A PLAGUE of starving "cannibal" rats have been invading homes through toilets by swimming up drains in a hunt for food.
The hungry and aggressive rodents have even been eating each other to survive after restaurants closed in lockdown.
With Britain’s high streets shut and less discarded food on the streets, the vermin have turned elsewhere.
More than half of UK rat catchers have reported a spike in rodent activity since lockdown restrictions began in March, the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) said.
And some rodents, measuring up to 18-inches in length, are said to be engaged in “rat wars” as they gather together in “colonies” and attempt to take over rival turf.
Robert Stewart, a retired vehicle builder from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, blames fly-tipping for the rat infestations.
The 68-year-old told StokeSentinel: “There's a big problem with rats, some people have even had them in their yard.
“It's the fly-tipping that attracts the vermin. You get morons who don't give a damn who just sling their rubbish into an alley and then foxes rip the bags open. It's not what you want.”
Mike Flynn, from Alpha Pest Control, said he believes rats have adapted their behaviour to survive as they scrabble for food while restaurants remain shut.
He said: “There has definitely been a change in behaviour with the rats over lockdown.
“Previously people would throw their takeaway cartons on the road or in car parks but now people are at home more.
“The rats are getting more brazen and desperate so are heading into people’s houses.
“There’s also been a rise in cannibalistic rats. I had caught one in a trap the other day and when we went back to it was just the bare bones. Another rat had feasted on it.”
He added: “They will usually come in through the bathroom or kitchen.
“They are often seen in toilets. A telltale sign is if it looks like someone has poured dirty mop water down the loo.
“They can live around us quite happily.”
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BPCA technical officer Natalie Bungay said: “With less footfall across cities and towns there is less associated food waste being left in bins and on the floor.
“As a result, rat populations are likely to move further afield to satisfy their need for a food source and this, in turn, is likely to cause more sightings.
“In terms of rats in domestic homes, so long as you manage your food waste properly and there are no considerable harbourage opportunities, you shouldn’t experience any unusual problems.
“The risk may be that if you find you are doing more gardening and creating more garden waste, the storage of this in piles around your garden can provide a perfect place for rats to live and breed.”