Learn the best methods to deal with a rat infestation in your home, and how Terminix provides the best way to help get rid of rats fast.

how to get rid of rats

Updated: June 10, 2022

Talking rats in cartoons and movies are adorable. Real life rats in your home are not. Rats are a household's worst nightmare and the last thing you want to hear is sound of rats scurrying behind your walls or across the attic floor. That's because these rodents can carry various pathogens that cause diseases and can cause damage to your home.

Here are seven facts you need to know if you suspect a rat infestation and steps you can take in order to help get rid of rats. Remember, without professional help, getting rid of rats can be extremely difficult – especially if you aren't able to locate where rats are entering your home.

1. Know the warning signs of a rat infestation.

Common indicators of a rat problem include finding droppings or evidence of gnawing, seeing rat tracks, hearing scurrying sounds or squeaking in walls, smelling a musky scent, finding burrows or even seeing dead rats. The warning signs of a rat infestation can indicate the presence of other unwanted pests, such as fleas, ticks and lice. If you notice signs of rats, you should contact a professional quickly to help you determine how to get rid of rats in your house fast.

2. Keep up with home repair and maintenance.

Controlling a rat problem is as much about prevention as it is treatment. Sealing up holes in interior and exterior walls and flooring can help limit their access to your home. A rat can squeeze its body through any space it can get its head through, which can be as small as a quarter. By gnawing on it with their powerful teeth, they can make an entry point of any hole, no matter how small, in materials like wood, plastic or rubber. Keeping lids on trash cans and eliminating outdoor sources of water are also good ways to get rid of a rat infestation in your home.

3. Eliminate ways for rats to climb into your home.

Two of the most common types of rats that can cause significant damage are the roof rat and the Norway rat. These rats -- particularly roof rats -- are excellent climbers and will put that skill to good use when finding ways to enter your home, especially through the attic.

To help prevent roof rats from making their way into your home:

  • Make sure there aren't any tree branches touching or extending over your roofline.
  • Trim branches back 4 feet from utility wires.
  • Remove vines such as ivy from the walls of your home.
  • Consider using metal or heavy plastic around the bottom of trees and pipes that rats might climb to gain entry.
  • Use tree guards, which are plastic or metal cones secured to the trunk of a tree, to prevent rats from climbing.

For Norway rats, consider the following prevention tips:

  • Making sure doors are sealed with as little space as possible at the bottom and sides.
  • Do not leave pet food out for an extended period of time.
  • Properly handle garbage and make sure it is discarded in containers with closed lids.

4. Block access for rats trying to tunnel under your home.

If they cannot climb up into your home, rats may try to tunnel below it. One way to limit this type of access is laying a patio or row of gravel stones flush with the wall of your home leading away from it. The farther a rodent has to tunnel, the more likely they are to give up.

Keeping a wide, mowed area around your home is also advisable. Rats dislike covering large amounts of open space with nowhere to hide.

However, these rodents are tenacious, and will likely not stop trying to get into your home just because they encounter a few obstacles along the way. A professional pest control company can install specialized material that rodents can't chew through in any gaps in your home to help prevent rats from entering.

5. Store foods properly to limit rodents' access.

Proper food storage, using airtight containers and heavy-duty garbage receptacles will help get rid of rats because they can't use your space as a food source. Ensuring that foods are stored in rooms that are not easy for a rat to enter will also help prevent them from making your home into their abode.

6. Know the difference between how to catch a rat and how to kill a rat.

There are lethal and nonlethal ways to catch a rat. However, capturing rats in live-catch traps means you will need to find way to dispose of them. Lethal methods include traps and baits. Traps allow you to get rid of rats in the house fast. On the flipside, baits often require a rat to eat multiple doses before taking effect, and there is no way to know where a rat will be when it dies, which will likely lead to an unpleasant odor in your house.

7. Pick the right method of rat control for your home.

Some may think it doesn't take much know-how to kill rats, but these rodents are more clever than you think. Additionally, there are important things to consider when picking your method of rat control. For instance, choosing the right rodent removal method can help you avoid having dead rats inside your walls. Some states also have rules on the types of traps and baits that can be used to help get rid of rats, and placement with either method is key. For these reasons, it is best to consult with a professional to determine the most effective methods for your home.

How long does it take to get rid of rats?

The amount of time it takes to get rid of rats in your home can vary depending on a variety of factors. These factors can include the number of rats present, how long they have been there, and the methods used to get rid of them. If caught early and before rats have had a chance to multiply, you may be able to get rid of them quickly.

However, if you find yourself with a severe infestation, it can take much longer to get rid of. Or, if the rats are living outside your home, you may need continuing treatment to keep the rats away. In order to prevent your home from becoming overrun with rats, contact a professional as soon as you notice signs of these rodents in your home. The sooner you begin taking charge of your rat problem, the sooner you can get back to feeling a sense of peace in your home.

Need help getting rid of rats?

If you think you might have a rat infestation in your home, Terminix specialists can make sure the rats in your house know their lease is up. For the best way to get rid of rats fast, schedule a free appointment with our professionally trained technicians today and find your rat infestation solution.

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