Rats! - are there more, or are we just noticing them because of lockdown

There have been a number of news paper claims that we are seeing a rat population explosion in the UK since lockdown. But is this true and should we be worried for our families, our pets and ourselves?

In the News 
We all know the newspapers love to make a small story into a big one and anything that isn’t directly about Covid-19 is always going to get some space at the moment but is there any truth behind it? The claims are fairly simple, they are suggesting the during lockdown rat and mice numbers are on the rise. This is because of a much higher number of sightings and pest control companies reporting a higher number of call outs.

Mark Stanford from Empire Pest Control Says

“We are definitely seeing an increase of Rats being sighted in residential properties, I would say that has been the largest increase in our work for some time”

So the claim that call outs are up is certainly backed up by the industry. But what is the cause and what does it mean for our families and homes?

More Rats or more Visibility
There is a valid question here, are there more rats and mice or are we just noticing them more because we have been stuck indoors for months? It is certainly possible that we are becoming hyper aware of our surroundings during lockdown and that nature is very happy to move back in once we stop making so much noise and mess. So, we may just being noticing our furry friends a little more and because of less people being around they are becoming more confident and able to browse in daylight hours.

More Rats or Less Mess
Another factor that could be at play here is the fact that during lockdown we, as a population, we are leaving far less mess around the place. Bins were no longer overflowing with kebab boxes after a night of revelry, empty chip wrappers are not being left on benches, restaurant bins are not being filled so fast and generally there would have been a lot less food about for animals likes rats, mice, foxes and even seagulls. So, what do our furry friends do when there is less food? They look elsewhere and that has possibly meant they are turning to our gardens, garages and bins for something to eat.

Mark Stanford again
“It might have something to do with no tourist trade, restaurants being closed so no food waste being left about and the rats food source has been reduced to nothing, the lack of activity in London has also given them free rein to move around during the day without being disturbed”

There are two good points here, the lack of activity means city centres and towns are not as scary for animals to come out and move around. But also, the lack of tourism, pubs, clubs, nights out, days at the beach and more have left the refuse-based scavengers with nothing to eat.

The Numbers
Due to lockdown and other factors we don’t really have accurate population figures, so it is a bit of guess work. But the general feeling is that the numbers are not likely to be up when food sources are down. What we are seeing is a change in behaviour in response to lockdown added to the fact we are bored and staring out the window and seeing more animals in general.

What Does This Mean for Us?
Well, from a family point of view it does mean we all need to be a bit more aware of a pest that has been nearby all along. The usual rules apply, keep food in solid containers if there is any access from the outside like a garage or even a utility. Be aware of any droppings, scratch marks or nibbles boxes, blankets etc. Rats and mice can spread diseases, so they really are not something we want around. While they don’t pose a direct threat in terms of attack a cornered rat might make a run at a child so its best not to be in that position but its highly unlikely. The populations are probably not exploding and they are not about to take over the world but it is very interesting how a change in our behaviour in a short time can have results we would never have thought of.


  1. I'v seen rats too - only just recently!

  2. We had them about 6 months ago in our garage and outside understair cupboard

  3. Can't remember the last time I saw a rat. We do see the occasional field mouse though...

  4. i live near a huge food production factory--and the rat population is huge