for their ability to survive in a wide range of environments, that live throughout the United States, but are typically found in urban and suburban areas. They are generally considered pests because they can carry diseases and can cause damage to buildings and food sources. Their size and prolific breeding habits make them formidable pests to contend with. As pests, rats are not welcome in homes and businesses because of their ability to spread diseases, cause structural damage, and contaminate food. There are several different species of rats, including the black rat (roof rat) and the brown rat (Norway rat), which are the most common species found in human-populated areas. They have long, pointed snouts, small ears, and a long, scaly tail. They are omnivorous, and in the wild, they eat a variety of foods, including seeds, fruits, insects, and small animals.

Are rats dangerous?

Rats can pose a variety of health and safety risks to humans. Rats are dangerous and should not be allowed to live around people, except as pets. One of the main concerns with rats is the diseases they can carry. They can transmit diseases to humans through their urine, feces, or bites. Rats forage for food in less than sanitary areas like garbage piles, riverbanks, sewers, dumpsters, and compost piles, so they contaminate food and surfaces with diseases. Rats are also known to carry fleas, ticks, and mites, which can be a source of infection for humans and domestic animals.

Like other rodents, rats also have front incisors that grow throughout their life. Their front teeth are sharp and used to gather nesting materials, create entrances into buildings, and defend themselves. Their teeth also cause a lot of damage when rats are in our homes; they use their teeth for chewing through wires, cables, pipes, drywall, ceilings, and furniture. In addition, rats can cause economic injury by damaging crops and contaminating food stored in warehouses and homes.

What diseases do rats spread?

Rats can spread a variety of diseases to humans through their urine, feces, bites, or by contaminating food and surfaces. Some of the more common diseases associated with rats include:

  1. Plague: This is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected flea, which is often found on rats.
  2. Leptospirosis: This is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through contact with rat urine, which can contaminate water or soil.
  3. Rat-bite fever: This is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through a rat bite or by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated by rat urine or feces.
  4. Salmonellosis: This is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated by rat feces.
  5. Hantavirus: This is a viral infection that can be transmitted to humans through contact with rat urine or feces, or by breathing in dust that has been contaminated by rat droppings.
  6. Lassa fever: This is a viral infection that can be transmitted to humans through contact with rat urine or feces, or through contact with an infected person.

The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid contact with rats and their urine and feces, and to practice good hygiene, such as washing hands frequently and keeping food storage areas clean.

What do rats look like?

Rats have a distinct appearance that makes them easy to identify. They have a long, pointed snout, small ears, and a long, scaly tail. They have a compact, round body shape and are usually gray or brown in color, although some species can be black. They have small, sharp claws on their feet, which they use for climbing and digging.

The two most common species of rats found in human-populated areas are the black rat and the brown rat.

The black rat, also known as the roof rat or ship rat, is typically smaller and slimmer than the brown rat. They have a sleek, slender body and a long, thin tail. They are usually black or dark gray in color, with a white underbelly. Their body length is around 40cm, and the tail is around 35 cm long.

The brown rat, also known as the common rat, Norway rat, or sewer rat, is larger and stockier than the black rat. They have a heavy, bulky body and a shorter, thicker tail. They are usually brown or gray in color, with a white or pale underbelly. Their body length is around 45cm, and the tail is around 25 cm long.

It's important to note that there are many different species of rats, and they can vary in size, color, and shape depending on the species and their environment.

Where will I find rats?

Being nocturnal, it can take some time to discover a rat's presence on your property because they are most active while you sleep. If you are suddenly seeing rats out and about during the day, a large infestation is most likely present. 

Norway rats mainly nest at ground level around fields, farmlands, riverbanks, gardens, and under concrete slabs and woodpiles. During the cooler months when food is less plentiful outside, Norway rats move indoors to consume our food and hide in our basements, crawl spaces, and wall voids. 

Roof rats prefer to hide and nest up off the ground. Outside, they make fruit trees, vines, dense shrubbery, roof eaves, and woodpiles into nesting spots. Inside our homes and garages, they live in roof rafters, attics, and above ceilings.

How can I tell if I have a rat infestation?

There are several signs that can indicate a rat infestation:

  1. Droppings: Rats produce small, dark droppings that are about the size and shape of a raisin. They can be found in areas where rats are active, such as near food sources, in attics, or in crawl spaces.
  2. Gnaw marks: Rats have strong teeth and will gnaw on wood, plastic, and other materials to sharpen their teeth. Gnaw marks can be found on wooden beams, pipes, and other structures in areas where rats are active.
  3. Nests: Rats construct nests out of materials such as shredded paper, insulation, and other debris. They can be found in attics, crawl spaces, and other areas where rats are active.
  4. Sounds: Rats are active at night and can be heard scurrying or gnawing in walls, ceilings, and attics.
  5. Tracks: Rats leave tracks in dust or mud. You can check for tracks by dusting a small area with talcum powder or flour.
  6. Burrows: Rats will burrow in the ground, and this can be seen as holes or mounds of soil around the foundation of a building.
  7. Sightings: Seeing a rat, live or dead, is an obvious sign of an infestation.

It's important to note that an infestation may not be immediately obvious, and it's possible for rats to be present in a building without any visible signs. If you suspect that you have a rat infestation, it's best to consult with a professional pest control expert for an accurate assessment and to determine the best course of action.

Why do I have a rat problem?

Unfortunately, rats can become a problem wherever we live. They are especially a problem in urban areas where endless buildings and people provide them with places to shelter and ample food, which they gather from trash cans, fruit trees, pet food, and outdoor eating areas.

What kind of habitat do rats prefer?

Rats are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats. However, they do have some preferences when it comes to their living environment.

  1. Urban areas: Rats thrive in urban environments, where they have access to food, water, and shelter. They can be found in buildings, sewers, and alleys. They are also attracted to garbage and other sources of food in these areas.
  2. Rural areas: Rats can also be found in rural areas, where they live in fields, barns, and other outbuildings. They will also burrow in the ground and build nests in piles of wood or debris.
  3. Moist environments: Rats prefer environments that are moist, such as sewers, basements, and crawl spaces. They need access to water, and these environments provide that for them.
  4. Dark places: Rats prefer dark, secluded places where they can hide. They will often build nests in attics, crawl spaces, and behind walls.
  5. Nesting materials: Rats will use a wide range of materials to construct their nests, such as shredded paper, insulation, and other debris. They are known to hoard materials and they use them to build nests.

It's important to note that rats are highly adaptable and can live in a wide variety of environments. Therefore, it's important to take precautions to keep them out of buildings, homes, and other areas where they are not welcome.

What do rats eat?

Rats are omnivorous, meaning they eat a variety of foods including both plants and animals. In the wild, they eat a wide range of foods such as seeds, fruits, insects, and small animals. They also eat human food and garbage.

Rats have an excellent sense of smell and taste, which allows them to find food sources easily. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat almost anything that is available to them.

In urban areas, rats typically eat food from garbage cans, sewers, and dumpsters. They also eat pet food, birdseed, and fruits and vegetables from gardens. They will also eat food left in open containers or trash bags, as well as food scraps left on the ground.

In rural areas, rats eat a variety of plant material, including grains, fruits, and seeds. They also eat insects, snails, and small animals such as mice.

Rats require a constant supply of water to survive, and they will drink from any available source, such as puddles, streams, and toilets.

It's important to note that when living near human settlements, rats have a tendency to adapt to the food sources available to them, and that's why they can survive on a wide range of foods.

How Quickly Do Rats Reproduce?

In general, Norway rats and roof rats will typically have litters with 6 to 12 young, but as many as 22 baby rats "pups" have been documented in one litter. Their gestation period is approximately 21 to 25 days, and if a female rat lives for a year (in the wild, most rats will live about 5 to 6 months), she will typically produce 3 to 6 litters, though up to 12 litters are possible in good conditions. Young rats become mature at about three months old. The number of litters per year and the number of baby rats per litter depend on the food supply, harborage, age & condition of the female, competition, temperature, climate, and more. If conditions are right, rats can breed once per month, but if rats are stressed due to poor environmental conditions, they will grow more slowly and can potentially not give birth to any pups. In general, peak reproduction for rats occurs in the spring and in the fall, but in ideal conditions, breeding may occur year round.

How Long Do Rats Live?

The lifespan of a rat can vary depending on the species, the environment, and the availability of food and water.

In the wild, rats typically live for around 1-2 years. However, some rats can live for up to 3 years in the wild. Wild rats have to constantly look for food, shelter and must also avoid predators, which can make their lives shorter.

In captivity, rats can live for 2-3 years, with some living up to 4 years. Rats kept as pets or in laboratory settings tend to live longer than wild rats because they have access to a stable food supply, proper medical care, and protection from predators.

It's important to note that the lifespan of a rat can also be affected by genetics, disease, and injury. Some rats may die at a younger age due to these factors. Generally speaking, rats have a relatively short lifespan compared to many other mammals, and it's not uncommon for them to die within a year of being born.

Are Rats Nocturnal?

Generally, rats have two peak activity periods; one within the hour following sunset, and another just before dawn. That isn't always the case, though: rats will alter or even reverse their activity periods from night to day, depending on human activity, competition, and the availability of food or water.

If you see a rat or two during the day, that doesn't necessarily mean that there is a severe infestation, especially if the rats you see are young. However, if you see rats both during the day and at night, and the daytime sightings are frequent and without obvious explanations such as the rats taking advantage of available food, then a severe or quickly reproducing rat infestation is likely.

How do I get rid of rats?

Getting rid of rats can be a challenging task, but there are several methods that can be used to effectively control their population and prevent them from returning.

  1. Sanitation: The first step in getting rid of rats is to eliminate their food and water sources. This includes keeping garbage in sealed containers, cleaning up spills and crumbs, and ensuring that pet food is stored in airtight containers.
  2. Exclusion: Rats can enter buildings through small openings, so it's important to seal up any cracks or holes in walls, floors, and foundations. This can be done using caulking, steel wool, or wire mesh.
  3. Traps: Snap traps and live traps can be used to capture and remove rats from the area. It's important to check traps regularly and dispose of any dead rats in a safe and sanitary manner.
  4. Poison: Poison baits can be used to kill rats, but they should only be used as a last resort and under the guidance of a professional. The use of poison baits can also pose a risk to non-target animals and children, so it's important to follow the instructions on the label carefully and to use them in a safe and responsible manner.
  5. Rodenticides: Rodenticides are chemical compounds that are toxic to rats. They are often used in places where the use of traps or poison baits is not practical or possible. They should be used under the guidance of a professional and according to the label instructions.
  6. Professional extermination: If you have a severe infestation and none of the above methods are working, you may need to hire a professional exterminator. They will have access to specialized equipment and chemicals that can help to quickly and effectively eliminate a rat infestation.

It's important to remember that getting rid of rats is an ongoing process, and it may take some time to completely eliminate them. It's also important to continue to practice good sanitation and exclusion methods to prevent new rats from entering the area.

How can I prevent rats in the future?

Preventing problems with rats is difficult, but we want to help you guard your property against these rodents by offering these helpful prevention tips:

  • Cut back tree branches from your roofline to prevent roof rats from being able to gain easy access to the roof.
  • Place metal sheeting (rat guards) at the bottom of trees to make it more difficult for roof rats to climb them.
  • Cut back shrubbery, tall grass, and other landscaping from near your foundation to prevent Norway rats from nesting near your home.
  • Remove things like woodpiles, brush piles, construction debris, and other yard clutter from your property.
  • Eliminate a rat's access to food on your property by regularly harvesting fruits and vegetables from gardens and trees, keeping locking lids on trash cans, and picking up your pet's uneaten food.
  • Seal any holes or openings in your home's exterior, both at ground level and roof level, using steel wool, metal flashing, or another strong material that will hold up against a rat's sharp, strong teeth.

What Different Types Of Rats Are There?

There are several different types of rats, including the following:

  1. Black rat (Rattus rattus): Also known as the roof rat or ship rat, this species is typically found in coastal areas and is known for its agility and ability to climb. They are smaller and slimmer than brown rats.
  2. Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus): Also known as the Norway rat, common rat or sewer rat, this species is larger and stockier than black rats. They are typically found in urban and suburban areas and are known for their burrowing behavior.
  3. Wood rat (Neotoma spp): Also known as pack rats, this species is found in North America and has a thick, soft fur. They are known for their habit of collecting and hoarding objects, such as sticks and rocks, in their dens.

Norway Rats

The Norway Rat is the most important rat pest throughout most of the world. It is also called the brown rat, sewer rat, barn rat, wharf rat, water rat, and gray rat. A highly developed species of rat, the Norway rat is larger and more aggressive than the roof rat. Norway rats are relatively large, with dense, heavy bodies covered in unkempt brown or gray fur, which may be peppered with black hairs. An average adult Norway rat measures about 16 inches in length from its nose to the end of its tail, and will weigh about 12 ounces, though Norway rats as large as 22 ounces have been recorded in Washington DC. Their tails are shorter in length than their bodies. Generally a ground burrowing rat, Norway rats will usually enter buildings at ground level, but they are capable of climbing vines and trees as well.

Roof Rats

Roof rats, which may be called black rats, ship rats, or house rats, have thin, light bodies that enable them to be very agile. Unlike Norway rats, roof rats are good climbers, with extra food pads on the bottom of their feet and extra long tails that help them balance and climb. They prefer aerial harborages, and will live in trees, shrubs, and dense vines. While roof rats may be entirely black in color, that is not always the case. Their fur can be various shades of brown or black, with gray, cream, or white bellies. Adult roof rats are medium-sized, weighing about 8 to 12 ounces, and measuring about 16 inches in length from their nose to the tip of their tail. The tail of the roof rat is longer than its body, and it has large ears and a nose that is more pointed in shape than the blunt nose of the Norway rat. Roof rats, when found in a residential setting, are most often found inhabiting ceiling spaces or attics.

Wood Rats

Wood rats, also known as pack rats or trade rats, are a type of rodent found in North America. They belong to the genus Neotoma and are known for their thick, soft fur and their habit of collecting and hoarding objects, such as sticks and rocks, in their dens.

They typically have large ears, big eyes, and a long, bushy tail. They are usually gray or brown in color, with lighter underparts. They have a round body shape and are smaller than the common brown and black rats.

Wood rats are found in a variety of habitats, including deserts, chaparral, and woodlands. They are active during the day and night and they are opportunistic feeders, eating a variety of plants and small animals. They are known to be very curious and are not very afraid of people.

They are known to build dens, which can be quite large, and they line them with sticks, rocks, and other materials. They are known to be very territorial, and they will defend their dens and the surrounding area against other animals.

Overall, wood rats are not considered to be major pests, but they can be a nuisance to homeowners and farmers because of their tendency to collect and hoard objects, and their burrowing behavior can cause damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Rat Control Services

Miche Pest Control is a family owned and operated pest control company that provides residential and commercial pest control services that get rid of rats and other pests from homes and businesses in Washington DC, Maryland & Northern Virginia, including Baltimore MD and the surrounding areas. Our expert exterminators get rid of rats fast, and use preventative methods to keep rats and other rodents from coming back after they've been eliminated. Miche Pest Control has a 4.9 star rating and over 1,000 reviews online - contact us today, or book your first service online!

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