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Rat issues/questions

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Posted by Amy on 22:35:29 9/8/2009 from

I came across your site while researching rat issues online.
I live in a 75 year old house and we have always had issues with mice coming in for fall/winter. The past several years, however, there has been a rampant issue with rats in the area (there has been a lot of demolition in town - old factories that were empty for a couple years getting knocked down, etc.). The village did a widespread effort and set traps in every yard, etc. and seems to have helped most residents.
The back part of our home is a former 3 season porch that was converted into actual living space in the 50s or 60s. The main room is up a flight of stairs from ground level outside. The basement area below this room is an old coal room - I think part of the floor is dirt - with a door with a tiny (1/8 inch?) gap at the floor. Some of the shingles/siding in the back yard part were at ground level and starting to deteriorate, aided by rats clawing/chewing at it to get into the house.

This summer, we've had an epidemic of rats on our block. Here's my list of questions:
1) We set poison and they would basically take the poison in the yard and then crawl off to our coal room to die. So we were clearing out a smelly, disgusting dead rat every couple weeks. Several dead in the yard/garage as well. What are the health issues from having dead rats around our house? Never in main living areas, and upon finding them we removed and bleached the heck out of the area immediately. We have two young kids, and are concerned.
2) To remedy their entry points in the back of the house, my husband and brother dug a trench about 6 inches into the ground around the back of the house and removed the lowest 2 rows of shingles, then attached metal mesh/screen along the whole back of the house - down below ground level 6 inches and then in L shape out 6 inches into the yard. Inside, they reinforced the back coal room wall with 2x4s between the studs to shore up any open spaces where the wall had been eaten/scratched away. Does this sound like it will be effective in keeping them out from there?
3) In addition to the demolition of large older buildings in town, we also have the following in a one block radius (Actually, just about right next door): Unoccupied house, slightly falling apart, plus garage. These are next to a "greasy spoon" type diner. Just across the road from that is an abandoned tavern with apartment above that has been unoccupied for at least 5 years. Will these places basically be an endless supply of rats and food source for rats until they are all torn down?
4) We have not seen ANY evidence of rats/mice in our living areas upstairs. The coal room and along the walls of the basement (unfinished, storage for random stuff) are the only places we've seen droppings, and the bodies have all been in the coal room itself. Are we just missing the evidence upstairs in our living area? Or is it possible they are just sticking to the coal room and basement?

I cannot believe that we have been living with/dealing with this all summer long. I feel disgusted and have been in tears an awful lot because, come on, who lives with rats as a regular occurrence in their home? I just want to have a clear, safe spot in the basement where I can lay down a bit of carpet so the kids can play.

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