If you have ever walked into a room of your house and thought you glimpsed something from the corner of your eye, you need to check it out right away. Mice may work their way into your home, but if the rodent is larger, you probably have a visit from a rat.
If you find a rat in your house, you should:
- Assess possible areas where the rat may have entered (cracks in home, baseboards, gaps under doors and windows)
- Clean your home (check for damp areas and food on floor)
- Set up rat traps
- Use scents that rats hate
- Dispose of any rat nests
- Call a professional
Listed here you will find everything you need to know–from what type of rat you are dealing with–to how you can quickly drive this oversized rodent out of your home. You will learn some tried-and-true remedies for dealing with this type of infestation as well as when you need to call in a professional exterminator.
What Exactly Are Rats And Where Did They Come From?
Rats are in the same category as mice, except they are larger. Mice are much smaller, but they share many similarities. With over 60 different varieties of rats, you only really need to familiarize yourself with the few common in North America.
The four most common rats you may see in your home include the Norway rat, mostly known as the black rat. As well as roof rats also called the brown rat or the fruit rat; the woodrat referred to as the Pack Rat (I know I have been called this on multiple occasions!); and the marsh rice rat.
The black rat and the brown rats are the only two you will probably run into.
Rats started out in southeast Asia but eventually made their way to the Middle East and then on to Africa. According to Columbia University, rats kept going on their journey until they finally got to the United States. Around 1776. At this time, the rats got into crates of grain provided by German soldiers who were enlisted by Britain to take down colonists in America.
Now, just how did rats get into your home? The most common ways are:
- Through open pipes
- Under doors
- Holes in window and door screens
- Gaps in windows and door frames
- Heating ducts (very common)
What Signs Confirm That You Have a Rat In Your Home?
Many of the signs that will alert you a rat is loose in your home are the same ones you get when there is a mouse in your house.
Pay attention to the following occurrences:
1. Black Droppings
Once you come upon rat droppings, you can rest assured the rodent is making his presence known.
2. Scratching Sounds
Hopefully, you will hear these sounds as the rat travels around your home and hopefully, is not making himself comfortable in the walls. Try to determine where the sounds are coming from.
3. A Definite (Bad) Odor in the Room
Once you smell a rat or a mouse, you will always know when a rodent is nearby. The aroma is not pleasant, but it is distinctly smelly.
If you come across what may first appear as a ball of paper on the floor, look a little further to see if there are pieces of cloth, twigs, and assorted pieces of garbage attached. If so, this could be a rat’s nest.
5. Gnaw Marks
Rats gnaw at just about anything that comes their way. If you see markings on food bags, on your furniture, or even on your walls or baseboards, you can safely say you are being visited by a rat.
6. Markings On The Wall
Rats usually walk along close to the perimeter of your home, staying close to the walls. As they glide by, they will leave a mark from their fur and all the dirty things attached to it.
7. Rat Prints
If you are pretty sure you think you have located the track that the rat is taking in your home, sprinkle some baby powder on the floor and check it periodically. If you are right, you will know it by the prints in the powder.
6 Things You Can Do to Get Rid of a Rat in Your House
Once you are sure you have a rat in your home and you can tell how it got there, check a little further to see where it is hiding out. Now you are ready to find which of the following ways will work best for you to send this rodent on its merry way!
Keep in mind besides being the fastest solution, you want to make sure it is a proper choice for your home and aim for as effective as a natural method as possible. There are plenty of ways to solve this problem before it becomes a major infestation!
1. Get Rid Of All Signs Of Food
Make sure all the food in your cabinets is tightly sealed and preferably stored in glass or heavy plastic containers.
You want to keep the rat from being able to gnaw at them and contaminate them. When they no longer have easy access to food, they will be more apt to gravitate to the bait in traps.
This means you will have to put the bowls you have out for food and water for your pets off the floor and safely away as soon as they are empty. This will be a little inconvenient for you and your pets, but this will just be until you are rat-free.
2. Set Up Rat Traps
Once you know where the rat is hiding out or where it is frequenting when it comes out of hiding, leave the trap of your choice there. There are a number of traps you can choose from.
However, your best bet will be to use a snap trap like this Kat Sense Covered Rat Trap. There are many options and you DON’T have to use that trap, but just don’t use a bait station or else the rat will simply take your bait, crawl to where they were living in your home, and stink up the place.
3. Utilize Scents That rats hate
There are many scents rats will scurry away from. Most of these items you may already have in your house, so you can get started right away:
- Peppermint oil: You can either spray the area with an essential oil or even just leave a stick of mint gum around.
- Cayenne Pepper: This is some SPICY stuff! The strong scent of cayenne peppers will block of other attracting scents to rats AND irritate their senses due to the capsaicin in the pepper.
- Black Pepper: Similar to cayenne pepper, black pepper has quite the strong aroma to repel rats and can block off other attracting scents that they like.
For a more comprehensive list, check out our guide: 15 Scents That Rats Hate (And How To Use Them). You will be able to find something convenient and perfect for your situation!
4. Make Sure You Do Not Have Leaky Faucets Or Condensation On Windowsills
Rats come indoors for food, shelter, and water. Do not give them a reason to stick around by having a constantly dripping leaky faucet. Make sure window sills are dry and not wet from condensation.
While it may not seem like a lot of water, remember they are quite small and it’s a free water source for them!
5. Get Rid Of Their Nests
If you find a nest, remove it and get rid of it immediately. Make sure you wear strong plastic gloves and dispose of the nest in the outside trash bin. Use a commercial disinfectant covering the entire area where the nest was found.
You can learn more about where rats go during the day here, where we discuss different common household rat species and where you can find them during the daytime.
6. Call An Exterminator
If you are eager to get the rat out of your house immediately but do not have the time to take on all the steps required to do so, call a professional.
They have all the knowledge and tools to take on one rat or an invasion. You may have to put down more money than buying a trap or two, but you will have peace of mind knowing everything is taken care of.
5 Things NOT To Do If You Have A Rat in Your House
While you should try any of the tips above to get a rat out of your house, there are a few things you should NOT do.
- Do not patch up any holes in walls or openings you have been meaning to fix until you are sure that you no longer have a rat in your home. If you seal up a hole that the rat has used to get into your house, it will no longer have a way to get back out.
- You may have to cancel or postpone your trip because you should not leave your house, even if it is in the early stages when you just think you have a rat. If you do, you may return to a major infestation. Call a professional right away so you can safely keep your travel plans.
- Select a trap that is geared to be ONLY accessible by rats – preferably one that is fully covered. You may try to save a few bucks to begin with, but safety is more important.
- Do not assume you just have one rat if you have only been able to locate one. Where there is one, there are usually others. Be patient and have a professional come for a thorough search of your entire home.
- Do NOT wait until rodents overrun you. You may think you are saving money, but it could become more costly in the long run if you wait too long. Seek the professionals who do this for a living.
Once Rats Are Gone How Do You Keep Them Away?
You can keep rats from returning to your house by starting from the outside. Keep trashcans tightly closed so they cannot begin munching outside. They are not picky eaters and will comfortably eat garbage.
Set traps on the outside of your home, especially if you can locate the place where they originally entered.
Place mint plants in pots around your home. Rats hate that smell and it will keep them from going any farther.
Sign up for regular inspections from your local exterminators. They will complete a comprehensive search of areas you may not even be aware of as an attraction to rats.
Now that last part you don’t have to do, but it helps. Keep a watchful eye for any openings in your home where rats could get in like areas of your foundation, cracks in siding, and gaps in your garage.
If you’re finding rats outside, take a peak at our guide on why rats are in your yard – and how to get them out!
Rats can be a pain in the neck (and wallet) do deal with if you do not prevent an infestation or deal with it in the early stages. Hopefully, these tips have added more strategies to your arsenal to keep your home pest-free!
If you are dealing with a full-blown infestation, please do not hesitate to contact a professional using our local pest control partner network!
Whether you choose a natural deterrent or traps, you can easily keep rats out of your home. Good luck, stay safe, and keep your home rat-free!
Mengak, M. T. Rats and mice: get them out of your house and yard. Uga.edu.
Review: Rodent Control Strategies in Houses. International Journal of Research Studies in Agricultural Sciences, 4(3).
Schweinfurth, M. K. (2020). The social life of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). Elife, 9, e54020.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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