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2020 - The Year of the Rat


I always thought the greeting for Chinese New Year was “gong hei fat choy”; it turns out I’ve been wrong all this time. That greeting doesn’t mean “Happy New Year”, in fact it is commonly used throughout the year and it wishes prosperity upon the person you are talking to!

Why am I writing about the Chinese New Year?

Firstly, it is fast approaching and in a multicultural country it is a good idea to have some idea as to when other people celebrate important days in their calendar. For reference, it is on 25th January.

Secondly, the upcoming year is the Year of the Rat!

The Rat is counted as the first of all zodiac animals. According to myth, the order was decided when the Jade Emperor called a party - the order in which the animals arrived reflects the order of zodiacal animals. The Rat came first because he tricked the Ox into giving him a ride and then jumped off at the last minute and sprinted ahead. To learn more about the Chinese zodiacal rat, click here.

Chinese culture has traditionally seen rats as signs of wealth and surplus and, if you think about it, they are certainly good at optimising their resources. In addition, Chinese married couples who want children will often pray to them because of their ability to reproduce. 

This high reproduction rate is certainly something we know about in the pest control industry. In the last 72 hours alone, my Google Alerts have produced rat infestation stories in Jamaica, the USA, New Zealand, Scotland, and Bolton, Sheffield, and Liverpool in England. If you just follow the headlines you would think the world is being overrun with rats. 

Certainly, rats are on people’s minds. In the Philippines, a commentator has even drawn comparisons between President Trump and the Pied Piper of Hamelin, naturally enough because it is the Year of the Rat. 

Back in the world of real life, rats are certainly a major problem and one which we are regularly called out to deal with. Part of the problem is they are very good at exploiting our laziness. Unlike mice, they don’t like being in our homes but are not averse to moving in when their homes become uninhabitable. In case you hadn’t noticed, the last few months have been particularly wet and so many of their homes are now waterlogged. 

Rats are perfectly equipped to exploit our warm, dry homes. They can swim, so getting into your home through a u-bend, even one as small as 1-1 ½ inches, isn’t a problem. To watch a rat doing just this, watch this National Geographic video

They can also get through even the smallest holes, although the idea that they have a collapsible skeleton is just an urban myth. They are just very flexible and can easily exploit any weakness in your property’s defences. If the hole isn’t big enough, they can use their strong, ever-growing incisor teeth to make it bigger. These can gnaw through cinder blocks, wire, aluminium, concrete and even lead.

Finally, they have incredible memories and so, once they have found a route into your home, they won’t forget it!

How to keep rats out of your home.

Previously, we’ve published our seven simple steps to a rat-free home. To remind you, they are:

  1. Make sure food is stored in sealed containers to stop rodents getting a free meal. It will often be the prospect of an easy meal that first encourages rats and mice into your home
  2. Take care with bird feeders. We all like to feed the birds but they can be an easy source of food for rodents. We advise minimising the amount of residue that is left after the birds have fed
  3. Good bin management. Make sure all discarded food is put in bags inside durable bins with lids
  4. Gardens are a good source of food and nesting materials. Make sure they are clean and tidy with grass cuttings being bagged and removed. A working compost heap will create warmth and provide food, so make sure it is covered, away from the house and that it stays rodent-free
  5. Rats are climbers. People often forget how good rodents are at climbing. Make sure foliage, such as ivy and wisteria, is kept away from the walls of the house, or at least does not reach the roof line, as they will use it as a highway to the safety of the attic
  6. Remove sources of water. During winter this may be difficult, but a rat needs 60 millilitres of water a day. If sources of standing water are removed from the garden, this will encourage them to leave your property
  7. Check access. A mouse can get in through a gap the width of a pencil and a rat needs no more than a two-centimetre hole, so check air bricks and gaps around windows and doors to be sure they are protected. In addition, drains should have interceptors fitted to stop their use as routes into the house

If you find you have a persistent rat problem, our advice is to get professional help. As a study by the University of Reading has shown, rats are becoming immune to the effects of rodenticide. Part of the reason for this is that people are using these chemicals incorrectly and the rats are developing resistance to the chemicals. 

Oh yes, for those that are interested in what Chinese people really say to each other at New Year, apparently, in Mandarin, it’s xin nian (new year) kuai le (happy) - pronounced shin nee-an kwai le - according to The Sun.

We offer a range of services across the south of England to help keep your home free from rats. To contact us, click here.