Garbage shortage driving rats indoors

Garbage is the main source of food for rats (CNW Group/Abell Pest Control Inc)

TORONTO – The rats are coming.

With Covid-19 causing restaurants, hotels and other industries to close or slow operations down, there is less garbage on the streets waiting for pickup. For rats, this means their daily smorgasbord or leftover delights has become scarce.

In a recent National Geographic article, Bobby Corrigan, a well-known rodentologist who specializes in urban rats, said “as particular colonies of rats lose their established food sources — whether it’s litter and trash cans in parks, or dumpsters outside restaurants — they will start fighting over any food that’s left… Others will strike out into the unknown, looking for new food sources.”

“Rats can enter homes and buildings under door gaps, cracks in foundations or gaps around pipes. A determined rat can squeeze its way into an opening of only one inch — that’s about the size of a quarter,” says Dusana Bondy, quality assurance auditor at Abell Pest Control.

During Canada’s Covid-19 pandemic, Abell Pest Control has seen a 50 percent increase in rat-related calls compared to 2019, with most inquiries coming from urban centres like Toronto, Halifax, Winnipeg, Montreal, Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver.

“The most important reason to keep rats outdoors is their disease-carrying ability. Pathogens such as salmonella and e. coli can be transmitted via rats and these are very dangerous for humans to be exposed to. As rats scurry around forced to find new food sources, home and business owners must know how to prevent them from getting inside,” says Bondy.

The key is to inspect buildings for holes on the exterior and seal them carefully. Keep yards and parking lots clear of clutter and debris where rats can hide.

Inside, don’t attract rats by leaving food out. Keep a clean kitchen and store food tightly and securely. Ensure that staff are following god food hygiene practices and not taking food to areas other than common eating areas.

“For restaurant owners and other businesses, especially during times of closure when rats can move around unnoticed, it’s important to keep on top of your pest control,” added Bondy.

“The last thing anybody wants to be dealing with during this pandemic is a rat infestation to add to an already stressful time.”