There are many species of rats, but the two species that most often become pests in the Metro Atlanta Area and throughout Georgia are the roof rat (Rattus rattus), and the Norway or brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). Although both rat species are found in both urban and rural areas throughout Georgia, roof rats are slightly more common in wooded rural areas, and Norway rats are more common in urban areas such as Atlanta and Marietta.
In nature, roof rats (also known as black rats or tree rats) live in trees and spend most of their time aloft, They're the kind of rats that are most often found in attics. They're smaller and slimmer than Norway rats, have exceptionally good balance, and are excellent climbers. Their biology and behavior, as well as the damage they do, are very similar to those of squirrels. They usually get into homes and other buildings by climbing up the walls, by running along tree branches that touch or overhang the house, or by running along aerial wiring that enters the building.
Norway rats (also known as brown rats, sewer rats, water rats, or wharf rats) are burrowing animals by nature, but they're also happy to live in homes and other human-occupied buildings if given the opportunity. They have powerful teeth and jaws and can gnaw through most building materials. Quite often they'll burrow and gnaw their way into basements, crawl spaces, and gaps under sheds and storage buildings. Once they're inside a building, they can make their way through wall and ceiling voids and may migrate upwards, especially if that's where the food is or if population pressures force them to move. Norway rats are also excellent swimmers and are often found in sewers and around wharves and piers. And yes, rats can swim up into a toilet.
In short, Norway rats usually start at the bottom of a building and work their way up if they have to, and roof rats usually start at the top and work their way down. But these are just generalizations. Either specie can be found anywhere in a home or building; and once in a great while, both species can be found in different parts of the same building. (You won't find Norway rats and roof rats in the same part of a building, though. Despite being close relatives, the two species do not get along at all.)
Rats have the dubious distinction of having been the first pest animals believed to spread diseases. Historical evidence suggests that rats have been associated with disease even before biblical times, and practically all epidemiologists believe that rats were a big part of the reason for all of history's great plague epidemics. Specifically, rats are reservoirs for Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague. The fleas that feed on the rats then vector the disease to humans. They're also associated with the transmission of leptospirosis, rat-bite fever, salmonellosis, and many other diseases.
The rat's unique place in the history of disease also gave birth to the profession of pest control. The first exterminators were called "rat catchers," and they did their job pretty much the same way Rid-A-Critter does today: by trapping rats and permanently sealing them out of buildings. Every building is vulnerable to rat infestations. They can even get into brick homes, as this post shows. We find those vulnerabilities using time-honored methods like looking for droppings and following rub marks, and we fix the problems to keep the rats out.
There are quite a few problems with the chemical rodenticide approach to rat extermination. When you consider them all, we think you'll agree that Rid-A-Critter's safe, non-chemical approach is the best way to solve structural rat problems. Let's start by looking at some of the disadvantages of chemical rat control.
Rodenticides are poisons. Although this may seem redundant and obvious, the fact is that any poison we put into the environment has the potential to harm non-target animals. In the case of rat poisons, this actually is more common than most people realize. Many rodenticides are secondarily toxic, which means that an animal that eats a poisoned rat can be poisoned, as well. So if a hawk or a fox eats a poisoned rat, the hawk or fox may die, too.
Poisoned rats die at home. Don't believe that nonsense that poisoned rats "go outside to seek water." Most rodenticides take several days to work, during which the rat begins to feel progressively sicker; and just as with people, when rats start to feel sick, they go home. If the rat's "home" happens to be your house, then that's where they're going to die. And stink.
In fact, we do a lot of work that consists solely of finding and removing dead animals that were killed by the poisons that other "rat exterminators" left behind. It's not the most pleasant work that we do. It also would have been entirely unnecessary had the job been done properly -- by trapping and removing the rats, and then sealing up the house -- rather than just tossing some poison around and calling it a day.
Non-chemical rat control is cheaper in the long run. When you pay an exterminator to control your rat problem using rodenticides, you make a friend for life: the exterminator. That's because the poisons exterminators use don't last forever. Rodenticides used inside or outside get eaten by rats and need to be replaced. They also get eaten by insects such as beetles, weevils, and moths. Even wax-encapsulated, "weather-resistant" rodenticides often get infested by insects or rot away because of mold.
As a result, rat control that relies on poisons while neglecting the more important work of rat exclusion requires that the exterminator visit you -- and bill you -- again, and again, and again, to check and refill the bait stations. That starts getting expensive after a while.
Yes, sometimes they are, especially outdoors; but almost never inside a building unless it's scheduled to be demolished.
For example, exterior use of rodenticides might make sense in cases of large outside populations of Norway (or "brown") rats burrowing in the ground outside your house or building. They're also useful as part of wide-area public health rat abatement programs. In addition, some types of commercial buildings such as commercial food-processing facilities may be required by law or by the sanitation standards of their industries to have rodent bait stations installed around the exterior perimeters of their buildings.
So yes, there are some cases when the use of rodenticides makes good sense; and when it makes sense, we use them. But most of the time rat poisons are neither necessary nor desirable. Safe, permanent, non-chemical rat removal and exclusion is always the better way to eliminate rats from a building.
If you live in Metro Atlanta and have a problem with Norway rats or roof rats, please contact us for more information about our long-lasting, exclusion-based rat-removal programs.
Rat Control Gallery
Here are some pictures we've taken at the many rat-removal and rat-proofing jobs we've done throughout Metro Atlanta.
Rat entry point into a home in Atlanta
Rat entry hole into a brick home in Atlanta
How rats got into a garage in Marietta
Norway rat hole in a house in Atlanta
Rat gnaw damage to wiring in Atlanta
Here's how rats got into a crawl space in Atlanta
Roof rat entry gap into an Atlanta home
Handyman rat-proofing fail in Decatur
DIY rat-proofing fail in Lithonia
Rat entry hole and wire damage in Atlanta
Roof rat chewed a hole into a house in Atlanta
Rat droppings in the garage of an Atlanta home
Rat hole in the insulation in an Atlanta attic
Rat droppings in a drop ceiling in Atlanta
Roof rat hole in a house in Peachtree City
Burrow at residential rat control job in Atlanta
Roof rat entry point into a house in Duluth
Rat entry through brick wall into a Decature home
Rat Entry into Atlanta Home through Old Soil Pipe
Peachtree City roof rat control and exclusion job
Roof rat hole in a house in Atlanta
Rat-loving cable guy struck in Marietta
How Norway rats got into a house in Marietta
Roof rat entry point into a house in Clarkston
Josh Sealing rats out of a crawl space in Atlanta
Roof rat entry through ridge vent in Decatur
Rat gnaw hole in the deck of an Atlanta home
Failed DIY rat-proofing attempt in Stone Mountain
Rat bling bling at Atlanta rat extermination job
Rat burrow though attic insulation in Marietta
Rat entry into a house in Peachtree City
Rat entry found at Duluth, Georgia rat removal job