They survived the bubonic plague and they will survive us unless we do something to stop them

 

The recent picture of a ‘four-foot rat’ took the internet and media by storm but, while it definitely wasn’t four feet long, it does serve to highlight the fact that, in general, British rats are a lot bigger than they used to be. So is this now going to be a problem for the UK?

When newspapers periodically publish photos of a rat they claim to be the biggest ever seen in the UK, it should be clear to anyone with a vague idea of what perspective is that, nine times out of ten, the rat is being held closer to the camera by the person supposedly providing scale. It therefore appears bigger than it actually is. This of course doesn’t suit media sources with the Daily Mail’s agenda for sensationalist, panic-mongering content, so these stories tend to spread like wildfire until sanity prevails.

While there’s no need to panic about rats the size of dachshunds running around all over Britain, there is evidence that they’re growing to larger sizes than previously. This isn’t ideal. Rats tend to carry diseases that can be passed on to us and also tend to become rather bold, turning our homes into their homes. Pest controllers around the country have been affirming this for a couple of years now and, worryingly, they’re also saying that these rats have become resistant to poison. Some even thrive off it, apparently.

Assuming that these pest controllers aren’t all part of a cabal and that they’re not tailoring their statements to boost the industry and buy holiday homes in Mallorca, the fact that they’re all reporting bigger rats, from Merseyside to Southampton, should be evidence enough that our furry friends are indeed increasing in size. Why is this, though?

More food waste means more vermin

As a country, we’ve become a lot more careless about leaving food waste lying around where rats can get at it. From the hundreds of half-eaten kebabs left strewn across pavements after a big night out to the rubbish left in back alleys that doesn’t get picked up, the rats of Britain aren’t short of five-star culinary options on any given night.

‘What do you fancy, Maurice? There’s a chip here with a bit of mayonnaise left on it’.

‘Mayonnaise on chips, Victor? How gauche. I’ve found a lovely apple core which should do very nicely to start with. You can still see a bit of white on it, look’.

Rather than acting as a combined chef and maître d’ for rats, it’s in everyone’s best interests to dispose of food waste responsibly. This means keeping it in the council-distributed containers and ensuring that the contents are taken by the bin collectors on the specified days. Keeping the containers off the floor may also be beneficial.

Floods

Additionally, the floods that have blighted various parts of the country periodically over the last few years have had the effect of forcing rats up from the sewers where they live out of sight and mind of humans. They don’t fancy learning the breaststroke and the front crawl, it will only get them so far, so they come up to the surface, realise how much better it is than the sewer (the aforementioned food waste playing a big part here) and bring all their friends.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about this unless you go out into the storm and try to drink as much rain as you can before it has a chance to do any damage. What you should do is make sure you call pest controllers as soon as you suspect you’ve got a rat using your house as its personal hotel. You might hear scratching in the walls at night or find droppings on the floor, which should make it fairly obvious. Don’t let the rat get its furry feet under the table — deal with it as soon as possible.

Are giant rats going to become a problem for the UK? They may do if they are allowed to continue unchecked — they will probably increase in size and in time may well reach the suspect ‘four-foot’ length currently being propagated by the media (who will then move on to the ‘six-foot’ rat). The best thing we can do is make sure we keep local populations down and ensure that we don’t put food in their mouths.