How To Get Rid Of Rats (A Quick Guide)

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Rats pose a major threat to homeowners who’ve been invaded by this pest. They nest in attics and crawl spaces, spreading harmful disease-causing bacteria. The good news is that it’s possible to get rid of them quickly.

The best way to remove rats is with trapping and baiting strategies. After that, utilize mechanical exclusion measures to keep them out. Then, it’s just a matter of proper sanitation to make your home becomes less appealing to rats and other rodents.

This guide will first help you identify if you have a rat problem.  Next, you’ll receive tips on how to manage your DIY rat removal program. Then we’ll tell you which companies are best for eliminating rodents from your home. We’ve also included answers to some of the most common questions concerning rat control.

If trying to get rid of rats on your own becomes too challenging, we recommend Orkin, Terminix, and Aptive. These exterminators have some of the best trained professionals that are able to use traps, baits, and other chemically treated solutions that are often more effective than standard DIY methods.

For Terminix quotes you can reach them at 866-577-5051, or with this form.

For quotes from Orkin, call 866-701-4556, or fill out this form.

For a free quote from Aptive, call 855-521-7075 or visit the company’s website.

Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

Table of Contents

    How To Identify Rats

    Rats are long-tail rodents that are larger than mice. Although they originated in Asia, all continents except Antarctica have them. There are two common species in the US: Norway rats and roof rats.

    Norway Rats (Sewer Rats)

    Also called brown rats and sewer rats, you can find the Norway rat mostly in large cities. They are brown or dark grey and are larger than other rat species. The head and body alone can measure over 11 inches long. Add to it a tail that is almost 10 inches in length, and it becomes clear just how large this rodent really is.

    In addition, the Norway rat has small ears that don’t reach its eyes. And it has a blunted shape to its nose.


    Norway rat feces measure between 1.0  and 1.5 inches long and are very wide compared with the roof rat and house mouse. Droppings are typically dark brown to black and tapered at one end.

    Urine Trails

    Norway rat urine trails are extensive, so they may be more easily identified than with other species. Also, it’s a way for them to mark their territory. So,  look for urine trails primarily at known nesting sites.

    Nesting Habits

    Norway rats are excellent diggers. They make their nests underground in burrows. These locations provide shelter, food storage, and protection from predators.

    Roof Rats (Black Rat)

    The roof rat is a little over half the size of the Norway rat. But what it loses in mass, it makes up for in agility. That’s because roof rats are excellent climbers.

    They’re dark brown to black with a light-gray underside. The tail is slightly longer than its body. And it has a tapered muzzle.


    Roof rat droppings are about two-thirds the size of a Norway rat’s. But they’re over twice the size of mouse droppings. However, the most distinguishing feature is the blunted ends on either side.

    Urine Trails

    Just as with the Norway rat, the roof rat marks its territory with urine. The biggest difference is the volume is much less. Therefore, it’s often necessary to use a blacklight to detect urine trails.

    Nesting Habits

    Roof rats are adept at hiding from predators. That’s why they prefer high places. Therefore roof rats typically nest in trees, attics, and second-floor spaces.

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    Signs of Rat Infestation

    It’s difficult at times to know if you have a rat problem. However, if you look for these signs, it may help.


    Rats like to chew on things. And they create a lot of damage in the process. Wood structures, cloth materials, and wiring are all favorite targets of a rat’s destruction.


    If you hear unusual noises coming from a crawl space or attic, it could be rats. Besides scampering, they scratch and claw at a wide variety of objects.


    Large rat infestations give off a musky smell. Also, urine trails can have a distinct odor. The more established the nest, the greater the chance you will smell it.

    Visual Indications

    Rats are typically nocturnal creatures. However, they could present themselves during the day. If that’s the case, it could be an indication of an extensive infestation.

    How To Get Rid of Rats

    There are two primary ways to eliminate a rodent infestation: trapping and baiting. Here, we show you the differences between each method.


    Rat traps are generally broken down into four categories:

    • Glue traps
    • Snap traps
    • Live traps
    • Electric shock traps

    There are pros and cons to each type. Following are some examples of what’s currently available. Also, you’ll receive tips on how to use these helpful devices for maximum success.

    Glue Traps

    Glue boards for mice generally won’t work for rats. That’s because rats much larger than mice. So, the mouse glue trap may be ineffective.

    Instead, there are sticky traps made specifically for rats. They are much longer and wider to accommodate a larger rodent. And they have a deeper glue container to help keep the rat contained.

    The nice thing about this option is the convenience. Just peel off the protective cover and place it in a spot where rats may run into it. Also, getting rid of dead rats is simple since the trap is disposable.

    Snap Traps

    Old-fashioned wooden snap traps tend to work better for rats than the newer plastic versions. That’s because you can set them to be more sensitive. In some instances, it may be the difference between success and failure.

    To use a snap trap, you first have to select an appropriate bait. While peanut butter works well for mice, prunes may be a better choice for rats. That’s because they have to pull hard to release the bait from the bait paddle. The result is a higher chance of triggering the trap.

    Set traps perpendicular with the trigger facing the wall. Also, be careful when using these devices. Unlike mouse traps, rat traps have the power to break fingers. So, it’s best to keep children and pets well away from them.

    Electric Shock Traps

    One of the newest developments in trapping technology is the electric rodent trap. Most have an automatic switch that sends an electrical shock to the rat as soon as it enters. The idea is to kill it instantly and humanely.

    Unfortunately, not all designers make their traps with quality in mind. Some just aren’t worth the money. So, it pays to shop around and read the online product reviews very carefully.

    Live Traps

    Live trapping for rats takes a bit more work. But if you’re uncomfortable killing the animal, it could be a viable option.

    Most quality traps are made of galvanized steel.  Or you can opt for one of the lightweight plastic versions. However, there is a substantial difference in durability between the two.

    The downside to using live traps is selecting the correct bait. It can be a little tricky. So, you may have to spend some time experimenting with different ones.

    Rodenticide Baiting

    Also called rat poison, rat bait has two primary ingredients:

    1. The attractant
    2. The active ingredient (anticoagulant)

    These highly toxic formulations come in several different packages. They are:

    Bait Blocks

    Anticoagulant bait blocks are the most widely used rodenticides. Professional exterminators use them together with tamper-resistant bait stations.  The result is long-term residual control of rats around the perimeter of structures.

    Ready-to-Use Bait Stations

    This alternative is most used by homeowners. They offer a convenient pre-packaged method for reducing rat populations. And the best thing is, you only have one product to purchase.

    Natural Bait Pellets

    Some rodenticide formulations are non-toxic to humans and wildlife. This is good news for those worried about non-target poisoning. In addition, they are especially safe around children and pets.

    Natural baits work by disrupting the rat’s digestive process. That’s because it uses cornmeal gluten as its active ingredient.

    After eating it, the rat’s body is “tricked” into sending a signal to the brain. This automatic function tells the rat it’s fully hydrated. As a result, it stops drinking water and eventually dies from dehydration.

    Some rodenticide formulations are non-toxic to humans and wildlife.

    This is good news for those worried about non-target poisoning. In addition, they are especially safe around children and pets.

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    How To Prevent Rat Infestations

    The most effective way to prevent rat infestations is by using an integrated approach. The idea is to use various methods to combat the problem before it happens. Below are a few ideas on how to implement that strategy.

    Sanitation Measures

    Although clean-up of problem areas is important, there’s more to sanitation than merely keeping things clean. You also want to ensure all pet food containers are closed and secure from rodents. That means food sources must be protected, also.

    Mechanical Exclusion

    Plugging pipe entry points with steel wool is a good first step in getting rid of rats. You can also use silicone caulking and expansion foam. And don’t forget to patch those holes in walls and doors.

    Rodent-proofing also means sealing off attic spaces. Wire mesh is handy for this purpose. Eaves and overhangs are also vulnerable to rat infestations.

    Natural Repellents

    Natural rodent repellents are popular with those who don’t want to kill animals. They work by giving off an unpleasant odor only the rat can smell.  As a result, it sets up an effective perimeter around your property.

    Rodent repellents come in a wide range of formulations. The three most popular are:

    • Pellets
    • Granules
    • Sprays

    There are pros and cons to each type. For example, sprays work well for covering a wide area. However, pellets and granules work better for wetter climates.

    Ultrasonic Devices

    Instead of using natural substances to repel rodents, ultrasonic machines use unpleasant sounds. The good news is that rats are the only ones who can hear it. Also, these devices are convenient to operate. Just turn them on, and they’ll do the rest.

    Top Recommended Companies for Rat Control

    Not everyone has the time or patience to eliminate rats from their homes. That’s okay since there are some great pest control companies in your area willing to help. Here are three of the best ones to consider.

    Aptive Environmental uses quality products for all their rat management strategies. And in most cases, they work rapidly. For that reason, Aptive is at the top of our list.

    Orkin is a recognized leader in pest management. It trains its technicians in the latest rodent control procedures. That way, you can trust the job will get done right.

    After a thorough inspection, the tech identifies the problem areas. Then, they proceed to the cleanout phase, where all rats are eliminated from the property. Then, it’s just a matter of excluding them for good.

    Terminix makes rat extermination look easy. Its technicians use a combination of trapping, baiting, and other control measures. The result is long-term control without having to worry about the results. That’s because they’re guaranteed.

    Rat Removal FAQs

    Are rats dangerous to have in the home?

    According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), rats pose several health risks for humans. Here are a few of the most common ones.

    Rat-bite fever is a bacterial disease caused by being scratched or bitten by a rat. Typical symptoms are:

    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Muscle aches
    • Joint pain
    • Nausea and vomiting

    Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is caused by breathing in the fecal dust of rats and other rodents. It affects the respiratory tract of humans and animals. The best way to avoid the disease is by wearing protective clothing while working around infected areas.

    Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by rats and mice. It mainly disrupts the digestion process in humans. Food contaminated by rat urine is what typically causes the disease.

    Salmonella is also a common bacterial disease brought on by rats. However, instead of urine, they pass it on by contaminating food with their feces.

    What’s the quickest way to get rid of Rats?

    There are several control methods that will eliminate rats from your home quickly. Here are a few of the best examples:

    1. Start with identifying where the signs of infestation are in your home.
    2. Plug pipe entry holes with steel wool. Also, don’t forget to screen all vents in attic spaces.
    3. Trap any remaining adult rats using your favorite rat bait.
    4. Clean around garbage cans or anywhere rats can find food.
    5. Use poison rodent bait contained in approved bait boxes under porches, in bushes, and around woodpiles.

    For best results, monitor traps daily. Also, be sure to check for fresh droppings and other signs of rodents regularly.

    How long does it take for an exterminator to eliminate Rats?

    When it comes to rat control, most exterminators generally have the experience and expertise homeowners typically don’t. After all, it’s what they do all day long.

    Besides that, they have a wide range of tools at their disposal. The technician can simply reach into a vast toolbox full of equipment they keep on hand. These professionals are always ready to take on virtually any pest, including rats.

    For those reasons, an exterminator can eliminate them from a home within a few weeks. In contrast, it may take the average homeowner several months to gain control of rats.

    How do you remove rats from an attic?

    Rodents like to nest within the fiberglass insulation of an attic. They may also find old furniture nice places to make their home.

    In either case, trapping is the preferable method. Since toxic baits kill rats, it’s not a good idea to use them indoors. That’s because they have a habit of dying in inconvenient locations such as wall voids. If that happens, you could be smelling dead rats for a long time.

    Once you’ve trapped them, now is the time to seal them out. Be sure to enclose all vent openings with wire screen material. Also, do the same for holes in eaves and overhangs.

    These are probably roof rats, which means they are great climbers. So, it’s good to cut back any tree branches where they can access the roof. This will give rodents less of an opportunity to invade your attic.

    How to control rats in restaurants and other businesses?

    The businesses most vulnerable to Rat  infestations are:

    • Restaurants
    • Grocery stores
    • Bars
    • Food courts
    • Hotels

    The methods you use for eliminating rats from a home also work for a business. Here are the steps you or your exterminator should take to remove these harmful pests.

    1. Start with a thorough inspection to ensure you identify all areas of infestation.
    2. Vacuum fecal matter using a shop vac equipped with a HEPA filter. Also, be sure to wear an OSHA-approved respirator during this step.
    3. Clean surfaces with a solution of bleach and water.
    4. Plug all pipe entries with steel wool or silicone caulking.
    5. Place snap traps and glue boards throughout the kitchen and food storage areas. Also, don’t forget the basement.
    6. Place toxic baits outdoors in approved stations. You don’t want the smell of dead rats inside your building.

    Just like with all pest problems, there is some work involved in getting rid of rats. And it may require plenty of follow-ups to ensure success.  However, the effort is well worth it long term.

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