Rats are one of the most problematic pests any homeowner can deal with. We have a saying at my company, Creepy Creatures Termite and Pest, “It’s rats.” While we say it “tongue and cheek”, rats are so common in the Central Florida area that it seems as though whatever the question is, the answer is almost always “It’s rats.”

Some rat jobs are pretty easy. Others are incredibly challenging, even for professionals. And we understand there are many “Do it yourself’ers” out there that may be up for the challenge but need a little advice.

First of all, let’s answer your question “How to get rid of rats?” The answer is by taking a step-by-step approach to understanding the problem and its extent. Accordingly, we need to devise solutions. Rat infestations though common, aren’t the same for everybody. It depends on the rodent species, house type, and your environment. In short, we first need to understand our enemy and the battlefield before jumping head-on. So, let’s start.

Professional advice on how to trap rats.
Professional advice on how to trap rats.

What are the Different Types of Rats?

For most people, this would seem like a redundant question. However, many different species are inhabiting the U.S. In fact, not all of them are rats. You might have a mice infestation and have mistaken it to be a rat. Depending on their species, their behavior and lifestyle vary. Since our measures are dependent on their lifestyle, we need to identify and understand them before taking any steps.

Rats are a bigger species. They are furry, generally brown, black and dark brown in colour. They have a blunt snout and short whiskers dropping from the side of the snout. A rat’s tail is usually long and hairless.

Mice on the other hand, are shorter cousins of rats. They are a long, triangular snout with droopy, long whiskers. In contrast to rats, they have short tails and big fluffy ears. But they aren’t the main cause of infestations. In fact, it’s rats!

There are two different types of rats who are credited with all kinds of home infestation problems – Norway rats and roof rats. But how do we know which is a Norway rat and which is a roof rat?

Here’s how….

How To Identify Rats?

Norway rats and roof rats are the two most predominant species in the United States. They live in almost all regions across the U.S. barring a few sections due to environmental conditions.

Culprit #1 – Norway Rats (also known as sewer rats)

These arrived in the U.S. in the 18th century on board ships arriving from Europe. These rats are now found throughout the country, barring coastal areas. When living in a house, the Norway rat is likely to stay close to the ground.

They prefer creating holes in wooden structures like the foundation, beam work, wood piles and debris and living in them. When not living in homes, they can be found in the fields, near garbage dumps and in the sewer. Basically, the first image that comes to your mind when you think of a rat, this is the guy you’re thinking of. An adult Norway rat will live up to a year and will breed throughout that time. However, their reproduction peaks during the spring and fall.

How To Identify a Norway Rat?

Here are some particulars which are specific to the Norway rat. Using these details, you can identify where the infestation at your place is due to a Norway rat or another species.

  • An adult is usually 13-15 inches long and weighs 7-18 ounces
  • It’s fur is reddish, blackish-brown or greyish-brown or just black with a grey underbelly.
  • Usually active only after sun sets.
  • Eats a wide range of food articles including poultry, fish, insects, mice, birds and small reptiles. Other food articles include anything food in a human pantry.
  • A female can produce 8-12 pups per litter. In a year, a female can produce 4-7 litters.

Culprit #2 – Roof rats (also known as black rat)

This is the smaller and more mobile version of the Norway rat. However, there are some basic differences in their lifestyles and habits, which make entrapment measure for roof rats different than Norway rats. These kinds of rats can gain entry into your house using nearby trees that are close to the exterior of your building.

They usually like above-ground locations and stay away from places with cool temperatures. In contrast to Norway rats, these kind of rats are usually found near coastal locations across the U.S. However, this species is also nocturnal in nature and they are extremely active during dawn or at dusk. But, if you hear any sounds during daytime, then suspect a large population inhabiting you’re home.

How To Identify a Roof Rat?

  • Adult rats are 7-10 inches and weight about 5-9 ounces
  • Their fur varies between greyish-black fur and only black fur.
  • Their diet will generally consists mostly of nuts, vegetables, seeds and fruits. Unlike Norway rats, they do not consume meats.
  • A female can produce unto 8 pups in a litter. In one year, she will give birth to 4-6 litters.
  • If you want to eradicate them using DIY methods, then multiple treatments will be necessary.
  • Best handled by professionals

Behavior

By understanding the behavior of these rats, pest professionals create sound strategies on how to terminate them. You can do the same, if you learn where they feed, when they move and how to target them.

As I mentioned before, both species have their own lifestyle and preferences. The Norway rats will base themselves closer to the ground and near the foundations of the building. In contrast, the roof rats (the name gives it away) are generally found in the attic, overhead spaces and roofs. Roof rats eat their meals at different locations and usually indoors. Since they want to avoid cool temperatures, they will try to spend the winter indoors.

You could also look for damage on wood structures, foundation structures, electrical wirings. Rats will gnaw and bite their way through these things. Also look for gashes and holes along the sewage, drainage and under spaces.

Tips To Get Rid of Rats

Make a Plan – First step is identifying where they are staying. Next, would be to identify their species and accordingly create a plan. Based on their species, you can anticipate which hour of the day they will be most active and when you can bait them.

Prevention Measures – Presence of rats in the house can mean an onslaught of diseases for your loved ones. Start by vacuuming your home and ensure there are no rat dropping around. Ensure that the trash is taken out daily. Next, inspect drainage and plumbing. Ensure that the openings are protected by metal mesh so that no rats and enter or exit the house. Check the foundation, attic and ensure all the vents are still intact. Any signs of gnawing means those areas need to be addressed.

Natural Repellents – One of the safest ways to ensure a rat-free living environment is to use natural repellents. There are different kinds of products that rats can tolerate. Some of them are –

Ammonia – Rats can’t tolerate the smell of ammonia. Use it to spray in closed space in the foundation or in the attic.

Bay leaf – This is actually a pretty common ingredient in Asian cooking. You can use it to keep you pulses, cereals and other food ingredients safe. A chemical compound in the leaves are actually lethal for rats.

Peppermint – Peppermint oil can be mixed with water and then sprayed across the house. It’s actually pretty good in sanitising the environment since its anti-bacterial and anti-viral.

Baby powder – Chemical ingredients in the baby powder is intoxicating to rats. You can use it to trap the rats.

How To Trap Rats – Traps will be the most effective solution in ridding your house of an infestation. Mouse traps are too small to effect rats. Remember that when you’re at the supermarket looking for traps. Here are a few tips which should help catch you some rats –

  • Use as many traps as possible. If it’s a medium to large scale infestation then you would need to catch the main female and the males. That will help stop them from breeding.
  • Place the traps in the area where they are most prevalent. Crawl spaces, areas behind large applications, attic and foundation are some of the locations you should target.
  • There are many types of traps – traditional traps, live traps, glue traps and electric traps. You can use them depending on how you want to capture them, release them or kill them.

Q & A

Q. What is the most important part of trapping rats?

A. Finding all the openings where rats can enter is the most important part of eliminating rats. If all the openings are not found and sealed, rats will continue to enter forever.

Q. Where do rats typically enter homes?

A. There are exceptions, but Norway rats often burrow and enter homes near ground or underground. Roof rats are excellent climbers and normally, but not always, enter up high. For roof rat, a thorough roof inspection is often necessary.

Dusty Showers has been in the urban nuisance wildlife and pest control field since 1993. Taught by Garon Fyffe, a pioneer in humane nuisance wildlife management, Dusty has a passion for finding humane solutions to human & wildlife conflicts. Dusty was the only individual invited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in the lat 1990's to help write legislation for legal protection of Florida bats. With an instinct for solving wildlife, Dusty found pest control to be an easy "add-on interest". Dusty started his first business "Animal Instincts Wildlife & Pest Management" in the Tampa Bay, Florida area in 1995. Eventually selling Animal Instincts in 2002, Dusty went on to start Creepy Creatures Termite and Pest Control in 2009, which he still owns and operates today in Palm Harbor, Florida.