How To Get Rid of Rats
How To Control Rats
Rats are shy, intelligent, nocturnal rodents that seek food, water, shelter and safety in our homes. In many cases rats don’t live inside a home but visit during their active hours. Because of that, eliminating the rodents requires a two pronged approach. Catching and killing rats is only half of the job, keeping them out is equally important. We will show you how to get rid of rats in your home and how to keep them out.
How To Keep Rats Out of a Home
First, and most important, block the rat’s access to your home. Many people focus on filling holes and cracks inside their home. The problem is that in the typical home there are too many pathways through walls, attics, and crawlspaces for you to block them all. A much more effective method to block access is from the outside of your home. While there are many ways into your home, it is easier to restrict access to rats, mice and rodents from the outside.
To prevent rats from getting into your home, walk around the perimeter of your home to find and block their ways in. Look the following:
- Find the exterior vents around your home. These exist both along the foundation and eaves of your house. Other vents can be found on gables, the roof and elsewhere. These vents should all be covered with 1/8″ or 1/4″ galvanized hardware cloth.
- Inspect the foundation of your home for openings. Anything larger than a quarter is large enough for a rat to pass through.
- Look for gaps in exterior siding.
- Cut back plants and shrubs so that they don’t touch the building.
- Remove tree branches that give rodents easy access to the roof. Keep in mind they can jump several feet.
- Keep garbage cans as far from your home as possible.
- Block all openings with rigid metal screen or other appropriate material.
- Inspect around the fireplace for a draft inducer or ash clean out. Make certain these are properly blocked.
Use galvanized rigid metal mesh to block openings to your home. The material is usually known as hardware cloth. Use 1/8″ inch or 1/4″ mesh; anything larger may let in pests. When screening openings, wait until the afternoon. This gives any rodents the opportunity to exit your home and return to their nest. Attach the metal mesh with heavy-duty staples, screws or construction adhesive. Make sure rats and rodents can’t pry open an edge to squeeze through.
In holes too small, you can fill them with construction adhesive or caulking, however, a determined rat will chew through this material. One additional step you can try iis to take some 12 gauge wire and coil it into the opening before sealing it over with construction adhesive. The heavy wire will make it difficult for a rat to chew their way through.
Rats are excellent climbers and can jump a fair distance. Even openings that are well above the ground need to be blocked. Any trim on you house may make a perfect ladder for a rat to climb up the side of your home. Removal of shrubs, ivy and tree branches is important for rodent control.
How To Catch Rats
There are many ways to kill rats; we are advocates of using non-toxic methods. While poison may become necessary for rodent control, we believe it should be used as a last resort. The problem with poisons is the unintended consequences such as a pet being poisoned through ingestion of a poisoned rodent. Children are also at risk if they come in contact with poison traps. Many poisons often find there way into our waterways and groundwater. Finally, a poisoned rodent may remain in your home to die. A dead rat hidden away in a wall or other difficult to access location may result in a strong odor for a couple weeks or more.
Cats have been a natural source of rodent control through the ages. While this may be an effective method for control, it does put your pet at risk of injury, disease and the possibility of poisoning (your neighbors may be using poison bait).
Traps include the classic spring trap (aka snap trap), sticky traps, live capture and variations on the spring trap. Simply putting these traps out without understanding rat behavior is unlikely to lead to satisfactory results. Understanding rat behavior will help you to use these traps more effectively.
Rats tend to be aware of their environment and will be shy of new things. If you place a trap, don’t be surprised it there is no activity for a 2 to 4 days. Some experts recommend baiting and placing a trap but leaving it unset. The rat will be attracted to the bait and will investigate. If contact with the trap does not result in a negative experience, the rat will become more bold and eventually take the bait. When you check the trap and notice that the bait has been eaten, you should rebait it again without setting the trap. Once the rodents have become used to the trap, you can begin setting it and will likely catch more than one rat. Be sure to check traps daily.
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Many different baits have been recommended, however, most people have reported success with peanut butter. The key is to coat the trigger so that it really sticks. If the peanut butter is placed only on top of the trigger, rats have been successful taking the bait without setting off the trap. The key is to thoroughly coat the trigger, top and bottom of the trigger; that way the rat is much more likely to set off the trap.
Rats tend to travel along edges, such as along baseboards. They are less likely to cross a room than to run around the perimeter of it. Therefore it is best to place the traps along the routes they travel. To identify their paths, look for rodent droppings or dark grimy markings where their fur rubs against walls and furniture. When placing traps, place several near each other and check them daily.
We have had mixed success with sticky traps. Some were not sticky enough and the rat was able to extricate itself. In another case the rat struggled to get away and dragged it through enough dirt and debris that the surface of the trap was no longer sticky. Also, the size of the trap seemed to be too small and so the rodent was able to pull itself free. We had the best success by placing three traps side by side, along the wall. This technique worked repeatedly.
If you are of a mind to humanely release a live rodent from a sticky trap, coating it with corn oil will release it from the trap. Whether you release it or not, you must exercise caution to avoid being bitten. We recommend wearing heavy leather gloves and handling the end of the trap opposite from the rodents head. If you capture a live rodent and want to kill it, dropping the entire trap into a bucket of water is a relatively humane method.