Rat infestations to building fabrics put both at risk – they are cited under the Public Health Act 1961 for good reason!
Once rats have gained access to your building fabric (i.e. wall cavities, floor cavities, roof void etc.) then primarily its damage to your house that’s at risk – health implications don’t really come into the framework until they are emerging into your living areas.
Damage to your house…
Rats are rodents (just like mice and squirrels) and therefore are habitual gnawers – this means they constantly have to rasp their front teeth on objects in order to keep these teeth in check (as they never stop growing).
Because rat teeth are very hard, very sharp and their jaw muscle arrangement can put quite a bit of pressure behind them, this gnawing can do some serious damage.
They don’t ingest what they gnaw – it’s purely to file the teeth down
Main issue is the electrics – rats love to gnaw on insulated cabling so the fixed electrical circuit gets a really hard time.
This can often cause rat mortality as they will chew through the cables until the copper is exposed – however modern RCD consumer units often prevent the rat being electrocuted these days (the RCD just trips instead).
A fixed electrical supply with a shredded insulation sheath and exposed copper internals will represent a poorly performing electrical circuit at best and a potential fire hazard at worst so this is not a good thing in anyone’s house.
It is definitely recommended that you get an electrician to re-certify your fixed electrical supply once a rat infestation is remedied – he (or she) can test the integrity and insulation of the circuit from the consumer unit and tell you whether it is likely to have been damaged or not.
Telecoms cables are also a preferred choice – again they seem to like the rubber coating and copper centre.
Any plastic pipework is next on the hit list – all waste pipework falls into this category but more worrying is Speedfit piping which is used more and more these days to replace copper pipe runs
This means the pipes are currently carrying water (as opposed to the waste pipes) and this could be pressurised too if its mains fed.
All this means a big flood and some very significant damage if they get chewed.
Confident house insurance will pay out? Don’t be! – some have a cheeky clause excluding damage by rodents.
Third on the list is timber joists and studwork – this is usually sturdy enough to shrug it off but we have seen 50mm thick joists with holes in them that you can pass a coffee mug through so I wouldn’t ignore it for too long.
Interestingly they seem to be able to detect any wood that has suffered from woodworm or decay and target these areas – possibly because the wood is softer in these parts.
Damage to your health…
Rats live in sewers and drains which are obviously extremely filthy and bacteria-laden environments.
They don’t wear socks and shoes and they don’t wear coveralls so when they exit these places (to enter your kitchen for example) they will stamp and smear E. Coli, Salmonella and all other forms of nasty gut bacteria over everywhere they pass.
On top of that they will dribble urine virtually constantly and this urine for a small percentage or rats will carry the deadly Weill’s disease.
This is a virus that kills people every year – mainly because it gets misdiagnosed as flu due to its flu-like symptoms.
Under 5’s and over 60’s are particularly at risk.
Each rat will produce around 40 droppings each day so these too can contaminate foods and food preparation areas.
Aside from the physiological hazards, a rat infestation can also produce a very significant psychological hazard for those that have phobias.
Sightings or accidental contact with a rat can produce extreme distress for some people leading to anxiety, loss of sleep and general despair all of which will affect the body at a physiological level too.
So in short, it’s never a good idea to turn a blind eye – the costs and implications of ignoring the problem usually involve a much greater cost than simply tackling and resolving it.
Just ensure you tackle it efficiently, effectively and permanently – phone Pestology!