When rats get into the home life can get a little messy. Learn how to protect your home from rats with these rat prevention methods.

rat in trash

In addition to contaminating food and damaging buildings, rats can jeopardize your family's health. Worldwide, rodents like rats and mice spread more than 35 diseases. These diseases can be transmitted to people directly, through contact with rats or their feces, urine or saliva; or indirectly, through ticks, mites or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent. Norway and roof rats are common in the U.S.

Regarding a rat's lifecycle, a female rat has seven to 10 litters per year, with six to 10 babies per litter. Therefore, it doesn’t take long for a rat infestation to develop in your home. You should know how to prevent rats from entering your home and how to get rid of rats if they do sneak in.

How to Protect Your Home From Rats

Seal entry points.

Limit rats’ access to your home by sealing holes in interior and exterior walls and floors. If a rat can get its head through a hole, it can squeeze the rest of its body through the opening. A rat can gnaw on a tiny hole (1/4” in diameter or larger) and turn it into a hole large enough to squeeze through. Plug small holes with steel wool.

Eliminate ways for rats to climb into your home.

  • Trim tree branches away from your roof and utility lines.
  • Remove vines, such as ivy, from the walls.
  • Put metal or plastic sheeting or tree guards around tree trunks or pipes that rats may climb to get into your house.

Limit access to food and water. Keep lids on your trash cans and eliminate outdoor water sources to make your home less appealing to hungry and thirsty pests.

How to Remove Rats

First things first: confirm that rats are the problem.

Many types of creatures can make their way into your home. Effectively removing these creatures from your home takes proper identification. The best way to properly identify an intruder is to conduct an inspection. Should you suspect you have a rat infestation, you'll want to conduct a thorough rat inspection.

Conduct a rat inspection and look for the following signs of rat infestation:

  • Rat droppings around food packages, in drawers and cupboards and under the sink
  • Evidence of gnawing on food packaging or other materials
  • Rat tracks (footprints or tail marks)
  • Nest materials such as shredded paper, furniture stuffing or other soft material
  • Scurrying sounds or squeaking in walls
  • Burrows
  • Dead rats

Method 1: Call the pros.

A professional — like a Terminix® tech — can provide the insight and expertise you need to get rid of a rat problem as quick and efficiently as possible. With more than 85 years of experience, the knowledge and tools to get the job done properly and a guarantee that your rat problem will be solved, you can trust Terminix.

Method 2: Rat repellent.

Ultrasonic rat repellent products, which are designed to produce a high-frequency sound that repels rats, may not be effective. Laboratory tests have shown that most of these rat repellents don’t work as advertised. Other options include natural and household rat repellent recipes, which have odors that rats don’t like. You can find these on the Internet, but application can be messy and results questionable.


Method 3: Rat traps.

Use a snap trap designed for getting rid of rats, not getting rid of mice. Read the instructions before setting the rat traps. Set the rat traps in areas with signs of rat activity. Be sure traps are out of reach of children and pets — they can cause injuries.

  • Place a pea-sized amount of food attractant on the bait pan of the snap trap (whatever rats may have already been feeding on should suffice). Place the bait end of the trap next to (perpendicular to) the wall so it forms a “T” with the wall. Rats run along walls because it’s safer than being out in the open.
  • Put out traps that are baited, but not set, for a few days before you actually set the traps to encourage rats to interact with the device.
  • Seal rat entry holes after you trap the rats. If you don’t block their entrance, new rats will keep scurrying into your home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend using live traps or glue traps. The CDC says rats caught in live traps may urinate when they are frightened. This urine may contain germs, increasing your risk of disease.


Method 4: Rat bait.

Using poison rat bait requires training and good judgment. We recommend contacting a professional if you feel it's necessary to use a rodenticide, but if you choose to use rat bait, read and follow the instructions very carefully.

What to Do When you Find a Dead Rat

  1. Wear rubber, latex or vinyl gloves when cleaning up dead rats.
  2. Ventilate the area. (Our experts also suggest wearing appropriate breathing protection.)
  3. Spray the dead rat or nest and the surrounding area with a household disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water (1 part bleach to 9 parts water).
  4. Spray the dead rat, nesting materials or droppings in the disinfectant solution for five minutes before wiping up with a paper towel or rag.
  5. Place the dead rat in a plastic bag and seal tightly. Place the full bag in a second plastic bag and seal it.
  6. Place the bag into a covered trash can that is regularly emptied.
  7. Remove your gloves. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (or use a waterless alcohol-based hand rub when soap is not available and hands are not visibly soiled).

If your DIY efforts to prevent and remove rats aren’t successful, contact a rodent control professional to conduct a rat inspection. Pest management professionals know how to prevent and remove rats safely and efficiently.