How to Get Rid of Rats in the Attic

So there you are, lying in your bed trying to sleep and you hear it again… the scurry of little feet running through your attic. You can only imagine what kind of critter could possibly be making all that noise! Quietly you put on your housecoat, grab a flashlight and head up to the attic. With the first burst of illumination, you see them… little beady eyes staring back at you as if to ask “what are you doing up here?” You realize with horror that you have rats in the attic.

How do you get rid of rats in the attic? Start with a diligent plan of action, and follow our step-by-step guide:

  1. Find how the rats are gaining entry to your attic
  2. Take away food sources so rats won't be attracted
  3. Place rat traps in your attic and check them regularly

Find how the rats are gaining entry to your attic

First things first, you have to find out how they are getting in. Do a thorough examination of every square inch of your house looking for points of entry, inside and out. You won't be able to get rid of the rats in the attic unless you can remove any access. They can squeeze through amazingly small holes, even half an inch in diameter, so you'll need to look very closely. Holes and cracks sealed with steel or steel wool will be a more permanent deterrent as they'll just chew through any wood repairs.

Outside foliage needs to be trimmed back away from the house because rats are great climbers and will utilize tree branches or vines to get onto your roof and into your house. They don't climb well on smooth surfaces and find it difficult to climb ordinary siding. It's also a good idea to check all your plumbing pipe access points. Over time, houses will settle and shift, leaving gaps large enough for rats to get in. Don't forget to check any wiring entry points too, such as cable, electric or phone.

Keep the perimeter of your house free from firewood or miscellaneous debris as this could potentially offer a great place for rats to create a burrow, essentially moving them in. A burrow can become a rat nursery and they will multiply quickly. The female rat can have up to five litters a year averaging 7 offspring each time, but they’ve been known to have as many as 14 kittens or pups. She can also mate and get pregnant immediately after birthing her litter. Reaching sexual maturity in five weeks, the kittens can start having litters of their own, further compounding the rat infestation.

Rats in the attic
Signs of a rat infestation in an attic

Get rid of rats in the attic naturally

Rats have a keen sense of smell and will search out food diligently. The smallest whiff of something good will compel the rat to chew through anything to get its meal, leaving behind a trail of droppings and urine. Make sure to keep all food items, both human and pet, sealed up in airtight containers like these.

Finding evidence of rat visitors is not only unsettling, but it's very unsanitary and has the potential to make you sick. Rats and rat fleas carry numerous diseases which can be deadly, such as Salmonella and Typhus. The fleas also carry the Bubonic Plague, responsible for wiping out a third of the human population during the middle ages. You certainly don't want them hanging around your pantry.

Ordinary household garbage is like a smorgasbord for rats, so you must keep it tightly sealed and away from the house. Given the opportunity, rats will start with the garbage, then work their way into the house looking for more. Plus, they are lured by the smell and will be less likely to get into the house if the trash is located a distance away. Compost piles fall into the same category, which is usually full of vegetable peelings and overripe food.

Place rat traps in your attic
Use a rat trap in your attic and around your home.

Use rat traps in your attic

Once you've completed the previous steps, now it's time to remove the rats that are still in the house. There are many tools to help, such as regular traps, rat poison, or snap traps. Regular traps are the most humane way to capture rats. Just remember, you'll have to release them far away without killing them.

Get rid of rats in the attic without poison

Rat poison is not recommended unless used in a secure bait box, because the rat will die in the attic or wall space, leaving your house reeking with the smell. If you use snap traps, bait them with peanut butter. It's a very tempting treat for rats. Whichever method you choose, you will have to handle and dispose of the bodies, so keep that in mind in case you're of a squeamish nature.

See: Best bait for a rat or mousetrap

What does a rat in the attic sound like?

A rat in the attic sounds like busy little feet scurrying to and fro at a frantic pace, making it difficult to determine where the sound is actually coming from. If a rat has made a nest in your attic, you might very well hear scratching, digging, and possibly squeaking if it's quite enough. Rats also chew on everything, so you might hear crunching sounds. As rats travel throughout the house looking for food and water, they will use the walls so you may hear noises there too. They are nocturnal and usually start their search for sustenance when the sun goes down. Usually, it's quieter at night, making it much easier to hear them.

rat gnawing electric wire in attic
Rats will chew just about anything in your attic – including electrical wire!

What do rats eat in the attic?

Rats are omnivores and aren't picky about what they eat, which is almost anything, including your electrical wiring, insulation, wooden beams, and even heating and air ducts in the attic. Cardboard boxes with stored items and clothing are all fair game and they will also destroy anything made of paper to help line their nest.

In the wild, rats can actually catch small fish or birds to eat. They've even been known to swim underwater for shellfish. But humans have made it a lot easier for rats to eat well, which is why you always find rats near human populations. Obviously, with all that eating, there are lots of droppings and urine, which is very unsanitary and unhealthy for humans and pets alike.

How much does it cost to get rid of rats in the attic?

If you've decided that dealing with your rodent infestation just isn't your cup of tea and you're going to hire a professional, you may be wondering how much does it cost to get rid of rats in the attic? Considering the time involved to seal up the holes and cracks, set out the traps, and all the peripherals, you're looking at roughly $300 to $500 dollars to have a successful removal of the rats in your attic. Obviously, this depends a lot on the area where you live and the extent of your rat infestation.

It's much better to get the job done right the first time with a wildlife removal specialist rather than a pest control company that comes back on a monthly basis. A professional with references you can contact, liability insurance, and a business license is usually trustworthy, but do your due diligence. Check out a few companies so you can make an informed decision.

Remember, the cheapest is not always the best. You get what you pay for, and shoddy cheap service will not take care of your problem for any length of time. Just remember, rats can do a lot of damage to your home, and although the cost may seem high, over time it is nothing compared to expensive housing repairs. And a house fire caused by rats chewing on electrical wiring can be very expensive, let alone deadly.

Wrapping Up

You can learn how to get rid of rats in the attic, but it will take time and initiative. Rats look for shelter, food, and water and your home is the most desirable location for them to put down roots. But you don't have to tolerate unwanted house guests. There are many things you can do to get rid of the rats in the attic and having a thorough plan of action will ensure you will be successful and they will not return.

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