Effective Rat Control: Understanding and Managing Behaviour


Effective Rat Control: Understanding and Managing Behaviour

 As the saying goes, ‘You’re never more than 6ft away from a rat’, and while this is a slight exaggeration, rats remain persistent pests in both urban and rural areas. They are known for their adaptability, resilience, and ability to give you a jump-scare if you see them scurrying about your property. At Adaptive Pest Control, we adhere to another well-known quote; ‘Know Thine Enemy’. Understanding rat behaviour and habits is the first step in developing effective strategies to control their populations and minimise their impact. 


Rats: Recognising Problems and Solutions 

Unless you’re the Pied Piper of Perth, chances are your rat knowledge is fairly basic. To address the challenges rats can present, it’s important to consider how they thrive and what attracts them to specific environments.  


Rats are not just nuisances; they carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans and animals. Their destructive behaviour can also cause extensive damage to buildings and contaminate food and water. So, let’s explore rats’ behaviour and look at some practical strategies for rat control 


The Local Species 

In Australia, the most common rat species include the black rat (Rattus rattus) and the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), also known as the Norway rat. These rats are not native to Australia (or Norway, which makes the name a bit of a headscratcher). Additionally, for some home-grown talent, there are native rodent species such as the bush rat (Rattus fuscipes) and the water rat (Hydromys chrysogaster).  

 The black rat and the brown rat are the most likely to be considered pests. However, in certain situations, such as when their habitats overlap with human settlements, bush and water rats can occasionally cause localised issues. 


Behaviour and Control  

By delving into a rat’s lifestyle and preferences, we can develop strategies to prevent the potential hazards they pose to health and property. 


Nocturnal Patterns 

  • Behaviour: Rats are nocturnal creatures, preferring to scuttle about under the cover of darkness. This is driven by their instinct to avoid predators and exploit food sources when there is less competition. Their keen sense of smell guides them to food, and they constantly need to gnaw to keep their teeth from overgrowing.  
  • Control: Just because you don’t see anything during the day doesn’t mean you’re all clear. Regularly inspect your property for signs of rat activity, such as droppings, gnaw marks, or burrows. Listen for scratching, scurrying, or gnawing sounds from walls, ceilings, or floors, especially after dark. Use a variety of traps, such as snap traps, live traps, or electronic traps, baited with foods like peanut butter, nuts, or dried fruit. Place traps along known rat pathways or near nesting sites if you suspect an infestation. 


Feeding Habits 

  • Behaviour: Rats are opportunistic feeders, eating various food items. While they prefer grains, seeds, and fruits, they are omnivores and will scavenge through garbage for scraps or prey on smaller animals. Their enormous appetite and ability to gnaw through packaging make them a persistent nuisance in homes and businesses. 
  • Control: The prompt disposal of garbage and keeping clean surroundings are essential for reducing potential food sources for rats. Look for signs of food packaging that has been gnawed or torn open and bite marks on stored food items. Storing food in rodent-proof containers will help prevent access to edible items in the kitchen. Make sure to also clean your pet’s food dishes and try removing any edible fruits in the garden so they are not temptations.  


Social Structure 

  • Behaviour: Rats exhibit a complex social structure. They are highly social animals, living in colonies dominated by a hierarchical system. Within these colonies, communication includes vocalisations, scent marking, and body language.  
  • Control: If you’ve seen one rat, you will likely have more nearby. Rats often travel along the same paths repeatedly, leaving greasy smudge marks or footprints behind. Look for these marks along walls, baseboards, or in dusty areas. If rats are squeaking out a conversation in the area, pay attention to your pets’ behaviour. Your goldfish will remain oblivious, but dogs and cats may show signs of agitation or interest in certain areas. As well as alerting you to rats, owning larger pets may also discourage them from settling in a home.  



  • Behaviour: Rats are prolific breeders, with females capable of producing multiple litters yearly. Their rapid reproductive rate allows their populations to grow incredibly quickly. Gestation periods are relatively short, and offspring reach sexual maturity quickly. Teen mums are a common occurrence in the rat community.  
  • Control: Try to remove clutter as it provides hiding spots and nesting sites. Rats build nests using various materials, including shredded paper, fabric, insulation, and plant matter. Check dark, secluded areas such as attics, crawl spaces, and behind appliances for nests or nesting materials. Bait stations can be deployed to lure rats and deliver toxic baits in areas where they are suspected. Just make sure to read any instructions for rodenticides to avoid harm to pets or other wildlife.  


Habitat Preferences  

  • Behaviour: Rats are adaptable creatures capable of thriving in a variety of environments. However, they tend to be more attracted to areas with more shelter, food, and water. Typical habitats include sewers, basements, attics, and areas with dense vegetation. They are also annoyingly good at squeezing through small openings. 
  • Control: Rats hate a clean and clutter-free home. We’ve already looked at modifying environments to make them less attractive food-wise. You will also have to try preventing rats from gaining entry. This may involve repairing cracks in walls, floors, and foundations and installing door sweeps and weather stripping to close gaps around doors and windows. In gardens, try to thin out areas thick with plants to avoid giving rats places to hide and nest outdoors.  



  • Behaviour: Neophobia refers to the fear rats may have of interacting with new objects or changes in their environment. This behaviour evolved as a survival mechanism to protect rats from potential threats in their surroundings. It causes rats to avoid or become wary of control measures such as traps or baits. 
  • Control: Introduce control measures gradually to increase their effectiveness and reduce rat avoidance. Acclimate rats to the presence of traps or baits in their environment. Start by placing unset traps or bait stations without activating them. This allows rats to investigate new objects without experiencing immediate consequences. You can also rotate your bait combinations to help prevent bait resistance. 


Rat Control with APC 

Despite your best efforts, you may still be unsure about the severity of your rat problem and how best to deal with it. At Adaptive Pest Control we can provide expertise, specialised equipment, and targeted interventions to address your issues effectively. So, get in touch today!