This fact sheet can be made available in other languages or formats
on request by contacting 0161 770 6666. For further information please
see our detailed fact sheet Information for all.
The council offers a free service to get rid of brown rats, but the following provides some advice.
What are brown rats?
They are rodents, brownish/grey on the back and grey underneath. Their average weight is 335g
and they are 300-450mm long. They are also known as the common rat, sewer rat and Norway rat.
Like all rats, they are nocturnal, although they are sometimes seen during the day. They must
continually gnaw to wear down their teeth. They are active burrowers, good climbers and
reasonably good swimmers (often leading to confusion with water voles). They have poor eyesight
and are colour blind but they have a good sense of smell and taste and acute hearing.
Rats are capable of reproducing at 3-4 months old, and can have 3–6 litters per year, depending
upon food availability and harbourage. The litter size can be around 6–11 young, with a lifespan of
between 12–19 months.
Some estimates give 5 rats for every human being on the earth and that, wherever you are, there is
a rat within 15 metres.
Where can they be found?
They are found in most parts of the world but are believed to have originated in eastern Asia, from
whence they spread partially on foot, and partially by ship. They are the most common rat in the
These animals are survivors, mainly found in close contact with man.
They often move to buildings in autumn and winter for shelter and food and are found in
warehouses, farms and, more often than not, in roof spaces of houses.
In summer they return to the open countryside to feed on growing vegetation. This seasonality is
not found, however, where food is available at a site all year round, such as on intensive rearing
farms or at urban refuse tips. In these situations the rats will attempt to stay on site permanently.
Within these habitats, they burrow into earth banks, compost or muckheaps and into the structure of
buildings and sewers. They also inhabit undisturbed storage areas such as haystacks and tyre
heaps or pallets, especially if these areas are close to food.
What do they eat?
Their diet is extremely broad; they will eat almost anything that is edible, with a food preference for
grain. They eat more meat than the Black rat, and if they get the opportunity, they will eat carrion
and will prey on other animals. They can also be cannibalistic. On average, they consume 25-30g
of food and drink approximately 60ml of water per day.
Are brown rats harmful?
Yes. They contaminate everything they encounter with droppings, urine and hairs. They carry a
wide range of diseases and parasites that are potentially harmful to humans and animals.
Leptospirosis, or Weil’s disease, can be fatal to humans. Other diseases, such as Toxoplasmosis
and Salmonella, affect both humans and animals.
Another significant problem is the considerable structural damage that can occur due to the
gnawing and burrowing behaviour of these rats. Problems can range from minor holes in walls and
doors and gnawed materials to structural collapse, flooding, electrical faults and fire. These risks
should not be underestimated.
How to get rid of brown rats
In order to prevent the spread of the brown rat, high standards of refuse collection and cleanliness
must be maintained. Therefore:
• Remove accumulations of rubbish
• Tidy up stored materials and locate them away from food areas
• Keep food in rodent proof containers and dispose of spilled food
• Ensure that any building where food is kept is proofed against rodents by blocking any holes in
walls, floors and doors and filling in gaps around entry points of services.
• Keep vegetation around buildings short and tidy to expose rat runs and burrows, thus making
rats more vulnerable to predators (in fact, encouraging predators, particularly cats, may provide
Despite good standards of hygiene and proofing, infestations will sometimes occur. In such
circumstances, it will be necessary to take action to control the rats. Methods of control include
trapping and chemical control using fumigants or rodenticide baits. Please remember that
rodenticides are also poisonous to humans, livestock, pets and wildlife. Always read the product
label before use and follow the label instructions.
Control should always be carried out together with preventative measures otherwise the underlying
causes of the infestation remain and re-infestation will inevitably occur.
If you do not wish to control a rodent problem yourself, you should seek the services of a Pest
If you would like more information about pest control you can contact us by:
Pest Control, Chadderton Town Hall, Middleton Road, Chadderton, Oldham, OL9 6PP
0161 770 2244
0161 770 4500
For more information about pests and pest control please see our other detailed fact sheets listed
• Pest control
• Australian spider beetles
• Bed bugs
• Biscuit beetles
• Carpet beetles
• Clover mites
• Cluster Flies
• Devil’s coach-horses
• Feral pigeons
• Fleas in the home
• How to deter foxes
• Garden ants
• German cockroaches
• Golden spider beetles
• Grey squirrels
• House mice
• Larder beetles
• Oriental cockroaches
• Slugs indoors
You can access fact sheets in a number of ways:
Tel: 0161 770 6644
Fax: 0161 770 6944
Write to: Contact Oldham, PO Box 196,
Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham OL1 1QJ
Call in: to any council office and requesting them
June 2010 ocfs-env-epeh62S (Version 5) PID431 JM