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What to do if you discover rats

Rodents in the home, especially rats, are not only an unpleasant inconvenience, they represent a risk to health and safety. Rats and mice carry diseases including salmonella and leptospirosis and can cause property damage by chewing through plaster and electric wires and by burrowing. In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to do if you discover rodents in your home.

Rodents in the home, especially rats, are not only an unpleasant inconvenience, they represent a risk to health and safety. Rats and mice carry diseases including salmonella and leptospirosis and can cause property damage by chewing through plaster and electric wires and by burrowing.

Not everybody is comfortable using poisons however. This is why it’s important to look into poison-free rodent control methods, pest proofing and methods of discouraging the presence of rodents as part of a broader pest control plan.

How to get rid of rats

The first step in getting rid of rats is identifying their presence. An alarming number of people have rat and mouse infestations without realising it. This might be because the rodents manage to evade visual detection or because nobody knows the signs to look out for.

Aside from spotting a rat in your property, here are some other signs to keep an eye, ear or nose out for:

  • Droppings. Rat droppings are significantly larger than mouse droppings. Mouse droppings are approximately 8mm long and a dull brown, while rat droppings can be up to 25mm long and have a shiny appearance. Droppings tend to be found near to feeding channels and nesting areas. Keep a lookout for them around skirting boards, under sinks, near pipes and around any areas where brickwork is cracked or broken.
  • ‘Swipe’ marks. When rats and mice establish a feeding channel, they use it regularly. These are normally along skirting boards or behind kickboards. Rodents tend to move about along flat surfaces to avoid detection. Over time, their fur and tails can leave greasy marks next to the surfaces they pass.
  • Smell. When infestations get to a certain size, the accumulation of urine gives off a very strong ammonia like smell.
  • Scratching and squeaking. You might detect this coming from under the floorboards, inside walls or behind kickboards.
  • Signs of chewing. Rats and mice are prolific and very destructive chewers, and they can chew through an alarming variety of materials. If you spot what looks like sawdust or brickdust near a small opening, this could be a sign of chewing.

Call in a pest control specialist

Once you’ve confirmed, or at least remain suspicious that you have a rodent infestation, it’s time to act.

The easiest, most humane and most reliable way to get rid of rats is to call in a pest control professional. Pest controllers understand the habits and behaviours of rodents and can normally reduce the time and stress it would cost you to tackle this problem yourself.

Pest controllers take a phased approach to getting rid of rodents. The first phase involves establishing an entry point by laying bait or traps in a variety of locations. Once established, they will lay more traps and possibly poison bait.

You can discuss with your pest control professional any preferences you have. Some people don’t like the idea of using poison, whereas others hate the idea of finding a rat or mouse in a trap.

Approaches to pest control vary by location and property type. For example, in the countryside, it’s often better not to use poison so that other animals don’t get ill should they come across a rat that has taken the bait. In adjoining properties like flats and terraced houses, poisoned rats and mice can pass through different properties after taking the bait, putting neighbouring pets at risk, so traps are better.

Your pest control professional will need to make a number of visits and over the course of the treatment will keep you posted on progress. They would normally expect to see evidence of pests declining and would measure this by how much bait is being taken on each subsequent visit, or by how many rats or mice they have trapped. Only when they are confident that they have eradicated the infestation will they move onto the prevention and pest-proofing stage.

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How to get rid of rats outsideWhat to do if you discover rodents outside

An outside rat infestation poses different challenges to a property infestation. This is especially the case in rural and semi-rural areas where rats have natural habitats.

It’s not advised to use poison to control rats outside due to the risk this poses to other wildlife and pets. In many scenarios, a pest control specialist will aim to focus on trapping the pests. Next, they’ll concentrate on restricting access to certain areas, such as gardens, sheds, barns and other outbuildings.

Removing food sources is also crucial in the battle against rodent infestations. Rats and mice will rarely colonise an area that doesn’t provide them access to food. If you’re concerned about a rodent problem in an outside area of your property, make sure you’re not inadvertently encouraging them by storing pet food where they can access it or by leaving rubbish and food waste where they can get to it. Make sure bins are always fully closed.

How to get rid of rats without poison

There are a number of rat control options that do not involve the use of poison. These range from traditional pest control methods to modern technological approaches. Here are just a few methods to try:

  • Get a cat to control rodents
  • Humane rodent traps
  • Ultrasonic deterrents
  • Homemade solutions (such as peppermint oil).

Emergency rat removal

If you detect a rat inside your property, the safest thing to do is call an emergency pest controller. They’ll be able to dispatch the pest humanely and then put in place a pest control plan.

Your local authority may be able to provide this service but in a lot of cases, there’s a waiting time, which is no good to people with a rat on the loose in their home. So your best approach may be to call in a private contractor who can attend immediately.

In the meantime, how you deal with the situation depends on your opinion of and tolerance for rats. Most people will simply want to get as far away from the problem as possible.

If you feel it is safe to do so, you may wish to try restricting the rat’s movement about your home. You can do this by placing a rolled towel under a closed door, for example.

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How to rodent-proof your house

The best approach to dealing with rodents is to make your home as unappealing and hard to access as possible. A few steps to take include:

  • Blocking any external entry points. Pay attention to broken brickwork, damaged pipes, gaps under doors, around windows and gaping floorboards.
  • Block internal entry points. Some properties are almost impossible to make completely rodent-proof from the outside, so the trick is to ensure they can’t get into your living space. A good rule of thumb is this; if you have a gap into which you can fit a pencil, it’s large enough for a rat. Use a combination of silicone gel adhesive and wire wool to block any holes you spot around the edges of rooms and around internal pipework.
  • Remove any sources of food. Store food in closed containers off the floor and make sure you keep surfaces clean and free from crumbs. If you have young children in the house, pay special attention to the areas around their high chair, as there are often a lot of hidden crumbs of food where children eat.
  • Remove any potential nesting areas and nesting material. Rats and mice are naturally reclusive and won’t colonise an area that doesn’t have the potential for nesting. Rats and mice have been known to take up residence in overflowing laundry hampers, inside yoga mats and even among piles of paper recycling.

What to do if you discover rodents in a rented property

If you discover rodents in a rented property, the process is slightly different as you’ll need to alert your landlord and letting agent. If you fail to do this, you may end up paying to get the problem fixed out of your own money.

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Do ultrasonic pest repellents work?

These devices are designed to emit high-frequency sounds to deter pests. They can deter mice and perhaps rats too in areas where they haven’t yet had a chance to establish themselves. However, the long-term effectiveness of ultrasonic pest repellents is not proven. In some cases, the lure of food and shelter seems to override the discomfort of the sound irritation.

Does peppermint oil get rid of rodents?

Peppermint oil may irritate mice and rats for a short while, but it’s not likely to deter them for good. But it does no harm to try it – and it can make your home smell fresh and lovely too.
What is the best bait for a mousetrap?

You may need to experiment with a few different baits, but things like peanut butter, chocolate, seeds and breakfast cereal all tend to be attractive to rodents.

How do I know if I’ve got rid of rodents?

Scroll back to the top of this guide to check the signs that you have a rodent problem. This includes things like droppings, an unpleasant smell from rodent urine and the tracks they leave. Once you stop noticing all of these signs, it’s a pretty good indication that your rodent problem has been dealt with for now.

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