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Rats in your home: Everything you need to know and what to do

If you’re a homeowner, the last thing you probably want to see is a rat – or signs of rats – at home. Here’s how to get rid of a rat, whether it’s in your house or outside.

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Keep reading to see how to get rid of a rat – whether you’ve noticed signs of rats in your house or you’ve spotted one in the garden.

The signs of rat in your house

You don’t need to have actually seen a rat in your house to know there’s one there. Instead, there are several signs that can indicate you have a rat problem.

Here are the main ones:

  1. Rat droppings. These are usually dark brown and are shaped a bit like a large grain of rice. Rats can produce up to 40 droppings each night, so you’ll usually find them concentrated in a few locations.
  2. Tracks and runways. Rats often leave smudges on surfaces, thanks to the grease and dirt they carry on their bodies. You may also see footprints or tail marks in dusty areas of your home.
  3. Gnaw marks. If you notice gnaw marks on cables or items stored in the loft, this could be a sign that you have black rats, as they’re keen climbers.
  4. Rat holes. Rats tend to dig large burrows, often next to solid structures. They use these for shelter, food storage and to nest.
  5. Rat nests. Rats nest in burrows, but you might also find rats nests in your loft or in cavity walls. They’ll often be made using shredded materials, such as loft insulation or cardboard.
  6. Scratching sounds. If there are rodents in your house, you might be able to hear them scurrying along behind walls and joists, beneath floors or in cabinets.

Health hazards of a rat in the house

If you discover rats in your home, it’s really important that you act fast.

Rats can carry a number of diseases, such as Leptospirosis, Tularemia and Hantavirus. These can be transmitted to humans through biproducts like feces and urine – for example, if you eat food that’s been contaminated with rat droppings. Plus, rats can bring other pests like ticks and lice into the home, which can spread diseases too.

As if that all wasn’t bad enough, rats can even cause electrical fires! That’s right, if rats chew on electrical wiring (which is pretty common), it can spark and overheat.

All in all, dealing with your rat problem is non-negotiable.

Health hazards of rat in house

Getting rid of rats at home

There are a number of different solutions that homeowners often try to get rid of rats at home.

How rats get into your house – and how to stop them

To start with, examine how the rats might be getting into your house. Removing their point of entry and getting rid of the things that attracted them to your home in the first place is a good place to begin.

  1. Seal entry points. See if you can spot where the rats might be coming in from – such as damaged drains, cracks in your garage door, gaps around vents, or the spaces beneath your kitchen cabinets. Seal the gaps by using solutions like caulk, wire wool or cement.
  2. Remove food and water sources. Rodents will eat pretty much anything. Keep food sealed in thick containers with airtight lids, avoid leaving pet bowls around overnight and clean up any spills quickly. Similarly, take the bins out regularly and try not to leave dirty dishes lying around.
  3. Remove hiding places. Even more than food, rats are attracted by shelter. Clean up any clutter in your home and move objects away from the walls to get rid of places they could hide. It’s also a good idea to pack away items that rats could shred and use as nest material – like newspapers, clothing or unsecured storage boxes.

Once you’ve carried out these simple steps, you’ll need to eliminate any remaining rats in your home.

Bear in mind that even when you’ve eliminated rats from your property altogether, it’s still wise to stay on top of your home repair and maintenance, and to keep your house clean. That way, you can help to prevent rats from entering your property again.

How to get rid of rats at home

How to get rats out of your house

When it comes to eliminating the remaining rats, you’ll have two main options: set traps or bait with poisons.

Traps

Using traps is a poison-free method of reducing rat populations.

As far as traps go, snap traps are generally seen as the most efficient kind. Up until recently, you could also use less humane glue traps to catch rodents, but these are in the process of being banned in England (unless you carry a pest control licence).

If you choose to place your own traps, you’ll need to use many of them, and place them in areas where you think there’s a decent amount of rat activity. You can use foods such as peanut butter or bananas as bait. Or, if you notice there’s a food that the rats in your home seem to be eating a lot of, you could use that instead.

If you’d rather not set traps yourself, you can quickly and easily get a pest control expert to come in and deal with the rats for you.

Poisons

Another way to reduce rat populations is to bait them with poisons.

There are many different types of baits, including food baits, blocks, pellet baits and liquid baits that can be used with fresh foods. Just bear in mind that you should only use poisons to kill the pests they’re intended for. So, check the packaging before using it.

If you choose to use rat baits and poisons to control your rat population, it’s really important that you follow the directions on the label carefully for your own safety.

If in any doubt, just get a professional in to eliminate the rats for you. Not only will they be sure to do so safely and legally, but they’ll also be able to advise you on the most effective method.

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How not to get rats out of your house

Now we’ve covered how to get rats out of your house, we thought we should do a quick myth-buster. There are several methods of eliminating rats that you may have heard about.

Here are those that just haven’t been proven to be effective.

  • Mothballs. Mothballs are often used as a rat deterrent as they contain naphthalene. However, the level of naphthalene in a mothball just isn’t big enough to efficiently get rid of an existing rat problem.
  • Peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has a strong smell that may deter rats to some extent in high concentrations. However, the smell will disappear over time and rats nest in numerous places around the home anyway. Ultimately, it’s unrealistic to think that this alone can solve your rat problem.
  • Garlic. Another popular natural remedy, garlic is assumed to be a good rat repellent due to its strong smell. But there’s no evidence to show that garlic repels rats – and although they may initially stay away from an area with a strong smell, they’re likely to return once they get used to it.
  • Cats and dogs. Many people swear by using cats or dogs to help control a rat population. But although cats and dogs might kill the odd rat here and there, they won’t be able to control whole rat populations by themselves. Plus, rats carry diseases that can be transmitted to your pets.
  • Ultrasonic machines. There’s no proof that ultrasonic repellent devices work to get rid of rats. The irritating noise might startle rats at first, but once they get used to it, they’ll just go back to their usual activities.
  • Electromagnetic devices. Just like with strong smells and irritating noises, an electromagnetic device might discourage rats initially, but they’ll quickly get used to the machine. So, it won’t do anything long-term.
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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.

How to get rid of rats outside

Suspect that rats are visiting your outside spaces? Follow these simple steps to deter them and get rid of rats in your garden.

  • Keep your garden tidy. Keeping grass short and removing clutter will make it harder for rats to find shelter in your garden.
  • Stop feeding birds. Rats eat pretty much anything, but could be attracted by bird food that falls to the floor.
  • Remove water sources. Rats don’t drink as often as us, but they’ll still need water at times. By fixing a dripping tap or securing drains, you could help to make your garden less inhabitable.
  • Seal gaps in garden buildings. Block holes in your shed or other garden buildings to stop rats from sheltering inside.
  • Block gaps under decking. The space under decking can make the perfect shelter for rats – especially if food crumbs fall between the planks! Try to block access or, if necessary, consider swapping your decking for a patio.
  • Make your compost uninviting. Like other wildlife, rats can be attracted to compost heaps and bins. To deter them, keep your compost bin or heap moist and avoid adding food scraps.
  • Encourage predators. Cats and dogs can make rats less likely to stay in your garden. Similarly, if foxes visit your garden, don’t discourage them as rats are a major part of their diet!

If you’ve taken these steps and you’re still having issues with rats in your garden, we’d recommend contacting a pest controller near you. Which brings us onto…

How to get rid of rats at home

The only guaranteed way to get rid of rats at home – whether in the house or in the garden – is to hire an expert pest controller.

Pest controllers that specialise in getting rid of rats are experienced professionals who will be able to advise you on the best way of dealing with the issue and how to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

Although you might be tempted to try to deal with your rat problems yourself, rats are dirty creatures that can pose a real health hazard. Plus, some methods for exterminating rats, like poisons, can be dangerous if they’re administered incorrectly. The safest solution for getting rid of rats is to get a pest controller onboard, who’ll be able to ensure the extermination is completed successfully the first time around.

Rat removal cost

The typical rat exterminator cost falls between £120 and £240 in total. It’s more expensive than trying your hand at rat removal yourself, but the success rate of a trained rat exterminator is incredibly high.

Lots of professionals will also offer an initial consultation and aftercare visits free of charge. So, not only can they help to deal with your existing rat problem, but they can also be invaluable in ensuring that rats won’t return.

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FAQs

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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