Rats are one of the most common pests that can infest both the inside and outside of your home. These intelligent and adaptable creatures can cause significant damage to your property, as well as pose a threat to your health and safety.
Whether you are dealing with a full-blown rat infestation or just a few stray rodents, getting rid of them can be a challenging and frustrating task.
However, with the right approach and tools, it is possible to effectively eliminate rats from your home and prevent them from returning.
In this article, we will explore some of the most effective methods for getting rid of rats inside and outside your home, as well as some tips for what to do once you’ve actually finally gotten rid of them!
Whether you are a homeowner, renter, or property manager, these tips will help you keep your home rat-free and your family safe.
Signs of a Rat Infestation in Your Home
If you suspect a rat infestation in your home, search for the following signs in your home:
Rat droppings are one of the most common signs of a rat infestation. They are small, dark, and pellet-shaped, and can be found in areas where rats have been active, such as in cupboards, behind appliances, or in dark corners.
The presence of rat droppings can indicate the size and severity of the infestation and should be dealt with immediately to prevent the spread of disease.
Rats have powerful teeth and are capable of gnawing through a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, and even metal. Gnaw marks on food packaging, baseboards, or other objects in your home can be a sign of a rat problem in your home.
It’s important to address any gnaw marks promptly, as rats can cause significant damage to your property if left unchecked. They may cause a lot of damage by eating everything that is out in the open. This even includes chewing through electrical cords and gnawing on furniture, paper, and storage containers.
They can spread disease through their droppings and urine as they move around your house.
Rats are nocturnal and are most active at night. If you hear scratching or scurrying noises in the walls, ceiling, or floorboards, it may be a sign of a rat infestation.
These noises can be especially noticeable at night when the house is quiet, and may indicate that rats are living and moving around inside your walls or ceiling.
Rats can leave behind footprints in dusty areas, such as in attics or basements. These footprints can be an indication of rat activity and should be addressed as part of a comprehensive approach to getting rid of a rat infestation.
Rats will often build nests out of shredded materials such as paper, fabric, or insulation. These nests are usually found in dark, secluded areas such as attics or crawl spaces.
If you notice a collection of shredded material in a secluded area of your home, it’s likely that rats have been building a nest.
Rats have oily fur, and as they travel along walls and baseboards, they can leave behind greasy smudges. These smudges can be a sign of rat active and may indicate their movement patterns around your home.
Rats have a distinctive musky odor that can be quite strong and unpleasant, especially in enclosed spaces like walls or crawl spaces.
The odor is caused by several factors related to rat behavior and physiology. For example, rats produce a lot of urine, which can accumulate in enclosed spaces and cause a strong ammonia-like smell. Plus, the oils rat produce in their fur that leaves grease marks also has a strong odor.
If you notice a strong, unpleasant odor in your home, it’s important to investigate the source of the smell. In some cases, the odor may be caused by other factors, such as mold or sewage leaks.
However, if you also notice other signs of rat activity, such as droppings, gnaw marks, or scratching sounds, the bad odor may be a strong indication that you have a rat infestation in your home.
What are the Signs Of Rats In Your Walls?
If you have a rat infestation in your walls it can, unfortunately, be a bit trickier to detect it. But here are some common signs to look out for:
- Holes and openings: Rats can gnaw through wood, drywall, and other building materials, so you may notice small holes or openings in your walls. These openings can serve as entry points for rats and other pests.
- Scratching sounds: Rats are nocturnal creatures, so you may hear scratching sounds in your walls at night. The sounds may be particularly noticeable in quiet areas of your home.
- Piles of droppings: Rat droppings are small, dark, and pellet-shaped, and may be found near areas where rats have been active, such as along baseboards or near holes in walls.
- Damaged ductwork: Since rats have sharp teeth, they can gnaw through quite a lot. If you notice gnaw marks and damage along your ductwork, that may be a sign of a rat infestation in your walls.
- Smudges along walls: If you notice smudges along the walls that look greasy and dirty, that can be a tell-tale sign of a rat problem.
- Visual sightings: In some cases, you may see rats entering or leaving wall cavities through small openings or holes. This can be especially noticeable at dawn or dusk when rats are most active. You may even find a dead rat in your home.
Damage Caused by Rats
Rats are known to cause significant damage to both property and human health. They are notorious for their ability to chew through almost anything, from wood and plastic to electrical wiring, which can lead to electrical shorts, fires, and expensive repairs.
Researchers believe that rats and mice cause 20-25% of undetermined house and structure fires in the United States each year while gnawing on gas lines, electrical wiring, and matches.
In addition to their property damage, rats also pose a significant health risk to humans. They can transmit a number of diseases, including leptospirosis, hantavirus, and salmonellosis, through their urine, feces, and bites.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rodents are responsible for the transmission of more than 31 diseases in the United States. In fact, a recent outbreak of leptospirosis in New York City was attributed to rats living in unsanitary conditions.
Rats are also known to attract other pests, such as fleas and ticks, which can carry their own diseases and infest homes. This can create a cycle of infestation and disease transmission that can be difficult to break without professional pest control intervention.
What’s worse is that rats can even cause significant damage to crops and stored food, which can lead to significant economic losses. In fact, research published by the University of Florida found that the economic cost of rat damage was estimated at $19 billion per year in the United States, which is many times higher than the damage caused by any other invasive animal species.
And that’s still not all! Difficulty in staying asleep and relaxing in your home due to the noise they create at night can lead to poor sleep and other stress and health problems in the long term.
If you suspect you have rats in your home, it’s incredibly important to deal with it as soon as possible to save yourself from all the health and financial costs of a rat infestation.
Why Understanding Rat Behavior Is Important to Get Rid of Them
Rats are intelligent and adaptive creatures, and their curious, cautious, and crafty behavior makes it difficult to get rid of them once they have infested your home.
People most often think that rats are always hungry and in search of food. Rats can eat just about everything, and they rarely go hungry because of it. As a result, we can’t control rats by presuming they’re hungry and hunting for food.
For instance, rat traps baited with food are not particularly tempting to rats. While there is a common misconception that smearing peanut butter on a trap can attract a rat, this is rarely the case. Rats usually enter trap boxes and bait stations not for the good, but because they’re in search of a cozy shelter.
To get rid of rats, we first need to understand their behavior and natural tendencies. In general, rats don’t like new things, display obsessive behaviors and habits, and are naturally curious.
Due to these characteristics, baiting traps with food is unnecessary if the traps are placed and prepared properly.
Rats leave scent trails wherever they go and shun anything that does not smell like them. If you place a new trap in their habitat that does not smell like rats have been in or on it previously, the rats will simply avoid it.
For traps to be effective, rat scent must be used to prime them, and they must often be left for far longer than people believe which often means days or even weeks.
It’s also important to keep in mind that rats are smart. They’ll avoid traps after seeing a few rats die in them, and you’ll need to change your strategy to get rid of them.
Rats are also very social creatures that live in large groups, or colonies, with a strict hierarchy. This means that even if you manage to eliminate a few rats, the remaining members of the colony can quickly reproduce and repopulate the area.
Plus, rats are known for their high reproductive rate, with females capable of producing up to 5 litters per year, each containing 6-12 offspring.
And so, if you want to get rid of rats quickly and effectively, you need to have a firm grasp on how they behave.
How to Get Rid of Rats From Inside Your Home
If you have a rat problem in your home, it’s time to take care of it! Here are the 7 steps to getting rid of a rat infestation inside your home
Nobody wants to live with rats. Fortunately, these tips can help you figure out how to get rid of rats in your home:
Step 1: Inspect Your Home Thoroughly
In order to get rid of rats, you first need to perform a comprehensive inspection of your home to identify the source of the infestation.
Look around the outside of the house for obvious entry points, such as broken drains, cracks in the garage door, holes in the vents, and gaps in the foundation.
Check the vents, drains, appliance lines, and other places inside the house that could be used to get in.
Knowing the entry locations is the first step in rat-proofing your home.
Step 2: Seal Cracks and Crevices
Rats can enter your home through small openings. They can fit through openings that your thumb can fit through. That’s why it’s important to seal any cracks in your house’s walls, both inside and out.
For long-lasting results, fill these spaces with wire wool, metal kick plates, cement, or caulk. Make sure they are in good working condition by inspecting them once every few months.
Step 3: Clean Up Your Home
Rats are drawn to places where they can find shelter and hide. If you want to get rid of rats without using poison, getting rid of the areas they can hide is a good place to start. Remove clutter from your home and move stuff away from the walls.
Be sure that all of your waste and food is stored in containers with lids, that you promptly wipe up any spills, and that you keep your pipes and drains clean.
Rats are similar to other pests in that they like to hide in debris-filled places with quick access to food, shelter, and water.
This is why it’s so important to avoid storing unsightly junk or yard debris near your home, shed, fence, or deck. It’s like inviting a pest into your home and giving it free reign to build a nest there!
Substantial vegetation on or near the house also presents a risk because rats can hide while searching for a vulnerability to exploit. Plus, despite the fact that rats don’t require a lot of water to survive, any areas where water pools will also attract them.
Rats are less likely to enter your home and stay if you make an effort to maintain your yard and house neat and clean. To prevent rats from using your roof as a shortcut, keep fallen leaves picked up in the fall, clear away old junk piles, and keep your trees pruned away from your roof.
Step 4: Remove Potential Food Sources
Removing food sources is an effective method of controlling rat populations. Even while rats might not consume as much food as you’d think, they still value consistent and easy access to both food and water.
Rats aren’t picky eaters and will eat practically everything, including human food, dog food, bird seed, and garbage.
Always use a secure container to keep rats and other rodents out of pet food while storing it outside. An open bag, even with the opening rolled down, releases a tempting scent that mice and rats can detect from great distances. This is also true for food within your home.
Once inside, a rat will establish a home not far from a food source, which is likely your pantry. Keep food in sealed, airtight containers to prevent rodents from smelling it or getting into it.
Food should not be kept in any bedroom or even on the terrace for any reason. If you have bags of flour, rice, or beans stored away, you should inspect them for signs of rat infestation to ensure the safety of your food supply.
Step 5: Set Rat Traps
Rat trapping is one of the most effective way to get rid of rats since it kills them quickly and humanely. This is especially true when compared to rodenticides and harsher poisons since they have become illegal to use in states like California since 2021.
Rat populations can be decreased without the use of poison by using traps.
If you’re going to set your own traps, make sure to set plenty of them and set them up in locations with lots of activity. You can use unsalted seeds, use peanut butter, bananas, or apples as bait.
Step 6: Try Home Remedies for Natural Deterrent Methods
Home remedies can also be used to deter rats. Rats are repelled by strong scents, so you can use essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus oil, or even fabric softener sheets, on cotton balls and place them in areas where rats may enter your home.
To deter rats from entering the house in the first place, sprinkle the perimeter with peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, black pepper, or cloves. Sprinkle your chosen substance liberally along the boundary between your foundation and the ground.
Another great method is to place crushed pepper or spray pepper spray around rodent openings and holes. This will make it unpleasant for the rats to breathe in your home, which should deter them from returning.
7. Contact A Pest Control Company
If you have rats in your walls or are having problem getting rid of the rats in your home, get a professional pest control company to help you get rid of them.
They will assist in not only identifying rat entry points, locating nesting and food storage areas, and removing rats without causing additional damage to your home.
Pest control experts can also help you figure out why rats are coming into your home and stop them from coming back.
How To Get Rid Of Rats Outside Your Home
If there are still rats outside your home, it won’t matter if you get rid of the ones inside; the problem will return quickly. This becomes even more important as the temperature turns colder outside and rats seek warmth and food indoors, this is the case.
So, here are our best tips for getting rid of rats around your home:
Step 1: Clean Up Your Yard
The easiest approach to prevent rats from establishing a home is to keep your grass and yard mowed, tidy, and clear of clutter. This is because they despite open spaces where they aren’t any places to hide have nowhere to hide.
Get rid of any wood, cardboard boxes, old appliances, leaves, or grass that could provide shelter to these rodents. Put away any outdoor garbage cans, secure any sheds, and repair any cracks in the siding.
Step 2: Inspect Your Vents
Rats can climb very well, which is one of the main ways they get into homes. They can scale pergolas and vines to reach your roof.
Once on the roof, they can quickly enter the rafters or interior of your home by chewing through the thin metal covering your vents.
Regularly inspect your vents to avoid this from happening. Any rodent damage should be repaired, and unharmed vents should be strengthened with copper wire or stainless steel mesh reinforced with 1mm-diameter holes that rats can’t chew through.
Step 3: Remove Food Sources
Rats like to eat dropped fruits, vegetables in the garden, nuts, acorns, and nuts, so clean up these things outside.
Plus, get rid of snails as soon as possible as well! This is important because rats love to eat snails and quickly take over places with lots of snails.
Pet and bird food should be kept in airtight, chew-proof containers, and any messes made while barbecuing or eating outside should be cleaned up right afterward.
They’ll also gladly pick up any dropped seeds or nuts from plants and trees in your yard, and they’ll be drawn to any ripening fruit on fruit trees. If you don’t want to attract rats, make sure to pick up any dropped fruit, nuts, or seeds as soon as possible.
Step 4: Attract Natural Predators
Rats have many natural predators, and attracting such predators to your yard is an excellent way to get rid of rats.
For instance, owls can consume dozens of rats or mice in a single night. Focus on making good homes for owls and other birds of prey if you want to attract them. You can do this by adding a water source such as a birdbath in your garden, and you can even think about making a nest box.
To attract birds, avoid putting out bird feed. The presence of rats is enough food for the birds, so if you add bird seed outside all it’ll do is attract more rats who’ll use it as a food source instead.
Another great idea is to get a housecat, which can hunt rats and deter them for years to come.
Step 5: Use Dry Ice
Dry ice is an efficient approach to getting rid of rats without using poison. Carbon dioxide, produced by dry ice, anesthetizes and kills rats.
Place the dry ice at the entrance of rat burrows for the best results. Use gloves and other protective gear while handling dry ice since it can damage your skin.
Step 6: Set Snap Traps
Traps are one of the most effective ways to quickly eliminate rats. For the best results, you might want to use snap traps, which kill rats quickly and easily.
Put the traps in a box or under a milk crate to keep other animals out. Use peanut butter since rats love it and it’s inexpensive to bait the traps.
If you know what the rats are eating in your home, you might want to use that instead as bait for the trap instead. For rats who like to snack on apples from the counter, setting a trap with sliced apples might do the trick!
Step 7: Use Electronic Rat Traps
Electronic rat traps are the most advanced and effective rodent traps available. These traps tempt rats with food and attract them onto a metal plate that electrocutes them instantly.
Compared to snap traps and poison traps, this method is the most humane because the rat dies instantly. And since they run on batteries, you can easily set them outside to catch rodents.
Also, wear gloves when setting up any traps! Rats may sense your scent on traps you’ve handled, which may deter them from approaching your trap.
Step 8: Use Baits and Poisons Outside
Given their potent chemical properties and potential danger, baits and poisons should only be used outside the home. If you put poison inside the house, rats can spread it around, making it dangerous for everyone who lives there, both humans and animals.
Always follow the instructions on the label when using any kind of bait or poison. Rat bait should always be kept in a bait station that is completely closed off so that kids, pets, and other animals can’t get to it.
There are several restrictions on the use of baits and poisons, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with applicable laws in your area. Rodenticides, for example, were recently banned in California in 2021.
Step 9: Trim Trees And Shrubs Near Your Home
Trim any trees and bushes to a minimum distance of three feet from your roof line. This is really important because rats may jump three feet from a tree to your roof.
Tree and shrub trimming has multiple benefits, including preventing rodents from nesting on your roof and preventing other unwanted visitors and pests from entering your home.
Step 10: Try Repellents and Hazing
You can also consider using repellents and hazing outdoors since they can be an efficient means of rodent control and management.
Hazing methods focus on annoying the rats in a non-lethal way, such as with light, noise, or continuous environmental changes. Repellents, on the other hand, use noise or smell to prevent rats from approaching an area.
Rats dislike new things and will flee if you irritate them or make it hard for them to stay.
Step 11: Contact A Professional Pest Control Company
If you’re having trouble getting rid of rats in your home, it may be time to contact a professional pest control company. They have the right tools and equipment needed to safely and effectively remove rats from your property.
Professional pest control companies can provide you with an assessment and create a customized plan for rodent removal, depending on the size of your home and the number of rats. They can also seal off any entry points to make sure that the rodents stay out for good.
Three Important Things to Do After Getting Rid of Rats
Step 1: Sanitize Your Home After Rat Removal
Once the rats are gone, it’s still important to sanitize your home. Rats can carry a variety of diseases and parasites, and you want to make sure that all of these are eliminated. Use bleach or other cleaning products to disinfect any areas where the rats may have been, such as areas near entry points or around food sources.
You should also throw away any contaminated items that you may have, such as bedding, clothing, and furniture. If you’re not sure if something is contaminated, it’s best to err on the side of caution and throw it away.
Step 2: Prevention
The best way to get rid of rats is to prevent them from entering your home in the first place. Make sure all exterior doors and windows have tight-fitting screens, and seal up any cracks or crevices around the house that may be potential entry points. Outside, make sure trash cans are securely closed, and don’t leave pet food out overnight.
Step 3: Monitor Your Home for Signs of Rats
Even after taking the steps listed above, you should still keep an eye out for rats or signs of their presence. Go through our list of the top signs of rats and bookmark this page so that you can keep coming back to it to make sure you know all the signs of rats in your home.
Droppings are a sure sign that rats have been in your home, and you should take immediate steps to get rid of them if you find any. You can also set up live traps with bait to catch any rats that may enter your home.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa’s work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.