Bay Area's Gopher & Pest Control Specialists

The Pests Stop Here!

(408) 871-6988

What Are Rats?

field rat

Rats are members of the rodent family and the genus Rattus. Currently, there are more than 60 species of rats around the world, and the most common is the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), also known as the Norway rat.

These rats were introduced to Eastern Europe via Chinese trading ships in the early 1700s. During the 1800s, they made their way to the US and can now be found on every continent except Antarctica.

The rat is a close cousin to other rodents, such as gophers, squirrels, and mice. Female rats are called does, males are called bucks, and baby rats are called pups. A group of rats is called a mischief.

Rats are common in the natural world, but they can also make their way indoors and wreak havoc for home- and business owners.

When they do, it’s critical to get rid of them as quickly as possible to prevent a full-blown infestation.

How to Identify Rats

Rats are easy to identify because they are larger than mice and can be distinguished by their unique features.

In California, common species of rats grow to be more than 15 inches long (from nose to tail) but vary in color and behavior. Norway rats, for example, are reddish-brown with gray undersides.

Roof rats, meanwhile, are black with grayish-white undersides. They are adept climbers and are likely to be found in higher areas. Unlike Norway rats, they are poor swimmers.

All rats have disproportionately long feet, prominent hairless ears, oversized heads, and long, scaly tails.

Behavior, Diet, and Habits of Rats

Rats reach breeding age by about 3-5 months of age. Females build nests in secluded places like behind walls or in the clutter in crawl spaces or attics. They give birth to 4-7 litters each year, each with up to one dozen young. 

Adult rats live about 9-12 months (and occasionally as long as two years) in the wild. In urban environments, rats live in sewers, garbage dumps, basements, open fields, and anywhere else they can find food and shelter.

Whether they live indoors or outdoors, rats are mainly nocturnal. Rats dig burrows or build nests and forage for food. Their diets are diverse, consisting of discarded human food scraps, mice, birds, small lizards, insects, seeds, grains, fruit, nuts, and more. 

Like other rodents, rats are highly vocal creatures, using vocal cues like squeaks and chirps to communicate. 

They have excellent senses of hearing and smell. They are highly sensitive to tactile communication, able to sense minute vibrations in the ground and feel their way through pitch-black environments with their whiskers and paws. 

The reason rats are so challenging to get rid of is that they can live virtually anywhere. Wherever humans exist, rats are likely to follow. Additionally, rats are curious, cautious creatures. 

We can’t control rats by trying to appeal to their appetites or assuming they’re looking for food. Because they’re such versatile eaters, rats usually have more than enough food. 

The only effective way to control rats is to understand their curiosity, obsessive habits, and dislike of anything new. 

Here’s an example:

Because rats follow scent trails everywhere, traps don’t usually work for the first few weeks. 

This makes sense: if we put something new in a rat’s environment and it doesn’t smell like rats have been in or on it before, rats just go around it, avoiding the trap for days or weeks. 

For traps to work, we must leave them for a long time. We may even need to use rat scent to make them effective. 

If you’re trying to get rid of rats, be patient and seek professional rat control services. That’s the most streamlined way to get rid of these rodents and reclaim your space as quickly as possible. 

What Problems Do Rats Cause?

Rats carry diseases and, therefore, should be considered dangerous. They can transmit diseases like hantavirus, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, and rat-bite fever, among others. It is best to avoid contact with rats, their droppings, and their urine to prevent health and safety risks.

Rats that get into a home or business can also cause extensive property damage. Thanks to their strong, prominent teeth, rats can chew through almost anything, from wood to drywall to plastic.

Rats will gnaw insulation to create burrows, chew holes through walls, and destroy the insulation around electrical wires, creating a serious fire hazard. Rats will also consume stored human and pet food and contaminate dry food with droppings and urine.

Outside, rats can destroy newly-planted crops in gardens, burrow into landscaping, and consume fruits, vegetables, crops, and seeds.

5 Signs of A Rat Infestation

Rats are nocturnal and rarely seen during daylight hours. If rats appear during the day, it could be an indication that their numbers are significant. Common signs of a rat infestation include:

  1. Feces and urine
  2. Scurrying and scratching sounds
  3. Gnaw marks on wood, plastic, and other hard surfaces
  4. Nests inside structures, outside structures, and even in trees or other landscaping.
  5. Oily rub marks in areas where rats travel

Common complaints from Smith’s service area residents include rats in their chicken coop during the daytime, gardeners who have noticed rat activity, and signs of rat infestations, like chewed wires.

How to Repel Rats

To prevent rats from infesting your space, good sanitation is essential, as is making your property less attractive to these destructive pests. 

Here are a few rat prevention tips we recommend:

  • Keep trash cans tightly covered
  • Remove crates and boxes from loading docks and from around dumpsters
  • Pick up and remove ripened fruit and vegetables from gardens
  • Eliminate water sources
  • Seal cracks, gaps, and openings that rats could squeeze through (rats can fit through holes the size of quarters)
  • Remove food sources like bird feeders and keep pet food sealed in rat-proof containers
  • Keep trees, shrubs, and hedges trimmed back at least 3’ from your home
  • Use store-bought rodent repellents to deter rats from entering your home or business

How Smith’s Can Help Get Rid of Rats

If rats are already a problem in your home or facility, Smith’s can help.

Our rodent management programs rely on a combination of trapping, baiting, repellents, and exclusion to eradicate rat activity. When you contact us, we’ll develop a plan of action based specifically on your situation to help get rid of rats once and for all.

For effective rat control in the San Francisco Bay area, the Monterrey Bay area or for help getting rid of rats in Sonoma County, contact Smith’s Pest Management today!

Nancy G. - Atherton, CA

“For years I’ve raised all the produce in my garden that we eat in our home. One year we started having gopher problems. When I contacted a local pest control company they wanted to use poison which we did not agree with. Smiths offered a non toxic and effective approach to getting rid of my gophers, moles, and rats.”