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Rats are found nearly everywhere on earth that human beings live, with the exception of Antarctica. They can chew through wood and walls to make their homes in the smallest spaces, and they reproduce rapidly once there. If you see one rat in your home, there are almost certainly more in hiding, and unfortunately, rats can carry and pass on a number of serious diseases.
If you suspect your home has a rodent problem, you need to treat it as soon as possible. To get rid of these pesky critters, you can purchase and set traps or bait stations. However, these have their downsides, and if you don’t use them correctly, you might not kill the whole infestation.
Fortunately, most pest control companies offer rat extermination, so we’ll recommend the best nationwide providers for your rat problem. To get a pest-free home, you’ll often need to call in professional help from companies like Terminix, Orkin and Bulwark. We’ll also cover average rat exterminator costs so you’ll know what to expect.
Causes and Signs of a Rat Infestation
Rats are attracted to human food, meaning a major cause of rodent infestation is improperly stored or trashed food. They require water, so leaky pipes and sinks or a damp crawl space can be enticing. Rats may also simply be seeking shelter, warmth, safety from predators or a place to nest. Old buildings in particular tend to have a high risk of rat infestation, since rats’ sharp teeth can chew through wood.
Rats are nocturnal animals, so you’re likely to come across their droppings, nests or footprints before you actually see a live rat. You may also hear scratching sounds in the walls, particularly at night. Here are some specific signs of a rat infestation:
- Rat droppings found around food storage or water sources
- Holes or chew marks in food packaging, electrical wiring, drywall or flooring
- Nests made of shredded plant matter, paper or fabric
- Musty odors
- Streaks of dirt or grease along walls or floorboards
Factors in Calculating Rat Exterminator Costs
The cost to clear your home of rats will depend on the location and severity of the infestation as well as the methods by which the rats are removed.
If the rat infestation is localized in an interior room of a home like a kitchen or bathroom, it’s easier to eradicate and will cost less. Attics and basements pose a few more challenges, so these will cost a little more. If the rats are in the walls, ceilings or roof, the price will be even higher. And the hardest to reach places—beneath foundations, under floorboards or in heating ducts—will be the priciest.
The number of rats is also a huge factor in the extermination price, since larger infestations will likely entail multiple treatments across multiple visits to your home. It’s hard to give a raw number of what constitutes a small, medium, or large infestation, but if the traps keep filling up, the costs will rise as well.
To a lesser extent, the way in which the rats are exterminated or removed will also influence the price. This is especially relevant when it comes to DIY rat extermination, which we’ll cover more thoroughly later. Professional exterminators are more likely to charge by location and size, but if you request something like live trapping, that will cost more.
Average Rat Extermination Cost
According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to get rid of rats is $352, with a typical range from $171 to $535. However, if the infestation is particularly severe, you could pay $1,200 or more for the entire process. The good news is that most professional pest control providers will include disposal of dead rats, follow-up visits and preventative treatments as a part of rat removal costs.
However, if you prefer a more humane live rodent removal service, this is likely to cost extra, and not all pest control companies offer this option. Additionally, while fumigation is a last resort for extreme circumstances, it is the most expensive option, ranging from $2,000 to $6,000, or about $1 to $3 per square foot.
Health Risks of Rats
Rats bred as pets are cute, intelligent animals, but wild rats can unfortunately carry and spread a number of diseases. Most famously, the fleas carried on rats in ships helped spread the black plague throughout the world in the Middle Ages. According to the CDC, rats and their urine and feces can directly spread diseases such as hantavirus, leptospirosis, lassa fever, salmonellosis and tularemia.
Rats can also indirectly spread Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile virus and more by carrying insects infected with these diseases. They may also bring in bacteria, allergens and other pathogens on their feet or fur. For all these reasons, it’s important for your health that your home remains free of rodents and their droppings.
DIY vs. Professional Rat Control Methods
You can, of course, purchase and set rat traps or bait stations yourself. This is more likely to be effective if the problem is small and you have the time to devote to baiting, setting, checking and clearing the traps regularly. Be aware that traps set on the floor are unlikely to work for roof rats.
Here are some common DIY rat control methods.
- Basic snap traps are both cheap ($1–$3 each) and effective, using bait to lure the rat and a pressure-sensitive bar to break the rat’s neck. The downside is that these are often difficult to set properly and may injure you, your children or pets who come across them.
- Jaw traps are a little more sophisticated and smother the rat rather than breaking its neck. They’re a little more expensive ($4–$8), but they’re safer and, like snap traps, they’re reusable.
- Glue traps, which immobilize the rat with a highly sticky substance, are effective and relatively inexpensive ($3–$12). However, they’re often considered inhumane as they force the rat to die slowly of dehydration.
- Live traps capture rats without killing or even injuring them, and they can be reused as often as necessary. However, they’re relatively expensive ($10–$25) and after you trap and remove the rats, you’ll need to plan on releasing them at least a mile from your home.
- Bait stations ($12–$20) use poisoned bait to kill rats over the course of several days. Unlike with traps, though, the rat goes elsewhere to die, and you may end up with dead rats decomposing in hard-to-reach places.
- Electronic traps that lure rats in and kill them with a high-voltage shock are the most expensive DIY option ($30–$60). However, they’re the most humane, they’re safe to use around children and pets, and they’re easy to set up and empty.
Keep in mind that it’s never a good idea to simply leave poisoned bait out in the open, particularly if you have pets or children in the home. If you have pets, you may not want to use rat poison at all, since a pet who gets a hold of a poisoned rat is likely to get sick themselves.
Finally, with all of these methods, you’re likely going to have to deal with either live rats or rat carcasses. Handling a dead rat can still expose you to some health risks, so always do so with care.
When to Call in a Professional Rat Exterminator
There’s nothing wrong with hiring a professional exterminator immediately, since the size of a rat problem can be hard to gauge. However, if you try dealing with a rat infestation yourself and the problem persists, it’s definitely time to call in a pro.
Not only will professionals handle the setting and clearing of traps for you, they’ll also have access to equipment and rodenticides that you may not be able to get on your own. Many full-service professionals will also locate rat entry points, seal them up and talk you through methods to prevent future infestations.
Our Top Picks for Professional Pest Control
Nearly every pest control company offers some kind of rodent control service that covers both mice and rats. You can always hire a local company, but there are plenty of nationwide pest control providers with the resources to take care of your rat problem quickly and efficiently. These are our picks.
Terminix offers whole-home solutions for rat infestations. You’ll receive a free inspection, treatment, follow-up visits to clear traps, repair for rodent-caused damage and prevention services. With an ongoing plan, you’ll also receive Terminix’s satisfaction guarantee and annual inspections. For a free quote, call (866) 569-4035 or fill out this quick form.
Orkin is another nationwide provider with hundreds of locations and a robust satisfaction guarantee. The company’s highly trained technician will inspect your home and devise a customized treatment plan to get rid of rats. To get a free estimate of Orkin’s rodent control services, call (877) 544-4104 or fill out this easy form.
Available in select urban areas across the country, Bulwark Pest Control is an up-and-coming exterminator service with very high customer satisfaction levels. Rodent control and prevention are just two of the many services Bulwark’s technicians offer. Find out more by filling out a quick form or calling (844) 567-2094 to get a free quote.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rats
How do I prevent rats from getting in my home?
The best form of extermination is prevention, and you can keep rats out with the following tips:
- Seal holes in walls and around cables or pipes with either a combination of steel wool and caulk or specialized rodent-proof filler. Rats can chew through caulk alone.
- Store food—including pet food and bird feeder seed—in enclosed, sealed containers.
- Cover external vents with sturdy screens.
- Fix any leaky pipes or hoses on the interior or exterior of your home.
- Move wood piles away from the sides of your home and minimize debris and leaf piles in your yard.
- Trim back any vegetation from the sides of your home, including trees and bushes.
- Remove easy sources of food by cleaning up food waste and putting trash in a can with a tight-fitting lid.
How long does it take to get rid of a rat infestation?
Depending on the size of the problem, it can take between a few days and a few weeks to get rid of all the rats in a building.
Do ultrasonic rat repellers work?
Some products will claim to repel rats using ultrasonic sound waves that humans can’t hear but rodents can. Unfortunately, these products have limited success when used alone. Taking steps to prevent rats from getting in your home by sealing entry holes and containing food waste are far more effective at keeping rats out.