There are rats in towns and cities up and down the country, from Lands End to John O’Groats, including Kingston. In large populated cities and small remote villages, we’ve all seen them or had problems with them at some point or another. In fact, we would think there was something wrong if we didn’t see them or hear a story about them from someone at some stage.
The most common rat in Kingston is the Brown Rat, or Rattus Norvegicus, being its scientific name. This rat is an opportunistic survivor, foraging for food and harbourage anywhere and everywhere. They tend to live in underground burrows with the entrances near to solid objects and structures this supplies a safe roof entrance. Once underground they structure a series of layers of tunnels that all interconnect with each other. You will usually find a second entrance hole close to the first. Burrows provide rats with safety and shelter as well as being a storage place for food. As well as entrances near to structures, entrances can be found in and around overgrowth and hedgerows. I once found a large family of rats living in a row of unused sheds. Although the sheds were not in use, the previous owners had filled them with all sorts of junk including clothes and blankets. It was like an already furnished home for the rats.
Once rats have established themselves a home, providing there is a good food supply close by, they will be reluctant to travel to far from the burrow. But rats are known to travel up to a mile to find food if supplies are sparse. In rural areas it is usually farms that suffer from rats. There is always a supply of food available to them in the way of food for livestock and then there are the crops. They can do significant damage to a field of wheat by stripping corns. In towns and cities like Kingston, there is the abundance of available food from restaurants, fast food outlets and sandwich bars. There are also the waste foods from shops, like out of date stock and stale bakery items. Then there is the household waste. So many of us put our bins out the night before, for the bin men to collect and through no fault of our own, we sometimes have to put rubbish out days before it is due to be collected. As rats are predominantly a nocturnal scavenger, usually between 1am and 4am, any food waste that we leave out is easily available for the rats to scavenge without too many threats to them.
There is also the threat of diseases associated with rats like weils disease, which is spread by infected rats through their urine and excrement. It is extremely rare but if found, can be fatal. Rat bite fever, again very rare but not unheard of, this is spread by contact with their urine or other mucous secretions. If you come in to contact with ant surfaces that a rat has urinated on, that has not been cleaned, there is also sickness and diarrhoea.