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Why rats are a problem during COVID-19

Why rats are a growing problem during the coronavirus pandemic

Rats in Singapore are one of the most problematic pests at the best of times for businesses handling food and homes in urban areas where any source of food is nearby. Now, during this COVID-19 global pandemic, even rats are under pressure.

Throughout urban areas, there are populations of rats that have relied on ready sources of supplies from the many businesses handling food or where food is eaten and discarded. Food waste is generated not just in restaurants, cafés and fast-food outlets, but also in offices and other businesses where employees take their own food into the buildings.

Firstly, rats live close to their food sources. With closures of businesses, however, many of these regular sources of food have disappeared. Secondly, urban rats are now facing hunger in their own territories, which drives them to change their normal behaviour; they are no longer nocturnal and wary of people or new surroundings. Thirdly, this behaviour threatens our food supplies at any point along the supply chain as large numbers of rats try to access new areas for shelter and food. In summary, this might mean creating a heavier rat infestation. Read more to find out what a rat eats.

Risks from rats

Population growth

Rats are fast breeders when food is plentiful and there is little predation. Brown rats have litters of 7-8 pups and can have from 3-6 litters per year. The pups take 2–3 months to reach sexual maturity, at which point, the females from this first litter can mate and, within 21 days, produce 7–8 pups each and they also go on to have 3–6 litters per year. With a food supply and lack of pest control, a rat population can increase exponentially in a new area.

Rats are smart pests They are highly adaptable to their surroundings and the availability of food, water and shelter. An urban environment generally offers an abundance of these both indoors and outdoors. Their agility, curiosity and intelligence means they are very adept at finding new places suitable for their survival.


Rats can chew through trash bags to look for their food sources.

Finding a new area triggers a rapid growth in population until factors become limiting. The same effect occurs when control strategies are not sufficient to wipe out a population. Rats can quickly restore their numbers with successful breeding until competition for resources limits breeding and survival. Rat eradication can turn into an uncontrollable problem as a result.

Spread diseases and parasites

Rats species can spread a wide range of diseases and parasites into the places they infest in urban areas. A single rat can also carry multiple types of pathogens and parasites, including bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and parasitic worms. Rats also carry ectoparasites that include fleas, ticks, lice and mites, which are vectors of other diseases. They contaminate their runs and the places they visit with urine, faeces and saliva, which can transmit diseases.

What diseases can you get from rats?

  • Leptospirosis and Weil’s disease: Leptospira bacteria
  • Hantavirus
  • Rat-bite fever: Streptobacillus moniliformis and Spirillum minus bacteria
  • Cryptosporidiosis: Cryptosporidium species of protozoa
  • Rat tapeworm: Hymenolepis nana and H. diminuta (a beetle such as a flour beetle can be a secondary host)
  • Toxoplasmosis:  Toxoplasma gondii protozoan
  • Salmonellosis: Salmonella bacteria

There are many ways that we can catch a disease from rodents either indirectly in the places they have infested or directly from coming into close contact with them.

  • Drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food.
  • Inhalation or direct contact with rodent excreta (urine, faeces, saliva) on contaminated surfaces.
  • Handling or inhaling microorganism-containing particles aerosolised from hay, woodpiles or other materials contaminated with infectious rodent urine.
  • Particles in dust made airborne by sweeping places where rats are present.
  • Handling of infected rodents.
  • Bites and scratches — microorganisms carried in saliva can infect both humans and other rodents.
  • Dogs and cats eating rodents. In addition, they catch parasites as they pass on tapeworms to humans.
  • Rodents can also act as reservoirs for various flying-insect-borne diseases.

During the pandemic, health services are under immense pressure from the massive influx of patients infected with COVID-19. They are focusing a large proportion of their resources to managing these patients and have reduced the capacity to deal with other diseases. Rat infestations create multiple threats to health, therefore it is vital to maintain measures to control them to both protect food supplies and prevent overloading of the health services.

Debugged Blog Why Rats Are a Problem During COVID-19 Rats Hiding In Underground.jpg

Rats are great at traveling and hiding underground.

Damage to products and property

Rats cause damage to property from their tendency to burrow and their ability to gnaw many materials to gain access to places or out of habit. Rat’s teeth are hard enough to gnaw wood, aluminium, plastic, lead and even some types of steel — gnaw marks are often the first sign of an infestation. Find out what causes rat infestation and identify signs of rats’ activity.

The most common problem reported by businesses was damage to electrical equipment, reporting machinery or wiring as most affected. This can result in production downtime or fires when rats gnaw through the plastic insulation and short the wires.

Consume and contaminate food supplies

Debugged Blog Why Rats Are a Problem During COVID-19 Rats Can Damage Food Packaging

Rats can contaminate food as well as damage their packaging.

Rats need to eat about a tenth of their body weight each day and have daily access to water. They nest near their food supplies and make multiple visits to their food sources. They contaminate the food and surrounding surfaces with urine, droppings, and filth picked up from the environment. Their saliva also contaminates whatever they gnaw.

Rats are capable of gnawing through many types of food packaging, including cardboard, paper, plastic, and multi-layer packaging materials. This causes loss of stock to businesses both from the food rats eat and contaminate or leave in damaged packaging. Here are more food options that rats like to feed on.

The economic cost of rats

Debugged Blog Why Rats Are a Problem During COVID-19 Rats Carry Various Diseases

Rats carry and transmit diseases.

Rats are a financial and business risk and pose a risk to public health and food security. Pest Infestations result is several costs:

  • Treatment to eradicate rats
  • Repairs to property and machinery
  • Replacement of contaminated stock or defaced items
  • Loss of reputation for towns, cities and businesses
  • Loss of business and financial implication
  • Potential litigation and damages

Pest control services perform a vital function. It prevents the rat populations in urban areas growing out of control during lockdowns and concentration of food supplies in the retail supply chain. With health services already overloaded from dealing with coronavirus patients, it is essential to take measures to prevent other sources of illness.

Challenges on getting rid of rats

Rats are intelligent pest

Where do rats hide? When do rats come out? The challenge in eradicating rats is their smart nature that poses a challenge to pest control companies in Singapore. Besides being intelligent, here are more challenges we may face in rat pest control:

  • Urbanisation and design landscape
  • Environment factors such as weather
  • Immunity resistance to baits and lures
  • Facility maintenance standards
  • Structure and building integrity
  • Surrounding activities such as constructions
Debugged Blog Why Rats Are a Problem During COVID 19 Rats Relocate From Construction Works

The highly adaptable rats can relocate elsewhere due to construction works.

Rats are nocturnal in nature

Rats are among many nocturnal pests that seek food at night, unless they are facing food competition under the coronavirus circumstances. Firstly, it is difficult to identify their activities at late hours. Secondly, they are capable of hiding out of reach and sight spaces that are beyond our visibility. Thirdly, unless we spot their physical body running around, rat infestation signs may be less obvious to untrained individuals. In summary, rats are challenging to control without the help of pest control specialists.

Rats are sensitive and adaptable

Unfortunately, due to their sensitivity and adaptability to the environment and risks, rats do not fall into our rat control traps easily. For instance, they may avoid items that looked new to them such as your rat bait stations. This also explains why efforts in placing multiple traps seem unsuccessful in trapping them. In addition, they will be extra wary and cautious in consuming those baits you have set out. In recent technology, digital rodent control is designed to help optimise detection and control of rats more effectively and efficiently.

Commercial pest control services for rats

There are two areas of requirement on how you control a rat infestation. These have to work hand in hand in order to observe optimal results.

Ensure adequate pest control solutions in place

Rat control in Singapore comprises various options. They range from basic, low cost, to comprehensive and integrated pest control treatment at some cost. Rentokil Pest Control shares the few options available for rats’ elimination:

  • Glue Boards placements to trap rats are common hideouts
  • Tamper resistant baiting stations with lure to trap and contain rats
  • Baiting stations placed for first, second and third line defence
  • Snap traps place at false ceilings or tight spaces and corners
  • Large scale rat control unit to house high rat population
  • Connected rodent control units with sensing alert from rat activities

Adopt diligent proofing and housekeeping

Similar to other pests such as cockroaches and ants, rats have similar food preferences and survival needs. Firstly, they enjoy lurking at garbage and waste bins for food scraps and waste. Secondly, the fresh produce we prepare and consume attracts rats. Thirdly, water and moisture remain essential to live. Fourthly, they seek shelter and quiet hiding locations to rest and reproduce. In summary, these habits are closely associated with how businesses manage their proofing and housekeeping activities.

Debugged Blog Why Rats Are a Problem During COVID 19 Rats Enter Small Gaps

Rats are flexible and can enter through small gaps and holes.

How much does it cost for rat control

Pest control cost depends on several factors and recommendations. Cost is customised to suit business needs and comfort level. This includes the type and number of units deployed, how frequent is required for technicians to return for a service. In addition, are there additional supporting pest control services to control other common pests such as cockroaches and ants? Finally, the scope of work and complexity in terms of size and nature of business. Above all, there are options on regular contract to take care of core needs and one-time-off jobbing for intensive flush outs programmes.

About Rentokil Initial: Leading Pest Control

Rentokil has a 90-year history in pest control and uses industry-leading solutions to tackle infestations across the globe. Locally, Rentokil Singapore has over 50 years of brand experience. We possesses the largest team of pest control specialists’ located islandwide. Rentokil is also proud to be recipients of awards and accolades. They include the bizSAFE Star, Singapore Quality Class, Superbrands and Expat Living Gold Choice award.

The team embraces corporate social responsibility and besides taking part in CSR and charity events. Rentokil Initial engages environmentally friendly initiatives such as offering green pest control. This means, enhancing the health and safety of the users while controlling pest infestation effectively.

With the research and development centre in the UK, Rentokil designs a series of cutting-edge technology and innovation. For example, we are the first globally to develop fly control traps with LED technology with energy cost savings benefits.

Call Rentokil Singapore at (65) 6347 8138 for an integrated rat control services today.

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