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The adult common rat may weigh between 100 grams and 500 grams. It has brown fur on its back and grey underneath. Its tail is shorter than its head and body. The common rat is the most abundant and widespread species and can be found anywhere that offers shelter and food, including sewers. Rats are active mainly at night but may be seen in search of food and water during the day.

The life expectancy of rats is around one year during which a female will typically breed up to 5 times. The average size of a litter is 7 to 8 young. Breeding occurs throughout the year but especially in the spring and autumn.

Rats can be a hazard to health. They spread many forms of disease, some of which can be fatal to man such as Weil’s Disease. They may eat food which is intended for human consumption and they often damage much more which has to be discarded. Through their gnawing habit they also cause considerable structural damage to woodwork, water pipes, electric cables and so on.


If rats are nesting and breeding on your property and you want to destroy them, you may wish to consider one of the following options:

  • If you remove all food sources rats should leave within 2 weeks
  • You can treat the rats with rodenticides – rat poison – which can be bought from most hardware stores or agricultural suppliers. Always follow the manufacturers advice.  Take particular care over the location and quantity of rodenticide used. Where possible remove any food supply to which the rats have access before and during treatment.  Such sources could include excess bird food and food waste in compost heaps

Rats in your property

If any rats have gained access to your property we advise you to consider having at least one smoke detector fitted at the top of the stairs or hallway if you don’t already have one – rats may damage wiring hence the potential risk of fire.

Warning: When using rodenticides (rat poison) – always follow the instructions on the label and, importantly, search for and dispose of any dead rodents in a safe manner.


Mice can be found in buildings as they seek the warmth and shelter for nesting sites and food.

Signs of mouse activity include:

  • Mice droppings – often black, rod-shaped and 3 to 6mm long. Fresh droppings will be soft and moist. Each mouse can leave approximately 80 droppings per day. Common places to find mouse droppings are under the kitchen sink, around central heating boilers and in roof spaces
  • Smear marks – dark grey marks left on surfaces by repeated contact with the oil in mouse fur
  • Nests – mice gnaw continually on materials such as wood, carpets, paper, pipe cables and furniture. Check for damage to foodstuffs in cupboards


If you decide to carry out the work yourself, you can buy poisons and traps from a hardware store or garden centre.

Warning: When using rodenticides (poison), always follow the instructions on the label and, importantly, search for and dispose of any dead rodents in a safe manner.

Last reviewed: August 11, 2023 by Mark

Next review due: February 11, 2024

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