Have you ever heard of sewer rats getting into someone’s home? Many calls ring into our office requesting rat removal from basements. Homes and businesses north of I-90 in Cleveland, Lakewood, and Rocky River are susceptible targets. Do you know why you don’t hear about rats getting into people’s homes? Your resident basement dweller can produce 20-50 droppings per day and excrete 0.5 oz of urine. Would you want anyone to know that a large rodent has been pooping all over your home for the past week? Rats will take you by surprise. They are not something that people put their guard up for. The general public is simply not aware of their presence. This article is meant to increase the awareness of rats in our local community. So please share this with your friends and family.
If you are currently experiencing a rat problem, keep in mind that multiple other people in town are likely dealing with the same issue. Greater Cleveland has one species of rat. That is the Norway rat, otherwise known as sewer rats, or brown rats. These are large, burrowing rodents that populate the low elevations of lake shore communities. This article will cover the Norway rat. Roof rats, or black rats, are the other species of rat that is considered a pest in America. They are smaller climbing rats that infest attics and such. Roof rats do not occur in Northeast Ohio.
Sewer Rat Tips and Tricks
- Norway rats almost always come up through open floor drains in the basement. This will be covered in detail later on in this article.
- Norway rats are primarily nocturnal, feeding mainly one half hour after sunset and just before dawn. Although in order for them to integrate into certain environments, their feeding times are adaptable.
- Norway rats can climb into the upper levels of a structure in their search for food and nesting materials. They will climb up drain pipes or just take the stairs.
- Rats will gather nesting material like paper bits, plastic bags, and even undergarments.
- Most indoor rat nests are located below the living space. These burrowing rodents prefer to be below ground level. If rat activity occurs at or above ground level, it is likely only to forage. Rats may find a midnight snack on the second floor, yet are likely to retreat back to their nests below ground level.
- A mouse nest is usually within ten feet of their food source. Rat nests are usually around 30 feet from their food source.
- Mice love to explore new objects that enter their environment. Rats are just the opposite. They are neophobic. This means they are scared of new objects.
- Prevent trap avoidance by securing all exposed food within the structure. This includes bread and bananas. Norway rats get frantic once hunger sets in. This will offset most neophobic behavior.
- Early detection of rat infestations, and prompt implementation of control, is key to successful remediation. Traps are less likely to be avoided if they are set before the rat maps out the newly inhabited structure.
- Rats gladly coexist with dogs and cats; especially if their owners leave the pet food out.
- Like other rodents, they cache food. If you leave your pet’s food out continuously, the majority of it might end up under your basement stairs.
- A Norway rat can be 5”-10” long with an equally long tale. A male can weigh 12 ounces. A female weighs 9 ounces on average. You don’t want that large of an animal dying inside of a wall. Interior baiting for rats is not recommended.
- When feeding on dry food (e.g. dog food) rats require 0.5-1 ounce of water per day. Remove all sources of water, or set traps close to their water source.
Reproductive Cycle of Norway Rats In North East Ohio.
- The average lifespan is 6-8 months for a Norway rat in Northeast Ohio. One female will birth close to 4 litters during this time. It takes female rats 75-90 days to mature sexually. Once impregnated, their gestation period is 21-25 days. 8-12 pups are birthed in a healthy litter. The mother can get impregnated immediately after giving birth.The pups begin feeding outside of the nest at 28 days of age.
How Rats Enter Homes
Lakewood And Rocky River, Ohio’s Combined Sewer System
A combined sewer system takes both storm water and sewage to the water treatment plant before dumping it back into the lake. Yet when it rains heavily not all water can be treated. Excess storm water and sewage bypass the treatment process. Raw sewage and storm water is flushed directly into Lake Erie. This being said, Norway rats are more abundant in lake shore communities with combined sewer systems. A combined sewer system allows rats access to the sanitary sewers from the storm drains. Rats then use the sanitary sewer to gain access into structures. There is also an abundant food supply for rats inside the sanitary sewer. Rats will feed on undigested food particles in our fecal matter. They also will feed on the food that you put down the garbage disposal.
Lakewood, and parts of Rocky River, OH have combined sewer systems. Rocky River is working on separating their sanitary system from their storm water system. An example of this is the construction happening on Avalon Road (summer 2016). Separating the storm water and sewer lines eliminates raw sewage from being spewed into Lake Erie periodically. It also reduces the number of rats entering homes. Bay Village runs separate lines for storm water and sewage. They have a very minimal rat population even though they are also located next to the lake.
How do you know if your street has separate lines for storm water and waste water? The type of combined sewer system in both Lakewood and Rocky River is called an “over-under” system. The storm water line is on top of the sanitary sewer line. There is one manhole in the street to access both lines. When you enter the manhole you enter the storm water line. There is a plate at the bottom of the storm water drain line. This plate can be lifted to allow entry into the sanitary system. Ideally, mortar should be in place around each lid to help it remain in place. When it rains heavily, these lids tend to pop off. As a result, rats gain entry into the sanitary sewer. From there they can travel the plumbing into a structure.
Rats will also enter the exterior drainage system of a structure if there is a gap between a downspout it’s connecting drain tile. Once inside of a structural drainage system, rats pop up through open basement floor drains or into a toilet bowl. Rats are very good swimmers. The water inside of a drain trap is not difficult for a rat to swim through. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the main drain stack or any other drain pipe leading into the basement floor. It is common that old iron drain pipes deteriorate near the base. The drain clean out plug can also deteriorate and get pushed out by a rat. If you come home to smell sewer gas inside your home, run yourself down to the basement to inspect the drain stack.
Not all rats enter structures through plumbing. There are instances where rats simply enter through a gap along the foundation. Juvenile rats can squeeze through a half inch hole. You would be surprised how small of a gap that a mature rat can squeeze through. Gaps larger than the size of a quarter need to be sealed to properly exclude rats from the structure.
Tips to Keep Rats Out
- Always keep the basement toilet seat down. Use a heavy lid with minimal gaps between the toilet rim, the seat, and the lid.
- Always use cast iron floor drain grates, or other type of drain cover, on exposed drains. Make sure the floor drain basin is not deteriorated; and that there are no gaps between it and the surrounding concrete floor.
- Never cut holes in drain grates in order to provide capacity for air conditioner condensate lines or (de)humidifier drains. Even if the line you run fits snug into the cutout hole, a rat will chew through the PVC pipe to get inside.
- Some people abandon downspout drain lines after they clog. They pull the downspout out of the vertical drain tile, and redirect it out into the lawn. We often find bricks or sandstone blocks half covering the abandoned drain lines. Not a good idea.
- Seal gaps along the foundation. Do not forget to seal gaps in the downspout where they meet the drain pipe.
- Consider pouring concrete into crawlspaces with dirt floors.
- Eliminate raised wooden floors in basements.
- Seal gaps in foundation block especially underneath the front porch. Many homes in Rocky River, West Cleveland, and Lakewood have hollow clay foundation blocks. These are perfect runways for rodents.
Norway Rat Nesting Sites
Rats will live in the sewers if their walls are brick, or if there are cracks in the concrete sewer walls. More likely, Norway rats will burrow along buildings, in high vegetation, below streets, sidewalks, basement foundations and retaining walls. A typical rat burrow is: 2-3” in diameter, 1.5- 6.5’ feet long, and less than 18” deep. Burrows along hills or retaining walls will most likely have the entrance on top of the elevation to prevent flooding. They can tunnel down over 4’ in order to get into buildings. Structural damage occurs when concrete slab floors become undermined by rat burrows. Rats will also inhabit dirt floor crawlspaces. A number of homes in Lakewood and Rocky River, OH have raised wooden floors in their basement. Underneath these raised floors is a gravel base. Rats plague homes with this type of basement floor.
Rats often live in groups in order to care for their young. The majority of rats in the greater Cleveland area live in underground burrows, not in the sewer. If rats are infesting homes in your neighborhood, it is important not only to exclude them from structures but to make the outdoor environment less habitable. This should start with keeping vegetation low and well manicured. Narrow side yards between homes are often neglected. Behind garages and along fences also tend to be neglected. These low traffic areas should be maintained weed free. Tall grass and brush provide ideal habitats for burrowing rodents. Keep paved areas maintained. Cracked and heaved concrete provide ideal nesting sites. Always make sure exterior drain basins are properly covered. Especially if there are broken drain tile underground.
Rat Removal From Basements
Rats should be removed only by trained wildlife control operators. A license is required by the Ohio Department of Resources to provide rat removal services commercially. Rats are much more difficult to control than the ordinary house mouse. We do not advise trying to perform rat extermination yourself. The potential of exposing yourself and your family to disease causing pathogens and parasites is not a risk worth taking.