How to Get Rid of Rats

Rats. ..Of all life’s pests, they’re probably one of the least welcome in your home. They spread disease, filth, and are overall just unsightly creatures. While you may even get used to the idea of mice or insects living in your space, rats don’t have any cute or friendly features. Even if you’re a fan of Disney’s Ratatouille the idea of a rat being in your kitchen is probably too close for comfort. This post will walk you through rat facts, where rats are primarily an issue, why rats become an issue, how to prevent rats, and finally how to get rid of them most effectively if they’re creating issues for your lifestyle.

Rat facts

Understanding how to get rid of rats will first come from understanding the basics. To start, here are the top 10 rat facts of which you should be aware.

  1. Adult rats can enter your home or building from an entry point as small as a quarter.
  2. Rats can chew through glass, wire, lead, aluminum, and cinderblock.
  3. Rats typically die around a year, although they can live as long as 18 months.
  4. Certain types of rats can swim (and swim over a mile at that), so don’t hold out that you’re going to drown a rat.
  5. There are 56 known species of rats.
  6. Rats can reproduce every three weeks and starting three weeks after they’re born.
  7. Rats spread disease by carrying pathogens.
  8. Rats have skilled memories and will remember a navigation route once they learn it.
  9. Rats die without companionship due to loneliness and depression.
  10. Rats are shy animals and prefer to run away than face a potential threat.

Learn more rat facts at One Kind Planet. Rat facts are important because they help you understand the creatures that may be inhabiting your home and help you move forward despite these traits that they already possess.

Where rats are a problem

If you’ve never lived in a region with rats previously, and then recently relocated, you’re probably overwhelmed with their presence. That’s completely normal! Rats aren’t as common everywhere across the United States. In fact, have you ever heard that there are more rats living in the five boroughs of New York than there are people? It’s enough to make your skin crawl.

The Top 5 Cities in the U.S. with Rat Problems:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Boston
  3. New York City
  4. Washington, D.C.
  5. Milwaukee

The Least Impacted Cities in the U.S. by Rat Problems

  1. Seattle
  2. Atlanta
  3. Dallas
  4. Miami
  5. Phoenix

If you want to see if your region falls on this last, read this article, Rats! The Regions With the Most Sightings. If you’re living in either New York or Florida, check out location specific blogs to learn what kind of rats are specifically in either state.

So, what makes those top 5 cities the most susceptible to rat problems? It comes down to a combination of both human behavior and sanitation, but proper disposal of trash is what can really help prevent the issue in the first place. Rats are primarily a problem in areas where trash is available for them to eat. This not only allows them to sustain themselves, but it also allows them to reproduce.

While the governments in each of these top 5 cities have tried everything from suffocating rats with dry ice to releasing feral cats to catch rats, these efforts aren’t always effective. It can be difficult to see the direct impact of any of these on the reduction in the number of rats. Cracking down on trash regulations may actually be what does it. This is something to keep in mind if you’re suddenly encountering a rat problem or if you’re living in an area with a high population of rats. You could take preventative action that can help reduce rats. Likewise, their presence might always just be a product of where you live, and you’ll have to navigate that as you go.

Why rats are a problem  

If there’s any part of you that’s an animal lover, you may have this question on your mind. Why are rats a problem? Could you simply pull a Cinderella and live amongst your tiny friends? If the scurrying doesn’t terrify you (as it does most people due to conditioning), could they just stay? What do they do that’s so terrible? Why should I be worried?

These are all great questions because rats are indeed a problem and pose several dangerous consequences if they are permitted to stay (knowingly or unknowingly).

Picture this: It’s January in your Washington, D.C. home. You’re going about your normal daily life and suddenly you spot a rat in your home. Actually not one but two. Later that night you see another right outside your home when you’re pulling the garbage to the curb. You’ve already a little perturbed because this has never happened before, but you can’t help wondering why it’s happening now.

 

Rats, especially during winter months, are drawn to food and warmth. Aren’t we all?! Once it gets chilly out, they look to burrow into people’s homes in order to stay comfortable and avoid freezing. Additionally, they may appear if there’s construction in your area or their borrow or food source has been disrupted. They’re out of their routine and they’re trying to figure out what to do next.

As you’re picking up the phone to call an exterminator, you’re wondering…is this worth it? Yes, it is. Rats are carriers of disease organisms and that is why they’re more dangerous than other animals we see around our houses like birds or squirrels. Although, we admittedly still wouldn’t want either of these living amongst us. Rats can contaminate our food with their droppings and urine. You can catch potentially deadly bacterial infections and viruses like Salmonella, Hantavirus, Listeria, and Rat-Bite Fever just through indirection contact with rats.

  • Salmonella: Salmonella can cause hospitalization or even death. It results in about 450 deaths in the U.S. per year. The illness lasts 4 to 7 days with symptoms like diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
  • Hantavirus: Hantavirus is a virus only found in the urine, saliva, or droppings of infected wild rodents. There are serious consequences to contracting it since around 40 percent of the individuals who contract Hantavirus die. The disease progresses rapidly, blood pressure falls, and lungs fill with fluids. This respiratory failure results in death within a few days of the onset of symptoms.
  • Listeria: Listeria, also known as Listeriosis, is an infection caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria. It impacts those with weakened immune systems most (newborns, seniors, pregnant women, etc.). It is common to experience flu-like symptoms, confusion, and loss of balance but in the case of infections during pregnancy, the consequences can be as several as miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Rat-Bite Fever: Rate-Bite Fever occurs when someone comes into contact with a rodent carrying the bacteria (Streptobacillus moniliformis or Spirillum minus). It is also possible to come into contact with the bacteria through contamination of food or water with urine and droppings of rodents carrying the bacteria.  

Just from this list, you can see that the dangers and diseases that rats cause are not only uncomfortable but are potentially deadly. If you notice rats living in your home, it’s paramount that you call an exterminator. Knowing how to get rid of rats correctly is one of the best tools with which you can equip yourself.

 

How to prevent rats

Protecting your home from the get-go and preventing rats make it that much easier to ensure that you never have to go into full-fledged “get rid of rats” mode. Consider these tips when setting up and organizing your home and just going about your daily business. It’ll ensure you have the tools that you need to live a rat-free life.

Storage

  • Store food in glass or metal containers with tight-fitting lids. While rats can still chew through these materials, they act as more of a deterrent than cardboard cartons. Cutting off of their food supply might help you direct them elsewhere—like outside of your home!
  • Put garbage, both outdoor and indoor, in bins with secure lids. Don’t allow it to sit open. It’ll be easy to get into and they’ll feed on the contents which will attract them and keep them there permanently.
  • Store pet food and bird seed in tight containers just like you would your food. Remember that this is also edible food to them so leaving it out will allow them a food source that you want to cut off.

Clutter

  • Avoid clutter in your home and garden. Clutter allows rats somewhere to hide and won’t allow you to address the true problem points because you won’t be able to see them.
  • Clean out your garden of any unnecessary clutter and reconsider how you’re composting. If it’s possible for them to feed off of the organic matter you have in your composting heap, then you’re identifying yet another way they’re being attracted to your home.

 

Entrances

  • Doorways, pet doors, baseboards: Remember, rats only need a quarter sized opening to fit through. Young rats can fit through tiny gaps under doorways and will use pet doors to enter as well. Rats can also gnaw open existing holes to make them larger so that they can enter. Doorways, pet doors, and baseboards are all areas of concern when you’re dealing with a rat problem.
  • Gaps in exterior walls: Did you know that rats can jump a height of about 4 feet? If you didn’t, then you do now. This is especially disturbing for some individuals who are on the shorter side. Rats can really get that vertical height. Due to this, you’ll want to consider fill any holes that may exist even if you think they’re too high for them to reach. Fill these gaps with stainless steel wire wool and caulking or concrete. These are two materials that rats are unable to chew through, so you’ll be good to go as soon as you fill everything up.
  • Roofs – Rats like to climb and roofs fit right into that. If you have any roof damage, use wire mesh in those gaps as well. You’ll also want to consider how they’re getting up there. Most of the time, rats are using electrical cables and branches to help their ascent. Once on the roof, they’re in loft spaces and attics. Check these spaces for any weaknesses and you’re on your way to a rat-free space.
  • Drains and sewer pipes – Rats can not only swim but can hold their breath for up to three minutes. If your sewer pipes are damaged, rats could be getting in that way. Make sure you keep your toilet seat lids closed. The last thing you want is a rat getting in via your toilet seat u-bend. Tightly fitting metal grates and screens to cover drains provide extra protection (especially in the basement).

Establishing an effective method for rat prevention will help you prior to it truly becoming a problem. The above is what is widely recognize by both pest control companies as well as governments. Check out this page to see what the DC Government recommends for their residents, Rodent Control Tips for Residents. You’ll see that it’s right in line! You’ll just need to persevere until you see some progress. Unfortunately, preventative pest control isn’t something that happens overnight.

 

How to get rid of rats

Finally! The moment you’ve all been waiting for. You’ve learned rat facts, why rats are a problem, where rats are most common, how dangerous they can be, how best to prevent them, but you haven’t actually learned how to get rid of them. If you’ve started seeing rats around your home or you know that they’re there because of the evidence that they’re leaving, you’ve probably had it up to here. This next section will walk you through everything you need to know in how to get rid of rats.

Step #1: Inspection

Alright, so step #1 is inspection. You have a pretty good idea that the rats exist but maybe you don’t know where exactly they’re living or where they’re coming from. What’s their food source? Why are they suddenly so active now? This inspection step should get you all the information that you need to successfully get rid of the rats in your home or building. The best time to inspect is during a rat’s period of high activity. This time will be at dusk or just after dark.

You’re probably wondering, “That’s great, but what am I looking for?” Good question! You’re looking for the signs of a rat (or more likely rats), which you’ve probably seen already before because how else would you know that they exist. The common rat signs are fecal pellets, tracks (if you’re looking outside these will be more evident), damage from gnawing, runways, grease marks, burrows, urine stains, rodent odors, sounds, or pets being disturbed.

For fecal pellets, remember not to touch if you find them! They can easily carry disease that has the danger of death. They might be hard to see because they’re small, but you can take it as confirmation of activity. Recent droppings will be darker and softer than older droppings which will be lighter and harder. This is important in determining whether or not your population is active. If you have a lot of old droppings, you might be more worried about dead rats that you want to remove from your property because they start to smell. Additionally, take note of how many droppings there are. If there are only a few, you might just be dealing with a couple of rats. If you have hundreds, then you’re looking at a rather large infestation.

For tracks, you’re looking for little teeny, tiny footprints. You might find it helpful to use flour or baby powder to help illuminate a suspicious area. These will be easier to see on wet or moist soil. Rats typically have five toes on their back feet and four toes on their front feed. Their back feed will leave the most tracking.

Gnaw marks will looking rough around the edges with a hole of about 2 inches or more. Rats will gnaw on wood objects like door corners, joists of flooring, ceilings, and walls in order to get through to where they want to go. If you’re wondering if you’re dealing with a rat or a mouse, the differentiation comes from how large the opening is (mice are obviously smaller) and how clean the teeth marks are. Mice tend to make incredibly clean teeth marks so that’s something you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re inspecting.

Runways and grease marks often fall into the same category. You’re looking for ways to identify where the rats have been moving. You’ll identify the ways that rats are moving and how to find their burrow if you can find their runways and the grease marks that result from them. Their burrows may be along foundations and walls or buried beneath shrubbery and debris. The best way to check if a burrow is active is stuff paper into and checking to see if it has been shredded the next day.

Finally, rodent odors, urine stains, sounds, and pets are all additional ways that you can inspect. These may not all be present depending on your house but they’re ways you can look, listen, and smell for them. If you notice a stench, this may be tied to your new furry friends. You may notice “rat laughter” (tiny noises) from their activity. If you’re seeing urine stains you’ve never seen before this is a sign of rats. Lastly, pets tend to get incredibly excited up upset in the presence of rats. However, the longer the rat is around the less your pet will notice, so it’s important to maximize this acknowledgment early on so you can find out where the rats are and exclude them.

If you’re still looking for more information, don’t worry! Visit here to read the blog on How To Do A Professional Rat Inspection – Express Edition and watch the video.

Step #2: Sanitation

If you’re following the proper preventative measures, you’ve likely already done this, but you’ll want to make sure you’re being thorough while getting rid of rats. Go through the steps and maintain them while you’re excluding, trapping, and baiting.

  • Eliminate all excess trash and make sure you put trash from them on out in metal bins with tight lids.
  • Wood piles need to be elevated off of the ground – do not leave firewood on the ground as rats like to hide there.
  • Do not leave pet food or bird food out.
  • Completely eliminate all food and shelter sources (easier to do for rats

than mice).

Step #3: Exclusion

Excluding might be the most important step in preventing rats is excluding. Once you locate the problematic areas, you MUST exclude the rats. This means that you ensure that they aren’t able to get back into where they were inhabiting. Rat problems occur when there is plenty of food and shelter provided. Cutting off their access to both of these will help eliminate the problem. Here’s how to do that:

  • Seal all openings greater than ½ of an inch by using copper mesh
  • Use copper mesh around access point such as openings around air conditioning, drain pipes, vents, etc.
  • Look for broken windows in the basement, warped doors, unscreened vents or any other possible points of entry.
  • Check the roof for loose shingles. Check roof ventilators and screen vents.

 

Fix any items that need to be fixed and add copper mesh or concrete to any openings that need to be sealed. Remember, even if you think it’s too small, it’s better to see it off than risk rats entering through a whole you didn’t want to seal.

Step #4: Trap or bait

If you’re looking for an effective method, this is probably it. The way to reduce the rat population is by trapping rats so that you can dispose of them or poisoning them with baits. Keep reading for more information on each and then you can decide what is right for you.

Trapping is probably the more advantageous of the two. Some individuals do not like the thought of using a rodenticide (poison for a rat). If you’re not dealing with an incredibly large population of rats, then trapping can be incredibly quick and effective. You’ll set traps, find the dead rats before an odor begins, and then be able to dispose of them. There are a couple of things to remember:

  • You’ll need to use numerous traps when you’re setting them. Even if you haven’t seen multiple rats, remember that rats get lonely and there’s probably more of them than you think.
  • You’ll need to purchase a rat trap, not a mouse trap which isn’t large enough to catch rats.
  • Place rat traps against a wall as that’s where rats typically run to avoid detection.
  • Position a trap to maximize the chance the rat could run over it on their natural path – use your inspection skills!
  • Rats tend to prefer safe and enclosed location, so bait stations with snap traps inside can help to provide this environment. As a bonus, they also product others (like toddlers or pets) from coming into contact with the trap.

This is just a tip of the iceberg! For more information on how to trap rats, read How to Trap Rats.

Baiting rats is a little bit of a different game. Learning how to get rid of rats with poison can be difficult if you’re in an area with domestic animals or children. If this is the case, then it might not be the best option for you. However, if you decide you want to go with rodenticide, then here are some tips on how to do it!

  • Use tamper-resistant bait stations to protect against accidental poisoning. This will allow you to keep children and pets out.
  • Use single feed rodent bait so that it only requires one dosage for a lethal outcome as opposed to many.
  • Refill rat bait stations more often since rats eat more bat than mice.

 

 

Wrapping up

Learning how to get rid of rats doesn’t have to be a painful process. You’ll start by consuming as much information about rats and rat facts as you can. Knowing everything you can before you start the process ensures that you are informed. Then, you’ll start with your inspection. A thorough inspection is the most significant part of this process. Without know where the rats are or their food source, you’ll have trouble getting rid of them Next, you’ll need to exclude all the rats that you can so that they no longer have the opportunity to get into their burrows or previous homes. However, since you don’t want them creating new homes, the final step is baiting or trapping them. This final step is up to your discretion. If at any point you’re feeling overwhelmed or want need advice or assistance, don’t hesitate to head over to Mr. Pest Guy. We’re happy to help!

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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.

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