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Rise in rat sightings in Singapore caused by higher rainfall, warmer temperatures, exposed food waste and improper trash disposal, say pest controllers

Pest management companies have received more complaints and enquiries for their services in the last few months.

Screenshot of rat on food tray at Tangs Market circulating on social media last year.
Screenshot of rat on food tray at Tangs Market circulating on social media last year. (Photos: Sgfollowsall/Instagram)

SINGAPORE – From being seen lying on a tray in an Orchard Road food court to chewing through the wiring of a car in Hougang, the number of rats sightings in Singapore have been on the rise in the last few months.

Local media outlet CNA reported on Wednesday (28 Feb) that pest controllers have seen increased complaints about rat sightings during the same time.

According to them, the reason behind this recent increase in rats is due to exposed food waste, improper trash disposal, and the hotter and wetter weather that Singapore is facing.

Other than more rats sightings, The Strait Times earlier reported that veterinarians have seen a rise in the number of cases of leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that affects both animals and humans, and is spread primarily through rodents’ urine.

When humans are infected, it leads to high fever and muscle pain, or in more severe cases, bleeding in the lungs and meningitis.

Why there have been more rats sighted in Singapore

Speaking to CNA, Hadi Hanafi, technical director of Innovative Pest Management, shared that an increase in rainfall can lead to burrows or nests that are underground or in low-lying areas flooding, causing rats out into the wild as they seek drier refuge.

He added that rodents usually live in areas of thick vegetation near markets or coffee shops as they can more easily find food scraps. Most of his company’s clients are those living in on the ground floor or residential building, and food and beverage outlets.

Another reason why rats have been spotted more frequently is because warmer temperatures speed up their metabolism, causing them to eat and breed more, said Hadi.

Other than in the outdoors, rodents can also be indoors in the forms of roof rats and house mice. According to The Straits Times, this is caused by inadequate waste management, poor housekeeping practice, or gaps and opening in walls.

Another reason for the increased number of rats spotted in public is their ability to multiply quickly. A female rate can give birth once they are eight to 12 weeks old and up to six times a year, with four to 12 babies each time.

“If you miss out the activities of just a pair of rats, you could be looking at potentially 1,200 of them within your vicinity in a year if you do not have the initial rodent control put in place,” Albert Lee, president of the Singapore Pest Management Association told CNA.

What makes it harder is that their breeding sites are not easily detected as they can hide in sewers basement, attics and even the space between service ducts. “These rats can hide unnoticed for months or years, said Lee.

Rats are also intelligent and adaptable creatures, which is why extermination even after their nests are located is not an easy task.

Deanne Baptisa, a manager at a local pest control agency, told The Straits Times that once, when she was working with a high-end shopping mall in Singapore, the rats seemed to know that they were targeting areas near food outlets in the mall.

“They relocated to the retails areas and built their nests above shops selling designer bags and luxury items,” said Baptisa.

Ensuring proper disposal of food waste and trash is highlighted by pest controllers as one of the simplest methods to decrease rat sightings
Ensuring proper disposal of food waste and trash is highlighted by pest controllers as one of the simplest methods to decrease rat sightings. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

How to keep the rats out and away

One of the easiest things that can be done to reduce the number of rat sightings according to pest controllers, is to ensure that food waste and other trash are properly disposed.

“Ensure that there’s always a covered bin around so that when waste food is thrown inside, it’s always best to have it covered so it prevents access to the rodents,” said Hadi.

Other measures, include keeping food in tightly sealed containers and sealing any gaps in walls, even those as small as a pinky, with concrete.

However, if there’s an infestation, professionals will be needed to get to the root of the problem, which is tackling the nests.

This includes using thermal imaging cameras and rodent monitoring stations to collect data and narrow down where high activity areas are, as well as regular visits by the pest busters to optimise the rat catching operations.

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