While rats are cool…they are rarely ever wanted.

It’s nighttime. You’re finally relaxing in the comfort of your home, after a long day of work.

Suddenly, your eyes catch an unusual, dark and fast movement.

Your worst fears begin to come true. The creature reappears almost immediately. Although it moves fast, it remains still for just a second, before continuing its swift path to some other dark corner of your house.

It’s official. You have a filthy rat inside your home.

What should you do? Should you wait for the rat to leave? Of course not. That won’t happen.

Should you just ignore it? No. The problem will escalate if you do.

The possibility of suffering an unprovoked direct attack from a rat is extremely low. Rodents don’t want to interact with a human on the slightest.

This is a health issue. Rats transmit a high number of diseases that can be lethal to humans, such as listeria, salmonellosis, hantavirus, trichinosis, tuberculosis, pasteurellosis or Murine typhus fever. Remember, rats were the ones implicated in the spread of terrible historical diseases such as the bubonic plague and leptospirosis. They’ll contaminate your food and your spaces.

Should you “abandon ship” and leave the intruder the keys of the house? Of course not. Yes, you are now facing an extensive and methodical challenge, but if you follow our instructions, you will be free of the rodent menace sooner than later.

In this article, we’ll show you in a concise way the process to make a rat-proof home. We will also show you the best trap options available and answer the most frequently asked questions about this topic.

Sneaky Rat
Sneaky Rat

Thinking Like A Rat

The first thing is to identify the magnitude of the problem. Chances are, you are dealing with more than one rat. Even worse: It’s very likely they have already created a shelter in some dark and hidden place of your home.

You have to understand that the outside world is incredibly hostile to a rat, meaning that no matter how uncomfortable their newly created shelter is, they won’t easily abandon the security offered by their new home. My point is: smell, sound, and visual-based repellents are not going to be enough for a rat to decide to take the alternative, which is to venture to a more feasible death outside.

Yes, it may sound scary, but it’s the perfect mind frame to forcefully face the problem, without underestimating the rodent. The rule is simple: there’s no such thing as “overkill” when it comes to rats. If you think you’ll only need a couple of traps, you better place two dozen of them.

The Ultimate Weapon: I.S.E.

Getting the ideal rat trap and/or repellent is not going to eliminate the root of the problem. What you need to do first and foremost is something I like to call I.S.E.: Inspection, Sanitation, and Exclusion). These steps are the real key to eradicate rodents.

Inspection is the first thing you have to do to know exactly what you are dealing with. This means examining (preferably at dusk) all possible areas to pinpoint their active zones. For this, it’s vital to look for things like droppings (which can also give an idea of the number of rodents you are dealing with), gnawing damage, tracks, burrows and rodent sounds.

A good inspection is what will determine the best strategy in terms of traps and, more importantly, will exactly explain the presence of rodents, which is essential for the next two steps.

Sanitation is exactly what it sounds like. Deep cleaning of all spaces. The main goal is to eliminate any food sources, which is the primary reason why the rats are there. Keep counter surfaces, floors, and cabinets clean. Store dry food (human and pets’) in chew-proof containers. Seal trash cans. It’s simple: If the rats don’t have access to food, they’ll be forced to leave.

The final step is Exclusion. The goal is clear: Eliminate any opening allowing rats to enter your home. Any opening greater than 1/4 ” should be sealed. Look for places where utility lines come into walls, as well as openings around air conditioning, drain pipes, and vents. Broken basement windows, doors (the spaces beneath doors are vital) and roofs must also be methodically checked.

Hardware cloth, metal flashing, copper mesh, and black gun foam are some of the ideal materials used to resist rodent teeth.

If you think you’re definitely not for it, don’t rule out using the help of professional companies, as long as they follow these steps. Turning your house rat-proof is, without doubt, a great investment in the long term.

Looking For The Ideal Trap

This is the final blow designed to eliminate any remaining animal, after having denied them access to food and having blocked the main access to the house.

There are all kinds of traps. From elaborate classic traps with “T-Rex” teeth variations to devices that deliver electric shocks. Is not an exact science.

To make the process easier, we’ll make a concise and brief list of pros and cons of the three most used kind of traps.

1) Classic snap traps: The iconic one. The one on the cartoons. Its violent simplicity, low cost, and effectiveness is the reason why they remain the preferred choice among humans.

Rat traps.
Rat traps effective for catching rats.

Pros: Nearly immediate death of the animal. Control over the remains. Low cost.

Cons: Installing them can be risky. Rat traps are capable of breaking a human finger. Also, unless they are displayed in covered places where only rodents have access (a rather methodical job), the traps can end up hurting children and pets.

2) Poison: A chemical alternative.

Rat Poison
Rat Poison

Pros: There is no need to deal with risky, breaking-finger mechanisms.

Cons: Besides being quite inhumane, there is no control over the location of the toxic dead rat. This can lead to bad smells and difficulties in finding the remains. It’s also a risk for children and pets.

3) Glue trap: Strong glue traps with baits.

Rodent Glue Board
Rodent Glue Board

Pros: Easy to install. Low cost.

Cons: Inhumane, and they don’t usually work very well with big rats. They’re also the messiest to deal with. They can also capture other animals, such as birds or small pets.

A final word of advice regarding traps: Patience. Rats are very clever creatures and are extremely cautious when a new object appears in their territory. It will be a few days before the traps have an effect because rats will avoid them until they “accept” them as part of their environment.

Also, this guide has detailed information on the amount and distribution needed for the traps.

The Humane Approach

Let’s be honest. The vast majority of methods to get rid of rats will include their death. Yes, there are some options like rat cage traps, but that means having to deal with the live animal and deciding what to do with it after it’s captured. You can always call your local pest/animal control and turn a blind eye to what they do with the animal.

That said, there are some things you can do to make the process way more humane (and clean).

Lethal Humane Rat Trap
Lethal Humane Rat Trap

Right out of the gate, the cruelest option is the glue trap. With this method, the animal will have a very long agony (we’re talking days), before succumbing to dehydration, asphyxiation or stress.

On the other side of the cruel spectrum is the GoodNature A24 Automatic trap, a recent invention which has gained popularity and international awards for its effectiveness, the instant killing of the animal and its ability to automatically recharge. The trap consists of a compressed gas mechanism that when activated, strikes the skull of the rat with a steel-cored, reinforced glass, polymer piston. Think of the captive bolt pistol used by Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, but with a lure created with chocolate formula and without the fear of facing a cinematic psycho killer. After the kill, the piston returns, dropping the animal and resetting the trap for the next kill. You can take a look at this relatively new alternative, here.

Knowing The Enemy

Rats certainly don’t need an article to be widely rejected and villainized by the world’s human population. However, it’s not a bad idea to have some information about them.

*) Some rats, such as Norway rats, are able to easily swim up to 1/2 mile, even under adverse conditions such as strong water currents or water plumbing traps.

*) The teeth of rats (and rodents in general) are unique within the mammal’s world because the front incisors never stop growing (at a rate of five inches per year!). This trait has as a consequence a compulsive need for rodents by gnawing anything, which, of course, translates into part of the problem. They are able to destroy materials such as wood, cinder block, lead, and aluminum sheeting.

*) Rats have a high and accelerated fecundity. By five weeks of age, they are ready for breeding. We’re talking about 6 to 20 babies in a period of just three weeks. And the females are fertile every three weeks. So, yes, a rat problem is also a race against time.

*) We all know that rats are incredibly agile and fast. But let’s talk about numbers: they have a 48-inch horizontal jump and a 36-inch vertical jump. In addition, they are able to survive unscathed to falls of up to 50 feet.

Related Questions

Is there a way to just repel rats with strong odors (moth balls, ammonia, human hair, predator urine), sounds or a strobing-light machine?

A strong smell is not gonna be enough incentive for a rat to leave the safety of its shelter to face an uncertain destination outside. It’s that simple. Regarding human and predatory odors, the rat already lives in a place full of humans and-possibly-cats. That’s nothing new for them. Sounds and strobing lights? You will only manage to emulate some kind of annoying mini-nightclub for the rat.

Are cats helpful?

Cats are natural hunters and are perfectly capable of killing a rat. But that won’t solve the problem. Rats are hiding in a secret shelter. And that shelter was designed to be far from the reach of any cat.

What if I have a rat problem outside, like a garden?

Same strategy: Inspection, Sanitation, and Exclusion. Also, in this scenario, the presence of a cat (or two or three!) is actually a good idea. Without the possibility of entering the house and with a predator watching them outside, the rats will be forced to go elsewhere.

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.