Rats chew pipes because they’re poisoned – or not?
We sometimes get asked about rodent baits and water. Clients have been told, or have read, that poison baits make rats and mice thirsty and that they will gnaw pipes to get at the water to drink.
Well, this is not strictly true. This is one of those stories that sounds plausible, does have some truth but basically reaches the wrong conclusions.
Rats will chew water pipes but it’s not simply because they’re looking for water. It’s because they have to. Rodents’ teeth grow continuously, and they need to constantly chew on stuff to keep their incisors at a manageable length.
Rats are monophyodonts, so they only have one set of teeth for life, unlike humans who have two sets of teeth: ‘baby’ teeth and ‘adult’ teeth. Rats, like many rodents, have incisors that never stop growing.
In fact, that’s how they get their name. Rodents have open-rooted dentition, meaning that their teeth grow continuously throughout their lives. Rats have two incisors on top and two on the bottom of their mouths.
Why do rats chew on things?
These incisors continue to grow and curve at a rate of more than two millimeters per week and if allowed to grow without being gnawed down would form a spiral with an angle of 86°, which is why rats chew on water pipes.
But it’s not just your water pipes at risk from these horrible, gnawing, disease spreading-vermin (no, I don’t like rats). Rats will chew through anything, literally. From much-loved books to boxes filled with precious photographs to wooden beams in your roof, copper piping, electrical wires, thin glass and plastics. Rats can even chew their way through uncured concrete.
Rats’ incisors are harder than iron, platinum and copper. When measured on the Mohs hardness scale, rat teeth rank 5.5. Diamond is a 10.
Rats in your roof
Vermin don’t need much of an invitation to move in, particularly over winter when rats are looking for food and shelter from the colder weather. Despite the fact there is no handy food or water in your ceiling space, rats will move in there because it’s a nice warm, dry place for a nest. If you do hear scurrying noises in the middle of the night, it most probably will be rats, and you’ll need to get rid of them fast.
Rats are determined stubborn little creatures and can present serious flooding and fire risks to your property by gnawing through electrical wiring, damaging insulation and chewing through water pipes. If water pipes are close to anything electricity-related it is even more dangerous – electrics and water never make for a great combination.
Chewed water pipes also mean the threat of disease is increased. Rats carry disease in urine and faeces; leptospirosis, for example, is commonly passed on via rat urine. Disease borne by rats can be found in the water from water pipes damaged or chewed through by rats.
Rodent drinking problems
Almost all rodent baits contain an anti-coagulant which do have a slight tendency to make rats and mice thirsty, but rats do not need a lot of water and they are likely to find water in their usual place – condensation and dew are likely to be enough for them. Mice normally get all their water from the food they eat.
We get asked whether water should be left out to prevent rats from chewing on water pipes, but we think doing so would be unlikely to influence whether rats will gnaw at your water pipes. The baits we use are not fast-acting; they take several days to begin to take effect and the idea that anti-coagulants make rodents start gnawing pipes in search of water is a bit of an ‘old wives’ tale’. They generally feel too lethargic.
Should you leave water out if you hear rodents in the roof or walls?
Well, although it sounds counter-intuitive, it could be a good idea. By providing them with an easy-to-find water source before we arrive to exterminate them could help remove their motivation to chew your water pipes to get a drink and hopefully, they’ll gnaw through something else instead.
The point is that it is important to call us promptly to reduce the risk of damage to pipes and cables caused by rats and their gnawing habits.
Auckland rat busters
If you have any questions about rodents or want to know more about rats and why they do stuff like chew on water pipes, simply call us on 0800 546454. We’re here to help.
Fast, discreet rat eradication
Our pest control technicians will talk to you about where you think the rats might be getting into your house or business premises. They will then carry out a thorough inspection and decide on the best eradication approach. It may be bait or traps, depending on your preference. We will always make a return visit to check on stations and rebait if necessary.