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(Rattus & Rattus Norvegicus)

Rat Burrow
Rat Burro

Your typical Norway rat has keen senses of hearing, smell, and touch – the better to seek out edibles – and can easily chew through just about any building materials known to man, including wood, wall-board and plaster.

Though they can grow to more than a foot in length,  not counting the tail,  rats can squeeze through an opening no more than a half-inch wide.   Rats are smart and they can find more ways to reach your food than you can possibly anticipate.   Rats are highly adaptable to changing environments and food supplies.   In just one year,  a single female rat can produce as many as 285 brand new rats who are up and running in a matter of weeks.

The resourceful thing about rats is that while they will eat everything that humans will, they will also eat things that humans won’t.   They won’t eat rancid food, because it makes them sick and they are incapable of regurgitating.   But they’ll dine on vegetable matter from trees.   They’ll eat seeds.   They’ll eat insects.   They’ll even eat animal droppings.

River (Norway) Rat
River (Norway) Rat


The rat is also a commensal rodent. Head and body are six to eight inches long with the tail being an additional seven to ten inches long. It has a slight body which weighs five to nine ounces. The fur is soft and brown in colour with some back hairs. Droppings are up to 1/2inch long and spindle shaped with pointed ends.


Adults are sexually mature in two to five months. Females produce four to six litters per year. They have poor eyesight but keen senses of smell, taste, hearing and touch.


Rat Droppings
Rat Droppings

Rats are nocturnal. They are shy about new objects and very very cautious when things change in their environment and along established runs. In buildings rats prefer to nest in the upper levels of the building and occasionally in basements and sewers. They prefer fruits, vegetables, and cereals. Their foraging range is 100 to 150 feet from their nest. Leptospirosis is vectored by rats and is a disease of great concern. This disease is acquired by eating food and drinking water which are contaminated with infected rat urine. Rats also cause significant structural damage and product destruction.

In New Zealand, there are two species of rat; the Norway or brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the Roof rat (Rattus rattus).

  1. Norway rats eat on average one tenth of their body weight each day. They are considered omnivorous but if available, cereals are preferred. Rats must drink water daily unless the food source is extremely moist. Due to their water requirements, runs to a water source may be evident and give an indication of harbourage.They explore locations quite freely but have a fear of new objects. This is known as neo-phobic and should be taken into account when baits are checked initially after a treatment.On farms, stored animal feed and crops,
     Rat hiding.
    Rat hiding.

    bedding, even animal waste will present an ideal environment to support rodent infestations. Rats living and feeding outside may enter buildings with the onset of the winter months.Roof rats are very good climbers and are usually found indoors, often high up.

General Biology and Behavior.


Rodents have the ability to adapt themselves to almost any environment. Their great reproductive potential, natural cunning and survivability puts them among the most successful animals on earth.

Rodents use the five senses of smell, touch, hearing, sight and taste in order to survive.Christchurch Pest Control and Exterminators Elite Pest Control Rat

The sense of touch is considered the most highly developed of the rodents’ senses using the vibrissae or whiskers on the muzzle and guard hairs that are found among the fur. These organs help rodents orientate in the dark and help them judge shapes and sizes
of objects. After a short learning period on the whereabouts of objects in the immediate environment, runs become well established. Smell will also play a part in the forming of the runs. When danger threatens, automatic use of this information will be vital.

Problems associated with rats and mice

The main reasons for control are to reduce or eliminate:

• Spread of disease
• Contamination of products
• Damage to food stocks and property

Rodents can cause damage to food intended for humans, by consumption, contamination with faeces and urine, as well as other physical and microbiological contaminants.

Rodents have the capability to spread many human pathogens, such as Salmonella spp, Listeria spp, Escherichia coli, Cryptosporidium parvum, Leptospira spp, Hantaviruses, Bubonic plague and Toxoplasmosis.  From Pest control procedures in the food industry  Institute of Environmental Health    



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How to Clean Up after a Rodent infestation.   CDC