Tuesday, 29 September 2020

We had rats under the floorboards upstairs!

Early on in the year we had issues with rats! We should have expected it, we're practically in the countryside. Our house and garden backs onto corn fields and farmland. I thought rats only came into filthy houses where food was left laying out but it turns out they come in looking for warmth too.

Just before Christmas last year my dad had a rat in his kitchen. I expect it not because his house is dirty but because he lives in such a rural, countryside area. His house is practically in the middle of field. It was once caught running from under his Christmas tree. I joked and said when you bring our presents to my house you better not bring it with you. It was just typical that when his partner brought the presents we heard scratching upstairs later that evening! (She never actually brought the rat, it was just a massive coincidence).

It was a Saturday evening and Stu and I had went to bed in the early hours of the morning and I was woken up by something scratching. I woke Stu up and he went to investigate and said I was hearing things and blamed the rain that was lashing on the windows. I put it down to that to until the next night when he went to bed early and he heard it for himself. I could hear it downstairs too! It sounded like someone walking about upstairs. You think of rats as little creatures but the only way I can describe the sound as if a big dog was scratching at a door to get out. Rat's gnawing and scratching make a lot of noise.

Over the next week we would hear it when it started getting dark, scurrying about upstairs, under the floorboards. We found it's poo in the build in cupboard in our bedroom. The little so and so had chewed a hole in the wall to get through. We put down traps. My dad had plenty to share because of his rat problem. People may disagree with us using traps but have a rat in your house for a couple of weeks and you will do anything to get it out. The traps were set under the floorboards and we covered them in peanut butter, they love that and for the first 2 days of the traps being down the sneaky so and so ate all of the peanut butter without getting caught. Then the trap started going off, the rat was getting too cocky. It must have scared it's self because it disappeared for a little while. 

A couple of weeks later it came back with more confidence then ever and during the day too. Good old Google told me that this meant that either their nest had been disturbed or they were desperate and hunting for food. I could hear it in under the floorboards on the landing. I spent the afternoon hitting the ceiling in the dining room with a sweeping brush trying to scare it away. 

We were and still are pretty confident that it was coming into our house via our loft somehow. It was only ever upstairs, under the floorboards. There was no sign of it at all downstairs where the food was which I thought was strange. It turns out roof rats are a thing. 

In Britain, there are two types of rat: the brown rat and the black rat. The black rat, also known as the roof rat, spends 90% of its life four feet or more off the ground and tends to live in walls, trees and loft spaces.

The rat wasn't nesting in our home, we checked the loft and it wasn't feeding here. I don't allow food upstairs and as far as we could tell it was never downstairs, it was just coming to visit and annoy us. People have dogs around here and feed them outside so it's an Al fresco buffet experience for a rat! There is also building work going on nearby, parts of houses being knocked down so it could have came from there. We know the rat was just trying it's luck, looking for somewhere which has both warmth and food. It didn't find it here and it thankfully moved on.

Soon after the rat disappeared we had loft insulation put in the loft and we asked the men putting it in if there was any sign of rats and they said definitely not so we are hoping it's gone for good and doesn't come back when the weather is colder. It has still puzzled us how it was getting in, where it came from and why it came here?

Aside from scratching, scurrying sounds in the ceiling and under floorboards, Rentokil pest controllers advise looking out for:

Droppings (dark in colour and the size and shape of grains of rice).
Footprints (to assess whether tracks are fresh, sprinkle the area with flour, if overnight the flour has been disturbed, it could very well be rats).
Rub marks (rats have poor eyesight, so bump up against walls and skirting boards for navigational purposes, you’ll be able to spot the grime they leave behind).
A strong smell of urine.
Nests in small, cosy cavities, check behind fridges and under floorboards for piles of soft shredded materials.

The only sign we had was the noise it made until we went looking for it and found droppings and footprints under the floorboards.

If you do have a rat problem in your home there are a number of simple steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of a full infestation.

Seal any gaps
Rats can get into your home through the smallest of gaps and holes, so seal them with wire wool, metal sheets or cement. They can also enter through damaged drains, so make sure that these are well maintained and checked regularly.

There are a whole host of DIY repellent ideas (including peppermint sprays, dryer sheet stuffings, cotton balls soaked in oil and cayenne pepper, etc), but there's little scientific evidence to back up the effectiveness of these solutions and if you're not blocking off the route that the rats are entering through it's not going to solve anything permanently.

Declutter and clean
Keep clutter to a minimum and move objects away from walls so you can check what’s hiding behind them.

Eliminate potential food sources
Store dry foods in tightly sealed containers and make sure food is not left sitting out on counters, and cleaning up any spillages.

Never use poisons!
It is a quick way to kill rats but if a rat is poisoned it may end up dying under a floorboard or in a wall. The rotting body may provide a food source for maggots and even other creatures.

For serious infestations, you should contact your local authority's environmental health officer  or a commercial pest control contractor.

Have you ever had a problem with rats or mice?


  1. We've had rats in the garden, but I've not been aware of them in the house. Next door puts poison down and the rats crawl into dark places to die. We found one in our old coal bunker. We could smell it long before we found it. I second not putting down poison. #mmbc

  2. I've had rats for years pest control found holes at my neighbours home but none around mine they were filled in the drains have been checked and I still have them under the floors running around at two in the morning it drives me crazy.