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How Good is a Rat’s Sense of Smell? – Terminix UK

Author: Simon Purchon

Everybody has heard the phrase “I smell a rat,” when false play is suspected, but what does a rat smell and how good is a rats sense of smell?

Do Rats Have a Good Sense of Smell?

Apparently so, research carried out by Harvard University shows that rats are highly sensitive to smells. We have all heard of Sniffer Dogs, but Sniffer Rats in fact also exist with some species having been trained to detect specific odours that relate to land mines and even tuberculosis.

Can We Use This Strong Sense of Smell to Deter Them?

There are some scents that apparently repel rats according to Harvard Medical School. They found that rats would instinctively avoid a chemical compound called 2-phenylethlyamine that occurs naturally in the urine of carnivores.

Which while is interesting, it is not a viable solution to deter rats as no-one would want their home or their business being saturated in fox urine just to keep the rats out! Imagine what the neighbours or even your customers would think?

The compound Trimethylamine will also apparently deter rats. However, the downside is this is even more offensive to the human sense of smell. Trimethylamine is a component found in rotting fish. So also, not a solution here.

There are also various other less offensive products that that have been used to deter rodents with varying levels of success, such as peppermint oil.

What Smells Attract Rats?

Rats communicate with each other using scent. Scientists have found female rats are attracted to the pheromone of male rats, meaning female rats will be drawn to the scent of a potential mate.

But it is the attractive smells of food that is the key driver for foraging rodents. Rats will act much like us humans being tempted by the smell of a food outlet. And similar to humans, individual rats can favour different foods at different times.

So it is very important to keep your house clean, ensuring all floors, equipment and worktops are maintained free of spillages, crumbs and residues. It is advisable to store opened foods in your cupboards such as cereals or bread in tightly sealed containers, and remember not to leave any pet food out at night.

Critically important also is ensuring food waste and rubbish stored outside is placed in lidded bins.

Pest technicians will use their knowledge and skills to attract rodents to monitoring and control devices, such as traps and poisons. There are much more attractive baits and scents to use than cheese these days!

Other than remove or protect food sources what else can you do to make you home less appealing to rats?

  1. Keep the outside of your property tidy, do not provide rats with ideal nesting locations that they can easily consider calling home
  2. Seal holes or cracks that are larger than 12 cm in diameter to deny rats from gaining easy access to your home
  3. Install brush strips to the base of external doors to deny access
  4. Keep tree branches, vines and vegetation trimmed away from your house as these provide easy ways to climb and find access points at high level

For more facts about rats click here.

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