They inhabit blocks of flats in north Amsterdam, you practically trip over them on the Kanaleneiland in Utrecht and the Albert Heijn in Valkenswaard had to close for a while because of them. Rats are a pest in Dutch cities. According to Bastiaan Meerburg, rodent expert at Livestock and Environment, there are things we can do about it.
How dangerous are all those city rats?
‘What most Dutch people are afraid of is that rats spread pathogens. But the biggest risk is fire because they gnaw through electric cables. The risk of disease is greater in developing countries because there is more contact between people and rats on the streets.’
But a rat in a supermarket is pretty close too isn’t it?
‘That’s why the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority made the AH do such a thorough cleanup. A supermarket only has to leave a container of unsold bread half open, and it could spark off a plague of rats.’
Do you expect a rat plague in Wageningen?
‘Rats live close to humans so it’s possible. But we can reduce the risks by not throwing food waste onto the streets. And don’t feed ducks because then there’s a big chance that a rat will enjoy some of the bread too. You get a big plague of rats if the sewers collapse because the rats go in search of other hiding places. If you see rats frequently, call the municipality because they have a legal obligation to prevent rat plagues.’
‘How do we prevent rats getting into our houses?
‘Seal cracks and don’t leave doors and windows open unnecessarily. Above all, don’t leave leftover food lying around. If they are already in your neighbourhood you can set rat traps. Use peanut butter as bait because that gives off a strong smell that stands out from the rest of the surroundings. You sometimes have to leave those traps for a couple of weeks before a rat bites. Because rats are very cautious, unlike mice, which love anything new.’