Rats

Rats are a common pest in large urban centres like Hamilton. The Norway rat, also known as a brown rat, is the most common rat in Hamilton and Southern Ontario.

Risks from rats

The risk of rats spreading disease in the community is low. However, rats can be a nuisance. They can do a lot of damage to properties.

Controlling rats

Rats can quickly increase in numbers because they are fast breeders. It is unlikely that we will be able to get rid of all the rats but we can try to control the number of them.

To control rats and keep them off your property and out of your home, you have to get rid of the three things they need to survive: food, water and shelter.

Here are some steps to take to control rats:

Rats often come out at night. Take a walk around your property in the early evening or at night if you think there are rats around.  It is possible to see rats in the daytime, but it is not as common.

Look for other clues that rats are living on or around your property including:

Droppings

Rat droppings (feces) are larger than mouse droppings.  

  • Droppings look like pill capsules and are often found close to garbage.  
  • Dark moist droppings mean they are fresh and rats were recently in the area.

Burrows 

Norway rats prefer to live, sleep and raise their young in underground burrows.

  • The entrance to a burrow is a small hole in the ground.
  • Burrow entrances are often hidden from plain view. Look under shrubs, porches, decks and in long weeds and grasses for entrances to burrows.
  • Each burrow has one entrance and one or two exits.

Gnaw marks 

Rats can chew and gnaw through many different materials. You may see gnaw or chew marks on:

  • bird feeders
  • pieces of food
  • garbage containers
  • fences
  • building foundations
  • wires

Trails

Rats are creatures of habit. They use the same pathways many times a day. You may notice a well-worn path in the grass. 

Grease marks

Whenever a rat rubs up against a surface, such as a wall, it leaves a grease trail. The grease is dark in colour and dirt and dust sticks to it. Check for grease marks on foundation walls, fences and other surfaces around your property.

Here are some important things to do to keep your home and yard clean and tidy to discourage rats.

Clean

Rats communicate and attract each other through urine and droppings.

  • Use a mild bleach solution (one part bleach to 10 parts water) to dampen droppings before you sweep them up.
  • Try to clean up dark greasy track marks.
  • Wash down areas where rats have been with water and a mild bleach solution.

Get rid of garbage

  • If you store wood or other items in piles in your yard, keep them away from walls and at least 30 cm off the ground. Rats will use them as a hiding place.
  • Clear out items in and around your basement and yard.

Control grasses, weeds, shrubs and bushes

  • Keep tall grasses, bushes, shrubs and mulch away from your home.
  • Get rid of vines that rats can use to climb up into your roof.
  • Trim low-lying shrubs and bushes.
  • Keep the ground bare around the foundation of your home.
  • Keep gardens free of weeds and garbage.

Read more about Hamilton’s Property Standards By-law 10-221.

Rats only need one ounce of food per day to survive. They need to drink every day. Do not provide food and water for rats on your property.

Here are some things you can do:

Garbage and compost

  • Keep garbage in a tightly sealed garbage bin made of hard plastic or metal. Put it outside as close to your garbage pick-up time as possible. Do not leave it out overnight.
  • Make sure rats cannot access your compost. 
  • Do not leave your Blue Box outside. The smell of food residue on containers can attract rats. If you need to keep Blue Boxes outside, rinse food containers before placing in the Blue Box.

Fruit trees and gardens

  • Clean up any fruits or vegetables that fall off trees or plants.

Feeding other animals

  • If there is a rat problem in your yard or neighbourhood, do not use bird feeders. If you want to use bird feeder, put a catch basin under it to collect spilled seeds or clean under the bird feeder at least once a day.
  • Do not leave pet food outside - this attracts rats and other wildlife to your property. Read more about Hamilton's Regulate the Feeding of Wildlife By-law 12-130.

Water

  • Remove water sources on your property.
  • If you have a rat problem turn off and dry out water fountains.
  • Remove bird baths and turn over containers that can hold water.

Rats try to find shelter in homes in the fall and sometimes in the spring. Rats can get through a space the size of a quarter. 

  • Seal all holes and cracks in foundations, walls, floors, underneath doors and around windows. Use sheet metal and steel gauging. Use metal door sweeps under door openings. 
  • Make sure rats cannot climb into pipes and other exhausts around the outside of your home.

Hardware stores sell traps and poison you can use to eliminate rats. It is important that you use caution - traps and poison can be dangerous to people and other animals. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines carefully when using these products. Place traps and poison in areas where children and animals cannot access them. Ideally, poison should be solid and kept in a bait box designed specifically for rats.

If you have a large infestation that you cannot control, hire a licensed pest control company.

Source: Preventing Rats on Your Property from the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.