Are London’s rodent worries rat-ional?

Rat near drainage pipes

Rats live in every city, most of the time out of sight, with the stereotypical view of a rat being something that lives in the sewers, occasionally scuttling down a road at night. However, while the saying “you’re never more than six feet away from a rat” might be something of an exaggeration, there’s certainly an issue of rat overpopulation in certain cities, with London being among the worst affected.

How bad is London’s rat problem?

Before we put a number on the amount of rats in London, an interesting and somewhat concerning statistic is that London’s councils have received over 100 complaints about rats and mice a day for the last 5 years. Since 2012, approximately 186,000 reports regarding rats have been logged across various London boroughs. The top five areas with the most complaints are:

  • Tower Hamlets – 30,000
  • Brent – 19,978
  • Camden – 13,558
  • Lambeth – 13,357
  • Ealing – 12,240

The number of complaints has increased by 10% in the past financial year, and it shows no sign of slowing down. But why is it that London seems to be such a haven for rats?

Cities offer ample opportunity for rats to find food, water and shelter, which is why they flock to urban areas more so than rural ones. As London is so vast, there’s no shortage of space for rats to inhabit, and they certainly seem to know that.

What are the dangers of having a rodent infestation?


Having a rodent infestation in your property is more than just worrying about crossing paths with a rat. Rats harbour diseases, and those diseases can be passed onto humans if the appropriate action is not taken in dealing with an infestation. The diseases that can be passed on from rats include:

Leptospirosis – This can be fatal to humans. It’s passed on when contaminated rat urine or feces comes into contact with mucus membranes. Symptoms of this disease, also known as Weil’s disease, include headaches, fever, vomiting, muscle aches and rashes.

Salmonellosis – Both wild and domestic rats can carry this disease. Spread in the same way as leptospirosis, the symptoms of it are mainly gastrointestinal – severe stomach cramps and fever. In some cases, if the bacteria is allowed to enter the bloodstream, serious long term problems can develop.

Rat-bite Fever – A self-explanatory name, fever can spread upon being bitten by a rat, but it can also be contracted through coming into contact with rat urine and feces. If not treated quickly and properly, it can become serious and even fatal.

Plague – Centuries ago, the plague was rife and it meant certain death for anyone who contracted it. Today, antibiotics will usually deal with the disease. Symptoms include chills, weakness, fever and swollen lymph nodes.

Structural damage

As well as posing a risk to our health, rats can also present a hazard to the structural integrity of our properties. Their strong teeth and relentless appetite for chewing means that they can cause a fair bit of damage and create further risks, including:

Flooding – Rats can puncture pipes, and punctured pipes can lead to leaks, which in turn can lead to flooding.

Fire – If a rat chews through the insulation on electrical wiring, the exposed wire then poses a fire risk.

Death – If a rat chews through your gas pipes, the outcome could be fatal. Gas leaks are extremely dangerous and volatile, and they also might not be immediately noticeable.

How can I find out if I have a rat problem?

There are several telltale signs of a rat problem in a property, and they’re easy to spot if you’re on the lookout.

Droppings – rat droppings are similar in shape to a grain of rice. If you spot droppings and you know they’re not from your pet, then you may have a rat infestation.

Rub/scratch marks – the grease and dirt on rats will transfer to walls and skirting boards when they brush past them. Black rats in particular are very good climbers, so you may hear them scuttling around in your loft or in your roof from time to time.

Footprints – you’ll be able to spot a rat footprint in a dusty area of your property – dusty areas are likely to be less-used, which is why rats may favour them.

Rat problems can befall any property, but if you do discover that you have some unwanted guests, the problem can be swiftly remedied. Simply get in touch with Express Drainage Surveys and we’ll be able to help. We can use CCTV technology to see how rats got into your home (this often happens where a defective pipe has allowed rats in), fix the problem and even install a rat blocker to stop future infestations.