As the weather turns colder, rats can infest your home and cause costly damage. This time of year, they seek warmth, shelter, food, and a source of water. Learn how to get rid of rats before they multiply.
You need to keep them out of your house, garage and areas surrounding your home.
If you hear scurrying at night, or notice droppings or damage, you must address the problem immediately.
You can get rid of rats on your own. Otherwise, you’ll need to call a pest control service. It will depend on:
- How long rats have been there
- Large or small infestation and colony
- How extensive the damage
In addition to being destructive, rats cause damage which become safety hazards. They can gnaw through electrical cables which can become a fire hazard.
Rodents will eat through structures and burrow inside. Mice and rat urine, feces and hair contaminate areas.
Rats are cause for particular concern because they are more aggressive than mice. They can bite humans, pets and livestock. Rat bites are serious. They can spread diseases to people, including bubonic plague, rat bite fever, rat mite dermatitis, pulmonary fever, salmonellosis, typhus, and more.
It’s important to keep rats out of livestock pens and areas outside as well.
Rats and mice are destructive pests. Be sure to never feed rodents. Preventing future rat invasions through rodent exclusion is as important as getting rid of rats.
Learn how to get rid of rats using these easy methods which we explain below:
- Identify rat entry points
- Seal off entry points
- Remove feeding sites and attractants
- Learn their habits
- Poison and rodenticides
- Scents to repel rats
- Rat exclusion
Table of Contents
How to get rid of rats
It’s important for you to take steps to eradicate rats AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Rats reproduce rapidly. The longer you wait, the more rats you will have to eliminate. This also means there will be more they can destroy and more for you to clean. Your best chance to get rid of rats is when their colony is still small.
These DIY methods are the best ways to get rid of rats:
Identify rat entry points
It’s essential to find out how rats are getting in. If you see rats, notice droppings, see rat harborage, or hear noises in your attic or within walls or air ducts, these are places to look first.
Rats are larger than mice and won’t fit through as small as spaces. Still, they can fit in gaps and openings greater than 1/2″ (1.3 cm) across. This is the size of a half dollar. Close up smaller holes as well so you don’t attract mice.
Especially in the fall and winter, as they seek warmth, shelter and food, they will find their way in through small openings. Rats can access entry points through holes, cracks, and crevices and any areas with gaps that aren’t properly sealed.
Some areas to consider are:
- General building exterior
- Roof, roof soffits
- Attic, crawl space
- Service lines, breaker boxes
- Door frames, windows
- Garage doors
- Dryer vents
- Oven gas lines
- HVAC system and ductwork
- Areas surrounding pipes
- Through sewer pipes
- Letterboxes attached to homes
Rats can come through drains, including the sink, toilet or bathtub. Rats are strong swimmers and can tread water for up to three days.
In addition, they can and will gnaw their way past wood, paneling, fiberboard, improperly-cured concrete, and more.
Consider how your garage door closes and if it’s level to the ground or if there is a gap. This can be an entry points for rats. This is especially important if you have an attached garage. Rats can infest garages.
Seal rat entry points
After identifying how rats enter, you must seal their entry points. Whether rats are coming into your home, attic, shed, garage or other structure, you must seal them out.
What you use will depend on how large the hole is and where it is. As an example, for a larger gap, you can use hardware cloth, metal sheeting, a lath screen, or cement to seal the area.
Consider some of these rodent-proofing materials. Sealing entry points will also prevent them from coming in the future.
Spray foam insulation
Depending on what areas you need to seal will depend on how you seal it. Consider using spray foam insulation designed to block pests. One brand is Great Stuff Smart Dispenser Pestblock. You can find it at hardware stores. It’s a spray foam insulating sealant.
Use a caulk gun to fill in gaps in gypsum and bricks.
Seal cracks and gaps with cement to block rodents.
Rat-proof wire mesh
Consider rat-proof wire mesh in some areas. This is made from steel. You can also stuff wire mesh into an opening as a temporary fix.
It is difficult for rats to gnaw through steel wool. You can stuff it in an area in order to block rodents from entering for a quick and temporary fix. Put caulk around the steel wool to seal entry points.
Use hardware cloth with foam caulk to create a barrier in larger gaps. You can also fill it with a fast-drying interior patching compound.
Rats can chew through aluminum. Instead, use galvanized sheet metal for a secure barrier.
Kick plate for doors
Installing kick plates on the bottom of doors will create a barrier for rodents entering. Choose a kick plate made from 24 or 26 gauge metal made from brass or galvanized steel.
Identify feeding sites
Rat teeth continue to grow. For this reason, rats continue to gnaw and chew on hard items in order to wear them down. They can chew through metal pipes. Otherwise, their teeth would grow so long making it impossible to eat.
You may be doing things that are attracting rats to your home without realizing it. Rats have an extraordinary sense of smell. They are omnivorous. You’ll want to remove any temptations around your home and inside your home. Remove any rat attractants.
To get rid of rats, it’s essential to not feed them. This may seem like common sense, but don’t feed rats, mice or any rodents.
Also consider indirect ways you may be feeding them. There may be accessible food and water where you are attracting them unknowingly. Think of areas outside your home as well as inside your home.
Attracting rats outside the home
Consider any pets and animals you are raising outdoors. Rats will eat dog food, cat food, grains for livestock, hay, etc. If you have dog food bowls outside, these can attract rats. Move them inside. Rats will be attracted to chicken eggs, chicken feed, and droppings as well.
In addition, remove bird feeders as rats will climb to eat birdseed. Also remove birdbaths, as they will use it as a water source. Learn what attracts rats.
Attracting rats inside the home
Inside your home, also consider accessible dog food in bowls, cat food in bowls, and water bowls. Being rats are nocturnal, put these away at night.
If you see droppings in your kitchen, on the counters, or in the cabinets, take means to remove accessible food in those areas. They eat anything but will be attracted to nuts, cereals, grains and dog food.
They will be able to gnaw their way through to eat oats in cartons, cereal in paperboard, pasta, rice and quinoa, and beans in plastic bags and boxes. Dog food bags are enticing to rats.
In addition, don’t leave fruit and vegetables and bread on the counter while you are getting rid of rats. In cabinets, seal food in tough plastic containers, glass or stainless steel.
Don’t stockpile food on the floor unless its sealed in air-tight glass, metal, steel or plastic containers. Examples of what not to include on the floor is a 20 pound bag of rice. Certainly, it may be difficult to find room for this in a cabinet or pantry. Store it in a fully-enclosed plastic container in addition to the the bag it comes in. When it’s sealed this way, it can sit out but rats won’t be able to gnaw through. How to Store Food Long Term
Learn their behavior
Once you’ve identified and sealed rat entry points and eliminated food and water sources, you must learn their behavior. In this way, you can set traps or use poison to get rid of them or use scents to deter them.
Consider any signs of them, such as droppings, evidence of chewing and other damage, rat harborage, nests or anything else. If you don’t see signs of where rats are in your home and the areas they travel, there are other things you can do.
Use a black light for rodent inspections. You can use it to detect rat urine to locate their habits.
Listen at night
Unless you have a large rat colony, you likely won’t see them during the day. They are nocturnal. One way to find out where they are located is to listen at night. Perhaps you will hear them within the walls, in the attic, or under the flooring.
Dust areas with flour
You can also lightly dust areas with flour or baby powder to see if they are using a pathway. Do this in the evening where it won’t be disturbed by pets or children. In the morning, see if the powder is disturbed or if you see rat tracks.
Rats will leave droppings and urine wherever they go. One rat can leave up to 50 droppings per day.
Once you begin to understand where the rats are in your home and areas they are traveling to, you can set rat traps. Note, rats are difficult to trap because of their size. Traps work better on mice.
Also, it’s important to note, rat traps can snap on curious pets and children. Be sure to set the traps so they are safe. This may mean putting them in off-limits areas or setting them in the evening.
There are plenty of different rat traps to choose from. You will be able to find ones that work for your preference. Here are common rat traps to consider and why they are effective.
Tips to remember: You’ll need to find their favored pathway and set the traps. The greater the infestation, the more traps you will need. You’ll want to trap them before they reproduce. Rats reproduce on average every 21 days.
Whichever traps you try, know that rats are cautious of new things in their environment. In the beginning, they will likely avoid the traps. This means you may want to set out several and consider setting out different types around different areas in your home.
Home Trapping Kit | A24 Rat & Mouse Trap Kit w/ Counter
This trapping kit lures rats and mice and kills them more humanely than other traps. It releases a chocolate scent which attracts rats and mice.
The pros of this rat trapping method is the lure lasts for six months. It comes in a canister. This means that just twice a year, you will need to replace the lure. Otherwise, it’s hands-free. You place it where you want to and can leave it. You won’t have to set the trap with bait each time. It’s also safe for pets. The trap sets the lure (the bait).
Like with traditional traps, you will need to dispose of the rats. The counter is a nice bonus but not essential. They offer less expensive model without it. The counter in this rat trap is a nice feature because it counts how many times it “fires” at something. In most instances, the rats and mice will be dead on the ground as evidence it works.
The A24 Rat and Mouse Trap Kit is a trap that’s designed for rats as well as mice. It will kill them humanely. It’s toxin free.
Snap trap for rats
Small, wooden tried and true mousetraps are effective at trapping mice. These are made from wood and have a mechanism that snaps a metal wire back if a mouse comes in contact with the product. For mice, they are fast and humane.
However, rats are a lot larger than mice. This means the typical snap traps aren’t ideal when trying to trap rats. It could be a less humane way to try to get rid of rats because the rats might get hurt not die instantly.
If you want to use snap traps, buy a rat snap trap. This will be larger than standard mousetraps. There is one made in the USA from Tomcat brand. It’s Tomcat Rat Snap Trap. Leave the trap in an area you think rats frequent. Bait it and set it and wait.
If you aren’t sure if you have rats or mice, you may want to set some basic snap traps. You may find you have mice instead of rats.
Using a live trap for rats is a non-lethal option. This is the most humane way of all to catch rats. These are also called live catch cages. You will find they are called rat and squirrel traps because you can trap and remove larger rodents. Best Ways to Get Rid of Possums and Other Pests
This is a cage that you bait to attract a rat. When the rat crawls inside, the door drops, locking it in. There is a carry handle for you to take the cage and release the rat elsewhere. These are smaller cages you can reuse to trap and release other pests as well.
The upside to using a catch and release system is that it’s a humane rat trap. The rat will remain alive. For some, this is a more pleasant way of handling DIY pest control.
The downside to using a live trap for rats is you will have to carry the cage with a rat inside of it and release it somewhere else. This will have to be somewhere far away from your property. You will generally only trap one rat at a time. If you have a rat infestation with dozens or more in the colony, they will be reproducing faster than you can keep up unless you have enough live traps.
We don’t recommend this method to get rid of rats but wanted to discuss it an option. One of the least humane rat traps is glue traps.
These are glue pads which you set on the ground. The rat — and anything else which steps on it — will be stuck to the glue. The rat will struggle to be free but die a slow and painful death over the course of hours or a day. You throw away the glue trap with the rat.
If you’ve tried traps or have a large infestation of rats, rat poison is an option. You can use rat poison inside or outside but be aware of pets and children. Many rat poisons are waterproof so you can use them outdoors.
However, poisoning rats will affect wildlife. As poisoned rats become prey, their predators will ingest the poison.
Generally, rat poison comes in pellet form. Outdoors, sprinkle it are areas you suspect have rats. Indoors, you can do the same or put it in small jars.
It’s important to know this isn’t a humane way to deal with rats. In addition, as rats die, they will do so inside your home. Oftentimes, they will go back to their nests. This means, you could have a different type problem within the walls, in the crawl space or attic, etc. You’ll have to get the rats out.
Rat poison does not make rats thirsty and leave your home in search of water.
You should use this product if the rat population is low. If present in large numbers, it’s best to call an exterminator near you.
These are pesticides that kill rodents. They are made with aluminum phosphide, calcium phosphide. There are plenty of rodenticides that you can leave out as is or have it mixed with some kind of bait.
Some of the best foods for bait include pet food, nuts, and bacon. You can wrap up the rodenticide pellet in a small strip of bacon, so it’s easy for the rats to eat.
Even though peanut butter and cheese have always been the suggested baits of choice, they’re not as effective as we once assumed. You can easily set up the perfect bait station without using a lot of traps and equipment.
Like with rat poison, when ingested, rodenticides will also harm other wildlife, including squirrels, rabbits, dogs, and more.
What scent will keep rats away?
There are a few scents that might be potent enough to drive rats away from your home and keep them out. Using scents for rat control is a better method to keep the rats out, rather than when you already have a rat population. This is called rat exclusion.
While it’s not the best way of how to kill rats since you’ll use natural ingredients, it’s actually a better alternative than using traps that may inadvertently kill them.
Use these scents outside your home in areas you think may attract rats. This could be barns, shed, outside garages, patios, and areas close to your home. Also use scents near any openings, cracks, crevices to prevent rats from entering your home.
Here are some scents to try:
- Peppermint Oil
- Beaver Oil
- Citronella Oil
- Chili peppers (the hotter, the better)
These scents are quite overpowering to a rat’s sensitive sense of smell. Even onions can be quite powerful. It could be enough for a rat to go in the other direction and seek shelter, food and water elsewhere.
Note, once you already have a rat infestation, using scents can work to keep them away from certain areas inside your home, but it won’t get rid of them.
An example of using scents to deter rats is to put peppermint oil on cotton balls underneath patio furniture cushions to repel rats. In this way, they won’t be attracted to the area.
In addition to getting rid of rats, you’ll always want to be thinking of rodent control methods so they don’t come in the first place. Prevention is key.
This means, fill in holes and cracks with concrete or steel wool. Don’t leave dog food bowls out at night. If you raise livestock, seal their food in metal locking containers. Don’t leave food on the floor in areas near door gaps.
Rats will seek warmth and shelter as it gets colder outside. Make it difficult for them to make their way into your home by rat-proofing. Use scents such as peppermint oil or bleach to deter rats around the outside of your home.
Always be on the lookout for rat droppings. You’ll want to address any signs of rats or mice immediately.
Call a pest control company
Calling an exterminator or trained pest control professional is also an option. They can inspect and consult with you. They will be able to identify where the rats are nesting, where they are coming in, and the size of the colony.
Consider this if you see rats during the day, see an increase in damage, droppings, rat harborage, or other evidence, it likely means you have a large colony. There are typically different levels of service. Full-service extermination involves baiting, trapping, sealing entry points, and clean up. However, you will need to disinfect any areas in your living space.
How long does it take to get rid of rats?
Short answer: It depends. If you are dealing with a small rat population, it could take a week or two to get rid of them completely. However, if the infestation is large enough, it will take longer, especially if this happens in larger spaces and buildings.
Be sure you’re not inadvertently feeding them. Remove water bowls at night.
Also, if you set traps, check them every day for trapped rats. Reset them again at night. You’ll need to be consistent with setting up traps. Having multiple traps in areas throughout the home will also increase your odds of trapping them.
If you see rat droppings on kitchen counters, in kitchen drawers or in cabinets, set traps in those areas.
If you see rats during the day, it’s likely there is a rat infestation. This means you will have more than a few rats. This may be in the later stages. Rats are active at night, not during the day. In this instance, it’s best to call a local pest control professional.
Types of rats in homes
You may have rats or you may have mice. There are a few ways to tell the difference between mice and rats.
One way to tell the difference is the size. Rats are larger than mice. Rats are 12″ – 18″ long while mice are smaller at 4″ – 8″ long.
Another way is the shape of the head. Mice heads are triangular while rat heads are blunt.
Common to home infestations are the Norway rat, Rattus norvegicus. It’s cold tolerant and hardy. It’s also known as a sewer rat and brown rat.
With a 6″ – 8″ tail, these rats have brown or dark gray fur. They will have black hairs scattered throughout their bodies. Rats teeth continuously grow. Because of this, rats constantly gnaw on things to wear them down. If they didn’t their teeth would grow too long, and they wouldn’t be able to eat.
Rats will chew wood, fiberboard, paneling, plaster, cinder blocks, improperly-cured concrete, aluminum sheeting and more. They’ll gnaw on anything that’s not harder than their teeth. This means, when choosing flooring, choose one rats can’t get through.
Also common in homes are roof rats. They are black to light brown and also called ship rats, black rats, and house rats. These rats are smaller than Norway rats. Their tail is longer than their bodies.
Roof rats are good climbers and will set up nests above ground, not in burrows. Outside, they’ll nest in trees, wood piles, and other areas off the ground. In homes, they’ll live in areas high above, where heat rises. This includes in roofs, attics, in cabinets, inside walls and ceilings.
Roof rats are not attracted to food like other rodents are. Instead, they eat more like squirrels. They’ll chew through pipes to get to water.
The mouse common to homes is Mus musculus. They are light brown, gray or black. They are not cold tolerant and will seek shelter in the winter months. You will find them in attics, garages, and homes. This is called the house mouse because it’s common.
FAQs about getting rid of rats
What are rats scared of?
Their highly-evolved sense of smell is what often attracts rats to areas near and inside the home. Finding out what they don’t like is a way to deter rats.
There are oils which will keep them away. Oils such as peppermint, castor oil, and citronella oil will repel rats. They are also deterred by the scent of bleach. Soak a rag in bleach and use it to block entry points into your home.
How do I get rid of rats fast?
To stop a rat infestation quickly, you must take steps immediately to get rid of them. This means, set traps right away. It’s likely rats won’t come near them in the beginning. Rats are cautious of new things. Set them and leave them. In time, you will trap rats.
Also, eliminate all food and water. This includes:
- Remove pet food bowls and water bowls at night
- Put dog food bags and boxes in sealable plastic containers
- Remove bird feeders and bird baths
- Put away food that’s on the kitchen counter
- Put bags of potatoes in the refrigerator
- Seal large bags of rice in heavy duty plastic containers
After you have removed the food attractants, identify rat entry points. These are areas around your home at rats can fit in. This includes any gaps, holes, open areas that are larger than half an inch. Stuff the areas with steel wool for a temporary fix. Seal them with rat-proof foam insulation, concrete, hardware cloth, and more, depending on the size and area.
At night, listen. Try to learn where they are in your home.
Do all you can as soon as you can as soon as possible. That is the best way to get rid of rats fast.
How do you stop rats from coming into your house?
To stop rats from coming into your house, you must make it difficult for them to do so. This means, close doors and windows. Seal gaps and holes around foundations, vents, garage doors, chimneys. Practice rat exclusion methods such as using scents around these openings to dissuade rats from coming in.
How do I know if rats are gone?
Think back to the signs you noticed when you realized you had rats. Did you hear noises behind the walls? See rodent droppings? When those are eliminated, consider other factors as well. Rats are nocturnal. Leave out a cracker at night to see if it is disturbed. If not, chances are the rats are gone.
Continue to set traps to see if any remain. After a month, if you don’t trap a rat, they may be gone.
Getting rid of rats permanently takes time. You’ll need to know their behaviors and habits to know if they are gone. Always be on the lookout for droppings and areas that are gnawed through.
Do home inspectors check for rats?
While they may see the damage, nests and droppings, home inspectors report on insects that damage wood. This means, they are not obligated to report for signs of bats, squirrels, mice, rats, packrats, birds or other infestations. As a courtesy, the inspector may mention it but home inspections do not cover this.
Are rats harder to get rid of than mice?
Rats and mice reproduce quickly and often. If you don’t take steps to rid your home of rats or mice immediately, they will become increasingly harder to get rid of.
Because rats are larger than mice, they won’t be able to fit in tiny crevices. This means they will have less entry points to access areas. Sealing off areas immediately will help. However, once inside your home, it won’t matter.
Rats will be more difficult to eradicate than mice because they are very cautious of new things in their environment. This means, they won’t immediately approach traps like mice will.
What do you do if you see a rat outside your house?
Act immediately. Seal any gaps. Remove any food and water sources, including pet food bowls, bird baths, bird feeders and more. If you have livestock, chickens, or horses be sure to secure their food as well.
Next, look for access points and block them. Stuff them with steel wool until you can permanently seal them. Dampen rags with bleach and put them near any entry points into your home.
You can also set traps along the periphery — dozens of feet away from your home — but only do so after you’ve sealed all entry points. You don’t want to attract rats anywhere near your home. This is because they may set up on patio furniture, grills, and other spaces.
What will rats not chew through?
Rats will not be able to chew through glass, metal, heavy plastic (good to store food in), hardware cloth, and steel wool.
Best ways to get rid of rats
Do you hear scurrying at night? See droppings in your kitchen? Notice damage? See rat harborage? If you want to save money and opt not to hire a pest control company and exterminator, consider these best ways to get rid of rats.
Rats are considered a serious health risk. They are more aggressive than mice. Getting rid of rats can be an easy task to do yourself if you know what you’re doing. The most important thing is to address it right away. The longer you wait, the more problems you will have with trying to get rid of them. They will continue to damage areas in your home and can spread to other areas. In the meantime, the rodent will procreate, increasing the population. This will quickly multiply the issues.
If you see rodents during the day, the rat infestation may be large and too advanced to control on your own. It might be time to get in contact with your local exterminator.
In the meantime, if the problem is manageable, you can use the steps listed above. Choose an animal control method that you think will work best for your situation. It can be a live trap that will keep the rat alive.
You can also kill them with a rat trap. Another way is to set up a bait station, which is a good way to eliminate rats. This combines small amounts of bait with an effective rodenticide.
Either way, you can get rid of this problem yourself and at little cost. The more consistent you are with tackling the problem, the more you can get rid of pesky rats once and for all.
Continue to improve ways to prevent rats from coming by using rat exclusion techniques. Scents are one way to repel rats. It won’t get rid of them, but it will deter them from coming in the first place. After you get rid of rats, work to prevent them from coming back.