How to get rid of rats in your home fast: A complete guide
How To Get Rid of Rats Ethically and avoid dead rats!
To get rid of rats in your home you need to understand rats and why they are there. Rats enter homes for very simple reasons that include, food, shelter, and somewhere safe to raise their young.
Every rat population and infestation of rats will begin life this way. So controlling rats is more about exclusion than it is killing rats.
We intuitively know that rats are a serious health risk because rats carry disease, yet we fail time and time again to secure our homes against unwanted visitors. We have listed twenty of the common ways rats get into your home below and we could make the list longer!
Removing food sources and emptying sources of water is also a good idea to make life less conducive for rats. Rats are quite big and need a reliable source of food and water. If you deny these rodent pests access to what they need, rats will often leave without rat traps or rat poisons being used.
5 reasons you don’t want a rat infestation in the house
- Rats carry and help transmit medically important diseases
- Damage to wiring, plastic pipes and cables is a fire, flood and electrocution risk
- Food will be attacked and contaminated physically and microbiologically
- Rats can gnaw through plasterboard walls and ceilings
- Rodents will freely roam your home at night while you sleep
Rat infestations are common and often very challenging to solve quickly and easily without help and advice from a professional pest management company like ours. In some cases, rats will have entered your property in one of the following ways outlined next.
20 Ways Rats Get Into Your Home
- Open doors and windows
- Faulty or unsecured cat and dog flaps
- Inside furniture and deliveries
- Under doors
- Under or around badly sealed window frames and door frames
- Gaps and small holes in mortar and masonry
- Openings and gaps around and under pipes and ducts
- Via climbing plants that reach gutters or low roofs
- Faulty inspection chambers
- Exposed utility bridges
- Faulty or missing vents
- Damaged or redundant drains
- Adjoining properties
- Fencing, gates, and walls that run level with the roof
- Overhanging shrubs and tree branches
- Unsealed or cast iron downpipes and soil and vent pipes
- Damaged drains that run under or within 3 meters of your home’s exterior
- Stored timber and other items left leaning up against the house
- Trellis or other items attached to the house
- Cats often bring rodents inside and survivors run off!
It’s easy to see how a rat problem can easily start and how rat populations establish themselves so quickly and easily! Most of the above avenues of entry used by rats can be solved inexpensively in simple steps.
By remediating the above issues you should prevent further rodent control issues in the future. Exclusion is always the most humane form of control for both you and the rats.
Should You Use Rat Poison or Rat Traps?
Neither! You don’t need dead rats, you need no rats! Your first task is to reach for a torch and try to identify how rats have entered your home.
Rodenticide & Professional Help
Professional pest control companies often get rid of rats by baiting with single feed poisons or rat bait (one feed is a lethal dose). One advantage these rodent baits have over products available to amateur users (multi-feed poison) is they bring on an intense thirst in the rodent, effectively driving them out of your home, to a source of water.
Once rodents have been given time to exit, remedial proofing and repairs can be carried out with the minimum likelihood that you will be trapping rodents on your side of the repair.
Sometimes rats will be found alive or dead in toilets because that is the only available source of water. This is most common in situations where a physical structure (a door?) has been placed between a foraging rat and its way back out the way it came in.
Baits will often be placed in bags, bait trays or sometimes in bait boxes (bait stations) to keep it safe from children, vulnerable adults and pets.
rodent bait should always be viewed as a last resort for rat control externally because of the risks to non target animals that are themselves the prey of owls and other birds of prey. Secondary poisoning is a very real issue and if we want to prevent rats without putting pressure on non-target species, we must consider alternatives that help us get rid of rats without poisons first.
No bait for rats will get rid of rats instantly or kill rats instantly. Many rats will be patrolling a set route every day. They will know where food can be found and will always be looking for better resources and harbourage.
A rat infestation in your home or garden often takes a month or more to develop and a large infestation in your home or garden may take three to six months, assuming conditions are optimal for reproductive success.
A Garden with areas that are overgrown can provide cover for significant infestations to develop unseen and is a key reason why any adjoining garden should be considered in any inspection process.
Get Rid of Single Rats With Rat Traps
A traditional rat trap (snap traps) will be one of the first things people buy to get rid of rats in their home, but they often use peanut butter or cheese! The best bait is dark chocolate (70% + cocoa)! You need to melt one edge of the chocolate so it sticks itself to the trap and can’t be easily removed. This significantly increases catch rates in most situations.
Also, be sure to secure the trap with a piece of wire to prevent a trapped rodent from dragging it off and dying in a location from which you can’t retrieve it.
Avoid humane traps unless you are confident you have the capacity to destroy the animal humanly yourself. Glue boards are a last resort for professionals and should be avoided by amateur users.
Holistic Rat Control
For generations, we have seen how rats and mice have been persuaded to stay away from our homes with natural remedies. These include pepper spray, or you could place peppermint oil drops everywhere, or sprinkle crushed pepper nearby or cover food items in chilli powder and cayenne pepper.
From experience, we know these don’t work at getting rid of rats effectively. If holistic alternatives including ultrasonic devices and strobes worked as well as advertised, we would not have a thriving pest control industry.
Rat populations quickly adapt to things like this and although we think these things should be tried, we remain to be convinced of the efficacy of these products and substances in both rodent control and reducing rat populations.
Keep Rats Away From Your Home
Prevention is always better than the cure! Domestic animals like dogs will often be your first indicators of visitors in a family garden.
Even the neighbour’s cat will be useful in identifying external areas of rodent activity. Just watch and observe where the pets spend most of their time sitting, waiting or starring in your garden or around your home – there is always a reason and it’s often that they have picked up on the established routes used by rats in and around your home.
Rats are attracted to your garden by garden sheds (offering shelter and maybe stored bird feed), compost bins (food waste), storage bins (overflowing or damaged), bird feeders (spilled seed), fruit trees (fallen, apples, plums, damsons and pears), nut trees (hazelnuts and wall nuts), ponds (freshwater, especially in a heatwave or cold weather), chickens (spilt feed), guinea pigs (spilt feed and bedding), rabbits, wooden decking (concealed drains and building faults) and the same features in your neighbour’s gardens could all be sources of rat and rodent activity.
These are all places a professional pest controller will be looking or considering during a rat control inspection.
Removing clutter and items leaning against the exterior walls is very useful to ensure we can see the entire perimeter clearly. When the outside is cluttered up, entry points can be easily missed!
Collecting up fallen fruit, pausing bird feeding and pausing the use of compost bins during periods of identified external rat activity is easily among the most effective ways to deter or stop rats externally. Removing an easy food source that will attract rats wanting to consume it will always help you get rid of rats.
We believe that excess bird food availability during the pandemic lockdowns was a driving force behind an increased rat presence in gardens during the summer of 2020. The rat population seemed to spike.
Fortunately, it’s really very simple – keep your garden in good order and your children and pets get to enjoy it rodent-free!
How Do You Know You Have Rats?
The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) is a large rodent, up to 18 inches long including the tail. Norway rats are resourceful and intelligent mammals that require a regular supply of food and water to thrive.
Gnawing, scratching, screeching, squeaking and scurrying will often be the very first indication of activity in cavity walls, attic spaces, crawl spaces, floor voids and ceilings.
Sometimes it will be a strange smell coming from a bedroom or beneath a floor or even your airing cupboard. Pellet shaped droppings are slightly larger than a grain of rice and adults will sometimes produce droppings larger than date stones!
Fresh droppings are usually light brown in colour and shiny but quickly darken to almost black. Older droppings may even have mould on them.
Damage or gnawing of electrical wires is among the most unwelcome tell tale signs of a rodent problem in your house. It always pays to have your consumer unit checked to ensure it has modern trip switches and isn’t a fire risk.
Rat smears, grease marks, tail marks and pad prints in dust deposits on top of cupboards and on top of white goods or stored items in attics or cellars is a sure sign of activity, but not always current activity. Fresh tracks are sometimes hard for non-professionals to spot.
Piles of shredded paper and other material under kitchen counters and baths is often a rats nest. Be careful because a protective female rat is not to be underestimated. This is one of the rare times a rat might bite you.
When you discover an active nest you should seriously consider contacting a professional pest controller for removal of the nest and baiting if required. Keep children and pets away until it is safe, especially if rodent baits are being used by professionals.
The Norway rat is distinctive as are the bait stations the industry uses. You might consider showing the bait stations to children so they know what they are, why they are needed and know not to touch them. Getting rid of rats can be beneficially educational.
Rats – Staying Safe From Disease
Kitchens will be the hot spot for rats, rat infestations and rat problems of all kinds. Rats quickly figure out where reliable food sources are. To protect yourself from Norway rats spreading diseases we recommend that you keep all foods safely stored in robust, sealed plastic or plastic alternative storage containers. Sealed containers should almost guarantee food remains safe.
Food safety and kitchen hygiene should be front and centre of everyone’s minds. Roof rats as the name suggests will easily get into countertops or find their way through the back of kitchen cabinets.
Bin security is also vital, so ensure all bins are emptied regularly and inspect them to ensure bins are closed properly with tight-fitting lids. Closed bins in commercial food premises make a huge difference and it should be no different in residential kitchens.
Rat Proofing & Exclusion
Rat proofing and exclusion against mice and Norway rats comes in two parts. First, you need to make sure that all entry points or rat contact points around the building are clearly identified with a thorough inspection.
All openings and small gaps need to be considered for proofing. Any gap over 10mm should ideally be sealed. Mice and juvenile rats will get through small gaps easily. Juvenile rats are routinely misidentified as mice, so for efficacy, both should be treated as one, for the sake of effective proofing.
Proofing against rats is carried out using sealants, expanding foam, steel mesh (they can gnaw through aluminium), wire wool, ultra-rapid cement and concrete. All of these items could be obtained at local hardware stores or DIY outlets.
Simply seal gaps around your house as you go and in most cases, proofing is unlikely to take more than a few hours.