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All About Rats

Norway Rat

There are two basic types of rats – the black or roof rat and the Norway or brown rat. In comparison, the Norway rat is slightly larger in appearance. Wherever food and shelter are plentiful, that’s where you’ll find Norway rats. Parks and recreational areas, older industrial areas, rail yards and back alleys are a real breeding ground for both species. Sewers, abandoned warehouses and garbage refuges are also places that rats frequent due to the abundance of food. The Norway rat typically likes to live in burrows underground or inside walls, whereas the black rat loves to climb and can be found in upper levels of buildings more often than Norway rats. Black rats use nests and make their home in trees or vines. Rats can reproduce young four to six times a year having litters of four to ten. Once they have reached the age of three to six months, they have the ability of reproducing. One female can wean about twenty young a year. Life expectancy for a rat is about nine months. Black Roof Rat, Black and Norway rats will consume many different types of plant and animal foods such as seed that has been spilled from bird feeders or pet food that has been left outdoors. One ounce of food is all that is needed in one day for a rat to survive with some access to water. Norway rats will eat insects, meat refuse, bird eggs, and, given the opportunity, will devour small mammals and mice.

Rat Problems

Contamination of Food

Food contamination by their urine and faeces is one of the major problems humans face with rats. Rats contaminate huge percentages of agricultural produce each year and have been known to contaminate food stuffs such as popcorn.


Rats are enormous carriers of many different diseases, and it has been reported that rats bite more than fifteen thousand people per year involving very young, old or incapacitated. Some of the diseases caused by rats are bubonic plague, salmonella, leptospirosis, hantavirus and tularemia.

Roof Rat Species (Black Rat)

Nests in attics, wall voids, hollow trees. Typically enters home from trees or power lines. Prefers fruit, but will eat all kinds of foods. Prefers to travel off the ground. Large range – may travel 45 metres from nest to find food or water.

Norway Rat Species (Sewer Rat)

Digs burrows along foundations and under debris piles, often found in basements. Can enter homes through toilet pipes. Prefers meat and fish, but will eat anything. Very aggressive, strong burrower and excellent swimmer. Large range – may travel 45 metres from nest to find food or water.

Wood Rat Species

Prefer to not live near humans.  Usually build their nests on the ground in wooded areas. Nocturnal and mainly vegetarian –  eating plants, woodland fruits, and they especially like acorns. Nests are intricately built of twigs and leaves. Some nests can be up to 1.5 metres tall. Also attracted to shiny objects such as glass and metals and collect small fragments of these objects giving them the nickname “pack rats”.