Rats are more than just an annoyance. They can cause irreversible damage to your property — and even kill you. How? Not for the faint of heart, here are four ways a rat can kill you and what you can do to avoid that outcome.
1. Burning Down the House
Rats have a tendency to chew through electrical wiring, but they can even chew through bricks and lead pipes with their ridiculously sharp teeth. Why do they do this? A rat’s front teeth can grow 4.5 to 5.5 inches every year, so rats chew and gnaw on things to keep their teeth in check. So how can these razor-like teeth kill you?
Rats like to spend time in house attics, because hot air rises, making the attic a cozy environment. If a rat happens to chew through electrical cables near wood beams, a fire can start, and your house can burn down. Rats have also been known to chew through cables and wiring on appliances, causing electrical fires. Lastly, rats can and will chew through gas pipes, which can result in deadly fires.
2. Structural Damage
Because rats will chew through just about anything, they can cause costly—and dangerous—structural damage as well. In 2000 alone, rats caused a whopping $19 billion in economic damage in urban environments. Can you imagine how much damage they cause today?
Rats can gnaw through the structural wood framing of your house, including floor joists, headers, studs, and roof trusses. They’ll chew through sheetrock, soft concrete, and even your drywall. Basically, rats can and will chomp through your house to get where they want. Will this structural damage kill you? If a support beam falters and can’t support its load, yes, it’s possible your house could fall down around you.
3. Rat-Bite Fever
Rats spread disease through their saliva, but you don’t have to be bitten or scratched by an infected rat to get rat-bite fever (RBF). You can contract RBF by handling a rat with the disease or consuming food or liquids that infected rats have contaminated with the bacteria Streptobacillus moniliformis (in North America) or Spirillum minus (mostly in Asia). RBF acquired by consuming contaminated food or water is called Haverhill fever. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, and joint pain. Some of the more severe illnesses associated with RBF include infections of the heart, brain, lungs, and even abscesses in the internal organs. RBF is typically treated with antibiotics, but if it’s not treated, RBF can be fatal.
4. And other diseases ...
If you think RBF sounds bad, you’ll be even more disturbed to learn that rats can carry dozens of other dangerous and potentially fatal communicable diseases. Their dander, urine, and feces can also can cause dangerous allergic reactions. Some of the diseases rats are party to include:
Leptospirosis: This serious disease is contracted through exposure to infected rat urine. It can result in renal and liver failure, not to mention cardiovascular issues and even death, if untreated, as it did in the Bronx in 2017.
Typhus: Rats are hosts to fleas that can carry and transmit typhus and other diseases to humans.
Hantavirus: Hantavirus is acquired through breathing in dust contaminated with infected rat urine or droppings, through direct contact with infected rats or their urine or droppings, or by being bitten by an infected rat. The symptoms are often mistaken for flu, and this disease can be fatal if not treated right away.
Plague: You might think the plague went out with the Middle Ages, a time when tens of millions died from the disease, but it can still be acquired through bites from infected fleas or direct contact with an infected rat. According to National Geographic, more than 2,100 human cases were reported worldwide in 2003 and 180 deaths were recorded in that same year. In 2006, 50 people died from plague in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And included on the list of countries with human plague cases in recent years is the United States.
Although these might seem like extreme examples of how a rat can kill you, they’re all very real. They are also completely preventable. If you’re worried about rats on your property but want a humane solution to the problem, invest in A24 automatic rat traps. The A24 rodent solution automatically resets after each kill, works on rats and mice, kills rodents instantly using a CO2-powered striker, is toxin free and humane, and is long lasting.