When sneaky pests such as rats and mice start to invade your home, yard and property, it’s important that you seek a solution that will rid you of these rodents for good. These destructive pests are renowned for wreaking havoc, causing untold damage and unsettling your peace of mind.
Sightings of rats and mice are becoming common occurrences in our towns and cities, so it’s more important than ever that we fight these foes and eliminate them for good. Here you will learn everything you need to know about rats and the best ways in which to eradicate them, in this comprehensive guide to getting rid of rats for good.
How to get rid of rats (updated for 2020)
1. Identify which type of rodent you have
Although rats and mice may, at first glance, appear similar, a closer look will reveal that they do in fact have different characteristics and habits. It is important that you identify which rodent is invading your space in order to work out the most effective pest control solution.
Everyone has their own view on the best way to control rats and mice. I personally believe that if you know the species that you are dealing with first and foremost, you stand a better chance of evicting it from your property.
The different types of rats
Norway rats prefer to lie low, making their rats runs across the floor, between boards and behind kitchen appliances. Therefore, placing traps and baits in these areas tends to lead to higher success rates. Roof rats, however, are the opposite and prefer to indulge in a good feast whilst under cover of shelter where they can keep warm. Generally taking their food back to their nesting areas to consume, you are more likely to discover a roof rat scampering up high. Therefore, placing traps overhead as well as near food sources is the best form of attack.
Norway rats are drawn to areas where there is ample food and drink. Therefore, cutting off these supplies and creating less urban mess is a great starting point for deterring Norway rats. Starving them out, however, is probably not a long-term solution so traditional methods such as traps and poison should also be deployed.
Norway rats are also commonly referred to as brown rats, as their shaggy fur is brown or grey in color. Stocky in stature, these rats can grow up to 16 inches. Whilst they may be big, their tails are short and stumpy and usually covered in bumpy scales.
These rats prefer to live outdoors, burrowing holes and scampering into small spaces around our properties. Their yellow teeth provide the perfect tool for gnawing through cables, wood and other hard materials.
Out in the country you’ll find these rodents taking over garbage dumps, sewers, and fields and although they only live for around a year, they are able to reproduce countless times, enabling them to build big colonies.
Also known as black rats, roof rats are typically found along the east and south coast of America. Dark in color, they are easily distinguishable against the Norway rat due to their long tails, big ears and round eyes.
Their fur is dense yet smooth and likely to leave a slick of grease along walls and surfaces as they scurry around. Favouring warmer climes, these rats prefer to be cosy and live indoors, making their nests in the attic, ceiling and up near the eaves. Therefore, it is not uncommon to hear them before you see them!
A small population of Wood rats can be neutralized through trapping but for larger infestations, poisonous bait is recommended to be placed where the rats frequent. When dealing with wood rats, the most important thing to remember is that you must be thorough, as these rats breed at a startling rate.
Although not nearly as common as Norway or Roof rats, Wood rats can be found in northern parts of Florida. Although they are roughly the same size as a Norway rat, you can identify them thanks to their hamster like features, fine fur and fluffy tails. Not only will these rats thrive on your food supplies but have even been known to sneak other small items away such as jewellery and buttons.
2. Prevent a rat infestation from happening
Our rodent problem is spiralling out of control, and not only are our infestations growing but the rodents themselves are ballooning in size. It is therefore imperative that we act fast. If you’ve identified a rat infestation, there are several methods you can use to help get rid of rats in your house fast.
Below are three basic rules that we always abide by in order to secure a property from the invasion of pests. These include:
Identify where rats are living
Rats and mice like to live in areas that provide them with the basic means in which to survive. This includes food, water and protective shelter. Therefore, the first step in ridding yourself of rats is to play a game of hide and seek and identify where they are living.
Rats are clever climbers and when they have their sights set on a place to call home, they will leap, chew and burrow their way to get there, often causing serious damage along the way.
- Lofts and attics are dark spaces which are generally unoccupied, so provide the perfect place for a nocturnal rodent to live. They offer many a hidey hole, cossetted corners and readily available resources in which to make a nest such as attic insulation, cardboard boxes and electrical cabling.
- Cavity walls provide rats with the freedom to travel out of sight. Accessing small gaps and scampering through pipes, they can effortlessly move from the top to the bottom of the house.
- Dark, dank basements provide great storage places for our food and drink. However, these lesser-frequented areas also offer refuge for rats seeking shelter, nourishment and plenty of entry points.
- Out houses such as garden sheds and garages not only provide shelter but are full of useful materials and equipment for rats to use to hide and nest.
- Kitchens and laundries house large appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers radiate heat and provide a temperate place to live, whilst cracks and openings near pipework offer an easy way in for rats.
- Backyards have large shrubs, ponds, trashcans and bird feeders which provide rats with security, food and a constant water supply, which is all they need to live, feed and raise a family.
What are the signs of a rat infestation?
Rats are nocturnal so they sleep during the day and forage for food at night. However, if hungry enough they will risk scurrying around in daylight hours in order to seek out supplies. Therefore, there is a chance that you may see a rat scampering across your kitchen floor. And where there is one, there will be many more as rats are social rodents who like to live in packs.
If you don’t see a rat, chances are that you might hear them tip toeing across floor boards, scratching inside the walls or chewing through cables.
Other signs of pesky night-time visitors include droppings. On average a normal sized rat will produce up to 40 stools a night! These droppings will be dark brown in color and around the size of a single grain of rice. You are most likely to spot rat droppings around food sources, pet dishes and trashcans.
Finally, rats thrive in dirty conditions, so tend to have greasy bodies. Due to their poor vision, they rely on their other senses such as smell and touch, so look out for oily smudge and smear marks along surfaces and walls.
How do rats get in?
Pests such as rats and mice can easily access a property, and when they do, they can spread disease and cause serious damage. Rats often damage structures by burrowing, biting, and gnawing at insulation, wiring, and wood. Over time, their efforts can produce gashes and holes that allow entry for more rodents and pests. Check your home for these signs of damage and take the following steps as needed.
3. Rat proof your home and property
Before we talk about the best ways to get rid of rats, you need to ensure that you have rat-proofed your home in order to prevent a re-infestation. Afterall, why waste time and money on traps, baits and poisons only to allow more rats to move back in?
Rats are not only sneaky, but they are incredible contortionists – able to squeeze their bodies through the smallest of gaps. Therefore, in order to outwit a rat, you need to ensure that you detect every possible entry point, no matter how big or small.
10 steps to rodent proof your home
Replacing seals, covering air bricks, inserting door sweeps, adding chimney vents and installing automatic entrance closers are much cheaper options than employing professional pest control services. It is important that you inspect your property making sure that you:
- Close all holes and cracks greater than ¼ inch with expandable foam.
- Seal all pipes leading to outside water supplies, garden hoses and hot water tanks with steel or bronze wool like this from Xcluder (see at Amazon).
- Check and maintain all vents and gaps in attics and under window sills to ensure that they do not provide easy access points.
- Examine your roof to make sure that it is in a good state.
- Cap or screen your chimney to stop rodents climbing up and down.
- Store firewood well away from your home, ideally in a lockable outbuilding.
- Add door sweeps to the bottom of the garage and outbuilding doors. As the weather changes you may find that their frames are likely to swell and decrease, leaving large gaps for rats to enter.
- Maintain your garden as cutting your grass regularly will make it easier to spot rats running around. Make sure that you trim back branches that could potentially form a bridge to your property and try not to plant shrubs or greenery too close to your house as it encourages rats to dig under the foundations.
- Use natural rat repellents around your home such as peppermint oil, onions and chilli oil in order to deter rodents from entering. Simply place them where you think the rodent may be entering.
- If rats are persistently frequenting your property then you may need to protect your home with an effective pest control solution such as rodenticides, bait stations, traps, or have some fun with an air rifle for pest control.
Find out more detailed information on keeping rodents out of your home for good.
5 steps to deter rats away from your home
It is no surprise that rats enjoy living in close proximity to us as we inadvertently provide them with sustenance and shelter. But, by becoming more aware of how we live, behave and the environment around us, we can start to deter them away from our property and eradicate them for good.
Check out our easy-wins to ensure that your home does not become a live-in cash and carry for rodents.
- Do not leave food or leftovers out on display. Rats are scroungers by nature and will take any scraps they can find. By making sure that you clear away and wipe down all areas after food preparation will prevent rodents sniffing out their next meal.
- Make sure that you store all foods in cupboard or in glass, metal or plastic containers. And the higher you can place it, the better.
- Avoid hoarding and excess clutter as it provides places to hide, shelter and materials to nest.
- Seal your garbage bags before disposing of them and make sure that your outdoor trashcans are located well away from your property. Stinky, overflowing bins are incredibly tempting to all sorts of pests and will attract rats from far and wide.
- If you have pets such as cats and dogs, make sure that their food bowls are not left unattended. Some bowls now come with a timer you can set to limit the amount of time the food is exposed. Make sure you wash the bowls thoroughly after every meal so that the smell does not entice rodents in.
3. Use traps to get rid of rats
Once a couple of rats decide to take up residency, the situation will soon spiral and get out of hand as breeding gets well underway.
Although rodenticides are often the most favored form of pest control for many, there are some who prefer to use more humane ways such as ultrasonic rodent repellents or live traps. Once caught unharmed, however, it is up to you to find an appropriate place to release the rat.
Live traps for catching rats
Live traps are effective for small infestations, as they are good for the environment and the animal’s well-being. These mechanical traps look like common pet cages; and are equipped with a mesh opening and spring-loaded doors. The doors are activated by sensitive triggers which snap shut once the rat has been lured in by some tempting bait.
Once safely ensconced, it is your responsibility to dispose of the rat well away from your home. This makes live trapping a good method for collecting a couple of rats, but if you have a chronic infestation, it is likely to be incredibly time consuming.
Ultrasonic rodent repellent devices
These ultrasonic devices offer an alternative solution to repelling rats. There are mixed opinions on whether these devices actually work as they are meant to drive rats away by emitting a high frequency sound that is painful to rodents, however one major flaw is that they can’t transmit through walls. Therefore, what you tend to find is that you simply end up driving the rat from one room to another or having to invest in multiple devices.
Lay killer rat traps
Rat traps have been used as an effective standalone form of rodent control for decades and offer a great alternative to poisons as they are toxic free, safe to use and work on rodents who may be bait shy.
That said, just like the humane version, they are very time consuming and labor intensive as they require constant supervision. Rat traps are not for the faint-hearted, as you will have to deal and dispose of rodent contents which can, of course, be unpleasant and rather messy. Click here for more advice on how to dispose of dead rats safely.
When you think of a rat trap, the snap trap probably ‘springs’ to mind as it is most commonly seen on TV for hilarious effect. But catching rats should not be scoffed at,
Snap traps are so popular because they offer a cheap and effective way of getting rid of rats and can be used multiple times. They work by luring the rat onto a block of wood, plastic or metal using some form of tempting bait which is attached to a trigger. Once the rat decides to take a bite, the trigger releases, killing the rat instantly.
The drawbacks to snap traps are actually obviously in that they are tricky to set and messy to deal with. They are also not suitable for households where children or pets reside.
Electronic rat traps
Electronic traps tend to be made of sturdier material and are far more effective than snap traps – which often injure but do not kill rats outright.
These types of trap work by delivering a high voltage electric shock to the rat, killing them instantly and in a more humane way. Thus, leaving you with little or no mess to clear up and an easier carcass to dispose of. The only downside to these traps, are that they can only be used indoors as they are not weatherproof.
4. Get rid of rats with poison
As rats are natural scavengers, they will eat anything, and everything, put in their path. In fact, I firmly believe that it is thanks to our poor dietary habits that we are creating what are being dubbed “super rats” of the future. These are rats that rush to consume our fast food and are now ballooning in size! So, in order to gain back control, one of the easiest way to kill a rat is to provide it with food that has been laced in poison.
The best rat poisons and rodenticides work due to their toxic ingredients such as anticoagulants, that are designed to thin the blood and prevent it from clotting. Depending on the strength of the poison, both single and multiple feed baits are available to buy off the shelf. It is important to note however, that certain states in America such as California and New York have now banned to use of second-generation poisons.
Animals and children are also susceptible to the side effects of rat poison, so it is really important that you use alternative methods. See our blogs for more advice on minimizing the dangers of rodenticides around adults, pets and children.
How to place rat poison
As mentioned above, care should always be taken when laying any form of poison as it can be extremely dangerous to both children and other animals if consumed in error. Therefore, you need to consider the environment in which you are placing the poison before purchasing, as other pest control solutions may be more suitable.
If you do decide to use rat poison as your preferred method of pest control, then it is important that you administer it correctly whilst always remembering to follow the product instructions. Below are top tips for laying poison. Always make sure that: –
- You have successfully located all areas of the infestation.
- You place an adequate amount of bait and poison around the property.
- You remain patient. It may take time for the rats to trust the food source and start feeding.
- You don’t give up straightaway. Poison takes time to enter a rat’s digestive system, so results are not likely to be immediate.
- You check for dead rats regularly around your property as once ingested they are likely to stray before dying.
- You do everything you can to prevent a re-infestation, as per our sanitation steps above.
5. Shoot rats with an air rifle
Shooting is a highly efficient solution for depleting the number of rats you have roaming your property; however, it does require a steady arm and a good aim. Air rifles must always be handled in a responsible manner, and you should check the firearms regulations that apply to your state beforehand. Always ensure that the pellets are kept locked away and within your own boundary as failure to follow these stringent rules can result in penalties.
Air guns can be safer to use then shotguns (as they fire pellets and not bullets), are quieter and tend to be smaller and lighter to handle. Another reason that air rifles are so popular in America is because the requirements for owning one are much more relaxed than if you were to purchase a shotgun, however in most states you still need to be 18 years or over.
6. Use a professional pest control company
DIY methods of pest control can and do work effectively, however there may be circumstances when you need to call in professional help. If rats have started to contaminate your property, are spreading diseases to you or your family, have started to damage your belongings or are putting your business reputation at risk, then it is time to stop ignoring the destruction and seek the help of a professional pest control service.
Rats and mice can be persistent, and it is not uncommon to think you have solved a situation, only for it to reoccur a few days later. If you feel that your pest problem is too overwhelming to tackle on your own, then you should seriously consider calling a professional exterminator.
Benefits of hiring a pest control expert
Although professional pest control services may seem expensive at the time, it’s a small price to pay to save your business reputation and rest easy in your own home. For more information, why not check out my informative blog on why and when to call in help from professional pest control services.
Rats are pesky pests that like the same things we like. But, if you are unwilling to put up with sharing your home and food with these furry foes any more, then it’s time to show them the door. Why not try these simple but effective DIY solutions for yourself or if you feel your infestation is out of your control, seek advice from a pest control specialist.