Getting rid of rats

These are a serious nuisance and can cause major problems for homes and businesses. It is the responsibility of the owner or occupier to control pests on their premises. Failing to report a rat infestation is not wise – they do not disappear of their own accord and they will likely spread.

Report this pest

Rats in Public Spaces

What do they look like?

The common Norway or brown rat typically has brownish fur on its back and grey underneath but its colour can vary from white through to black.  Adult body length is 200 - 270mm plus a tail length of 150 - 200mm.

• They have small furry ears and a blunt nose

• They can live on average between 6 – 18 months

• In that time they can reproduce up to 7 times

• Each litter can consist of between 6 – 14 young

• Their eyesight is generally poor, but they have excellent hearing and smell.


Photo of a rat

The ship or black rat is nowadays rarely encountered in Britain but is smaller than the common rat and usually black in colour.  It has large hairless ears and a tail that is longer than its head and body length.

Where do they live?

Common rats live in any situation that provides food, water and shelter. The common rat is the most widespread of its species and is widely found in urban and rural areas. In homes they will live in loft spaces, wall cavities, cellars or under floorboards. In gardens, they will burrow into compost heaps and grassy banks or under sheds and decking areas. They are also commonly found living in sewer systems.

It is really important that residents keep any food waste bagged and secured in bins. Fly tipping, littering and dumping black bags are quick ways to encourage rats.

Rats do not respect property or fence lines and walls. Seeing a rat in a neighbours garden does not mean it will stay there.

What are the signs of infestation?

Signs of a rat infestation can include the presence of droppings, footprints in damp soil or dust, and burrows in the ground. Indications of an infestation can include:

  • Sightings of live or dead rats
  • Common rat droppings can be 12mm long and taper at both ends. They are about the size of a paper clip. Droppings might be found around bird tables, pet hutches and compost heaps.
  • Runs – rats follow the same routes when travelling and leave trails through the grass and low vegetation
  • Footprints and tail swipes – on muddy or dusty surfaces
  • Smears – dark grey marks left on surfaces by repeated contact with rat fur
  • Burrows – entrance holes 7-120mm in diameter in grassy banks, under tree roots, at the end of paving or drain cover surrounds. They can also burrow near food sources, like compost heaps or any piles of rubbish
  • Nests – sometime found indoors, in lofts or under floorboards
  • Gnawing – rats gnaw continually, even on non-food materials, in order to wear down their front teeth. Look at fences, cupboards or food containers.
  • Noise - gnawing and foraging at night
  • Smells - rats secrete urine as they move
  • Remember they can live indoors and outdoors so evidence can be found in either location. If indoors they can be found in cavity walls, lofts and under wooden floors.
  • Damage - look for damage to food packaging and woodwork. Shredded paper is used for making nests.

What do they eat?

Their favourite foods are cereal products, although they will eat almost anything that humans eat and some that humans don't – including each other.

Most of the damage they do is by gnawing and ripping open packets. They also foul food with urine and droppings.

Why must rats be controlled?

  • Rats can transmit many diseases to humans, including Salmonellosis (food poisoning) and Weils disease. They can also spread listeria, pasteurella, leptospira and worms. They can also cause cryptosporidia and toxoplasma.
  • Rats will eat or contaminate food intended for humans. It is estimated that up to 5% of food produced world-wide is lost as a result of rodent activity
  • They can cause damage to buildings and other structures by gnawing and burrowing, especially around kitchen units.
  • They can even interrupt services such as power supplies and traffic light systems.

How can I get rid of rats?

Rats are adaptable, highly mobile and breed rapidly. This combination makes rat control a difficult task for the untrained individual.

Newcastle City Council provides a pest control service for the treatment of rats when they are in your home, your garden or business premises. 

We will carry out up to 3 treatments. We assess the infestation and will put down poison or traps where necessary. Please note treatment takes effect gradually. It can take between 4 and 10 days for poison to work.

Whilst on site the technician will try and identify the cause and possible entry points – such as holes or broken drains.  However it is not Pest Controls’ responsibility to repair things like holes or broken drains. Please note that our staff will not carry out work such as joinery. They are not able to do things like remove kitchen units or decking, or replace missing roof tiles.

Other infestations may take longer to eradicate and need an additional visit which would incur a further charge. This would be at the discretion of the technician. The pest control operative will tell you what has been done.

If you do attempt treatment yourself, when using pesticides always follow the instructions on the label. Make sure you purchase these from a reputable retailer.  Place the poisoned bait in areas where rats are most likely to occur and where you have seen infestation signs.  Check the bait frequently and top it up when it has been taken. Keep doing this until there are no more signs of rats and the bait isn't taken any more. Remember it can take 4 to 10 days for poison to work.

Always make sure children and pets cannot access the bait.

Make sure there are no alternative food sources that rats would eat instead of the bait. This may mean stopping putting out bird seed and bird feeders.

How can I prevent an infestation?

The best approach is good hygiene with a combined use of proofing structures and rodenticides.  Householders can assist in preventing infestation by some simple measures:

  • Remove potential nesting sites by keeping yards and gardens clean and tidy, and by cutting back overgrown areas.
  • Do not leave piles of black bags, old furniture and other waste in your gardens.
  • Use bins and bag your waste.
  • Stored materials should ideally be at least 50 cm off the ground to make access harder and identification of infestation easier. Products should also be kept away from walls
  • Do not feed wild birds or other animals to excess – you may be feeding rats as well
  • If you do feed birds, make sure you use tables or hanging feeders. Do not feed on the ground.
  • Keep your home in good repair so that rats cannot gain access to it. Ensure that the drain inspection covers are in place and are in good repair. Make sure there are no holes in walls.
  • Do not leave household waste where rats can get at it. Food and food waste should be stored in sealed containers, including compost bins. Bin bags should be tied and secured, with bin lids kept down.
  • Having a good housekeeping system for any outdoor pets, e.g. rabbits in hutches or pigeons in lofts. Poor housekeeping can easily result in a rat infestation.
  • Use brush strips where there is a gap under a door.
  • Failing to report a rat infestation is not wise – they do not disappear of their own accord. 


Did you know?

Pest Control Charges at a Glance. These are for private, domestic properties.
Type of Pest Typical number of treatments per charge Charge
Wasps 1 - please note that we do not remove nests (includes a non-refundable call out charge) £68.40
Mice up to 3 £84.00
Rats up to 3 £84.00
Bed Bugs to be agreed with YHN YHN only
Cockroaches up to 3 £124.00
Fleas 1 £68.40
Beetles 1 £68.40
Ants 1 £68.00
Flies 1 £68.40
Mites 1 (includes a non-refundable call out charge) £68.40
Silverfish 1 £68.40
Is this page useful?
Is this page useful?