We have an unwelcome houseguest of the four-legged variety, and it’s gotten on my last good nerve so here we go: how to deal with rats in the UK.
I never had to worry about rats in Minnesota. Mice, yes. Rats? Never been a problem. Here, rats are a thing. How this sucker got in is up for some debate; we reckon it’s through the vent grate in the basement and from there up the wall and between the joist in the floor and the wall (there’s a gap with fuzzy bits near the front door where the carpet doesn’t cover). It’s an issue we will now have to resolve at a later date.
In any case: we have a rat. It was very quick to make itself home in the kitchen under the counter… you know, where we can’t get at it. I’ve physically seen the bugger all of twice. Once shortly after it moved in – I only believe this because its nest became very visible behind the washing machine thereafter, and once when I happened to have caught it raiding our trash can in the kitchen… or, rather, I saw its tail.
We had been waiting for the time to schedule to have someone professional come in and deal with it, but the game plan changed when it decided to eat our dinner. Oh, it was a wonderful half-chicken, organic and all of that, seasoned to perfection with smoked paprika, black pepper, cumin and salt… pity we didn’t get to try any of it before the sucker beat us to it. Alas, it was not meant to be, and that was the last straw.
My husband, surprisingly, volunteered to watch for it to try to catch it at first. The sweet pacifist that he is, he had delusions of snapping the rat up and tossing it outside, dusting his hands and calling it a job well done. I knew better but he never did spot the rat himself – he heard it enough to know it was there.
So plan A was a didn’t fly so much as it belly-flopped. Plan B was only slightly less half-baked but no more effective. This time, my husband decided to try to flush the rat out by decimating its nest. This probably only made the thing move deeper under the cupboards where we will (still) not be able to reach it.
Pacifism be damned, my husband was now at war with the rat. He was loath to do it, but the poison was placed and now, just short of 48 hours later… we’re “reaping” the “benefits.”
And by benefits, I mean it’s starting to kinda stink in here. Still can’t get at the rat. It’s dead, and most definitely isn’t going to move any closer to us now (frankly, if it did, I’d be hopping the nope-train back to f**kthatville). Were there other options? Sure, there was the possibility of getting a humane trap, but once we caught it my thought would be where to take it so that it wouldn’t make it back to our house. There are things like snapping rat traps but I had visions of our 1.5-year-old putting their hand where it doesn’t belong and breaking some tiny fingers. We were done with waiting, so that left the poison.
At which point, I will retell a story told to me by a native English-born family who I am semi-close with (okay, I married them) who dealt with the same thing several years ago:
As it transpires, some many, many, years ago, a rat was brought into their house by one of their cats. The cat was not the best a killing its prey and the rat escaped… into a space under the tub and then into the wall of the house itself. For this family, there was no beating around the bush, it was straight to the poison, and the words that followed still haunt me to this day: “for two weeks we had to deal with the smell and the flies.”
Ew. Well we’re in the same boat now, so there you have it. Full-circle and I’m not going to to enjoy this one bit but it’s done and here we are now. Unsurprisingly, this is not my main concern, my mind is now directed towards prevention. A rat got in once, another one will find a way in eventually.
So lets look at the facts: black rats are climbers – these are the rats you will find in your attic. Whereas brown rats like to stick to burrows (under things like cabinets -hey, guess what ours probably was?). Both are good swimmers and like making holes in things bigger.
Good rule-of-thumb is: if the head can fit, the rest can follow, so close gaps and plug holes with steel wool + caulking and/or cement. Steel plate/sheeting can also be employed for this. Gaps under doors can be made less appealing by using draft-cover strips. Oh, and rats can jump, so if it’s 4 feet or less from the ground its open-season.
In roofs, rats will be looking for wires or branches to get onto the roof and then finding loose tiles or any kind of gap to get in. Kind of obvious, but repair the roof and for any holes that have to stay open put steel mesh around/over them.
Cleanliness is a good rat deterrent. Store things in metal or glass containers. Clean up food after yourself, don’t leave food sitting out accessible (hence why our chicken was prime grade-A rat food. tahdah). Keep a lid on your trash bins; and those bins need to be metal or thick plastic.
Finally, and ew. Rats can swim through u-bends in toilets. Another reason to keep the seat (and lid) down. Use grates to tightly cover drains and pipe openings. Regularly check for damage and repair as soon as possible.