COMMENSAL RATS. Commensal is defined as “sharing one’s table.” Commensal rats live off humans and animals without returning anything of worth. What they do return is the potential for serious problems, such as:
- Spreading serious diseases, including salmonellosis (food poisoning), leptospirosis, rickettsialpox and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM).
- Carrying fleas, ticks and other ectoparasites, which potentially spread other diseases, such as
Lyme disease and bubonic plague.
- Gnawing, causing expensive structural damage. They also can start fires if they gnaw on electrical wires.
TWO SPECIES OF COMMENSAL RATS ARE THE NORWAY RAT AND THE ROOF RAT
The Norway rat (synonymous with brown, dump, barn, sewer, gray or wharf rat) is a burrowing rodent. Norway rats can be found in warehouses, farm buildings, houses, sewers, rubbish dumps, woodpiles and building foundations. The roof rat (black or ship rat) is somewhat smaller and is a more agile climber.
KEY INDICATORS OF A COMMENSAL RAT INFESTATION IN THE HOME:
- An actual rodent, dead or alive, is a telltale sign of a potential rat problem.
- The presence of droppings around the home. Fresh roof rat droppings are soft and moist, whereas old droppings are hard and dried. The droppings usually measure about ½” (12-13 mm) and have pointed ends. Droppings from Norway rats are larger – measuring about ¾” (18-20 mm) with blunt ends.
- Gnaw marks, damaged goods, nests or greasy rub marks also indicates roof rat activity.
- Noises in the attic or house walls and damaged electrical wires.
TO PREVENT A RAT INFESTATION
- Seal up any holes or cracks larger than a quarter with silicone caulk .
- Be sure that all windows and vents are screened.
- Keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from the building and cut back limbs overhanging the roof.
- Clean up fruit that may fall from trees in the yard and keep garbage in tightly covered receptacles.
- Store pet food and other dry food in sealed containers.
- Eliminate any outdoor sources of water such as leaky sprinkler heads, pet water dishes and birdbaths.
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