How to Get Rid of Rats in Your Home

rat peeking out over a shelf in home

Learn how to get rid of rats in your home and say goodbye to this unwelcome pest. Choose among the use of traps, the secure bait station, or calling a pro to evict these intruders. Be aware of the diseases rats can cause, and learn how to create a rat-resistant home where you can relax.

Read our article to learn more about rats. 

How to Get Rid of Rats

It’s time to take action when you notice the unmistakable signs of rat presence in your home, like droppings, chew marks, odd sounds, greasy trails, and tracks. 

Fortunately, you’ve got three effective options to get rid of rats. You can explore various traps, consider bait stations, or seek the expertise of a pest control professional for effective intervention. Discover the details of each option to make the best decision.


Rat traps are not only simple but also surprisingly effective! This method involves placing traps in areas where rats are active. The best part? No need for poisons. Check out this list of traps you can use and easy step-by-step instructions on how to set them up.

Step 1: Choose a Trap

Here is a list of traps for rats. Choose the one you feel more comfortable with to get rid of rats in your home or apartment:

  • Snap trap: This type of trap is equipped with a spring-loaded mechanism, typically featuring a steel bar or teeth that snap down onto the neck of the rat when triggered. It offers a lethal and quick solution for killing rats. 
  • Live trap: A live trap captures the rat without causing harm. It typically consists of a cage or box with a trigger mechanism that traps the rat inside without injuring it. 

These traps allow for the relocation of the captured rat to another location away from your home. However, it’s important to note that relocated rats often struggle to survive in unfamiliar places. 

Additionally, the CDC doesn’t recommend this method because transporting the trap can result in bites or exposure to rat urine

  • Electronic trap: This is a modern rodent control device that uses electronic sensors to detect the presence of a rat. Once triggered, it delivers a quick electric shock to the captured rat.

Some of these traps feature an indicator to signal when a rat has been successfully caught. Electronic traps provide a convenient and hygienic solution to rat infestations without the need for traditional snap traps or poisons. 

  • Glue traps: Glue traps for rats are adhesive surfaces designed to trap rodents when they come into contact with the sticky material. 

CDC doesn’t recommend this type of trap. You can be bitten if you have to remove a rat that is alive. They are also very cruel; a rat becomes immobilized when it steps onto the glue. In desperation to escape, trapped rats may rip their fur and tear or chew their limbs, causing significant distress and harm. 

When tackling a rat infestation in hard-to-reach areas like walls, basements, or ceilings without direct access, the go-to solution is opting for snap, live, or electronic traps. Unlike poison, which may not yield immediate effects, these traps provide a more direct and controlled approach. 

Using poison runs the risk of rats retreating into walls before dying, resulting in a messy and smelly problem that can be considerably more challenging to address. 

Step 2: Choose a Bait 

Choosing the right bait is crucial when trapping rats like a pro. The best options include peanut butter, dried fruits, or small bacon pieces. Experiment with different baits to discover what works best in your specific situation. Remember, a tempting bait improves the effectiveness of your rat traps.

Step 3: Set the Trap

Here’s a guide to set traps depending on the type of rat you are dealing with:

  • Trap placement: If dealing with roof rats, focus on areas like attics, rafters, or along high ledges. If dealing with Norway rats, place traps in your basement, garage, and near ground burrows.

Typically, rats prefer walking while touching walls because it makes them feel more secure. To make the most of this behavior, position the trap perpendicular to the walls, ensuring the bait faces the wall. This way, you’ll increase the chances of a successful trap.

  • Safety: When placing the trap, be careful to avoid accidents that might hurt you. Make sure to place them in spots that are out of reach for kids and pets, keeping everyone safe and sound. 

Pro Tip: Consider placing and baiting unset traps for a few days. This method allows rats to perceive the traps as non-threatening food sources. Once bait starts disappearing, it indicates you can set traps and increase the chances of catching them.

Step 4: Monitor Daily

A daily check not only ensures humane treatment of captured rats but also optimizes the overall success of your pest control efforts.

Regular inspection ensures that any captured rats are promptly dealt with, preventing prolonged suffering and potential health hazards. Additionally, timely removal of trapped rats reduces bad odors and the risk of attracting other pests to the trapped area.

Step 5: Removing Trapped Rats

When handling a live rat caught in a live trap, start by placing a towel over the trap to transport it. Then, release the rat at least 5 miles from your home, leaving some food for it.

When you need to dispose of a dead rat, confirm that the rat is no longer alive. Once confirmed, place the rat or the entire trap with the rat into a plastic bag. Ensure the deceased rat is dampened with disinfectant before picking it up and putting it in a bag. Double-bag the contents and dispose of them in a well-sealed outdoor garbage can.

Remember to keep safety in mind by wearing goggles, a pair of disposable gloves, and a mask when handling the dead animal rat.

Step 6: Sanitize

Spritz the area with a disinfectant or a mixture of 1.5 cups of household bleach in 1 gallon of water and let it settle for 5 minutes. Use a disposable cloth to wipe things down, and when you finish, securely toss the cloth into an outdoor garbage bin.

With the gloves still on, wash your hands with soap and water. Remove the gloves, throw them away, and then wash your hands again with soap and water. 

If you plan to reuse the trap, ensure it’s clean by soaking and washing it in a disinfectant or a chlorine/bleach solution. 

Bait Stations

mouse bait poison
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A bait station is a compact protective box designed to safeguard poisonous bait from pets and children. 

Bait stations are more suitable for outdoor placement. Placing them indoors might lead to dead rats within your home, making it challenging to locate and remove them. This can result in unpleasant odors.

When handling these stations, exercise caution to prevent accidental poisoning through direct contact with the bait.

Step 1: Open the Bait Station and Place the Bait 

Unlock and open the bait station with gloves, preventing the transfer of your scent onto the station. This precaution is crucial, as rats can detect human scent and may avoid the bait if they sense it. 

Once opened, carefully place the bait inside the station. Some bait station models offer the flexibility to insert a snap trap inside for those opting for a non-poisonous approach. This conceals the snap trap, ensuring it remains hidden from pets and children.

Step 2: Choose a Place

Place the bait station alongside the wall in areas where you’ve observed pest activity. Rats typically prefer to move along walls. This strategic positioning increases the likelihood of the rats discovering and interacting with the bait inside the station.

Hire a Pro 

When dealing with a few rats, traps may suffice, but if you suspect you’re contending with a family of these rodents, enlisting the services of a pest control professional is your best option. 

A professional can identify entry points and implement a plan to eliminate the entire rat population. The expertise and specialized tools they bring to the table ensure a more effective and long-term solution to your rat infestation. While costs may vary, hiring a professional rodent exterminator typically costs $245 to $430, offering a good investment for resolving your rodent issue.

What Not to Do

When getting rid of rats, there are a few approaches you should avoid. Here’s a list of what not to do:

Sound Devices

Devices emitting high-frequency sounds to discourage rats may seem appealing, but the reality is somewhat different. While they profess to annoy rats, the evidence supporting their effectiveness is lacking.


Mothballs are ineffective for rat control. They are not only useless in deterring rodents but are also illegal to use on animals for which they are not intended.

Rodenticide Pellets 

Using rodenticide pellets and sprays is a no-go. EPA has banned their use because they pose risks not only to rats but also to other animals, pets, and the environment. 

Residential rodenticides must be in block or paste bait form and packaged with an EPA-approved bait station for safe use.

Can You Get Rid of Rats Naturally?

Rats are remarkably adaptable creatures, known for their ability to survive in diverse environments by being resourceful. 

Some believe that substances like black pepper, eucalyptus oil, garlic, or onions can be natural deterrents to keep rats away. However, there is no concrete evidence supporting the effectiveness of these home remedies. 

Even peppermint herb, which rats tend to avoid, may not be a foolproof solution. When it comes to efficiently dealing with a rat infestation, relying on traps, bait stations, or enlisting the help of a pest control professional is the most practical and proven approach. These methods ensure a faster and more effective resolution.

How Long Does It Take To Get Rid of Rats?

The timeframe to get rid of rats depends on various factors, such as the severity of the rat infestation in your home, the chosen methods for control, and the effectiveness of those methods. 

If you’re using traps or bait effectively, it might take a few days to start seeing a decrease in rat activity. However, complete eradication usually takes a few weeks or months. 

Stay consistent with your chosen methods, and apply preventive measures like sealing entry points and using traps or bait stations. Keeping things clean to eliminate food sources also helps speed up the process. 

If things are getting tricky, the infestation is particularly severe, or you want a faster resolution, bringing in professional pest control can be a shortcut to a rat-free home!

How to Prevent Rats

To prevent rats in your home, follow these effective measures:

Seal Entry Points

sealing holes in outer wall of home after installation of air conditioning pipes
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  • Thoroughly seal your home by examining any potential entry points. Rats can enter through openings of half or quarter inch.
  • Use sealing materials such as concrete mortar, cement, steel wool with caulk, metal flashing, lath screen, lath metal, metal sheeting, and hardware cloth. Avoid using spray foam, as rats can easily chew through it.

Maintain Your Yard

Here is a list to help you maintain your yard and prevent rats outside:

  • Trim overhanging tree limbs and remove vines near your home. 
  • Consider attaching rat guards to overhead utility wires.  
  • Keep your yard clean.
  • Use well-sealed garbage cans that are cleaned regularly. 
  • Ensure your compost bin is tightly sealed to discourage rat visits.
  • Remove standing water sources, such as pet water bowls, leaky hoses, or taps.
  • Promptly pick fruits and vegetables from the ground to avoid providing food for rats.
  • Exercise caution with bird feeders, as they can attract roof rats.

Maintain House Sanitation

  • Use airtight containers to protect food.
  • Keep pet food sealed in proper containers.
  • Use tightly sealed bins for garbage.
  • Keep the kitchen clean, especially countertops, floors, and appliances.

Signs Your Home Has Rats

Pay attention to these signs that may tell, you have rats in your home: 

  • Droppings: Spotting small, pellet-like droppings around your home is a clear sign of a potential rat infestation. These cylindrical droppings are typically half an inch in size. 
  • Chew and gnawed marks: Rats have a habit of gnawing on furniture, wires, and even food packaging. Discovering evidence of chewed materials and visible gnaw marks on items in your home is a telltale sign of rats.
  • Strange sounds: Unusual sounds, like scratching or scurrying, emanating from walls or ceilings are often attributed to rats moving around and nesting in hidden spaces.
  • Nests: The discovery of nests made from shredded materials, such as paper or fabric, is a significant sign of rats. Finding these nests, often in hidden corners or behind appliances, indicates rat presence in your home.
  • Tracks: Rat tracks, typically half to a whole inch long, can be found in dusty or less frequently cleaned areas of your home. These footprints serve as visual evidence of rat activity.
  • Strange pet behavior: Pets can sometimes sense the presence of rats before humans do. If your pets display unusual behavior, such as heightened agitation, excessive barking, or focused attention on specific areas, it may be an indication that rats are present in your home.
  • Greasy marks: Rats leave grassy, dark trails as they navigate through their pathways. These greasy marks are often found along walls.

What Diseases Can Rats Spread to Humans?

Rats can carry a bunch of icky diseases that we definitely want to steer clear of. Some of these include hantavirus, leptospirosis that affects our kidneys and liver, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) that can mess with our nervous system, tularemia, and salmonella.

If someone has been bitten or scratched by rats, go to a doctor immediately.

What Kinds of Rats Get Into Your House?

Two common rat species often find their way into homes: roof rats and Norway rats. These little invaders might be causing a ruckus in your space, but with some know-how, you can show them the exit door in no time.

What Do Norway Rats Look Like?

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Norway rats are mostly dark grey or brown on their upper side and light grey or brown on their underside. Measuring about 16 inches long from nose to tail tip.

The tails, without fur, can be pink or brown. Adult males weigh about 19 ounces, with females tipping the scales at around 12 ounces. Physical traits include a stubby nose and small, closely positioned hairless ears.

Norway rats are mostly active at night. While they are good swimmers, climbing isn’t their strong suit. Thanks to their excellent digging abilities, they can craft intricate burrow networks.

These rats commonly make homes in burrows or underground spots like sewers and cellars. If you spot holes in the soil around foundations or through your garden, you could have a resident family of Norway rats.

What Do Roof Rats Look Like?

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Roof rats have a brown fur coat with scattered black patches, while their undersides showcase a spectrum from white and gray to black.

Adult roof rats typically have a head and body length ranging from 6 to 8 inches long and tails that measure more than their bodies, approximately 7 to 10 inches. This grants them a total length nearing 16 inches. 

Weighing in at 5 to 9 ounces (with occasional outliers reaching up to 12 ounces), roof rats are generally smaller than Norway rats. They have pointed noses and hairless ears that can be pulled down to cover their eyes.

Active during the night, roof rats have a natural inclination for heights. They feel secure walking on utility lines, tree branches, and fence tops, showing their climbing skills. They often find comfort in spaces like walls, attics, or roof cavities.

FAQ About Rats

How do I get rid of pack rats?

Pack rats (also called wood rats) have a penchant for invading homes in search of cereal and grains. These critters can squeeze through small gaps and find their way into your living spaces. 

To deal with pack rats, you can employ methods similar to those used with common rats. Use traps strategically placed in areas where they are active, sealing any entry points to prevent their return.

Can rats enter my car?

Certainly, rats can find their way into your car. These opportunistic creatures may explore vehicles for shelter or nesting spots, particularly if they discover accessible entry points.

What is a rat wall?

A rat wall is commonly constructed using concrete or another resilient material, extending below ground level to form a barrier that rodents find challenging to breach. The primary objective of a rat wall is to shield the building from burrowing rodents, preventing them from gaining access to the interior under your house.

What do I do if I find a rat’s nest? 

If you come across a rat’s nest with signs of activity, you must contact a professional right away. Disturbing an active nest can trigger aggressive behavior from the rats, putting you at risk of bites or scratches as they defend their territory. For your safety, let a pest control expert assess and handle the situation. 

What is a rat slab?

A rat slab is a thin layer of concrete applied over the soil floor of your crawl space. This sturdy barrier acts as a shield, thwarting rodents by preventing rats and mice from burrowing into your crawl space from the outer side of your foundation wall.

Hire a Pro to Get Rid of Rats 

In the quest to get rid of rats inside your home, remember that sometimes the best solution is to call in the experts. 

While this guide can give you valuable insights and DIY methods, enlisting the help of a professional can offer peace of mind, saving you time and potential headaches. So, if the rat battle becomes a bit too overwhelming, call a pest control pro who can handle the job.

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Cecilia Acevedo

Cecilia is a writer focused on keeping homes clean and healthy. When not exposing the secrets of home invaders, she digs into the latest pest news, offering practical tips to kick them out. Join Cecilia for straightforward information and advice on dealing with pesky intruders.