SUPER-sized rats have been spotted on the streets of Southampton, according to the city’s pest controllers.
Rats have been gorging on takeaway leftovers and rubbish spilling out of bins, and as a result growing to the size of cats.
It is thought the recent flooding has forced the rodents into more urban areas where they have been feasting on scraps they are finding in the streets.
Now Southampton pest controller Sean Whelan has warned traditional methods of exterminating them are not as effective due to their sheer bulk.
Mr Whelan, who runs the Netley-based Whelan Pest Prevention, said: “They are as big as a small cat.
“We do see big rats in Southampton and they are certainly getting bigger.
“There are a number of houses in town that used to be three or four-bedroom homes. But now they are student properties instead of families living in a big property.
“It means you have four individuals living in one house, so that’s four bins, and it means you get bags falling on to the street and food falling on to the pavement.
“The more they eat, the bigger they will get.”
He added that he believed twice weekly bin collections in some areas were also to blame.
Recently he caught a super-rat on the streets of Liverpool, where he also runs a pest control business, and claims his firm has seen an overall 15 per cent increase in rat infestation call-outs over the past year.
Mr Whelan said super-rats are common in agricultural areas but the wet weather at the beginning of the year may have forced the rodents into the city.
He previously warned the mutant super-rats in Hampshire are immune to regular poison after a survey among councils revealed the number of rats infesting Hampshire has rocketed in recent years.
Giant rats spreading into cities was predicted by Professor Robert Smith, a scientist at the University of Huddersfield, who found that rats in Hampshire had a mutant gene that helps them develop a resistance to poison.
He said it was only a matter of time before super-rats marched into our cities and invaded neighbouring counties.
Mr Whelan said it could become necessary to petition the European Union and the government allowing pest controllers to use stronger bait.
“I have been doing this job for 23 years and I still jump when I see one. Just because they are bigger doesn’t mean it’s going to attack you.
“We have always had rats – they are not killer rats but if you see one take a note of where you saw it and report it to your local authority or pest control company.”
Councillor Jacqui Rayment, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet member for environment and transport, declined to comment.