Rats are one of the world’s most common (and damaging) pests. No matter where you live, you are almost certain to encounter one at some point in your life, especially if you live in a heavily urbanized area.
Rat infestations can cause a lot of problems, and not just because of their potential to spread diseases. These rodents may have tiny teeth, but their bite is surprisingly strong and they’re able to gnaw through most building materials. Their teeth can overcome wood, glass and even some types of concrete, often causing extensive damage to the structure of your home as they tunnel their way in. However, there are some materials even rats can’t get through, and these are your number one tool for rodent-proofing your house.
Why are rats so good at gnawing?
Gnawing is a normal and natural rodent behavior and is how rats keep their teeth healthy. In the wild, rodents would usually chew on twigs and bark but, in cities, it’s the materials that we use to construct our buildings that are often targeted.
Rats have the most powerful bite of all rodents and are able to chew their way through a surprising number of heavy-duty materials. But what is it about the anatomy of the rat that makes them such strong nibblers?
Studies into the bones and muscles that make up the rat’s jaw have found that these rodents have muscles that are specially adapted for highly effective gnawing and chewing.
This gives them a formidable bite that can overcome many of our modern building materials. As a creature that has evolved alongside humans, this adaption to our urban environment is probably one of the key reasons for the rat’s success as a species.
What can rats chew through?
The mighty bite of the rat can reduce many of our modern building materials to tatters. Materials that rats can chew through include:
- Some (weak) types of concrete (e.g. cinder blocks)
- Soft metals, like aluminum sheeting
What can rats not chew through?
Fortunately, the rats don’t have us beat just yet, and there are some materials their teeth can’t get through. These are your best chance for a completely rat-proof home and include:
- Solid concrete
- Hard metal
How to use rat-resistant materials to rodent-proof your home
Rat-proof your floors
Rats can chew through some weaker types of concrete (like cinder blocks), but even their powerful teeth can’t overcome solid concrete. If your house has a solid concrete foundation, it’s very unlikely that rats will be able to get in through the floor. Installing stone flooring can also stop them in their tracks, as can some types of metal tiling.
Block all holes and gaps
Rats may be able to chew through most things, but they often don’t need to work that hard to get into your house. They can squeeze in through surprisingly tiny holes, and the average house has dozens of potential entry points that they can walk right through.
Sealing your home against rats goes far beyond simply remembering to keep your windows and doors closed. To shut our rats for good, you need to make a thorough inspection of the exterior of your house and seal every possible entry point you can find, no matter how small.
Common entry points include the openings around pipes, electric wires, vents, and drain spouts, and the cracks and gaps around windows, doors, and screens.
Wherever you find a hole, block it off using wire mesh, steel wool or caulk. A mixture of steel or copper wool and caulk is best for sealing holes, as the combined strength of these two materials makes it very difficult for rodents to gnaw through.
Other top tips for keeping rats out of your house
The easiest way to deal with a rodent infestation is to prevent it. A well-integrated pest control plan will minimize your risk of pests (rodent, insect and otherwise), and should include:
Rats and other pests often target kitchens, where food and water sources are plentiful. Keeping your kitchen clean is, therefore, one of the most important parts of integrated pest control. Clean up all spills, crumbs and cooking utensils immediately, and don’t neglect the spaces behind and beneath appliances.
Strict food hygiene
Food should always be stored properly to avoid drawing in pests.
Perishables should be refrigerated, and non-perishables should be stored in sealed containers.
Food waste should also be disposed of in sealed bags or containers, and spills should be cleaned up immediately.
Good trash management
An overflowing, reeking trash can is a glowing beacon to hungry rodents, and a guaranteed way to tempt them to your house. Empty your kitchen trash regularly and make sure all garbage cans (both inside and outside the house) have lids that close and seal securely.
Monitoring possible entry points
If you have identified an entry point that you cannot completely block, the next best thing is to monitor the area for rodent activity. This allows you to act at the first sign of rats, so you can get rid of them before they form an infestation or do any serious damage. The easiest way to monitor for rats is to set up rat traps with baits near possible entry points and check them regularly for signs of interference.
Rats have a special skill that sets them apart from other rodents, and it’s their extraordinary bite. Unlike most rodent species, the rat can gnaw its way through a wide range of man-made materials, including aluminum sheet metal, plastic and even some types of concrete.
This makes defending our homes from rats even more complicated, and it sometimes seems as if nothing can keep them out. However, there are some materials that the rat still can’t overcome, and can be used to reinforce our houses against a rodent invasion. Solid concrete, stone, and metal are all rat-resistant materials which, when used in flooring, can help to rat-proof buildings. Steel wool can also make it tricky for rats to get in and, when mixed with caulk, is an excellent material for sealing rodent entry points around your home.