If you are hearing weird scratching noises coming from a wall or ceiling in your home, you may very well have a rat problem. This is exactly what happened to me!
One night, after my wife and I, put our kids to bed, and the house was quiet, all of a sudden we heard a lot of scratching sounds. The sound was coming from the ceiling or wall, so I walked the house and pinpointed the noise in the attic above my son’s bedroom.
The next morning I went to investigate and sure enough, rats were getting into the attic through a small hole. The good news was that they just moved in and didn’t start having babies yet. Being a handy person, I started to learn everything I needed to know about rats.
What I learned is that by far the best method for getting rid of rats is to use traps. If you want to skip all the information on rats then click here to go to the rat trap section of this post.
However, I encourage you to read the rest of this post about everything I learned and what you need to know about the best way to get rid of rats and how to keep them out of your home.
A rat is one of the most well-known invasive pest in the world. Rats are part of the Rodentia species, which are known for having teeth that are specialized for chewing and gnawing.
They are highly adaptive and can easily acclimate to most climates, are highly intelligent scavengers and master of mazes, which make them great at navigating through attics and walls in your home.
Rats also operate in teams sometimes referred to as “pack rats” and will eat any food and water resource they can find.
Being so adaptive, they will exploit homes, attics, apartment buildings, office buildings, garages, restaurants, gardens, compost bins, dumpsters, wood piles, sewers, and even boat yards for food and shelter.
Both the Norway rat and the Roof rats infest homes, however, it is the Roof rat that tends to make nests inside attic spaces.
Norway rats are larger and bulkier that Roof rats and like to build nests in lower lying areas, such as basements or walls on the ground floor or underground.
Roof rats are slimmer and are better climbers, making nests higher up in trees, walls and especially inside attics where it is warm and dry.
Roof Rats are usually black in color, although it’s color is not always a good identifier for these rats.
The Norway rat is usually brown or gray.
Here is a chart to help you identify the differences between rats:
What Do Rats Eat?
Rats prefer to eat cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit, however, being omnivores, they will eat a variety of meats including shrimp, fish, insects, lizards, eggs and pet food.
If food is scarce they may even eat a small bird and paper products.
Some of the favorite places rats like to scavage for food and water around your home are:
- Animal feed in a garage
- Eggs in a chicken coop
- Plants and vegetables in your garden
- Fruit trees in your yard
- Seed in a bird feeder
- Near lakes or ponds
- Compost Bins
- The kitchen pantry
- Water from a bird bath
- Water from an Air Conditioner
- Pet Food and pets water bowl
What Is A Rats Reproduction Cycle?
Rats are very prolific and their numbers can multiply quickly.
They will breed outdoors in the Spring and Fall seasons, however when indoors they will breed continuously throughout the year.
The female has a gestation period of 20-22 days and will give birth anywhere from 4 to 8 pups, but can have as many as 12 pups in one litter.
With the mother having 4-7 litters per year, in most cases, a female rat will give birth to 24 pups per year.
Keep in mind that baby pups reach sexual maturity within 2-3 months, which means they will also begin to reproduce.
With these facts, you can now get a sense of how fast they multiply and why it will require immediate action when faced with rats in and around your home.
How Do Rats Get Into An Attic?
Rats like to run along or climb on electrical wires, pipes, fences, poles, ropes, cables, vines, shrubs, and trees, as well as climb a wall with a rough surface such as wood, brick, and concrete.
Frequently, rats will climb an overhanging tree branch allowing them to jump onto a roof.
Once on the roof, they will look for small openings and chew and gnaw their way into the attic space.
How Do Rats Damage Property?
Rats have a pair of upper and lower teeth that grow continuously which require them to keep filing back their teeth.
If they do not continuously gnaw on materials, the front teeth will grow too long affecting their ability to eat and survive.
Because of the need to constantly chew, they will be shredding materials in walls and attic spaces such as electrical wires drywall and other building materials.
In addition to chewing electrical wires, rats will shred clothing, plastic, and paper materials to create a nest.
All of this material can become a fire hazard in a wall or attic.
To gain access to water, rats will chew on plastic water drains and metal water pipes which can cause further damage to your home.
Do Rats Transmit Harmful Diseases?
It is believed to have been transmitted by fleas hitchhiking on Roof Rats which are also known as Black rats.
By bringing in fleas and other parasites into your home, rats can be the transmitter of many bacteria and viruses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control website, rodents have been associated with transmission of Salmonella, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Plague, and Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome directly to humans.
Additionally, rats can contaminate food supplies in your pantry by leaving urine and feces droppings behind.
Rat-Bit Fever is an illness transmitted through a bite or scratch from an infected live or dead rat as well as eating or drinking food or water contaminated by rat feces.
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
Symptoms usually occur 3-10 days after exposure to an infected rodent, but can be delayed as long as 3 weeks. By this time, any associated bite or scratch wound has usually healed.
Within 2-4 days after fever onset, a maculopapular rash may appear on the hands and feet. This rash is identified by flat, reddened areas with small bumps. One or more joints may then become swollen, red, or painful.
Here is a link to Rat-bite Fever Signs and Symptoms on cdc.gov.
How To Tell If You Have A Rat Problem?
Being nocturnal and very careful in their movements makes it difficult to know when you have a rat problem.
The most common sign is usually hearing a scratching sound at night coming from walls or ceilings, however, there are many other clues to look for.
Here is a list of what to look for to help identify a rat infestation:
1) Scratching Sounds in Attic or Walls
Rats gnaw and scratch building materials to make small particles for nesting or to get access to a water source. If you hear scratching sounds, especially at night, make sure you investigate that area.
2) Rat Droppings and Urine
Droppings will be found in areas where rats feed and nest. As well as droppings, rats will leave urine droplets along pathways they frequently travel. Urine can be found using an ultraviolet (“black”) light.
Comparison Chart Between Rat and Mouse Droppings:
3) Musky Odor or Smell
When rats make a nest in a wall or attic, you may start to smell a musky odor from the oil in a rats fur and as urine droplets build up over time.
4) A Rats Nest
Rats will shred paper or plastic material to help build a nest.
They will also use hair, fur, and plants as well.
If you find an odd looking pile of trash, it may be a rats nest.
5) Hollowed out Fruit or Half Eaten Lizards or Insects
Sometimes a clue that rats may be around your home is finding hollowed out fruit, such as a half-eaten fig.
Or, you may find odd parts of insects or other creature such as this lizard head, and wonder what happened to the rest of them.
6) Gnaw holes or Chew Marks
Look for signs of rats gnawing on food containers in a pantry. They also may gnaw on walls or baseboards to make entry points into a pantry, attic or wall. Rats will make holes up to 2 inches wide.
7) Rub Marks and Footprints
Rats leave greasy smudge marks along run-ways and entry or exit holes they are using.
If you see brown marks along a baseboard, it may be a sign of a rat run-way.
In addition, you may find footprints in dusty areas such as an attic or garage.
8) Holes in the Garden or Near Compost Bins
Norway rats are well known for digging tunnels in the dirt to get under a structure or shed.
Vegetable Gardens and Compost bins are some of the favorite places a rat will dig around.
Gardens are a great source of food and Compost bins are warm places to make a nest.
What are the Options For Getting Rid of Rats?
Now that you have identified signs of rat activity, you can now focus on the best way to get rid of them.
Here are the options you can choose :
- Hire a pest control professional or exterminator
- Use Poisons
- Use Traps
Hire A Pest Control Professional Or Exterminator
Rats can be a bit more intimidating to deal with than mice.
If you are having doubts about doing this yourself, a professional pest removal company may be the right choice for you.
In my opinion though, if your able to climb a ladder and do basic handy work, you should be able to get rid of them on your own.
Keep in mind, hiring someone else to do the work always comes with a significant cost.
If you do hire a pro, make sure they don’t use poisons and are licensed and insured.
Using Rodenticide Poisons
Many people turn to poisons because they are easy to use, cheap and usually work fast, however, in my opinion, rat poison is the least effective way to get rid of rats and should be used as a last resort.
Also, there are several reasons to not use poisons around your home.
Poisons are toxic to your family and pets and can lead to the wrong animal being targeted.
The Best Way to Get Rid of Rats is With Traps
Most traps are an effective way to get rid of rats.
They are relatively inexpensive, easy to use and some are the most humane way to kill a rat.
Once you have located and sealed all of the entry points, you will be ready to start trapping.
Let us take a look at the different types of traps to use when getting rid of rats:
Glue Traps For Rats
Using glue traps to catch rats, is not the best type of trap to use for several reasons.
Rats tend to be a bit stronger than mice and may not get stuck to the glue traps as well.
Also, if a rat does get stuck to the trap, it will slowly die, which makes this method very inhumane.
In some situations though, especially when other traps are not working, a glue trap may be a good alternative.
Consider using other more humane traps first before turning to glue traps.
To learn more about Glue Traps, check out the review on Best Glue Traps for Rats.
Snap Traps For Rats
Probably the most well-known trap is a wooded snap trap.
They have a strong spring that slams a bar down shut breaking the neck of a rat causing an instant death.
This is a much more effective and humane way to getting rid of rats.
Using some peanut butter fixed to the trigger work well as bait.
This is the best choice for catching rats, especially in an attic space.
If your thinking of using Snap Traps, read the review on the Best Snap Traps For Rats.
Electronic Rat Traps
Zapper traps give a rat an electrical shock when they enter the trap.
They can be effective and are a very humane way to kill rats since death is almost instant.
Baiting the traps with peanut butter in the back of the chamber will lure the rat inside triggering a high voltage electric shock.
Electronic rat traps cost a bit more, but, tend to be more of a no touch/no see way with less mess than snap traps.
For more information on Zapper Traps, read the review post of the Best Electronic Rat Traps.
Live Catch Rat Traps
Catching wild rats alive can be tricky and dangerous if you get bit by a rat.
With a good quality cage, you can be successful and treat these animals humanely.
However, if a trapped rat is not released timely, it could starve or suffocate especially in a hot attic.
Other things to consider are where you will release them and how many trips you want to make to do that.
Will you be prepared to take care of live rats if you don’t want to make a trip each time you catch one?
Do you have a place to relocate them? It may be considered unlawful to relocate animals to public lands in your area.
Be sure to check your local laws when catching rats alive to understand the guidelines you must follow.
If your set on using live catch traps read the reviews of the Best Live Rat Traps.
How To Get Rid OF Rats In The Attic: The Removal Process
- Inspect inside the garage, attic, crawlspace, and outside of the home for entry points. Remember these holes can be as small as a 1/2″ wide opening. Also, trim any tree branches too close to the roof.
- Seal shut all entry holes with the proper materials.
- If you are planning to use traps, then set up to 12 rat traps with bait covered in peanut butter, in the primary locations where rat activity has been located.
- Check and re-bait as needed regularly. Once you do not see or hear rat activity, especially at night when they are active then trapping is complete.
- Clean and decontaminate the space with a Virucide Disinfectant Sanitizer to kill bacteria, viruses or mold spores. Follow the direction on the product packaging. You may have to let the Virucide sit for several hours or days before removing the droppings and nesting materials. Clean Up Tip: Never Sweep or Vacuum Rat Droppings to prevent virus particles from getting into the air where they can easily be breathed in.
- If doing the exclusion method, seal up the final one-way exclusion hole.
How to Keep Rats from Running Across Utility Wires or Boat Moorings?
Being skilled climbers, rats and mice can run along power lines or mooring ropes to gain access to a roof or even a boat. To help prevent them from running along wires, try using The Rat Guard. It’s a spring-loaded shield made of PVC material similar to a satellite dish that can be attached to a boat mooring line or a home overhead power utility line. You may have to make some modifications to the center hole to fit over heavier gauge utility wires, but it’s still a good option. Here’s a link to the Rat Guard on Amazon.com.
What Are Some Prevention Methods For Rats?
Prevention comes in many forms, but as I said earlier, sometimes no matter how much you try prevention, these pests just show up anyway. Here are some tips to increase your success:
- Don’t leave out food. Many pet owners leave a bowl of food outside for their pets. This can attract unwanted pest.
- Compost bins are great for the garden but can attract all kinds of unwanted critters. If you are collecting table scraps and transferring them to a compost bin outside, make sure you are burying the scraps to decrease the chances of mice finding them.
- Keep your kitchen area clean at all times and seal food away in containers or jars in your pantry.
- Trim trees back from your roof line. If a tree branch is hanging close to your roof a mouse, rat or other pests can gain access to your home by jumping on to your roof. Once on the roof, they will find or create an entry point into the attic space.
- Inspect all around your home for entry points. A rat can fit through very small holes. A hole the size of 1/2 inch is enough for them to get in. If you find a small hole, make sure you seal it with the proper materials. After you check all around your home and seal it up tight, set your traps to get rid of any remaining rats inside.
Repellent Devices for Rats
Rats have been repelled successfully in several ways.
Using chemical and natural rat deterrent sprays, scent pouches, steel wool cloth, and ultrasonic sound devices have shown to be effective tools for keeping rats away.
These devices can be used as an alternative to using poisons or trapping rats.
I do not recommend using any toxic chemicals, however, some natural repellents such as peppermint oil may help keep rats from coming back.
My favorite way to get rid of rats is to use snap traps. To find out which ones I have found to be the best, read my review of the Best Snap Traps For Rats.
Make sure you set up at least 8-12 traps at a time to increase your chances of success and provide the fastest results.
Additionally, using gloves when handling the traps and adding peanut butter to the trigger with a q-tip to minimize transferring your scent will greatly increase your success rate.
Finally, keep in mind that it may take several campaigns to fully rid your home of rats and with persistence, you will be successful, saving yourself some money along the way.
If you have found this advice useful or have tips to share, leave a comment and let me know how you made out!