Rats are a serious health hazard to humans. They can spread disease directly to us when we come into contact with their feces, saliva, or urine. Rats also carry other pests, like mites, fleas, and ticks.
All rodents, including rats, have constantly growing incisors, which leads them to gnaw on things to trim the incisors down. As a result, rodents can cause a lot of damage to your home and even chew through wires, potentially causing a fire.
If you have rats, deal with them immediately and clean up any droppings to prevent you and your family from getting sick.
Signs of Rats
Start by confirming that you do, in fact, have rats in your home and not another type of rodent, like mice.
While similar, mice are dealt with using different pest management techniques. If you spot a live rodent or come across a dead one, take a moment to identify what kind of pest you’re dealing with.
Mice are much smaller than rats and have thin tails with little hair. Their noses are triangular in shape. Mice are usually brown or gray, while rats can be brown, gray, or black.
Rats can be over a foot long. They have thick, scaly tails and blunt noses with short whiskers.
Signs of Rats:
- Finding live or dead rats
- Rat droppings, typically around areas with trash, human food, or pet food
- Nesting materials in secluded areas
- Gnaw marks on structural wood, ductwork, or electrical wiring
- Footprints or tail marks in dust
- Scurrying or scratching noises coming from the attic or walls
- Burrows under the house or outbuildings or around the yard
- Gnawed fruit or food
- Rat droppings (look for tiny, dark, pellet-shaped droppings)
- Greasy smudges or smears on your walls
- A strong ammonia smell
- Your pet staring at a blank wall unwaveringly
Why Do I Have Rats in My Home?
Like all pests, rats look for three primary things when picking a home: water, food, and shelter. Unfortunately, rodents are especially difficult to get rid of because they need very little to survive on and can thrive in nearly any environment, making preventative rodent control measures very important.
Rats reproduce quickly and start from the young age of three months. Once inside your home, a few rats can quickly develop a colossal rat colony, making time of the essence the minute you discover that you have a rodent problem.
Prevention is always better than working against an ever-expanding rat population. Even if you already have rats, sealing off entry points is crucial to pest control.
If you’ve seen a rat coming in or out of a room, identify where it entered. A rat only needs a hole about an inch wide to slip in. Identify cracks and crevices throughout your home and the garage, then seal them with caulking to keep rodents from traveling through. If you find large holes, purchase expanding spray foam to fill these gaps. Patch the biggest holes with cement board, plywood, galvanized hardware cloth, siding, or other exterior-rated materials.
Examine your windows and doorways. If you find a draft or gap between the frame and the wall, fill it with weather stripping. Not only is this great for preventing pests, but it’ll help your energy costs.
Attic vents and crawl spaces are other popular places for rats to enter homes. Assess your crawl space and attic vents and cover any gaps or openings with hardware cloth.
Next, look around your home for anything broken, such as windowpanes, loose shingles, or warped paneling. It doesn’t take a lot of space for rats to squeeze through, so address these issues immediately.
Natural DIY Repellents
One of the best natural DIY rat repellents is peppermint essential oil, which commercial pest control companies even use as a toxin-free alternative to rodenticides. You can find peppermint essential oil in most grocery stores. It’s harmless to humans, but the strong smell disgusts rats. Mix peppermint essential oil with water in a spray bottle, then spray it around the home, paying particular attention to entrances, corners, and crevices. Alternatively, you can soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and leave them in affected areas.
The only downside to using peppermint essential oil is that rain will wash it away, making it largely ineffective outside unless you’re experiencing a dry spell.
Eucalyptus oil and citronella are two other great options for scents that deter rats. Pepper flakes and black pepper are also unappealing to rats and may deter them from entering the home.
Set Rat Traps
Traps are one of the most common ways to take care of rodents. As long as you don’t mind the cleanup, they can be an effective way to get rid of a few rats. However, you’ll need to make long-term rodent control changes, like sealing off entry points and changing the environment to prevent rats from returning.
Snap traps are effective, inexpensive options for trapping rats. Double-check that you’re buying a snap trap advertised for rats, not mice because mice are much smaller than rats. A mouse trap will not be strong enough to hold a rat. It may just inhumanely hurt the rat.
If you set snap traps, pair the trap with effective rat bait, such as peanut butter. We recommend skipping glue traps altogether because they’re considered inhumane and kill the rodent slowly.
Change the Environment
Don’t make your home attractive to rats and other pests by leaving out water sources or food.
Examine your home with a critical eye, looking for possible water or food sources.
Are your trash cans tightly sealed? Do you leave pet food or birdseed sitting out? Are dirty dishes piled up? Do you leave crumbs on the counters or tables? Do you have a compost pile that is exposed?
All of these are food or water sources for pests. Take care to eliminate these food and water sources or tightly seal them off so that pests can’t break in and use them to sustain themselves. You’ll also want to address any leaks immediately, such as leaky outdoor faucets, which provide a great water source for rats.
Rats are private animals that prefer to live in the shadows, so tidying up your home can reduce potential hiding spaces. Eliminate leaves, firewood, and debris piles outside your home’s exterior. If you must keep these piles, move them as far away as possible from your home. In addition, keep up with your landscaping and cut tree limbs near your roof or exterior walls. Roof rats and other rodents, like squirrels, are notorious for using tree limbs to access the roof.
Preventing rats from coming into your home in the first place is the ideal solution when it comes to rat control. If you’re struggling to get your rat problem under control, don’t put off calling an exterminator, as rodents breed rapidly, which can make the situation worsen quickly. The cost of a rat exterminator will not outweigh the benefit of having a rat free home.