Did you know that 22nd July is Rat Catcher’s Day?
It’s the day that commemorates the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin in Germany in 1294. The town of Hamelin had a rat infestation, and the Pied Piper was called in to get rid of the rats.
The Pied Piper drove all the rats out of Hamelin by blowing his pipe – the river swept them all away. But the Mayor of Hamelin wouldn’t pay the Pied Piper for his services, so the Piper took his revenge by playing his magic pipe which led all the children of the town into a cave.
Luckily today, customers pay pest controllers for their services!
The history of rats and Rat Catcher’s Day in the UK
There are two types of rat in the UK: brown and black ones. Brown rats are the larger of the two, measuring about 23cm when fully developed. Black rats are roughly half the size of brown rats but are much rarer these days and are mostly confined to coastal or industrial areas.
Introduced to the UK in the nineteenth century, the brown rat thrived here. Since rats breed quickly, the population soon increased. By the mid-1850s, rats had infested the countryside as well as London.
Buckingham Palace even got infested. When it did, Queen Victoria employed Jack Black, who caught rats with an iron cage with ferrets in it. He also had two or three terriers who would work with him. He almost died three times from infected rat bites!
By the early 1900s, scientists had manufactured a poison that killed the rats. British Ratin was the first company to use the poison. Their pest controllers carried an Oxford bag containing small parcels of stale bread with rat poison hidden inside.
Why control rats?
Irrespective of how you may feel towards rats, the number one reason why any outbreak or infestation must be contained is disease. Rats carry, among other things, Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease), Salmonella, Listeria, Toxoplasma gondii (a single cell parasite) and Hantavirus.
Rats can also cause structural damage to properties by gnawing through exposed insulation and cable coverings, also causing electrical and telecoms damage. Insurance companies estimate that 25% of electrical fires are caused by rodent damage!
Whether you are a homeowner or a business, it is your legal obligation to keep premises free of rats, under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act of 1949. Prevention and any infestations must be dealt with either by yourself or a recognised pest controller. Larger infestations must be reported to your local authority who may send an industrial pest control company in to deal with the situation.
How to prevent rats
Rats will invite themselves wherever and whenever they want, but we can all help to keep them away from our properties by taking a few, common sense measures. Take a look at our 5 steps to preventing rats:
- Check for any holes or gaps in outbuildings such as sheds and garages and block these up or undertake remedial work to the structure itself.
- Keep gardens tidy of rubbish and cut back overgrown areas. Rats love wood piles so if you have a wood store, make sure it’s inaccessible and secure.
- Keep drain covers well maintained – replace any broken ones to stop any unwelcome visitors popping up!
- Don’t leave any household waste, particularly unwanted food lying about. Always put in a bin and make sure the lid is securely closed.
- If you like feeding wild animals, use raised platforms such as bird tables and wall mounted feeders. Avoid scattering food on pathways and lawns.
Pest control today
The pest control industry has come a long way since the Victorian era and most rat catchers also specialise in other pests. But rats are certainly still one of the most hated pests in the UK – so they do their fair share of rat catching!
If you are unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of an unwanted visitor, take immediate steps to call a professional in. Don’t leave any doors to the property open for long periods. Try not to deal with the problem yourself, especially if you have children or pets that could be harmed by amateur poisons or ill-placed shop bought remedies.
Use Rat Catcher’s Day as a chance to check for rats in your home. If you have rats, we’ll put you in touch with pest controllers who can to help you. Simply fill in the form below to get up to 4 FREE, no-obligation quotes.
Emily Rivers originally published this article on 22nd July 2016.