Hi my name is Brendan Mangnitz, I have been in the Rat Control & Nuisance Wildlife Removal industry now for nearly 6 years since I graduated from College at UF with a background in Entomology and Wildlife Biology. I have seen and controlled just about any wildlife issue you may think of. I have dealt with Rodents in apartments complex, Rodent removal from your everyday house hold, Rodents in the Attic, Rodents digging up yards, Rodents in Pools, Rodents stuck in chimneys, and the list goes on and on. I have used several different control and removal methods for Rodents and that’s what I want to share with you guys on our website here at Animal-Pros.com.
You’ve probably seen the age-old skit of a rat scurrying by and a woman jumping into her chair and screaming- right? Rats are typically depicted as nasty, evil, and disgusting creatures – which if they’re in your house, they pretty much are. Rats are known to be extremely social creatures, which is why people say if you have one you have a hundred. They cannot thrive on their own, and have actually been found to suffer from depression if they are not with a group. A group of rats is known as a mischief – if that’s any indication of why you wouldn’t want rats in your homes. While they may look mean, rats are rather shy and will run from you faster than they will attack you. Rats are also well known for having an exceptional memory, which can make them hard to get rid of.
Rats are part of the rodent family and are considered to be mid-size. You can spot the differences between rats and mice mostly by their size, but also rats will have thinner bodies and longer legs. There are around 60 different types of rats, found all over the world. Rats are not found to be under 5 inches long, but can grow up to around 30 inches (the Bosavi Woolly Rat, native in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea, not in America- thank goodness).
10 Simple Steps for Effective Rodent Removal & Control
Most rats are nocturnal rodents, which means that they are only out at night. They travel in groups, occasionally a male and female will break off and create a nest on their own, thus starting a new group. Rats are omnivores, meaning that they will eat both plants and meat, however they do prefer meat when it is available. Often times, waste found in suburban areas are perfect for rats, as we throw out both meats and fruits and vegetables. The reason that rat population is constantly booming is because female rats can produce up to 2,000 babies a year! They only have a gestation period – or pregnancy- of 21 to 26 days, meaning that they can produce multiple litters constantly.
Rats are very complex creatures, which can make them difficult to trap and get rid of for good. Which is why we created this helpful article all about rats, that way you can identify if you have a rat issue before it becomes a major infestation.
While many times people with rat problems ask themselves “why?” the question you should be asking is “how?”, this way you can identify how they are getting into your home. Rats are agile and can get into many different areas, so identifying where they are getting in can be tricky. Most rats can squeeze into a hole as tiny as a quarter, which can be very difficult to find if you are trying to locate every possible opening on and around your home. Even if a hole isn’t as big as a quarter they may be able to gnaw on the opening until it becomes a bit larger, allowing access. Once they are inside, they have the capability to chew through drywall, wood, and other materials to gain access to additional room.
Additionally, rats can find their way through plumbing pipes. Many older homes have lead pipes as the main pipelines into and throughout the home. Rats have the ability to chew through the soft lead of these pipes and gain access into the home as well. This can be a major issue as not only do you then have rats in your house, but you can also have plumbing issues as well. Definitely not a fun time for anyone involved.
Many times, roof rats will climb trees outside the home and jump from the tree limb to the roof. If you’re lucky you may even be able to spot where they are getting in from if you can catch them doing this. If you do notice branches that hang close to your roof, it is best to cut them back. Many animals other than rats can actually use branches to gain access to your roof as well, so it is a good precautionary thing to do regardless.
Once you’ve established that you for sure have rats, what do you do?? While half of you may want to just burn your house down with all those suckers trapped inside, there is a method to effectively get rid of your pesky visitors. There are three main steps to officially getting rid of your rodent problem: trapping them, sealing up your home – the exclusion, and cleaning up all the mess they made- sanitation.
The exclusion is the sealing up process, and should be one of your first steps as it inhibits all rats not inside from entering and all rats trapped inside from exiting. Remember that rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter, so it is important to seal up any and all holes you find on the home. You also want to be sure that you go over your home several times to make sure you got every opening.
Throughout the exclusion process and afterwards, you should have traps set to catch rats in the attic. Most times, rats in the attic will not go to the traps very often at first as they are weary and can easily get food from the outside world. However, once your home is completely sealed and they are trapped in the attic, you will notice a significant increase in trappings. This is because they will start to get desperate and go right into your traps.
Once all noise has ceased and you feel as though your home is secure, and rat-free, you should perform the sanitation. This is the nasty part, but it is vital to your health to get done. I would recommend purchasing latex gloves and a mask for this step. You should remove all of the droppings from the attic space, use a paper towel AND the latex gloves, and dispose of them immediately. You should also take a disinfectant, or bleach and water, and go over all areas where urine is found.
Worst case scenario, these little guys did a number on your insulation and you have to remove and replace it all. So, the trick is to catch them before it gets to that point.
With over 60 different types of rats in the world, you may be wondering “what kind of rat am I dealing with here?” Well, fortunately, here in the U.S. there are really only two types of rats you’re going to find trying to get into your attic: The Roof Rat and the Norway Rat.
The Roof Rat is most commonly found in warmer areas as they thrive outdoors. These rats are typically found to be between 13-18 inches long, tail included. When they are outdoors, they will nest in piles of wood and other debris, however they love attics as well. These rats tend to not only seek out your attic for nesting grounds, but also for shelter against the weather and natural predators. As rats are pretty small creatures, they encounter a lot of dangers with other animals. Some of their most common predators are snakes, birds of prey, and even household pets. You know your cat loves to bring you dead rodents as presents.
The Norway Rat is more common in big cities, as these are the sewer rats you often hear about. No, that’s not a rumor, these guys do tend to live in the sewage systems. The name Norway Rat is deceiving, as these guys actually came originally from Asia, but arrived in England on Norwegian ships. These rats are larger than Roof Rats and can grow up to 18 inches long! They thrive off of human food, and can even chew through plastic to get to it. Typically, if you’re having an issue with Norway rats, they came through your plumbing.
Both of these rats are excellent climbers and can squeeze into tiny holes. Both can cause a huge problem once inside your home, so it is important to take action as soon as a problem is noticed.
There are many different ways to tell if you are having a rat issue, and it’s important to identify immediately so that you can address the problem before it becomes a major issue! Of course, since rats are known to be shy creatures, it is unlikely that you would see one unless you are dealing with a major infestation.
One of the first signs you will notice is the noise associated with rats in the attic or walls. They make a light scratching sound as they run around, and since they are nocturnal you will hear this more often at night when you are trying to sleep. Many times, the noise is not concentrated to one area of the house and you can at times hear them scampering back and forth. Many people have said that while not thunderously loud, it is obnoxious enough to interfere with them falling asleep.
You may also notice that the food in your kitchen is disturbed. Food that is laying around may go missing, or have chunks taken out of it. Even food that was packaged could have been chewed through. Rodents will use their sharp teeth to chew through all sorts of packaging if they sense that there is food in it. Typically, they will eat things on the spot and then carry leftovers to the nesting area. This can be an early and troublesome sign, as it is upsetting to imagine little rat paws being all over your food.
Rats love to chew and gnaw on pretty much anything they can. This can be another major sign of rats. If you are noticing little chew marks on wood, food, or even on electrical wires there’s a pretty good chance that you are dealing with rats.
Finally, you can tell if it is rats by the droppings that you find. Super gross, I know. Rats will leave behind hundreds of droppings, so it is one of the easiest methods of knowing what you’re dealing with. Most droppings will look like tiny brown grains of rice, not very different from squirrels. However, they are much smaller, typically 3quarters of an inch to a half inch in size. 3 quarters is typically the sign of the Norway Rat, while a half inch is typical of the Roof Rat. Rats also are known to use the “latrine system” which means that they generally leave droppings in a similar location. Often these are found in corners or along the sides of whatever room they are in.
While found most commonly in the attic, because of their size and agility, rats could be living in other places as well. The next most common place to locate them is in the walls, they could have started in the attic and gained access into the walls through small crevices. Norway rats could easily crawl through the pipes in walls, as well.
Another common place for rats to hide is behind kitchen appliances. Many times, they can use the holes that have been cut for the wires to gain access to the area. These large appliances give them a hiding spot with full access to the kitchen so that they can feast on the food that they find.
If a rodent problem goes without any sort of action for extended period of time, they could even find their way into your living space. This is a major problem that can prove to be much harder to remedy. They are still more afraid of you than anything, so often they would try to hide from you behind furniture.
Once a rodent has access to your home, they essentially have access to all areas, which can make trapping them all very difficult.
Rats are known for spreading the Bubonic plague through Europe, and while it is highly unlikely that they will bring the plague into your house today, there are still health risks that arise with having rats in your home. As with any wild animal, they have the potential to bring many different sorts of diseases, bugs, and bacteria into the home.
Rats today can be associated with several common diseases that they have the potential to spread to you while in your home. The most common of these is meningitis, however there are about 30 other diseases associated with rats. Most of these are transmitted through accidentally ingesting things that rodent have eaten or touched. With the potential to be host to all of those diseases, it is important to throw away any contaminated food that they may have touched. Rats can spread disease through urine, feces, or biting. Also, like how they spread the plague, if a flea bites them and then bites you, you could potentially get the disease.
Since most rats more than likely lived outdoors or in sewers before finding their way into your home, they can also bring bugs in with them. Most commonly you can find fleas, ticks, and mites. These will affect any household pet, but can also be a nuisance to you as well. A flea infestation is no fun – pets or not.
Along with the diseases that they can carry, dealing with rats is a high stress inducer. Stress is induced not only by the idea of rodents living in your attic, but also because many people experience lack of sleep during the time they are dealing with rats. Rats will also chew on electrical wiring, which could put you and your family in serious harm as this is a major fire hazard.
There are a couple different ways to trap for rats, two of the most common traps you can find are glue traps and snap traps. Each kind of trap has its own pros and cons, however, snap traps are notoriously better for catching rats.
Glue traps are more inconspicuous and safer for human handling. They are typically less costly than snap traps, and can be used in more areas of the house. However, they also are typically not strong enough to catch rats and often the rats will end up able to pull free leaving only a small tuft of hair on the trap. Not only does this mean that that rat is still running around, but he will also be shy of that kind of trap and will communicate with his little rat buddies to also not go near it. This is a huge problem for most trappers, but there are ways around it.
Snap traps are typically more effective when it comes to rats as it will kill them as soon as they are in it. It has a lever-action that when the rat reached in for the bait, the trap will snap closed and kill the rat in one pain-free motion. One of the biggest drawbacks to using snap traps is that they could go off on your finger if not careful, and yes, it does hurt. Also, if you have a household pet and are putting them in the living space, they could pose a threat.
You could also choose to live trap, however this is exceedingly difficult and often does not work with rats. However, if this is the route you are using, make sure you get the smallest live trap you can find, otherwise the rats will not be heavy enough to trigger the trap door.
Rats will eat pretty much anything, as you’ve probably noticed by the ransacking they’ve been doing in your kitchen. They love anything that they can get their paws on. However, there are some baits that you can use that have proven to be more effective.
Often peanut butter works just fine, rats typically cannot chew through the jar of peanut butter so it is a new and exciting treat for them. They also love meats, such as bacon or slim jims. The greasy smell will lure them right into a trap. However, if you notice there is a cereal or food that they have been particularly fond of, you can try that as well. Since it is a known treat, they may get more excited for it and go straight to the trap. Keep in mimd that rats don't navigate using their eyes as much as their nose. The bait should be fresh and produce an odor so that they will be enticed. This is especially important in spaces like garages and basements that tend to have a a musty smell.
The trapping process can take a while, so don’t be surprised if you aren’t catching rats on the first couple days. It is not unusual for them to be a bit weary and stay clear of traps. If you haven’t had any catches for about a week, it would be time to change to a different bait. This way you aren’t confusing them by changing it daily, and they have some time to get used to the food just sitting there.
You’ll probably have several people tell you to just poison the rats, and you’ll see rat poison right next to the traps. So why not? Not like you planned on keeping them alive anyway, right? Well, most time poisoning rats has proven to be rather ineffective.
Rats are very intelligent and very observant rodents. Often, they will eat tiny pieces of food off of different angles rather than just cramming the whole thing in their mouth. This isn’t so that they look polite in front of lady rats, this is because they are actually testing it for poison. Often, they will not get the full dosage needed to kill them and will just get sick. After that terrifying experience, they are going to be way more cautious. Kind of like when you choke on a hard-shell taco, and then spend a couple months not eating them.
Once you’ve sealed up your home, trapped all the rats, and sanitized any contaminated areas; your home can finally be YOURS again. You can rest without having to worry about hearing scratching all night long, a potential fire breaking out, or having nightmares of rats in your kitchen touching YOUR favorite snack. Congratulations!
Another major reason you want to stay away from rat poison is actually on the off chance that it does kill them. If you’ve ever had an old cat or dog pass away, you know that they try to isolate themselves in a dark space. Rats, being mammals, will do the same thing. So let’s say that this particular rat is like Uncle Jimmy on thanksgiving and crams as much food in his mouth as possible, he then gets the full dose of poison and dies. This rat is then going to find a dark isolated location to pass, or even worse, he’ll fall behind a wall and in the wall. This would mean that you would be experiencing a terrible decomposition odor, while also not being able to find the source. With traps, when rats are killed they are still where the trap was located, making them easy to find and remove.
When you woke up this morning, took your first big stretch, that big yawn and deep breathe. Did you think, Man, I really hope I get the plague today? No? Me either but if you come into contact with rat feces it’s an absolute possibility. Now, I know what you’re thinking, why would I come into contact with rat poop? The answer is simple. If you have rats in your attic, they will use your attic like a bathroom and that can seep into your ceilings and potentially you are breathing in that bacteria. You can simply breathe near the feces and inhale the bacteria.
Leptospirosis is another disease rat poop can carry, the symptoms can be mistaken for lots of other illnesses and can last 2 days to four weeks. It usually hits you right away and starts with a high fever and chills, followed by exactly what you would expect, diarrhea and vomiting. If left untreated it is possible to have a second bout and that can lead to liver or kidney failure and even meningitis and that can be fatal if not treated right away!
Rats do not have control over their anal sphincter. This means that they cannot pinch off or even control when they poop. It just comes out whenever it's ready. Which means rats poop A LOT, gross right?
Rats are wild animals; the will poop anywhere. In lakes, rivers, pools…anywhere. It is very important if you see rat poop to stay away from it. Do not let your animals, loved ones and especially children come into contact with it. If for any reason this happens, you should seek medical attention immediately.
How do you know if its actual rat poop your seeing? Rat poop is small, about the length of a grain of rice, just wider. The smell would be horrible, if you have an odd odor that smells like ammonia and poop combined, there is a good chance its rat feces.
The bottom line is pretty obvious…Stay away from rat poop. If you see any, keep everyone away from it and call a specialist to have it cleaned up properly immediately to keep your family, pets and of course yourself safe!