Tips & Strategies
How to Get Rid of Rats
Finding rats in your house is scary. But rat removal, fear not! Follow these simple steps to help make your home rat-free.
Get this rodent out of your house!
It's hard to describe how shocked people feel when they see a rat in their house. They are filthy, destructive, can carry disease, and bite approximately 50,000 people each year. They can even destroy crops and property. So when they show up in your home, it's hard to stay calm. Fortunately, you can take several steps to get rid of rats in the house.
How to Tell if You Have a Rat Infestation
Even though rats can weigh up to 18 oz, you don't always see them. Most people discover rats by seeing signs of their presence. Look for these telltale signs if you suspect you have rats in your home.
- Watch out for droppings near food sources.
- Rats will leave grease marks along baseboards and walls because they follow the same pathways as they search for food.
- Rats need to gnaw to keep their teeth sharp, so look for chew marks on wood or drywall around the house.
- Rats always stay fairly close to their nests, so inspect your yard for any holes that weren't there before which may indicate a rat presence.
How to Prevent Rats From Coming Inside the House
Separate Rats from Their Food Sources
Rats can eat just about anything (remember Pizza Rat?) and, while they require more than mice, rats don't need a great deal of food (1-3 oz. daily). To prevent future rat issues, be careful with how you store your food and scraps. Keep food in sealed containers and clean up any spills or crumbs. Since rats need a reliable water source, make sure you have no leaks in your pipes or faucets. Keep your garbage-can lids on tight. Store grass seed and birdseed in sealed containers. Put away cat and dog food when they’re finished, since rats will eat whatever is in the bowl.
Seal Cracks and Openings
Unlike mice, rats need a lot of water (1 oz.), so they may travel in and out of your house. That's why it's important to seal up any cracks, holes, or entry points. Remember, if the hole is the size of a quarter, it's big enough for a rat.
How to Kill Rats Inside Your House, Attic, or Garage
Rat Baits vs. Traps: What Works Best for You?
Traps and baits can be used separately for rat removal or together as part of a rodent control system to make sure all your bases are covered. The method you choose to control your rat problem depends on your preferences.
Baits. A bait station containing rodenticide will kill rats, but not immediately because it uses their feeding habits against them. Since rats are wary of new foods, they might nibble a teeny bit of something new, then wait to see if it harms them. If they determine the new food is safe, they'll gorge on it until they're full, and other rats will follow suit. This behavior is why effective single-feed baits can often take a few days to work, because if they killed rats immediately, most would avoid them.
Set out a supply of fresh bait for at least 10 days or until there are no more signs of rat activity. Even though bait is contained in a station, rats will not die there. When rodents eat the bait, typically consuming a lethal dose in one night, they will usually travel back to their nest to die 1–2 days later. Bait stations come in various levels of tamper resistance and in disposable and refillable options to use just about anywhere. Baits can kill multiple rodents at one time. A 1oz bait block can kill up to 10 rats!* Tomcat® Rat & Mouse Killer Kid & Dog Resistant, Disposable Bait Stations are suitable for outdoor use (like the garage) and come preloaded, so you don't have to touch the bait. Place them where you see signs of rat activity.
Traps. These are different from baits in that they physically hold rodents in place. This is ideal if you want proof the rat was caught, or if the problem is in your attic where it’s harder to locate dead rats once they’ve eaten poisonous bait. In addition to classic wooden traps, there are modern mechanical traps that make setting and rat removal very simple. For hard-to-reach areas such as under stoves and refrigerators, glue traps are a great option to immobilize rats. Glue traps are non-lethal, so once the rat is stuck, you’ll need to dispose of it in your outdoor trash.
Maintaining a Rat-Free Home
Rats come into your home looking for food, water, and shelter. If you deprive them of those three things, your home will be much less attractive to them.
Since rats will eat just about anything if given the chance, a good start toward prevention is to inspect your home and move all loose food items into sealed containers. Once all foods are out of reach, do a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, pantry, and anywhere else you might have food in the house. Be sure to clean underneath appliances and in the back of cabinets, as those are prime hiding spots for rats.
Here are just a few of the things rats will eat:
- Pet food
- Berries, seeds, and nuts
- Birdseed, grass seed, and squirrel food
- Candy and other sugary foods
- Corn, beans, and other grains
- Meat and dairy products
Outside, keep trash cans tidy and lids closed. Walk your property to look for any potential rat food, such as leftover pet food, fallen fruit, or spilled seed. Remove any potential nesting materials, such as cardboard boxes, newspaper, or old insulation. If you have pets, it’s important to clean up their poop because rats have been known to eat it. Rats will also seek out water, so keep your yard clear of any standing water.
5 Reasons You Don’t Want Rats in the House
Even if you have a soft spot for rats, you really don’t want them in your house—especially if you have kids and pets. Don’t delay in getting rid of rats once you spot the problem.
1. Rats carry deadly diseases that can contaminate and spread through dust, water and soil.
2. There is no mating season for rats. Under ideal conditions, a female can fall pregnant 7 times in a year and deliver around 8 pups in each litter. Norway rat populations can increase by a factor of 10 in just 15 weeks.
3. Rats can forage on almost anything: One study found over 4,000 different items in a single brown rat’s stomach.
4. A rat’s incisor teeth grow around 5 inches per year. The process of wearing them down also makes them razor sharp, and they chew through on all kinds of hard surfaces, from electrical wires to concrete.
5. Although the average lifespan is around 1 year, rats that have found the safety of shelter indoors can live as long as 3 years.
It can be a little jarring when you find a rat in your home, garage, or attic, but you can do this! Follow all the steps we’ve outlined here and your house will be rat-free before you know it. You can also use our Learning Library to find out more about rat removal and identifying and controlling rodents.
*Based on no-choice laboratory testing.