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With winter rapidly approaching, Rodents seem to be a big issue in South Africa. Rodents are herbivores feeding exclusively on plant material such as seeds, leaves, stems, flowers and roots. Some rodents are omnivores and only a rare few would be considered predators. In this case, we will be discussing Rats as they fall under the Family of Rodents. We will be giving you tips on how to survive the invasion of rats this winter as they can be a real threat to your sanity and health.
Rats are mammals which means that they need to maintain warm body temperature for them to survive. So, in a season such as winter, they are most likely to run and hide in places where the temperature is warm (your house in this case). Rats cannot survive cold weather conditions because there are few food sources available. There are so many other factors which might cause rats to invade your house and these reasons include:
A messy home
This does not necessarily mean that if your house is messy you will find rats snooping around, it simply means that the likelihood rises. Rats can hide easier in messy environments so keeping everything neat just makes them much easier to spot.
Areas that provide shelter
Rats love staying in spaces like woodpiles which provide shelter and a safe space for them to hide. If you have a fireplace or a braai area, make sure to check these regularly if you do stock up on wood for the winter months.
Food and spills
It’s important to keep your home clean from any accidental food spills and limit access to food crumbs or spillage. Keep an eye on areas such as food preparation area, underneath and inside toasters and near any trashcans or garbage disposal areas.
Rats can eat pet food, although this is not good for rats, they love sharing meals so ensure that you keep your pet’s food in a sealed container after feeding.
Open “rat doors”
Rats are opportunists and they will turn a tiny hole or gap into a gateway to their new home. Check for any small holes in walls, windows and especially spaces underneath your doors as these can be easy target areas for rats getting in.
Easy access to food and water
If your house has easily accessible food and water, this can be an invitation to rats. You need to ensure that you cover all the food and any still standing water.
The danger of rat infestations
Rats carry risk in two main areas of concern.
Rats act as a carrier to a range of health risks including many species of viruses, bacteria, protozoa and worms. They additionally spread further diseases via ectoparasites (fleas, lice and mites). Rat urine, faeces (droppings) and saliva are however the major carriers of diseases. Some of the diseases are quite serious to both humans and animals and include:
- Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) – a viral infectious disease that is transmitted through the urine and saliva of rats.
- Plague – transmitted through flea bites that come from the rats. Symptoms include swollen and painful lymph nodes (Bubonic Plague), fever and pneumonia (Pneumonic plague), diarrhoea, delirium, extreme weakness and bleeding in the skin and other organs (Septicemic Plague). Luckily most versions of the plague can today be treated with antibiotics.
- Salmonellosis – if you consume food or water that has been contaminated by rat faeces you can get this disease. Symptoms include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal cramps and usually appear 12 to 72 hours after infections. Typhoid fever is a strain of Salmonellosis.
- Rat bite fever – unlike most of the diseases mentioned Rat Bite Fever is usually caused by a bite or scratch from an infected rodent. The bacteria Streptobacillus and Spirillum Minus cause rat bite fever. Symptoms include swollen or inflamed lymph nodes, inflammation around the wound and potentially fever, chills, vomiting, headaches and muscle aches. Each infection may present differently.
The second component of risk associated with a serious rat infestation is related to structural damage to your home. If the rat infestation is left untreated such damage can become quite severe and very costly to fix. Rats are able to chew through concrete, plastic and wood and will do so to make a home in the comfortable warm spaces inside your home. Keep a very careful eye out for unexplained damage to your home.
How to keep rats out of your home
Here is what you need to do in order to keep a rat infestation at bay:
- Fill Holes and open spaces
- Keep food in airtight containers and stored away
- Clean spillage and food mess right after it happens.
- Trim trees so that rats can’t crawl over to your house
- If you find obvious signs that there is more than a single rodent occupying your home, you may need professional help to deal with the situation quickly and efficiently.