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revised July 05, 2018

Health Protection

Animals, bugs and pets



Rats are a common pest in large urban centres. Rats may carry ticks, fleas and spread diseases although the risk of disease transmission in the community is low. They can also contaminate food with hair, droppings and urine, as well as damage property by gnawing on electrical wires, or chewing insulation, siding and wallboard.

The Norway (or brown) rat is the most common type of rat in Ontario.

What does a Norway rat look like?

  • Larger than a mouse
  • Body is 18 - 25 cm (7 - 10 in) long with a scaly, hairless and thin tail, 15 – 20 cm (6 – 8 in) long
  • Has a pointy nose
  • Fur is brown or gray

Controlling rats on your property:

  • Rats can quickly increase in number because they are fast breeders.
  • While it is difficult to get rid of all rats, you can control and keep them off your property and out of your home, by eliminating their sources of food, water, and shelter.
  • It is also important for neighbourhoods with a budding infestation to work together to prevent the infestation from becoming established.
  • If one property owner takes action while and the other does not, the rats will simply establish themselves on the property where no action has been taken. The problem will then persist and continue to be a nuisance for the neighbourhood.
  • If residents notice an increase in rats between their properties (house to house, house to commercial property) it is vital that both parties use the below methods to control the rats.

Identifying a rat problem

  • Rats are mainly active at night. Seeing live rats during the day indicates  an existing infestation that has been disturbed (e.g. by nearby construction), or new rats in the neighbourhood looking for a suitable location to establish a nest
  • Be on the lookout for evidence of an infestation (e.g. droppings, urine smell, small holes or burrows, or seeing live rats)
  • Rat droppings are 2cm (¾ in) long dark capsules
  • Since rats generally live and build their nests near the ground, you may see burrows in your yard and/or under buildings, bushes, sheds and wood piles.

 Eliminate their food supply

  • Keep garbage and compost in containers with tight-fitting lids
  • Clean up fruits or vegetables that fall off trees or plants
  • Clean up spilled bird seed and discontinue the use of bird feeders until your yard is rat-free
  • Keep the area around your barbecue free of food scraps
  • Do not leave pet food outside

Eliminate their sources of water

  • Turn off and drain water fountains/features
  • Remove bird baths and turn over containers that can hold water

Eliminate potential shelter for rats

  • Keep your home and yard tidy to discourage rats
  • Control grasses, weeds, shrubs and bushes, especially those close to your house
  • Keep wood piles or other materials away from walls and at least 30 cm (1 ft) off the ground

Keeping rats out of your home

  • Rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter.
  • Seal all holes and cracks in foundations, walls, floors, windows, etc.
  • Make sure rats cannot climb into pipes and other exhausts around the outside of your home by covering pipes and vents with a fine mesh metal screening

Rat poisons and traps

  • Store in their original containers with the label and instructions, away from children, pets, wildlife and livestock
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions
  • Place rat bait in areas where children or pets can't get to it
  • It is always advisable to seek professional help from a licensed pest control company

For more information, contact Region of Peel-Public Health at (905) 799-7700.

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Revised: July 05, 2018


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