Few pests can cause just as much damage as a rat infestation. Not only do rats carry a number of diseases that can make living in your own home unsafe — their sharp teeth can also break through everything from electrical wiring to clothing, causing expensive damage. If you think you might have a rat problem in your home, don’t wait to take action.
Struggling with a serious rat problem? We’ll also introduce you to a few of the most well-known pest control service providers in the country to help you call in the pros when home remedies fail.
6 Ways to Get Rid of Rats
It can be alarming to know that your home has been taken over by unwanted guests from the Rodentia family. However, you shouldn’t panic and assume that you’ll need to abandon your home, even if you have multiple rats on your property. Humans and rats have been chasing each other for centuries, possibly millennia, and we’ve figured out a few ways to get them out of our homes. Use the following DIY methods to begin clearing rats, mice, and other rodents off your property.
Bait stations are like self-contained clubhouses for rats that provide an enticing treat in the form of a block of rodenticide. These are plastic containers that have entrances and exit holes. The rat will get lured in by the rodenticide, eat a bit of it, leave the bait station, and then die a few hours later. While you’ll need to remove the rat later, bait stations take much of the heavy lifting out of enticing and killing rats.
The reason bait stations are good for use in the home is because rat poison pellets or powders are not commercially available to regular households and are actually illegal in most cities. The reason for this is the danger that they pose to children and pets as well as other animals in your neighborhood or community. When you use a bait station, the poison is contained within the station, which means that non-target creatures, pets, and children cannot harm themselves with the poison. Never sprinkle poison powder or pellets throughout your property without the use of a bait station.
This trapping option uses smaller versions of the live traps for feral cats that humane societies and volunteers use to trap members of cat colonies so that they can spay and neuter the individuals and then release them back into their habitats. A live rat trap works the same way. It’s a metal apparatus with a piece of bait inside, normally a tasty morsel of, well, anything. Rats are not picky. They do, however, love to squeeze into tight spaces. Once the rat squeezes into the live trap, the door shuts, and the mechanism doesn’t allow it to open from the inside.
In order to use this method humanely, you have to check the traps at least once a day. Once the live rat is trapped inside the metal trap, you need to humanely euthanize the animal or release it far away from your home. The ideal minimum distance is 100 yards away from where it was caught. If you’d prefer to have the rodent killed, you can take it to animal control, an animal shelter, or a veterinarian’s office, but definitely give them a call first to see if they provide that service.
A notable bonus to live traps over using anything with rodenticide in it is that you can predict or control where a rat will die. When you use pesticides to kill a rat, it could die inside your home, up in your attic, in your walls, outside your home, or far from it — there is no way to control or predict this. Live traps prevent this from happening.
These are the types of conventional rodent traps we think of: spring-loaded violent machines that provide quick and humane deaths to those rats unlucky enough to happen upon them. Snap traps use rodent bait (like birdseed or peanut butter) to lure rats in, where a snapping mechanism breaks their necks, causing an instant and painless death in most cases. Be sure to purchase snap traps specifically labeled for rats — mouse traps will not be effective against Norway rats or roof rats, the most common rats known to infest houses in the U.S.
Make sure you set these traps near where you’ve seen rat activity but far away from commonly used areas in your home. These traps are powerful and can definitely cause injury to an errant finger, toe, or paw. Keep children and pets away from areas where you’ve set up snap traps. After you set traps, be sure to check them regularly and replace them as needed.
Sealing Entry Points
Since brown rats, roof rats, and Norway rats alike can all manipulate their bodies so that they can squeeze into tiny spaces, you should make sure that any and all entry points to your home that are a half inch or larger are sealed off. You can use caulk for cracks and spaces in trim and baseboards for your rodent problem. If you make it impossible for them to enter and exit your home; this combined with another method on this list will help eradicate your rat infestation once and for all.
While you can use glue traps to get rid of a rat problem, you’ll need to be prepared to humanely kill whatever rats end up in the traps. The issue with glue traps is that many users simply throw the trap and the live rat that’s stuck to the trap away. Throwing away a live animal into the trash can doesn’t automatically make it go away. These rats sometimes starve to death, but it’s more likely that they will die slowly of thirst and/or getting crushed by whatever garbage and debris land on top of them.
If you do use glue traps, make sure you end the rat’s life as quickly and humanely as possible. Otherwise, these kinds of traps are inexpensive but definitely cruel and unusual punishment for the animals that get caught in them. The reason glue traps are included in this list is because rats are naturally suspicious, so even if there is enticing rat bait in your snap or bait traps, they still may avoid these strange apparatuses out of caution, at least until they get hungry enough. If these traps fail and you’re forced to revert to glue traps, be sure that you create a plan on what you’re going to do with the live rats that become stuck in the traps before you set them up.
In addition to one of the aforementioned methods, you can also purchase or make your own DIY repellant. Rats hate the smell of peppermint, so you can use peppermint oil mixed with water as a spray to apply around where they nest and where you’ve noticed them coming and going. You can also apply this repellant anywhere you notice any sort of potential entry point (but by now you should have taken care of those).
Crushed chili pepper near their hidey holes works well too; in fact, this is a well-known repellant for many mammalian pests, as it irritates their noses and eyes and they want to be as far from it as they can. If you don’t mind the smell of chili pepper in your home, just a small sprinkle of powder can be enough to deter rats from making their home in your home.
How to Know You Have a Rat Infestation
There are always tell-tale signs of rats, despite the fact that they are nocturnal and like to hide away from the humans whose homes they’re squatting in. Here are some indicators these furry flea carriers have moved into your home.
- Scratching sounds: Rodent control services know that rats often make their homes in your walls, ceiling, or attic, especially if there are electrical wires traveling from your roof easily accessible to them by tree or electric pole. You will hear them scurrying inside your walls, or perhaps even across the floor at night if they’re particularly adventurous. Hearing persistent scurrying during the night is one of the first signs that you’ll likely notice when you have rats in your home.
- Droppings: Droppings are usually an accompanying sign of rats in your home. You may notice rod-shaped or spindle-shaped (narrowed at the end) droppings about a quarter of an inch long throughout your home, especially where rats tend to enter or nest. You can also find rat droppings in little nooks and crannies, and also around food sources like neglected pantry items, pet food, or any rotten fruit or meat.
- Gnawed electrical wires: Rats love to gnaw, and they need to constantly be chewing on something in order to keep their teeth clean and healthy. When they’re not chewing (using the front teeth), they’re gnawing on something, and that can include your electrical wiring. You may notice electrical issues before you inspect and see frayed cables. Rats also gnaw on wood, baseboards, rafters, and pretty much anything they can get their paws on. You will hear gnawing sounds in addition to scurrying and scratching.
- Smear marks: Rats have greasy little bodies, and they also love to squeeze into and through tiny spaces. If you have an extensive rat infestation, you may notice brownish smudges on your walls.
- Chewed-up food packages: If you notice boxes or bags of food with really strange holes cut out of them, it’s from rodents biting into the packaging, having a quick snack, and then retreating to their nests. Throw out any food that has been contaminated by rats to avoid illness or infection.
- Nests: If you have a severe rat infestation, you may even spot a rat’s nest or two. Rats are opportunistic and will use anything soft and dry to build their nests. They use shredded paper, perhaps old cardboard, insulation, and even lint and other soft materials. Even if you don’t see the nest itself, if you notice stray nesting materials left around your home, chances are that a few industrious rats are the culprits.
How to Prevent Rats
Dealing with a rat infestation can be a major, time-consuming, and stressful task. If you don’t yet have rats squatting somewhere in your home, here are some ways to keep them from coming to your abode in the first place.
- Clean up any food sources: Don’t keep your pets’ food out any longer than necessary, and make sure that it’s in a tightly sealed container so that rodents cannot access it. Investing in vacuum-sealing plastic food storage could save you encounters with hungry rats in the long run. Rats have been known to tamper with food containers that are easy to open. You also need to regularly take out your garbage, sanitize the can, and if possible, get a trash can with a lid. Make sure no crumbs, rotten fruit, or food stains remain in your kitchen or anywhere else in your home.
- Trim foliage: One primary rat highway is a tree branch — if your tree branches are close enough to your roof or gutters, rats could use them to gain entry to your home. Make sure these are trimmed so rats can’t use them to access your house. You should also clear any yard debris like dead bushes, branches, or piles of leaves. These are tempting rat nests — and if they choose to make their home in those areas, they will also make their way inside.
- Make water sources hard to find: Make sure your pipes, drains, and faucets are maintained regularly so that no leaks or standing water provides water sources for rats in your home. Although they don’t need much to survive and even thrive, taking these measures will mitigate the likelihood of rodents setting up camp in your home.
- Use rats’ natural predators: Owls and raptors are not only amazing animals, fascinating to encounter and observe — they also eat rats. Attracting these natural predators to your property can help clear out rats and improve your local ecological landscape. Raptors like eagles and hawks are pretty easygoing and build their own nests, but owls would appreciate a nesting box. If you build them an owl box, see if they make a nest inside. If so, that is a huge deterrent to rats in the area.
Hiring a Pest Control Company
If you’ve tried one, two, or more of these DIY rat control methods, especially in tandem, and you still have a rat infestation, it’s time to call the exterminators. They can solve your rodent problem effectively and quickly, although a rat exterminator will cost more than DIY solutions. Not only do they specialize in rat removal, but they also include preventive rat control measures inside and outside the home.
Pest control professionals like those working at Terminix do cursory inspections to identify where the rats are located in your home and see the level of intensity of your infestation. From there, they can plan and execute the best method of eliminating your unique rat problem. They can also give your pointers on pest management techniques and practices so that you don’t have to go through a rat infestation again.
Pest control companies eradicate rat populations inside and around the perimeter of your home. One perk of using professional exterminators besides the fact that they have years of experience and the proper equipment to get rid of your rat issue is that if you notice more rodent activity within 30 days of the initial service, most companies will come back free of charge to provide a follow-up rodent elimination service.
Best Pest Control Companies
Now that you understand how important it is to call in the professionals when dealing with a major rat problem, it’s time to begin comparing your local options. Choosing the right professional pest exterminator is especially important when dealing with invasive and dangerous pests like rats. If you are having trouble giving rats the eviction notice from your property, be sure to get a no-obligation quote with each of our recommended service providers.
Homeowners across the United States have been relying on Terminix to provide them with a comprehensive range of pest control services for more than 90 years. Every single day, Terminix helps 50,000 households deal with some of the most common household pests using region-customized solutions and treatments. Terminix is also well-known for its affordable pricing and widespread availability—with more than 300 individual locations, chances are that you aren’t far from help from this major name in pest control.
Terminix can be a particularly strong choice if you have recurring issues with pests beyond rats. In addition to single-service treatments available from just $50 per appointment, Terminix also offers year-round pest control programs that offer continuous protection. Terminix’s plans cover everything from minor pest annoyances (like the occasional mosquito nest) to insects and animals that can seriously damage your property (like termites). Terminix even offers tick treatments for your lawn, which aren’t seen with every pest control company. This feature makes Terminix an even more appealing option for homeowners who have children or pets.
When it comes to a rat infestation, it’s important to get your treatment right the first time. Terminix’s plans include protection from its Nix Pest Guarantee—if your rat problem returns between scheduled appointments, Terminix will apply new treatments at no additional cost to you. With safeguards for both your property and your household budget in place, Terminix can be an excellent choice for dealing with rat infestations of all sizes and types.
Orkin Pest Control is best known for its award-winning pest control services, which take advantage of regional-specific data to formulate treatments customized for pests in your unique area. Reviews of Orkin are overall very positive, with many customers indicating that their treatments were effective, and their technicians were timely and efficient. Orkin offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of its treatments, and they will even follow up with you after your appointment to make sure you’re satisfied.
When you choose Orkin for your pest control services, you can rest with the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that only well-trained professionals will be working on your property. Before they can step foot on any job, Orkin team members must complete at least 160 hours of training, which allows them to effectively identify and treat any type of pest infestation. Orkin has perfected its treatments and training methods over the course of a 120-year career—and with 400 locations around the globe, service is never far away.
Frequently Asked Questions
What scent will keep the rats away?
Rats hate peppermint oil, and you can also use the smell of cloves, black pepper, and chili pepper or cayenne to drive them away. These can be used as excellent natural deterrents around the outside of your home and the entrance (if you can locate it) to their burrows or nests. Crushed pepper or pepper spray can also be an excellent nasal irritant for rats.
What is the best home remedy to get rid of rats?
If you place peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls around the entrances of rat burrows on your property, you’ll likely find that rats are quick to clear the area. Another home remedy that you can use to get rid of rats is to set out a mixture of cocoa powder and plaster of Paris where rats feed. The rats will gobble up the cocoa mixture, but soon the plaster of Paris will cause them to have extreme thirst which they will go outside to quench.
Will rats leave on their own?
The only thing that would make rats vacate your home voluntarily is if they cannot find adequate food sources any longer. Taking the steps above to make food unavailable for them can aid in this process of getting rats to leave your property on their own. However, it’s important to remember that rats are hardy creatures—even if you think there is no food to be found in your home, rats may still be able to forage enough food to survive. Don’t rely on rats leaving on their own, and seek professional assistance removing them as soon as you believe you have an infestation.
What smell kills rats instantly?
According to Lake Norman Pest Control, ammonia is so pungent and toxic to rats that a poisonous mixture of ammonia, water, and a bit of detergent will kill them soon after they take a smell. We do not recommend mixing chemicals on your own unless you are a trained professional, as doing so can have potentially lethal results.
What attracts rats to your house?
Any conditions that make your house habitable in a rat’s view will attract them to your house. Available food sources, suitable (soft and comfy) nesting materials, water sources, transport in and out of the home (via electrical wires, tree branches)—these are all the things rats need to be happy and comfortable. If your home offers access, food, and shelter, rats will be drawn to it.
Today's Homeowner Rating & Methodology
Our research process involves a multi-step process to get real insights into the customer experience for each company. We contacted each pest control company directly and spoke to representatives via phone and online chat (if available). This allowed us better understand the company’s treatment offerings and customer service. We also consider BBB accreditation and what customer reviews say about each company. Additionally, we fact-check and update company data regularly to ensure accurate and up-to-date information.
We developed a 100-point rating system to compare the companies numerically.
- Plan options (35 points): Companies with more plans and flexibility on services to address specific issues were given a higher score.
- State Availability (5 points): Those that offer coverage in fewer than 45 states were deducted points for availability.
- Trustworthiness (10 points): This is based on whether companies have money-back guarantees, service guarantees, and additional satisfaction assurance measures.
- Customer Service (30 points): We considered accessibility (including on weekends and holidays) of technicians and customer support.
- Additional Benefits (20 points): Companies that offer further conveniences such as an app, comprehensive resources, and other benefits were rated higher.