If you build it, they will come; the rats that is. Rats have long been the shadow lurking enemy of civilization, eating and contaminating our food, spreading disease, and destroying our infrastructure. They are perfectly adept at exploiting our lifestyle, causing an estimated $20 billion in damage every year in the US alone. With enough resources, a single rat pair can produce 15 000 offspring in a year. When you’re a rat looking for necessities, cities and the homes within them are a resource goldmine. Here are 5 ways a rat can cause a threat to your home.
Rats are notorious chewers. They chew wood, plastic, metal, stone, concrete, brick and seemingly anything else that stands in front of them. All this chewing is for good reason, rat incisors grow continuously. Without gnawing, rat incisors would grow over 4 inches a year, talk about saber-tooth!
A favorite target for rats is electrical wiring. They enjoy the warmth created by electrical components and will chew the insulation off of electrical wiring and expose the conductive metal beneath, creating a serious fire hazard. Approximately 20% of all housefires with an “unknown cause” are due to rodent activity. If you think chewed wires is only a problem for a house, you’re wrong. One unfortunate homeowner discovered how rats can cause $15 000 in damage to a car’s electrical system.
If the rats haven’t burned your house down chewing the wiring, they may end up flooding it. Rats require a significant amount of water, consuming roughly 15% of their body weight per day. Their dependence on high volumes of water leads to them chewing through the water lines in your home and potentially causing a serious leak.
So your house hasn’t burned to the ground, or been washed away by a torrential leak, don’t think you’ve escaped unscathed. Rats gain entry into your home a number of ways. They can squeeze through a hole only a ½ inch in diameter and will hastily chew to create one. Once inside, rats develop networks of tunnels to travel around their lovely new digs. When it comes to your home, these “tunnels” are made up of holes through the studs, rafters, flooring, drywall, soffit, roof and exterior walls. All of these holes can compromise structure, open up new access points for other pests or wildlife and expose your home to further damage from the elements.
Rats are so successful because they adapt to any situation. When it comes to accessing suitable living space, they won’t hesitate to dig! Certain types of rats will dig tunnels and burrows to either build a home or gain entry to an area close to resources. Rats will dig beneath concrete garage floors and foundations. Over time the voids they excavate cause the concrete to shift and crack, weakening the structure and opening up holes for water to leak through. Rats also love to burrow beneath trees that produce fruit, nuts, or seeds which they relish. A colony can quickly undermine a large tree and cause it to fall, potentially on your house, or you!
There are a plethora of health hazards associated with rats in your home. Rats live in some of the most unsanitary conditions created by people. Living amongst our waste, they are constantly exposed to things that make people sick and become perfect vehicles for disease. Rats are responsible for the infamous Black Death, the Great Plague that killed 75-200 million people across Europe. Although plague is not considered a threat now, rats are direct transmitters of 10 other dangerous diseases. Most diseases from rats are transmitted through our food, water or environment becoming contaminated with rat urine or feces. Rats pee everywhere they go to mark their homes and trails to establish a territory. Rat urine is a common source of a bacterium called Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is transmitted to people through food or water contaminated by urine from infected animals and can cause kidney failure, liver damage, meningitis, respiratory distress and even death. Dry rat urine and feces can be spread around like dust, contaminating the air and surfaces in your home.
If you lived in the dark corners of society eating garbage and waste would you smell nice? Rats do have a smell, and it is pungent. Rat odor will seep into wood, drywall, insulation, carpets, curtains, upholstery and anything else absorbent, often requiring professional cleaning services or complete replacement to rid the smell.
Rats will scent mark throughout their territory causing a noxious, musky scent to build up. Rat fur will also bring dirt, oil, grease, and other unknown substances in from their environment adding to the scent load. As rats travel about, they will shed approximately 500 000 hairs each year, leaving little bits of scent everywhere they go. A rat trail can often be identified by the dark smears of oil and dirt that rubs off the rats onto walls and floors as they run along.
If you are unlucky and a rat happens to get stuck somewhere in the walls or floors of your house and die, you will have to endure the resulting smell of decomposition. This is often a problem when poison is used to resolve a rat problem. The poison does it’s job and kills the rats however, the dying animals seek shelter where they cannot be seen and therefore removed before decomposition occurs.
Imagine looking for a new home. You’ve been looking for what feels like an eternity and finally, you found the perfect house! It has the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, enough space for the family, it’s perfect! Until you see a rat scamper across the floor. Or you smell the musk of their nest, or you see the holes under the garage or in the roof. That perfect house just became the last thing you want to buy. No one wants to live with rats and signs of rats around your house could seriously diminish the real estate value, or eliminate it altogether!
Although rats have their place somewhere in the world, you do not want them in your house. They pose a threat to every aspect of owning a home from the very structure of it down to it’s value. With an estimated 200 million rats living in the US, they are a problem that isn’t going away. It is important to understand the damage they can cause and take appropriate action to protect your home from their devastating impact.