How Quickly Can Rats Infest a Home?

If you vacated your home today, how long would it take before rats gained control?

More so than humans, rats are extraordinarily adaptable. They can survive on virtually any food source. They tolerate hot and cold climates, and they have evolutionarily-advantageous lifespans of one to three years. Left unchecked, a single pair of rats can produce thousands of new rat descendants.

By their numbers alone, rats are in a prime position to overwhelm. But how long would it take for a few infiltrating rats in your home to turn into an uncontrollable number?

All It Takes is Two

Every rat infestation begins with a single pair of mating rats. One pair of rats can produce a litter of around 15 pups and after 3-4 months, the males and females in that litter become mature enough to mate.

If an average litter consists of a roughly even split between male and female rats, that creates the potential for over two thousand rat relatives from that original pair – in less than a year.

At those birth rates, it would seem that the rat population must be out of control and we can never be far from one, wherever we are. But in reality, there are “only” about 300,000,000 rats in the United States at any given time. The reason for that, and that reason why rats don’t immediately overrun every home they enter, is two-fold:

Resource competition and pest control measures.

So while a weekend away might be enough time for the rat population in your home to (technically) quadruple, it’s unlikely that your new guests would go unnoticed, or stick around in one place long enough to get out of hand – assuming you’re doing everything you can be to make sure they stay out, of course.

5 Rat Facts to Keep You Up At Night

Whatever you think of rats, there’s a reason why humans study them so closely. Here are some other facts about our furtive houseguests to get under your skin.

  1. If they didn’t wear them down by gnawing, rats front teeth can grow to around 5 inches.
  2. Not only have rats been able to spread to just about every corner of the earth by making space for themselves on ships, they can also tread water for days. And in case you were wondering, yes, they can, and do, enter homes through the plumbing.
  3. In 2006, a man in Petaluma was discovered to be hoarding around 1,300 rats in a small apartment.
  4. While not all of them do, rats are well-documented carriers of all kinds of diseases – including hantavirus, viral hemorrhagic fever, and of course – the plague.
  5. A group of rats is referred to as a mischief.

Keeping Rats From Entering Your Home

Especially in Portland, there are a few things every homeowner needs to do to keep rats from populating every nook and cranny of your home.

Rats only stay where there is food, or the opportunity to create a nest. Keeping your home clear of food is the first and most important line of defense against rats. No food? No rats. Unfortunately, sometimes a nearby food source that’s not in your home might mean you’re not actually the ones feeding them, but you are where they sleep. If that’s the case,  a cat may be worth considering to keep your home from going under rat rule.

If rats are actually entering your home, patch up potential entryways with steel wool. While you’re at it, don’t just stop at rats. To keep mice and other common pests in Portland away as well, look for any holes as small as a quarter inch.

You may not be able to stop them from existing, but you can prevent them from squatting in your home. If the preventative measures don’t seem to be working, and you think you’ve got a rat problem, call an extermination and pest control professional like the killers to take care of them.