02 June 2011

The dreaded rat

Are rats really the dread disease-carriers they're said to be, and , even if they're not, what can you do to keep them off your property?

A flight crew checking the cabin of a Qantas plane before takeoff found rats in a compartment holding medical equipment, grounding the plane for more than a day, a spokesperson said on Thursday.

You also don't have to put out poison, glue traps or snap-traps -- all of which cause painful death and can hurt other animals and children.

  • Practise good housekeeping: clear up food spills, don't leave food out, and keep all leftovers in secure containers. Rubbish bins, bird feeders, and pet food bowls are all potential food sources for rats. Remember they excel at gnawing (e.g. through refuse bags, cardboard boxes, sometimes even through wood) and squeezing through incredibly small holes. Don't provide a water source either -- fix dripping taps and leaks, and empty pet water dishes at night.
  • Get rid of clutter and rubbish, both indoors and out -- it can serve as shelter for rats. They also like long grass and bushes, so cut these back around buildings. If rats have made themselves at home in your roof, clean out the space under the roof thoroughly, removing any droppings, nest materials and clutter; then close up gaps and crevices so they can't re-enter.
  • Seal up holes and cracks in walls and floors, and spaces around doors and windows. Check for gaps in your fencing where rats might wriggle through. They are good climbers, so remove anything (like overhanging tree branches) they can use to enter buildings. Rats may hide and nest in trees (most likely the roots), especially if they're fruit-bearing trees.
  • You don't want to rely too heavily on this method, but domestic cats, and many dogs, are excellent ratters and their presence serves as a good deterrent. Within about a month of our moving in next door, my tabby had sorted out the rats (and a beautiful little shrew) nesting in the neighbours' ivy. You need to be prepared to receive those 'gifts' your pets bring you from their hunting expeditions however.... And you don't want your pets eating what they catch, because they too can pick up diseases this way.
  • Peppermint oil (and mint), is reputed to be a rodent repellent. Other non-toxic deterrents to try are garlic and cayenne pepper.


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