There’s really nothing warm and fuzzy about rats, and the notion of having them in your house or yard is enough to make you and most people squeamish. Unfortunately, there’s hardly any place in the world that they won’t be found.
Worse, rats are known to transmit many diseases. They also wreak havoc with their teeth, which can chew through almost anything.
Where will you find them? Rats will take up residence in a variety of places – attics, basements, porches, and under concrete. The good news is that they don’t have a long lifespan. The bad news is that they reproduce very quickly.
The bottom line is that once a rat infestation has been confirmed, you’ll want to make it go away as soon as possible.
How Do I Know I Have Rats?
The presence of dead or living rats is the most obvious sign of a rat infestation. Because rats prefer to hide, seeing one in plain sight can mean that the infestation is in full swing. Rat droppings may be present, as well.
Other clear signs of an infestation are large holes in floorboards and walls, and the presence of damaged materials, because rats chew constantly on materials such as plastic and wood.
What Kind Of Rats Are There?
The two primary species of rats in North America are the Norway rat and the roof rat.
The Norway rat, also known as brown or sewer rats, have stocky, brownish bodies, with ears and eyes that are small in relation to their body. They’re larger than most other rat species, and more likely to inhabit the lower levels of buildings.
Roof rats have black bodies and are known for their climbing abilities. They tend to seek out elevated places such as walls, ceilings, attics and cabinets. They prefer warmer climates.
How Do Rats Get In The House?
Rats are extremely resourceful and adept when it comes to entering homes. They’re able to squeeze in even small holes and cracks, but have many easier ways of getting inside. They’re also able to live in very small spaces.
Whether it’s ground vents, crawl space vents, electrical wire openings, loose siding or roof joints – and more – rats will take advantage of any opening to get inside a house.
Attic-dwelling rats often enter the house through the roof, but they can just as easily enter a ground-level (or below) opening and climb walls to reach their destination. Rats living in the basement typically get there from openings such as ground vents, but they’re certainly not restricted to one form of entry.
Removing Rats In The Attic
If you have rats in the attic, the first step is to find all of their potential entry points. This should be an extensive search – from checking the roof and plumbing, to air conditioner vents and the chimney. And looking for signs of the rats in your attic, such as rat droppings, can lead you to entry points.
Sealing the entry points is the next step even if rats are still present, because they will be easier to trap if their exit routes are sealed off.
It’s best to use steel or metal flashing to close off entry points because rats can chew through wood, and even concrete.
If you plan to trap and remove the rats, you can use a snap trap – which will kill the rat – or a live cage trap.
Getting Rid of Rats In The Wall
Rats living in your walls are a concern for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they can damage electrical wires, cables, heating elements, and so on.
Again, the first step is to find the rodent’s entry points into your home. Look for active routes into the home that could include feces, urine stains, bite marks, and even greasy residue left behind from their fur.
Traps are also a good option for getting rid of rats in walls. Lethal traps are designed to kill rats quickly and humanely. If you’d prefer to use live traps, do not release the rodent close to your home, because they will quickly find their way back in.
Keeping Rats Out of The Yard
Keeping rats out of your yard begins by eliminating edible waste around your home. Bag your garbage and place it in metal containers with tight-fitting lids. Store compost in the proper processors.
If you have a bird feeder, it’s best to mount it on a metal pole that rats will be unable to climb. But rats can also use trees and poles near a feeder, so be careful where the feeder is placed.
Eliminating Roof Rats
The roof rat gets its name from its tendency to live in the upper areas of buildings. They tend to travel in colonies, and cause the same kind of damage as other rats. Roof rats earned a nasty reputation by being the cause of the bubonic plague many moons ago. Although the disease is rare now, there are still cases every year.
To rid yourself of roof rats, seal up any hole or visible crack with silicone caulk. Also, keep trees trimmed away from the house, because the rodent can gain entrance in your home that way.
What Kinds Of Rat Traps Are There?
There are no shortage of rat traps on the market today – from snap traps, to live traps, to adhesive traps. Here’s a look at each:
Snap Traps: These are the traditional types of traps, with a metal bar that snaps down on the rodent when triggered.
Live Traps: If you don’t wish to kill the rat, then a live trap may be for you. The rat is simply lured into the trap which closes off around him.
Adhesive Traps: Like the snap trap, an adhesive trap isn’t the most humane way to kill a rat – who could get stuck in the trap’s glue for an extended period and starve to death. Plus, you’ll have to free the dead rat from the glue eventually.
Electric Traps: Electric traps are the quick killers; the rat is lured into a trap (which somewhat resembles a mailbox) with food and triggers an electrical charge strong enough to virtually kill it instantly.
What Traps Are The Best?
For both humane reasons and effectiveness, electric traps tend to be the best option. The rat is killed quickly and there’s a light on top of the unit that lets you know that there’s something inside.
The Victor Rat Zapper Ultra Trap, which gets high ratings from reviewers and customers, is available at various retail stores for around $60.
Can I Make My Own Trap?
Do-it-yourself enthusiasts can make their own rat traps with a variety of materials from plastic water bottles to pipe.
The recyclable method, which uses a large soda or water bottle, is an example of a live trap in that the rat is trapped but not killed.
What Kind Of Bait Should I Use?
The most effective rat bait is food, because rats are natural scavengers. It’s important to put out familiar bait, because rats tend to avoid new objects, even if it’s food. Still, some baits have proven effective for the various kinds of rats.
For roof rats, fruits and vegetables tend to be more attractive, while Norway rats seem to prefer meat and fish. Be careful of using bait in hard-to-get places that will spoil quickly. Peanut butter has also been used as rat bait.
Remember: The availability and kinds of human food will help determine a rodent’s eating habits.
Should I Use Poison Instead?
There’s been no shortage of debate about the effectiveness and safety of using rat poison, and the debate includes whether it’s a method that may be the most inhumane method of killing the rat.
Rat poisons contain a lethal dose of anticoagulants, which will cause the rat to bleed to death internally after ingesting it. The poison doesn’t kill the rat instantly, but can take days before it eventually succumbs to anemia or circulatory shock.
Other poisons, such as those using metal and zinc phosphides, are also used to kill rats.
Poisons may not be completely effective in eliminating a rat problem because it’s an unfamiliar source of food to rats, who tend to be cautious eaters.
An issue to keep in mind is that rat poison can have a toxic effect on mammals such as cats and dogs, as well as humans.
Should I Hire A Rodent Exterminator?
Some people find that getting rid of rats is an ongoing problem no matter what they try. In that case, hiring a professional exterminator can be the best and most effective solution. Plus, if you’re squeamish about trying to eliminate the problem it’s another reason to call a pro.
Professional exterminators know how to properly use poisons and traps in a way that won’t endanger children or pets. They’ll also provide advice on how to keep the rodents out of your house for good.
What Will The Exterminator Do?
Professional exterminators will first assess the situation and determine a plan of action. They’ll then start a treatment program that they can adjust if the initial results aren’t satisfactory. They’ll use poisons, traps, and different baits to find the best solution to getting rid of your specific rodent problem.
How Much Will An Exterminator Cost?
The cost of an exterminator’s services will vary depending on the job, the severity of it, and the treatment plan. A severe problem may require return visits until the problem is eradicated.
Typically, pest control companies charge $90 to $250 for an initial examination. Once the first examination is completed, most companies will provide a written estimate for the type of treatment, the cleanup, repairs, and how many entry points will have to be sealed.
Are There Natural Repellents?
Everything from moth balls to ammonia to peppermint oil and human hair has been used as natural rat repellents, with middling results. One of the issues is that a great deal of the substance, whatever it may be, needs to be used and can provide an overpowering odor to humans.
Cleanliness remains the best defense against rats, who are attracted to food scraps and open garbage areas. Keeping garbage bags sealed and garbage bins secure is a great place to start in defending your home from rats.
What If I’m Bit By A Rat?
Rats are frightened of humans and will almost always seek shelter if confronted by one. They also prefer to be active when humans aren’t, so the odds of you getting bit by a rat aren’t very high. However, rats will lunge and bite to defend themselves if cornered.
Because some species of rats carry hazardous diseases, they should be treated seriously – even if the chances of infection are relatively rare. Rodent bites should be cleaned and disinfected immediately, and in some cases a tetanus immunization may be required if you haven’t had one in some time. Despite some age-old beliefs, rats, at least in North America, do not carry rabies.
In short, it’s always a good idea to seek professional medical advice if you’ve suffered a rat bite.
Cleaning Up After Rats Are Gone
It’s very important to clean up after you’ve rid your home or business of them. Rat urine and feces pose sanitation risks, while the scent from both will attract more rats.
A common method is to spray urine and feces with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water, let it set for several minutes, then use a paper towel to dispose of the waste. Always wear rubber, latex or vinyl gloves.
Also make sure of mop floors and any areas that have evidence of rodent exposure with disinfectant or bleach solution.
How Do I Get Rid Of The Dead Rat Smell?
There’s no way getting around it – the smell of a dead rat can be downright nasty. The problem is, they can die in hard-to-reach places in walls and attics and the smell can linger for a few weeks until the body completely decomposes. Calling in a professional to break into walls can be costly, so using fans, opening fans, or using deodorizers and disinfectant sprays may be the primary solution.
The best solution, of course, is to find the dead rat, dispose of it, and then use disinfectant to clean the are where it died.
How Do I Dispose Of A Dead Rat?
There’s nothing too complicated about removing a dead rat, but keep in mind that they can carry diseases, fleas, ticks, etc. So, be sure to wear disposable gloves.
Spray the rat with some sort of cleaner or disinfectant to kill any pests on the body. Next, pick up the rat by its tail and dispose of it in a plastic bag. Finally, dispose of the bag and dead body in a dumpster, if there’s one nearby, or in a tightly-sealed garbage can.
After you’re finished spray the spot where the carcass had been with cleaner. You may even want to wear old clothes that can be thrown away after the dead rodent has been removed and the final cleaning finished.