How Do You Get Rid of Rats? (Simple Removal Guide)

Looking to learn how to get rid of rats Well then, you're in the right place!

In this guide you'll learn about:

  • Rat biology and why its important for rat removal
  • How to use baits to get rid of rats
  • How to use traps to get rid of rats
  • How to use essential oils to get rid of rats
  • Frequently asked questions about rat removal and eradication
how can you get rid of rats

Rats have been around as long as we have.  Wherever we go, they go. 

That wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that rats are known vectors for a whole long list of diseases, some of them quite deadly, not the least of which is the bubonic plague, AKA, The Black Death.  It devastated Europe during the Middle Ages, and that's not the only disease rats are known to carry or transmit.

There is also the fact they destroy crops, tear up packages in the pantry, eat the dog's food out of his bowl, smell ghastly, chew on wires, doors, furniture, shoes, insulation, and anything else they can sink their little teeth into.  Rats are a major pest and they've got to go.  Period.

Thankfully, getting rid of them isn't a complicated process.  It takes some time and energy to get it done.  It takes a bit of money to buy the equipment.  It even requires a little Sherlock Holmes-style detective work.

But it isn't complicated.

Once you understand rats and why they do what they do, you'll be able to predict their next step, know how to prepare for them, and out think them.

We've got a lot of information to cover, so let's get started!

​What Exactly Are Rats?

Sense of smell

Rats and mice have a very impressive sense of smell.  

We're going to start with that because if you're contaminated even with the slightest scent of cigarette or pipe smoke, chemicals or strange smells from work, or any odor they find objectionable, they won't approach the bait you put and the traps you set will remain empty.

Vision

When talking about their vision, rats are technically red-insensitive colorblind. It means that rats only have two color sensitive cells (blue and green) compared to us humans that have three (blue, green, and red).

Although the rat's vision can be categorized as dichromatic, they are capable of sensing the ultraviolet spectrum.  

Whiskers

​Rats rely heavily on their vibrissae (whiskers). They brush them against objects around them to determine their location and what they are.  

When they first enter a new territory they won't know where anything is so they'll explore very slowly along the walls, feeling their way along and mentally mapping out where everything is.  

Once their mental map is in place they'll be able to run at full speed along the walls, knowing exactly where to turn, slow down, speed up, the whole nine yards.

Because they spend so much time moving along the walls, their fur will rub against it and leave a trail of oily secretions.  These secretions will build up into dark smudges called rub marks.  

Those rub marks will be a dead giveaway to you of where they're moving around.  Remember this, we'll come back to it later.

​Ever growing teeth

It's a little-known fact that the upper front teeth on rats (and mice) never stop growing.  In order to alleviate the growth, they're forced to constantly gnaw on anything they can find.  

This includes wires, door facings, baseboards, furniture, furniture legs, clothes, shoes, insulation, rafters, shingles, plywood, and plastic tubing.  This is how they can gain access to areas that are completely closed – they gnaw through the walls, through the bottoms of doors, and so on.

It also explains how rats can electrocute themselves gnawing on wires – and knock out the power for the whole house, or, in a worst-case scenario, start an electrical fire that burns the house down.

They are omnivores

Rats are omnivores, that is, rats will eat both meat and vegetables.  They're fond of fruit and nuts but will eat virtually anything they can find.  Their fondness for nuts is why so many people will use peanut butter to bait traps.

​Boneless rats?

The bones in a rat's body are mainly cartilage except for their skull.  If they can get their head through a hole, they can get the rest of their body through it as well, no matter how fat they appear to be.  

This makes it imperative to plug up every hole in the house with something they can't gnaw on to re-open them.

The best thing to use to plug holes so rats won't gnaw on it is steel wool. When they try to gnaw on it, it cuts their gums and the pain discourages them from continuing.  

It won't stop them from moving over a few inches and trying again, but it will stop them from re-opening a previous hole.

​Are Baits the Most Effective in Getting Rid of Rats?

One of the simplest ways to get rid of rats is to put out bait.  Modern rat/mouse baits are known as 2nd generation anticoagulants.  

They will contain one of four main active ingredients that prevent blood clotting and cause the animals to bleed from the inside out.  They are:

  • Brodifacoum
  • Bromadiolone
  • Difenacoum
  • Difethialone

These are so strong they are classified as single-feed, that is, the rat only has to feed on it once to receive a lethal dose.  Among PCO's (Pest Control Operators), such baits are referred to as “hot”. 

There are some multiple-feed active ingredients such as Diphacinone which requires 2-3 feedings in order to deliver a lethal dosage to the animal.

These anticoagulants work by inhibiting the body from recycling vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting to occur.  Once the body runs out of vitamin K, the animal will die from internal bleeding.  

Since these baits are designed to work on mammals, it is a given that they'll also work on pets and children.  This creates some dangers when using rat baits.

​What Are the Dangers From Using Rat Baits?

Because rat baits are blood thinners, they'll affect people and their pets. A single block most common rat baits will kill a 50-pound dog dead as a door-nail.  

The same thing will happen to a child who tries to eat it.  Therefore these baits have to be put out in special bait boxes that have holes in them only large enough for rats and mice to get in and out.

They are called tamper-resistant bait boxes.  There are several different models from different manufacturers.  We've used most of them and they all work great.  

Typically they require the use of a special key in order to open them (the key always ships with the box).  They're made of very strong, thick plastic.  

The latching mechanism is tough and sturdy enough that it requires a very determined effort by a very strong person in order to get it open without the key.

Inside the box are a series of metal rods.  All the bait blocks are made with holes in them so the blocks can slip over those rods.  

The metal rods are set in place so when the rats come in, they can chew on the bait blocks but can't drag them out of the box.  Some real thought went into designing these boxes, they're quite ingenious.

Place the boxes along walls where you see rub marks.  The rub marks will let you know the rats are moving along this area so they're guaranteed to encounter them.  

The smell of the bait will entice them, they'll nibble on it, head back home to their little hidey holes, get sick, and die.

When handling the bait you want to make sure you don't contaminate it like we talked about earlier.  Always put on some disposable latex gloves before touching the bait.  

This will prevent any strange odors from work, or cigarette smoke, or whatever from getting on the bait.  If the bait doesn't smell right, they won't eat it.   Some of the popular baits we've used are:

  • Contrac Blox
  • Final Blox
  • Contrac Rodent Place Packs
  • Just One Bite Mice Pellet Place Packs
  • Tomcat Mouse Killer

All of them are single-feed baits.  Nonetheless, we've had good success with all of these baits.  The reason is, we make sure our customers understand they can't leave anything else out for the rats to eat.  

Everything has to be put away where the rats can't get to it or chew through the container without repeated efforts.

This ensures they'll be hungry.  The bait will be the only thing around that smells like food, and there you have it.

It takes a little time, but done properly, it gets 'em dead bang.

​The following video will give you tips when it comes to baiting rats.

​Are Traps Effective?

There are a lot of different rat traps on the market today.  All of them will work if they're used correctly.

Mice are naturally curious, but rats are a little more cautious.  When something new is introduced to their environment, they'll hesitate and sniff around for a while before they approach it.  

When they do approach the trap they'll be “tip toeing” which won't set off the trap.

You need them to set it off, but how?

First of all, when you're using traps it helps if you mess up their normal pathways.  Remember, they run around using their mental map of the layout of your house.  

When you start changing things (moving furniture around, putting boxes against the walls, etc.) it throws them off and they have to go back to their original slow exploration of the house to learn the new configuration.

Now when you place your bait box, it's not the only new element in the environment, which would make them use extra caution around it.  Instead, it's just one of a whole plethora of changes and their caution level drops correspondingly.  

They'll be exploring, but they won't be tip toeing.  That increases the odds of them setting off the trap when they approach it.

Wear your disposable latex gloves when you're setting the trap.  They can smell strange odors on the trap as well as on a bait block.  Don't give them any excuses for avoiding the trap – wear the gloves.

When you bait the trap, don't use a big glob of peanut butter or wedge of fruit.  They'll be able to slip it off the trigger and get away without setting off the trap.  

Don't use soft fruit either.  Use hard baits like peanuts, bits of overcooked bacon, and things like that.  

Additionally, tie the bait to the trigger with twine or thread.  This will force them to pull and yank on the bait, then . . . SNAP!  They're dead.

If you're using peanut butter, don't put a glob of it on there.  Smear a light layer on the trigger, like spreading mayonnaise on a piece of bread.  

It will still have all the same wonderful odor, but the thin layer will force them to lick the trigger, disturbing it, and . . . SNAP!  

You're dead you dirty rat!

Below are some of the traps available on the market.

  • Classic Metal Rat Traps
  • Live Animal Humane Trap
  • Electronic Humane Rodent Zapper
  • Victor Metal Pedal Rat Trap
  • The Ratinator Multiple Catch Live Rat Trap

We've used most of these and had good success with them.  This isn't an exhaustive list by any means, but it will give you a feel for what's out there.  

We've included a couple of live catch traps for those who want to get rid of the rats but don't necessarily want to kill them.

Once the animal is trapped, put a towel or cloth of some kind over the cage.  It will help calm them down during transportation when you're taking them somewhere to be released.  

For best results, and to make sure they don't find their way back “home”, we recommend you take them a minimum of 5-10 miles away before letting them go.

rat facts

​How About Essential Oils?

There are any number of odors rats don't like, as well as some that are so strong their sensitive noses can't handle it. 

This is basically how essential oils work.  An odor like peppermint, that to us, is pleasant and fresh, is to them a sharp, penetrating, actually painful experience and they shy away from it.

This one time you won't have to wear disposable latex gloves.  After all, in this case, you're using unpleasant odors to keep them away.  Anything you've got on your hands or clothes will simply add to the scent you're putting out.

Peppermint and eucalyptus oil are the two main oils that rats are known to avoid if possible.  Using these oils isn't as effective as traps or baits, but they can certainly be one of the tools in your arsenal.

Another effective tool is black pepper, just like people throw on their dogs to break up a dogfight.  The black pepper is too strong for rat's sensitive noses and they'll try to avoid the area it's in or find a way around it.

In either case, the oils or the pepper, the main way we've used it is to “herd” the rats toward a trap or a bait box.  Put out a few drops to form a barrier you don't want them to cross, like median stripes on a road that separate the lanes.  

But always leave an opening for them, an opening that leads them straight where you want them to go; a bait box or a trap.

This method uses the pepper or essential oils as an adjunct to the baits and traps instead of a replacement for them and provides the best results.  It also gives your house a fresh, minty scent.

Here's another video that will give you tips in preventing rats from getting into your house.

​Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the rats pick my house?

  • ​People have the idea that rats are attracted to poor sanitation or garbage, but that isn't true.  They're attracted to food, water, and shelter. Once they're around the outside of your house they'll be able to detect the odor of dried dog food, bacon, or a bowl of fruit on the counter and be drawn to it.
  •  They'll smell anything that might have spilled, or some potato chip crumbs you might have brushed off your lap while watching TV.  Once they decide there might be something tasty inside your house, they're coming in.

What time of year do rats come into houses?

  • Rats will come into houses when they're ready to build a nest and have babies.  Unfortunately, rats are sexually active and can bear their young, year round.  Any time of year – spring, summer, fall, or winter – is good for them.

How do rats get into houses?

  • ​Rats can squeeze through holes as small as the size of a quarter, or cracks as narrow as 1/2-inch across.  Rats are also excellent climbers. They can climb bricks, logs, rocks, stucco, or any rough surface or textured surface.  
  • They can run along wires just like their cousins the squirrels.  After that, they can gain access to the inside of your house through all sorts of openings.  They can also come in from underneath your house.  Sadly, unless your house is airtight like a spaceship for NASA, rats can find a way in.

Final Thoughts On Getting Rid of Rats

​While we can't keep rats out of our houses, we can ensure that, like the Hotel California, they can never leave either.  Stick to the plans we laid out above and your house will be the last place they ever see.

Michael V. Wilson

Michael V. Wilson

Michael has 14+ years doing termite jobs on slab and pier-and-beam houses past counting, roach clean-outs, bed bug jobs, flea jobs (inside and outside), ants, fireants, and many more!

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Michael V. Wilson

Michael V. Wilson

Michael has 14+ years doing termite jobs on slab and pier-and-beam houses past counting, roach clean-outs, bed bug jobs, flea jobs (inside and outside), ants, fireants, and many more!

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