Safety and first aid

Protect your health – keep rats under control

Why are rats and mice such a health risk to the community?

Around the world, rats and mice are known to spread over 35 diseases that can infect both people and pets, including:

  • plague
  • salmonellosis
  • leptospirosis
  • tularemia.

These diseases can be passed on by:

  • direct contact such as rat bites
  • unsafe handling and disposal of infected dead rats
  • eating food or drinking water contaminated with:
    • rat urine
    • faeces
    • saliva
    • hair
  • breathing dust contaminated with the urine and faeces of infected rats.

Diseases can also be transferred indirectly by ticks, fleas, and mites that live on infected rats.

Through their natural behaviours, rats can weaken building structures by:

  • gnawing through lead and aluminium sheeting
  • chewing through electrical wiring, which can start fires by shorting-out appliances or lighting fixtures.

How can I discourage rats from my property?

Rats normally come out at night.

Signs you may have an infestation of rats or mice include:

  • droppings (12 mm to 18 mm long)
  • added debris such as snail shells or fruits with the sides eaten out
  • bones left in the corners of sheds, under homes and other secluded spots
  • greasy trails or rub marks along paths they travel, especially supports or beams
  • burrow holes around buildings
  • signs of gnawing damage
  • pet dogs, cats and birds being more excitable than usual
  • squeaking, gnawing or scratching noises in walls, cupboards, ceilings and under floors.

Rats can be discouraged and controlled simply by denying them food and shelter:

  • Store firewood away from the sides of sheds and fences and keep it well clear (40 cm) off the ground.
  • Regularly remove or limit garden waste or other disused material in sheds or around your yard.
  • Remove fruit and nuts from trees or vines at the end of the season.
  • Block holes and other potential access points around all buildings.
  • Store bird seed and chicken feed in an airtight container.
  • Keep pet food dishes clean and store bulk pet food supplies in containers and locations where rats cannot enter or chew through.
  • Maintain rubbish and compost bins free from holes.
  • Do not include meat scraps in compost.

What should I do if I have rats on my property?

Property occupiers and owners are required under the Health Act 1911 to prevent rats harbouring on their property.

Talk to you neighbour about the rats on your property as they may have the same problem. Rats may also be breeding on their property and may be the source of the rat problem.

Rats found on your property should be destroyed by one of the methods indicated below.

Report any signs or sightings of rats to your local government environmental health officer (external site). If you cannot control them yourself, seek their advice on control measures.

How can I destroy rats on my property?

Poison baits are the most successful way to destroy rats. Many brands are available in retail shops.

Some local governments supply poison rat baits free of charge to ratepayers.

Always read the instructions carefully and make sure children and pets cannot reach them.

Check baits regularly and replace them if they have been eaten. If you are dealing with a large rat problem you may initially need to check and replace baits daily. A rat can eat a whole box of rat bait in one night.

Traps are another way to control rats. The old-fashioned spring back-break trap is still the best trap for home use but a plastic capture box may also be used. Try different types of bait including:

  • bacon
  • fish
  • nuts
  • peanut butter
  • apple
  • pumpkin seed
  • sausage.

More information

For further advice please contact:

Remember

  • Around the world, rats and mice are known to spread over 35 diseases.
  • Diseases can also be transferred indirectly by ticks, fleas, and mites that live on infected rats.
  • Rats can be discouraged and controlled simply by denying them food and shelter.

Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Link to HealthyWA Facebook page