The number of rats in the UK has soared, posing a serious risk to public health, according to a study.
Litter and fly-tipping were blamed for the increased rodent population
Pest controllers reported a 39% increase in call-outs to deal with brown rats from 1999 to 2005.
And the 2006 National Rodent Survey found that during those summers call-outs jumped by 69%, when rats are usually less active in urban areas.
John Davison of the National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) said: "It's a grave problem."
The survey also found that the number of call-outs for mice and requests for treatment went up by 14% from 2004 to 2005 following five years of decline.
Last year it was estimated that Londoners are never more than 20 yards metres (18m) from a rat.
Mr Davidson, chief executive of the NPTA, which commissioned the research, urged authorities and the public to pay heed to the findings.
He said: "The way this is growing it is going to give rise to some kind of public health risk.
"What will it take for someone to sit up and take notice about what is going on?"
The report found litter, bird feeders, compost bins and derelict urban properties were all partly to blame for the rise.
It also suggested the failure of private water companies to clear rats from the sewers they were responsible for was another contributory factor.
But Steve Harrison from Westminster council denied demanding fees for pest control was part of the problem. He said his local authority had seen a decline in its rat population despite its inner city location.
He added: "What's more important, as with most things, is that prevention is better than cure.
"We've continued to proactively bait and treat land owned by the council."
And the actress Jane Horrocks condemned the report's conclusion that composting had contributed to the rise in rat numbers as "scaremongering".
The survey suggested that "recycling mania", as well as fly-tipping and a move by councils towards fortnightly refuse collection, was fuelling the rodent population growth.
But launching a campaign to recycle 90 million Christmas cards, Ms Horrocks said: "It is absolute rubbish. I've got two compost bins and I haven't seen a rat in all the time I've had them."
"I've not seen a rat but I do smell a rat."
I think the only blame for increase rat population lies with the council's absurd fortnightly collection. The bins we are given to put out the rubbish only hold 3 sacks and with a house of five people, we are producing more than 3 black sacks of waste a fortnight, but the council don't collect it, so it stays in the garden attracting rats until we have time to take it to the dump. It is absolutely absurd that the council keep charging us more money for less and less effective services. It's disgraceful.
Natasha, Canterbury, England
Maybe if the councils emptied the refuse more than once a fortnight then the rats wouldn't have any overflowed rubbish to eat from and breed nearby as a reliable food source! Even when recycling is being done....we have 2 bins one for organic waste and one for disposable waste and a small bin for plastic bottles which should be even bigger than it is!
Carolyn McCall, Marlow
Well what on earth do you expect with two weekly collections, as opposed to a weekly one!! Ours started this summer in the height of the heat and in the first week the bins were riddled with maggots. All we got from the council, in answer to our concerns..... was "bag your rubbish into more bags and then wash the wheelie bins out with disinfectant"......all this was done but still flies and no doubt rats were able to get into our bins.
I'm all for recycling. However, why do we have to wait the two weeks for the bins to be emptied? I have not only had rats in my garden, we also had one get into our kitchen when it dug a hole through the floor, so don't tell me this has nothing to do with the collection of waste, as I have been at this house for 10 years and never did I see a rat within a mile of my garden until this two week collection rubbish, no pun intended.
William Taylor, Crewe
We have a compost bin and when I first put it in I found rats had burrowed in to it. I ended up digging down and putting a brick lining to deter them. Now I only put garden waste in, no peelings of any sort. Also over Christmas they have been at black bags of wrapping paper, obviously for nest lining.
Clive Thomas, Birmingham, UK
The reduction in collections is a joke. We recycle but still have a normal bin overflowing within two weeks. It's so bad I can't let my kid play in the garden. If the government wants to address the problem of waste then it should make private companies reduce the amount of packaging.
Gav Johnston, Stirling, Scotland