Having worked in the pest control industry I've seen first-hand the damage rats and mice can cause once they get inside your family home. They will wreak havoc on your house, gnawing and chewing on anything which they can use in building their nests, this can include chomping their way through the wire insulation and causing electrical fires!
Rat's incisor teeth never stop growing so they have the constant urge to chew. If one of these nasty critters gets inside your house it is seriously bad news. These rodents will spread disease with their greasy fur and leave their disgusting droppings on your kitchen counter in the blink of an eye.
Keep rodents out of your home for good
I've seen scattered information on how to stop rats and mice from coming into your house, but I really wanted to examine the question in detail and provide you with the best guide, so you can put steps in place to deter these pests from your house once and for all.
The following guide outlines exactly what I've done with my own home, so I know it works and will work for you too.
1. Cut back trees and vegetation near to your house and roof
Rats and mice are excellent climbers and can scale brick and walls easily to get to your roof. If you allow trailing branches or vegetation such as ivy to touch or grow up the sides of your home, you could be giving the rodents easy access. Your roof is actually one of the main points they use for entry.
Make sure you don't have any gaps between the roof and fascia as it's quite common for roofers not to seal these. The same applies to vents, any gaps around the base of the chimney, rooflines, guttering, and pipes. Use a rodent-proof filler product like Xcluder (Amazon) to fill in any gaps.
2. Check crawl spaces and your attic
Do you wake at night to the sound of scratching and gnawing above or below you? This is definitely a sign that you have a rodent problem in your attic and/or crawl spaces. Lay down baited Victor rat traps and you'll soon catch the vermin but preventing them from getting there in the first place is always a good step to take.
Crawl spaces can be damp and dirty with lots of entry and exit holes, sealing these holes, cleaning, and ensuring the crawl space is dry should be your priority.
Check to see if your crawl space has a rat slab which is a thin placement of concrete (usually inclined) that helps moisture drain out towards a hole and makes the space easier to clean in comparison to a dirt floor.
3. Seal your roof and tiles
For tiled roofs sealing gaps below your tiles is a priority. Rodents and other pests can crawl under into the tile space below and once there chew through to the attic and start an infestation.
For tiled roofs, I would always recommend keeping a few rat traps in the attic just in case one did get through. It could be trapped before having the chance to start an infestation. Tiled roofs with barrel tiles can be sealed using a steel mesh which will stop pests from getting in under the tiles.
3. Keep your yard tidy, free from clutter
Rats run in straight lines close to borders, alongside walls and fences and mice like to hide in tall grass. They burrow under sheds, decking, and hedges. Cut back the overgrown areas of your yard and mow the lawn regularly.
Remove piles of rocks or timber which would make a good home for a rat. Place new objects along the lines where they may run to break up their paths.
You may notice grease marks from their fur or gnawed areas along these paths. Clean and sanitize any grease marks with bleach. Block access to decking with steel or copper wire (Amazon).
Did you know? Rats are neo-phobic which means they have a fear of new things.
4. Keep birdseed and pet food in strong containers
Keeping your birdseed and pet food in metal or glass containers with tight-fitting lids will soon stop rats and mice from chewing their way through to a good source of food. You also could place it in a metal trash bin with a lid just to make sure it is stored securely.
Rats (and squirrels) are also attracted to bird feeders so make sure you use a greased pole with a tube baffle to stop rats climbing up your bird feeder. You could also add on a seed dish to catch any discarded seed before it lands on the ground. Don't throw any scraps or food waste onto your yard and clean up regularly.
A well-stocked bird feeder will attract rats – use a bird feeder with tube-baffle to stop rats climbing up.
5. Store trash and garbage securely
Household waste with easy access is a paradise for rats. Discarded food and waste will feed a family of rats and only encourage the infestation. Always place trash in metal bins and never leave black sacks out in the open.
Open waste left on the ground will only attract more unwanted rodents.
You could also use repellent trash bags (Amazon) which have a minty scent to mask the garbage odor which helps to deter rodents. I've had mixed results with using them but combined with a rugged trash can (Amazon) you can put a stop to rats feasting on your garbage.
6. Seal your garage doors
Rats can find ways into your garage if you don't have good seals all the way around your garage door as I found. The wood trim around my garage door actually stopped off the concrete base so it would not rot, this actually left a hole for the rats and mice to potentially get in through. It's a common way for rodents to get into your garage. Some homeowners have designed their own ingenious ways of rodent-proofing their garage doors.
I'd recommend using a metal rodent guard (Amazon) which you can attach to the base of the weather seal that goes around the door:
7. Get a pet cat or a dog to help deter rats
Cats are brilliant at catching rats and having one might help deter rats for a while, but rats are determined critters and eventually, it won't put a stop to them coming inside your home if they are nesting nearby. I've attended pest control calls in the past where a homeowner has had several cats but still has a problem with a rat infestation.
Rats are also getting bigger, we as a society can very dirty leaving lots of garbage and easily accessible sources of food for them to not just survive but thrive. This has seen rats grow much larger than their typical size of up to 40 cm in length (not including tail) and cats are not accustomed to catching rats of this size! Cats are well known for catching mice (think Tom and Jerry), but mice are much smaller than their rodent cousins.
I personally have a dog (a Jack Russell Terrier) and he's caught several rats in the backyard which has proved to be quite effective. However, if rats do get inside your home they will be in the attic, in crawl spaces, between walls, etc and my dog can't get to those even though he's quite inept at getting into tight spaces due to his size (in comparison to larger breeds). His bark and growling also help to deter the rats.
For large infestations simply having a pet cat or dog won't solve your pest problem you need to follow the other steps in this guide or call a local pest control company.
8. Fill holes and gaps in exterior walls with wire
Inspect the exterior of your house for any small holes or gaps and make sure you fill them using wire wool and a good sealant. Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime so be careful that you fill in any holes completely.
If you have to weep holes in brickwork you can use an excellent pest filler called Xcluder (Amazon) which can be cut into strips and stuffed into holes. The great thing about this product is that it still lets moisture out so can be used for ventilation holes.
Word of warning though you must wear gloves when applying it as it's sharp and tough to cut. Make sure you always open the box outside as the wire is very fine and the last thing you need are wire particles on your floor or counters.
Did you know? Rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime.
9. Use a UV flashlight to detect theirÂ presence
If you're struggling to find the routes that a rat may have been taking then use a UV flashlight to detect urine and stains left behind. This works effectively when it's dark and will help you detect the areas used by rats so you can leave bait traps.
10. Use an ultra-sonic pest repellent
These plug-in pest repellers (Amazon) work by emitting ultra-sonic frequencies (25-65 kHz) to repel rodents and other pests such as insects in your home. They are very easy to use and simply plug into power sockets in your home so you can have one in every room if you desire. They work best when installed 32-47 inches above the ground.
11. Use your nose
Rats are smelly dirty creatures, you should be able to detect their nest in your home through smell. Dead rats also make a pungent smell but detecting a dead rat through a wall can be tricky. Read our guide on how to find a dead rat to learn more about the ways and means of finding and disposing of dead rodents.
Rats and mice need 3 things to survive food, water, and shelter. By cutting off these at the source you will stop rats from coming into your home and eventually deter them from your property altogether. They will quickly move on to find new territory to nest in just make sure your neighbors also use these recommended preventions.
If you do decide to use poison always use it within a trap so children, pets, or other animals can't reach it.
I always recommend using an expert pest control company if all else fails and you have a serious infestation which can't be dealt with by a home remedy.