I’ve already experienced the horrors of rats with two very large rats taking up residence in my house on two separate occasions. Both times it seems that a rat had wandered in through the back door and decided to stay. Following a visit from the council pest control, the last one died in the most inaccessible place; this meant dismantling the whole of the downstairs toilet to remove the stinking remains. But I digress…

My daughter has now moved back in with us because her house has become ‘infested’ with rats. It started with some noise, then three young rats caught in traps. After some investigation, her husband found where they were coming in and blocked it off. 

But then two days later, I got a call at midnight: there was a rat under the bed in the upstairs bedroom she shares with her three-month-old baby. On going downstairs and turning on the light, a whole tribe of rats scattered in all directions – which is when she phoned. 

I’ve since been trying to find out the experiences of others in the town. Will Green mentioned seeing “quite a few rats on London Road of late. Jumping out of bins etc. And scuttling off into gardens”. Another person said that lots of poisoned rats have been heading to her garden to die: “it’s been awful seeing them rocking to death then we have to dispose of them.” Another mentioned seeing a rat in their kitchen on the first floor.

One post suggested that feral cats were a good solution “because they expertly stalk and kill vermin that would otherwise spread diseases to humans, with devastating results”, though an online search about this was inconclusive. 

The same person suggested that foxes were a good solution. This was backed up by Cllr Peter Chowney: “The main thing that keeps rats down though is urban foxes, it’s the main part of their diet I believe. I have occasionally seen a rat in our garden, but it doesn’t last long, thanks to our two cats.”

So is there an invasion and, if so, what’s the solution? A BBC article bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-53191616 notes that “Nature is returning” was a common perception during lockdown: “But increased sightings of some species were not so welcome – lockdown also saw a surge in rat numbers.”

In the same article David Greer, a certified field biologist who runs his own pest control business in County Antrim, says that: “fly tipping, poorer sanitation and less rubbish collection created ideal conditions for rats, made all the better by the lack of people around.” And that “This all added up to a huge increase in [his] workload.” Others say they have migrated from underused restaurants (though I don’t like to think about that one). 

So what can you do? Obviously the first call might be to the council pest control hastings.gov.uk/environmentalhealth/pestcontrol/rats/ (£40 for a visit and no extra for follow up). Another avenue to explore is private pest control companies on the internet. 

When I had the last rat problem, a DFL I‘d interviewed about his art recommended getting in touch with a pest control company called Pestology. When I did this for my daughter, I was amazed to find that they were willing to come all the way to Hastings although they are based in London. They have a very interesting website which is worth a visit. The most useful advice they give is the following: “The sewers contain the rat population, and that rat population likes to nest and rest within houses – the bit that connects houses to sewers are the drains – and this is where the vast majority of entry routes arise.” 

That’s where they have been coming into my daughter’s house, and her husband has now dismantled some of the kitchen cupboards and blocked the area around the waste pipe where they were getting in.

Rats can cause panic and what most people need is good advice.
If you have any advice or interesting rat stories, post them after the article on our website or send an email to [email protected] and we can publish it as a letter.

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