How to Get Rid of Rats


rat side on white background

Rats are more than pests. They're a huge health and safety hazard. The most common rats that homeowners deal with are the brown Norway or wharf rat and the gray/black Roof or ship rat. Like field mice and other rodents, rats chew through almost any type of material, including wooden structures, thin metal and plastic surfaces and concrete blocks. Wharf rats tend to stick to ground-level areas and roof rats to upper ones. No matter where they nest near or in your home, these types of rats typically cause structural damage that can result in severe injury and property losses. A porch step damaged by a rat might crack or tip resulting in a fall and injuries. Chewed wires in walls can spark fires. Rats also carry diseases that can make humans and pets severely ill or die. It takes only a single exposure to rat saliva, urine or feces to cause illness, especially if a person has a weakened immune system. Rats carry other pests as well, such as fleas, mites and ticks, that spread infectious diseases like West Nile virus, typhus and even plague.

Pest control specialists don't only use one method to get rid of rats and neither should homeowners. The following sections outline the top ways to get rid of rats currently infesting a home and prevent future infestations.


What you can do around the home to prevent rats

Human behavior often goes hand-in-hand with how rats treat a person's home. Rats are attracted by what they perceive as food, safe space and warmth. If you want rats to consider your home inhospitable, then you need to remove these elements. For example, never leave open or thin-walled food containers on counters. Store bulk food, especially grains and dry pet food, in metal containers that prevent rats from smelling the food and chewing through to reach it. Make certain that you use thick, metal indoor and outdoor trash cans that have bag liners and heavy lids. If you own an outdoor grill and patio, never leave food debris, even small crumbs, on any surface. Since rats love clutter and tight spaces for their nests, reduce clutter inside and outside of your home. For example, throw out newspapers and boxes that they can tear into pieces for use in their nests. Maintain the landscape: Remove logs, brush, grass clippings, tires and other debris that create dark, hiding places. Trim tree and shrub branches back away from your home so that rats can't use them as bridges to the roof, gutters and other structures. Seal every single gap that you can find and then re-inspect and seal every season. Rats only need a 1/2-inch opening to enter your home. Mice only need a 1/4-inch one. Get rid of rats by using heavy gauge screen and foam insulation to block them out.

Using pesticides, traps and how to treat for rats

Professional commercial methods can help you get rid of rats both indoors and outdoors. Many people think that the most practical way to get rid of rats is to use poison baits known as rodenticides. Poisons do work, but they're risky and cause unnecessary hassles. Children, small pets and non-pest wild animals can become extremely ill or die from exposure. Rodenticides also don't work quickly: It can take weeks for you to start seeing a reduction in the rat population. They're also a health hazard and nuisance because a rat that eats the poison in one place might die in another where you can't reach it or the rat carcass attracts other animals or insects that carry disease. To get rid of rats fast and prevent hazards caused by poison, strategically place live-catch or traditional, snap traps in different areas inside and outside of your home. Pick areas where you've seen rat droppings or other evidence of rat occupation like fur and chew marks. If you don't want to kill rats, live traps make it possible for you to release them in forested areas miles from your home. Snap traps make it easy for you to kill and dispose of rats. If you're worried about catching your fingers in old-fashioned snap traps, invest in clip style ones that feature teeth.

Natural Remedies

No one commercial pest control method will get rid of every rat, which is why it's best to utilize every possible tool available. Natural remedies mostly involve common sense tactics. Before you go shopping for certain strong-smelling oils and plants, such as peppermint oil and mint, because you were told that rats have sensitive noses and the scents would deter these pests naturally, save your money. The fact is that these natural options don't usually work well. Instead, use common sense tactics around the home. For example, go beyond keeping outdoor areas clear of trash and debris. Rats love to eat nuts, seeds and various types of fruit that fall from garden and any nearby forest trees, bushes and flowers. Maintain the outdoor landscape so that there isn't a smorgasbord of edibles all over your yard or nearby. You don't need chemical baits when setting traps: Use bacon, nuts, peanut butter or even tuna to attract them. Additionally, rats hate chewing copper wool mesh like the kind found in pure copper scouring pads. Instead of plugging holes with steel wool, invest in copper wool. If you're not allergic, it wouldn't hurt to own a cat.


Lastly, if your rat problem becomes out of control, you should contact a professional as quickly as possible to get rid of rats since they reproduce often and in high numbers. For example, female Norway rats can produce between five and twelve litters a year with as many as twelve offspring per litter. A pest control specialist can come up with a plan customized to your unique situation. Even if you don't need help right now, it's a good idea to arrange at least two inspections with a pest control expert each year to help keep rats out of your home.