How To Get Rid of Rats: 6 Effective Methods

Equipped with incredible survival skills and high intelligence, rats often survive a range of difficult environmental conditions as well as human efforts to kill them. 

Domesticated rats make low-maintenance pets, as they bond deeply with their owners and exhibit quirky personality traits, but wild rats, like the Norway and brown rats found throughout residential areas, are more than just a nuisance.

They are dangerous, and if you don’t already know how to, you need to learn how to get rid of rats.

Steps For Getting Rid of Rats

The Centers for Disease Control indicate that rats can spread dozens of diseases around the globe. Additionally, if they bite you (which happens about 15,000 times per year in the U.S.), or if you even touch their urine, feces or saliva, you may be infected with salmonellosis, Hantavirus, leptospirosis, or even the plague.

Just as bad, you can become very ill if ticks, fleas, or mites feed on an infected rat and then bite you, resulting in diseases like Colorado tick fever, Lyme disease, West Nile virus, typhus, among others.

That said, there are some easy-to-apply tactics that you can apply once you learn how to get rid of rats properly.

1. Clean Your Home And Store Food Properly

Cleaning up your home, and the surrounding environment is just the first step to getting rid of rats. That said, when you place rubbish out for trash collection, use rat-resistant containers, and keep all other compost and trash as far away from your home as possible. 

Additionally, store all other food sources, like birdseed, garden seed, or pet foods, in rat-proof containers. Likewise, like it or not, you will need to pick up and discard dog droppings in your yard more regularly if you are a dog owner. Trimming tall grass and getting rid of woodpiles and other junk around your property helps as well. 

Also, keep your outdoor grilling area clean (if you have one) and free of food debris. All of these areas often create suitable rat habitats so be sure to keep up with them or mice and rats will return.

Water is another source of sustenance for most creatures, including rats. Keeping leaky pipes repaired and standing water drained as quickly as possible will help force rodents searching further and further away from your home to survive.

Tips For Keeping Rats Out Of Food

  • Store food in plastic containers with lids whenever possible
  • Keep food-based garbage outside in trash bins with lids
  • Keep fruits and vegetables in your garden picked when ripe
  • Search your kitchen (and other places you store food) for cracks and crevices
  • Never leave food sitting around on counters
  • Store spices and dry food in plastic bags or containers if possible
  • Never leave pet food on the ground level 
  • Pick up your pets water and food dishes after they eat

2. Keep Rats From Getting Into Structures

Without a hole to come through, rats may never ever venture into your actual home. However, if there is even the smallest foundation crack, you better believe that they will find it.

That means sealing up gaps and holes in your home right away. When you do so, make sure that you’re using the right tools for the job, such as heavy-gauge screening or 1/4-inch (6-millimeter) hardware cloth. 

You can also use copper mesh and steel wool, shoving it into those tight spaces that might tempt rat teeth. Finish the process with foam insulation and caulking over your patch jobs.

Even more, make sure that no tree branches or shrubs are touching your home, particularly near rooflines, because rats can climb foliage and then find ways into the structure.

Tips For Keeping Keeping Rats Out Of Your Home

  • Keep your lawn cut short and your property properly weeded 
  • Trim any bushes or trees that are physically touching your home
  • Plug up all cracks, crevices, and entryways into your home
  • Keep pet food and livestock feed sealed in an air-tight container at all times
  • Remove pet food and bowl as soon as it is eaten.
  • Use traps and other pest control products outside and around your home

3. Rat Traps

Non-lethal traps do work but leave you with the challenge of releasing the rats into a new area, where they may cause new misery for someone else. Rodenticides may work, but these poisons might take weeks to have any effect and often unintentionally kill other animals.

Old-school snap traps may be your best bet. 

You can purchase rat traps at your local hardware or big box store and then bait them. Contrary to popular belief, rodents don’t particularly like cheese, and actually much prefer peanut butter. Put a dollop of peanut butter the size of a pea on the rat traps and set back to see how quickly the critters come running for a bite. 

If your rat problem is in your kitchen, set up several traps under the sink or next to the wall. When you place the trap near a wall, create a T-shape with the bait next to the wall, because rats prefer to run right next to walls rather than out in the open. If you’re setting the traps in the attic or basement, place the traps as close to where you have found rat droppings as possible.

Tips For Setting Rat Traps

  • Look for highly traveled rodent routes and place traps there
  • Pull out appliances (in the kitchen, bathroom, and garage) and place traps behind them
  • Place traps in corners of rooms, near cracks in floorboards, and close to heating and cooling vents
  • Set traps under sinks and in crawlspaces (anywhere near water pipes that may leak)
  • Add a little bit of honey or peanut butter to the bait area of your traps to draw in more rodents

4. Poison

Rat poison is a popular pest control method for killing rodents. Obviously, it is designed for one thing and one thing only; killing rats dead. All things considered, it is pretty dangerous stuff.

If killing a rat, or a pack of rats, is on your agenda, and you have no qualms about killing them versus catching and releasing them, rat poison is an excellent tool to utilize. There are numerous types of poisons available on the market, so just take your pick.

Also known as rodenticides, there are three main sorts of poison used for getting rid of rats; calcium releasing ones, acute toxins, and the ever-popular anticoagulants. Calcium releasers, turn rats insides to stone. Acute toxins basically cause the naturally occurring toxins in rats to multiply until they die. And, last but never the least, anticoagulants reduce the amounts of vitamin K in rodents causing them to die from severe internal bleeding.

The three main types of rodenticide found in rat poison are calcium releasers, which cause organ failure, acute toxins, which build up levels of toxic substances in the bodies of the rats, and anticoagulants, which prevent vitamin K production and cause internal bleeding.

Some rat poisons kill within hours, or days, however, many products can take weeks to work on entire rat populations. So, make sure to read all of the instructions and warnings before just picking up any old rat poison.

Tips For Using Rat Poison

  • Carefully read instructions on all poison products 
  • Wear gloves whenever handling poison products
  • Place poison far out of reach from pets and children
  • Consider the local wildlife before setting poison outside
  • Keep in mind that poison takes time to work (and rodents may run off and die somewhere)

5. Repellents

Rat repellents of various ingredients are readily available on today’s pest control products market. Everything from natural and organic repellents like vinegar and pine extract to industrial chemicals and residential sprays.

If your battle with the rats is going downhill or has just begun, applying a decent rat repellent around the home will be sure to help you send the furry buggers on their way a bit faster (with or without killing them – as repellents come in both lethal and non-lethal toxicities).

Tips for Using Rat Repellents

  • Take into consideration that rat repellents are not an extermination tool
  • Spray or sprinkle copious amounts of repellent along rodent-traveled routes
  • Coat the foundation of your home with plenty of rat repellent
  • Fill holes, entryways, cracks, and crevices with as much repellent as possible

6. Natural Remedies

Rats are one of those pets that are so common and seem to be everywhere, many people have an issue spending their hard-earned bucks on high-priced pest control professionals or products. But, thankfully, humans have been dealing with rats for centuries and have documented various natural remedies for getting rid of rats that really work.

Vinegar, boric acid, sesame seeds, and many more natural and organic items found in your home surprisingly is sometimes all that you need to successfully get rid of rats. If you’re interested in learning more about natural remedies for rats check out our recent article on the subject.

Tips For Using Natural Remedies To Get Rid Of Rats

  • Consider using more than one natural remedy at a time for getting rid of rats 
  • Practice caution when applying natural remedies for getting rid of rats, just because they are natural doesn’t mean they are safe for your pets or kids
  • Natural remedies tend to work best when applied in unison with additional pest control methods or products

Final Thoughts

If dealing with one rat, it may take several days to catch it. Maybe even weeks. And, if dealing with a single rat or an entire pack of them, you may have to adjust your strategies several times in order to complete the job. 

Keep in mind that rats are more dangerous than they appear at first glance. So, If all else fails and rats are continuing to make your life difficult, call in a professional so that the job gets done correctly and you can take back control of your home.

Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham
Hello, Andrew is the co-founder and lead editor for DailyPest.

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