Few things are more unfortunate for a homeowner than finding out that a rat colony has settled in their basement, attic, garage or other similar space. To this day getting rid of rats is a very challenging, time-consuming and tricky process, despite all the advances we’ve made with rat poisons, traps, and other rat control tools. In fact, rats are getting more and more resistant to a lot of commonly used rat poison chemicals and they are also smart enough to avoid a lot of traps which makes it even harder to banish them from your home. However, since rats can carry various diseases as well as are capable of causing a lot of damage to your property, it’s important that you do everything in your power to try and get rid of them.
Therefore, in this article, we tried to cover everything that there is to know about these nasty vermin and how to exterminate them. So, by the end of it, you will hopefully have found the best way to get rid of rats for your particular situation and you’ll be well suited to execute it.
In this article:
- Signs of a rat infestation
- Rat identification
- Primary control steps – Sanitation and exclusion
- Rat control products
- Call a rat exterminator
Signs of a rat infestation
The first and most important step when dealing with rats is finding out about them soon enough. Rat’s reproduction cycle is very quick and leaving even a small rat colony alone for a while will allow it to grow exponentially. There are plenty of governmental pamphlets and guides on spotting rat activity that you can consult with, but here are the main things to keep an eye on and not ignore if you notice them:
- Droppings and urine stains – Especially around food cabinets and other rat food sources as well as pet food, rat droppings, and urine stains are a clear sign that you have a vermin infestation.
- Rat tracks – Dust isn’t something we typically like, but it has its advantages – when you visit the attic, the basement, or other rarely visited areas, keep an eye on the dust on the floor. If rats have taken up shop there you might notice their rat tracks on the layer of dust on the floor.
- Burrows in the ground – If you are wondering where do rats live typically, a lot of terrestrial rats (brown rat, black rat, and other similar rat breeds) tend to create burrows in the ground. If you have noticed some strange looking holes in your yard or garden, by the sides of your house or the sidewalk, don’t ignore them. These rat burrows can have enormous tunnel networks beneath them populated with dozens of rats, if not more.
- Nests or nest materials – Another typical living situation for rats, specifically from arboreal breeds (such as Roof rats) is nests. These rat species build their nests high on trees, roof beams, in your attics, or even in unused cabinets or in hollow walls. Sometimes you can simply see their nests which resemble bird nests, and other times you might notice nesting materials scattered on the ground – wooden chips, plastic or metal scraps, leaves, dirt, and so on.
- Scratching noises – Hearing scratching noises, particularly during the small hours of the night, is a very easy way to identify a rat or mouse problem as they are nocturnal animals.
- Signs of bite or scratch marks – Rats’ teeth keep growing all throughout their life so they are forced to constantly bite and chew on things even when they are not eating them. This means that if you notice some small bite marks on cables, cardboard boxes, the lower parts of cabinets, support beams, etc., this can be a clear indication of rat presence. This should also answer the question “Do rats bite?” – they do. If a rat is cornered or brave enough it may very well bite you, your kids or your pets, so it’s better to find the bite marks on your chair before you find bite marks on a pet.
- Strong scents from rat urine – Like any other mammal, rats urinate. If you have just several rats that have just settled in your garage you might not sense their urine immediately, but as their numbers grow and they keep urinating, you’ll be sure to notice their foul stench.
- Presence of living and dead rats – Rats are nocturnal animals so at first, you’ll mostly be able to notice them at night. However, in bigger colonies, some rats (typically beta male outcasts) go out during the day as well.
- The sudden presence of other pests – Rats don’t just carry diseases, but other pests as well. It’s very common for ticks and fleas on rats to enter our homes together with the unwanted rodents. If you suddenly find your home infested with unexpected insect pests, this might be an indication of a rodent presence as well.
Simply finding out that you have rats is only the first step in figuring out how to get rid of rats in house situations. The next thing to do is try and identify what type of rat you are dealing with. The two most widespread types of rats in residential areas are Norway rats and Roof rats. We will cover the differences between these two rat species, but let’s also take a quick look at their behavioral similarities:
- As very cautious creatures, rats tend to follow the same pathways every night and explore new grounds and locations only if necessary.
- Both rat types are nocturnal and go out mostly during the night.
- Both Roof rats and Norway rats have poor eyesight so they tend to get close to everything they wish to inspect.
- Rats are fearful animals and will avoid new objects dropped in their environment (such as traps and baits) for a while before they dare approach them. So, when figuring out how to trap a rat or how to set up rat poison blocks or rat poison pellets, it pays to first set inactive traps and non-poisonous baits to make the rodents trust them.
- Both Norway rats and Roof rats carry a lot of diseases that can affect us or our pets. You can find detailed information about them on the site of the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) as well as in other health-related organizations, but here are some of the main offenders: Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Lassa Fever, Rat Bite Fever, Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis, the Plague, and others.
- What’s more, both Roof rats and Norway rats are capable of inflicting large amounts of property damage. Roof rats tend to dwell in our attics, roofs and walls where they can significantly damage and undermine the very foundations of our attics and houses with their incisive chewing. Norway rats, on the other hand, prefer crawl spaces, basements, garages and warehouses, as well as yards and gardens. There they can inflict similar types of property and structural damage, as well as consume our storage food or garden vegetables.
Norway rat vs Roof rat
For this comparison between Norway and Roof rats, we’ve used various sources such as the ICWDM (Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management), but there are other good and comprehensive databases out there as well.
- Common names: Rattus norvegicus, Brown rat, Common rat, Street rat, Sewer rat, Hanover rat, Norwegian rat, Parisian rat, Water rat, Wharf rat
- Size (body type): 5.9 – 11.0 inches or 15 – 28 cm, not including the tail
- Weight: 7 – 18 ounces or 200 – 500 g
- Fur color: Brown
- Tail: 4.3 inches or 11 cm; shorter than the body, dark above, light below
- Head shape: Blunt muzzle
- Nose shape: Blunt and wide
- Ear size, shape: Small ears
- Dropping: Soft in texture, ¾ inch or 2 cm long and ¼ inch or 0.6 cm wide
- Eating habits: As omnivores, Norway rats eat anything and prefer a balanced diet of cereal grains, fish, meat, nuts and fruits (if they can, they will intentionally eat a bit of everything). If a solid piece of food is too large, they will bring it to their burrows.
- Living areas (basement, attics, walls, etc.): Crawl spaces, basements, garages, warehouses, burrows alongside building walls, beneath garden paths and sidewalks, as well as in gardens
- Nests: Burrows underground or in the building’s foundations with intricate tunnel systems
- Typical behavior (digging, swimming, climbing, etc.): Norway rats are excellent climbers, but they don’t climb too much unless they have a reason to. They are great swimmers and may make their way into your home through the sewage system. They are also great diggers and borrowers.
- Geographical locations: Norway rats are well-spread all around the world with the exception of Antarctica, the Arctic, the Canadian province of Alberta, and some isolated islands
- Babies per litter: 6 – 12 baby rats per litter, 4 – 6 litters per year, depending on the climate and the environment
- Common names: Rattus rattus, Black rat, Ship rat, House rat, Alexandrine rat, Fruit rat
- Size (body type): 5.0 – 7.2 inches or 12.75 – 18.25 cm, not including the tail
- Weight: 5 – 10 ounces or 150 – 250 g
- Fur color: Dark grey-black
- Tail: 4.3 inches or 11 cm; longer compared to the body, dark color
- Head shape: Pointed muzzle
- Nose shape: Pointed and narrow
- Ear size, shape: Big ears, might cover the eyes
- Dropping: Soft in texture, about twice smaller than the droppings of Norway rats
- Eating habits: They eat during the night, they tend to bring large blocks of food back to their nests for storage but will eat small food samples where they find them. They are omnivores and eat anything but prefer grain foods, nuts and fruits, and other high protein foods.
- Living areas (basement, attics, walls, etc.): Attics, roofs, hollow walls, trees, empty and deserted cabinets
- Nests: Individual bird-like nests
- Typical behavior (digging, swimming, climbing, etc.): Roof rats are great climbers and prefer to dwell high above the ground. If there are enough food sources in the attic, roof rats will avoid going to the lower levels of the house. They are more fearful of Norway rats and will avoid being seen much more.
- Geographical locations: Like the Norway rat, Roof rats are present in all continents except Antarctica. They prefer warmer climates than Norway rats, however, so they are less common in cold climate areas.
- Babies per litter: 5 – 8 baby rats per litter, 3 -6 litters per year, depending on the climate and the environment
How to distinguish young rats from mice
A common mistake people make is to think they have a mouse problem when they see a young rat wandering around. This is an unfortunate mistake to make as mice and rats require different types of traps and tools to get rid of. To make the rat vs mouse distinction, here are some pointers:
- Mice have larger ears,
- Rats have longer and wider legs,
- Mice have lighter coloring and even lighter undersides,
- Mice have longer tails compared to their bodies.
We’ve examined the other differences between mice and rats in a separate article, but these are the main physical signs that you should look at first.
How to precisely identify where rats are present using biomarkers
Non-toxic biomarkers are a relatively new tool in the rat control industry. They are non-poisonous baits that you can set up in your home or property as you would a normal poisonous bait. When consumed, these biomarkers cause the rodents’ excrements to glow in a usually bright green color. This makes it easy to both determine whether you have rodent activity on your property, as well as where exactly that activity is – where are their nests, which are their preferred runways, and so on.
The benefit to using biomarkers over regular poison baits is that the former present no danger for your kids and pets while also giving you more information. Once you’ve determined that you have a rat problem and you know where you should set up your traps or poisonous baits, the non-toxic biomarkers’ job is done.
Primary control steps – Sanitation and exclusion
Sanitation and exclusion are the first, the most important and the most ignored steps on how to keep rats away. Rats don’t come into our homes and properties just to bother us, they come for the food, water and shelter our homes provide. If you keep your property well-sanitized and sealed off you will both dissuade rats from trying to get in, as well as make it much harder for them to do so.
Sanitation and exclusion are also great to do in conjunction with rat traps, rat baits, and other rat control tools – they are not just prevention measures.
If you want to make it more likely that the rats will fall for your bait traps or poisoned baits, making sure that there are no other food sources for them is vital.
Sanitation – keep everything clean in and around the house
In house sanitation – get rid of what attracts rats:
- Keep all food, especially pet food, in sealed containers and away from any possible rat route.
- Clean up all food leftovers, food crumbs, and so on. Don’t just throw out food leftovers in the trash, but seal them off first.
- Don’t leave open water sources. A rat diet doesn’t just include food – rats need to drink water every day so make sure to deny them all possible water sources. Don’t leave pet water bowls in places that rats might reach them, don’t leave barrels, pots or buckets with water laying around, make sure that there are no leaking pipes in the basement, the garage or the crawl spaces, etc.
- If you don’t want to have rats in attic or roof spaces, don’t leave things there that might attract them. This doesn’t mean that you should leave your attic 100% empty, but that any and all food supplies, as well as paper, cardboard, wooden, and so on items should be well sealed off and protected.
- Get rid of unsanitary smells, particularly rat smells once you’ve dealt with a former rat problem. Rats are attracted to places that smell of rats, so if you still have dead rat smell, urine smell from formerly having rats in the walls, and so on, make sure to deal with it as soon as possible.
In yard sanitation – the yard is the middle ground between your home and the outside world, so you should make it as unwelcoming for rats as possible. Finding ways how to get rid of rats outside is the easiest way to make sure they never get inside.
- Don’t leave any trash in the yard.
- Remove all wooden, brick, stone, metal, or other piles from your yard.
- Properly maintain your shed, garage or warehouse.
- Don’t leave any open water sources such as water barrels, pet water bowls, and so on.
- Trim or remove all vegetation, bushes, tree branches, and so on from your immediate surroundings. Roof rats often enter our homes by jumping from trees onto our roofs, and Norway rats hide in low vegetation as they make their way to our homes.
Exclusion – block entrances into the house
Even though rats are much larger than mice and most other pests, they can fit through surprisingly small openings – often as small as just half an inch. Not to mention that they often also widen even smaller openings themselves by chewing them open. So, where do rats come from and which parts of your home or property can make a good entrance into your home for a rat?
- Seal off any cracks and openings into the foundation or crawl space of your home.
- Block the gaps beneath or around your doors.
- Seal off any cracks and nooks beneath or around your windows.
- Block all gaps and cracks on your roof and around your attic windows or openings.
- Update and secure your pipe, sewage and drainage systems.
- Rat-proof your chimney.
- Secure and rat-proof your AC systems.
Rat control products
To get to the meat of things, let’s go over how to kill rats or how to catch a rat in the most effective and efficient ways possible. There are lots of rat control products on the market, but the best ways can be summarized in two categories – rat traps and rat poisons, with rat traps having both lethal and live variants. There are, of course, other tools that you can use such as ultrasonic or natural rat repellents, but they are generally regarded as less effective and should be used only as complementary tools and not as the main, long-term rat control methods.
Rat traps come in a lot of different types – the classical snap traps, glue or sticky rat traps, electric rat zapper traps, live and humane rat traps such as cage traps or various bucket rat trap models, and others.
Whether you are looking for the best rat killer trap or for a more humane option, traps can be tricky things to use overall. Their main advantages over rat poisons is that with rat poisons the rats tend to die in a lot of weird places that you often can’t reach. With rat traps this problem is eliminated as the rats remain contained – whether dead or alive – in the traps themselves and are therefore easy to locate and dispose of.
On the other hand, there is a problem with how to set a rat trap. This is easier said than done as there are a lot of specifics on how to properly set up a rat trap – where to place it, what bait to use, what size should it be, how often to check up on it and to relocate it, how to clean it and maintain it, and so on. Additionally, finding rat traps that work can also be a challenge, since there are a lot of flimsy or low-quality rat traps on the market. We do have multiple lists and articles here that might help you find the best rat trap for your situation as this is vital for your chances of easily dealing with your rodent problem.
There is also the question of where you should place your traps and how many of them you should use. Ideally, a rat trap should be placed on the direct path between the rats’ nest and their food source. For Roof rats that are usually on high places such as roof beams, the edges of the attic walls, on openings in the walls, and so on. With Norway rats, the better places are low to the ground, underneath sinks and other furniture, in the corners and edges of rooms, and so on.
As far as quantity goes, the general rule is – the more the better, but you can’t just throw 100 traps in a basement. So try to figure out approximately how many traps you’re dealing with, as well as how many locations you’ll want to set up traps in – count all the holes in walls, the suitable locations around edges, on beams or below sinks and furniture, and so on.
It’s typically a good idea to use two or more different trap types because the rats might learn to avoid some traps.
If you are wondering about the best rat bait, both Norway and Roof rats are omnivores so they’ll eat anything, be it cereal, nuts, fruits or meat. Still, the best bait for rat trap use is typically high protein and smelly things such as peanut butter.
Once you’ve caught a rat in a trap, it’s time to dispose of it. For live rats, you can just carry them in their trap somewhere away from your home (and from other people’s homes) like a forest or a meadow and leave them there. Dead rats can be thrown away easily – just dump them in a trash container, although it’s smart to seal them off in a bag first, to avoid the dead rat smell. It’s also a good idea for the trash container to be a fair bit away from your home. Remember to properly clean the lethal rat traps after a successful kill as the smell of dead rats might deter others from approaching the trap.
These are probably the most classic and well-known rat trap devices out there. One of the best lethal indoor and best outdoor rat trap type there is, modern snap traps utilize much stronger springs and much more intricate snap jaws. Snap traps, when well-made and of a high enough quality are considered some of the more humane kill traps out there because they kill their preys quickly and with no unnecessary pain or suffering.
Of course, even the best snap trap doesn’t have a 100% success rate as sometimes the rodent is too fast or pushes the trap before reaching for the bait and only gets hurt instead of killed. Add to that the fact that smaller snap traps can’t kill larger rats but might only hurt them, and it becomes evident why it’s important to choose the right snap trap for the job.
Pros of snap traps:
- They are lethal traps so disposing of the killed rodent is easy.
- They are relatively humane as they don’t cause unnecessary suffering as they kill their prey.
Cons of snap traps:
- When they are too small or have a poor design, they are almost entirely ineffective.
- They are tricky to set up because they can be too sensitive and trigger by accident, as well as hurt you as you set them up.
- They might hurt your pets or kids if they are placed within their reach.
All in all, snap traps are a good tool for rodent control, but they do require their share of know-how and carefulness.
As you bait and fasten a snap trap make sure that it’s neither too sensitive nor to shy – the latter will allow rats to steal baits without triggering the trap while the former will trigger the trap too easily before the rodents are even in place to be killed.
Also, make sure to follow the safety instructions of the specific model you’ve purchased to make sure that you don’t hurt your own fingers on the trap.
Electric rat traps or rat zappers
If you’re looking for what kills rats instantly, rat zappers are not exactly that. They tend to be advertised as instant lethal rat traps, but even the most powerful electric rat trap typically needs at least a couple of seconds to finish up the unfortunate rodent. That’s because a rat zapper is essentially a rat bait box that hits the rodents inside of it with about 7000 volts of electricity once the bait plate has been triggered. 7000 volts are typically enough to kill even a large rodent but if the power of the zap is even a little lower than advertised, the trap may take several seconds to kill the rat. This can either give the rodent enough time to get away or can just mean a slow and truly horrifying death. There are many known cases of rat zappers taking several minutes of continuous zapping until they fully kill the trapped rodent, essentially frying it to death.
Still, if the electric rat trap you’ve bought is of truly good quality, it will do its job fairly quickly and cleanly.
Pros of rat zappers:
- They are lethal traps so disposing of the killed rodent is easy.
- As they kill with electricity, there’s no blood or entrails left in the trap after a kill.
Cons of rat zappers:
- They don’t always work as advertised and often take a long time to slowly fry the rodent.
- Cleaning a rat zapper is often time-consuming despite the lack of blood – an electrically fried rodent leaves a lot of skin, hair and heavy odor behind it.
- Small pets may get inside of a rat zapper and kids or larger pets might decide to reach inside with a paw or a hand.
- Since they are electric, they are not good for outdoor use.
Simply put, rat zappers are typically a dirtier and riskier alternative to other kill traps, but they still do their job. Make sure that you set them up in locations where wildlife pets or kids can’t reach and make sure that you clean them properly after each use, otherwise the smell of fried rats will dissuade other rodents from getting close.
Rat glue traps
These devices are among the most controversial rat control devices out there. They are highly effective at reducing the rat lifespan to 0 but they do so in a rather gruesome way. Rat glue traps are essentially just flat boards with a strong adhesive and a bait on them. When the rodent gets attracted to the bait they get stuck on the glue and once there they usually die from dehydration, from rupturing their own bodies in efforts of getting away, from suffocating on the glue or – in the best case – they wait for you to find them and kill them swiftly.
In other words, glue traps are actually very effective tools for rat control when the adhesive is powerful enough, but they are not for the faint of heart.
Pros of glue traps:
- They are powerful and efficient rat killers.
- They are easy to set up.
Cons of glue traps:
- Rat glue traps are risky for wildlife, pets, and kids if they are placed within their reach.
- Many consider them a quite cruel way to get rid of rats, especially if you don’t kill the trapped rat immediately after it has stuck to the glue trap.
Live (humane) rat traps
Live rat traps come in a lot of different models – cage rat traps, bucket roller rat traps, bucket hanging rat traps, and others. The key benefit of all of them is that they neither kill nor torture the captured animals in any way. Instead, they give you the option to choose what to do with them once you find them – you can either kill the rats yourself in a quick and humane manner or you can set them free somewhere far enough into the wilderness.
Pros of live rat traps:
- They don’t kill or maim their victims.
- They give you the freedom to choose what to do with your captives.
- They are great for repeated use as they don’t break too easily, and they don’t get covered with blood and entrails every day.
- They don’t pose any significant danger for your kids or pets.
Cons of live rat traps:
- They need to be of a high enough quality to work and not to break down after a couple of uses.
- Once you capture a rodent you still need to either kill it yourself or invest a serious amount of time in driving it away from your property.
As any other rat trap, live traps are effective only when placed and used correctly. It’s smart to first place them inactive for a couple of days so that the rats can get used to them. It’s also important to check up on them regularly so that you can act fast once you’ve captured a rodent. If you leave a sprung cage trap for a long time, the other rats on your property will notice their captured mate and learn to avoid the traps.
Rat poisons (rodenticides)
If you don’t feel like using rat traps, if you haven’t had success with them, if you haven’t located the proper rat’s pathways and good rat trap locations, or if you just want to use rat poison and rat traps together, then finding the best rat poison products is a good idea.
Rodenticides come in several different types with some key differences between them:
- Anticoagulants and non-anticoagulants are the main distinctions between rat poisons you’ll stumble upon. Anticoagulants work on the principle of regular human blood-thinning medicine only in a much more concentrated dose. They drastically deplete Vitamin K in the rodents’ bodies and stop its production. This leads to a blood thinning effect in a dangerous proportion which in turn leads to internal bleeding and eventual death. Anticoagulants are among the more popular rat poisons for residential use because they are among the strongest rat poison products out there, as well as because their effects in humans and pets are reversible by ingesting enough Vitamin K and doing an emergency doctor visit. Non-anticoagulants work in different principles. For example, phosphide rat poisons use zinc phosphide that creates a phosphine gas in the rodent’s stomach which kills it rather quickly. They are both safe and unsafe for residential use – they are safe because should a pet eat a dead rat the pet won’t get poisoned; however, they are unsafe because direct ingestion of the poison from the package is much more dangerous. Another type of non-anticoagulant rat poison are calciferols. They work by drastically increasing the amount of Vitamin D in the rodent’s organism which leads to calcification of the internal organs and death. A lot of common rat poison products use a combination of anticoagulants and non-anticoagulants such as calciferol.
- Another type of difference you might encounter is the differentiation between the first generation and the second generation anticoagulants. First generation anticoagulants are basic anticoagulants used for human blood-thinning medicine that used to be effective before the 1950s, but rats became resistant to it. The second generation of anticoagulants in rat poison are much stronger chemicals such as Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone and others that the rodents haven’t become resistant to yet.
- Another differentiation you may see is that between a single dose and multiple dose rat poison. A single dose rodenticide is one that works after just one consumption (even if it takes a day or two for the rodent to die), while multiple use rodenticides are ones that need to be ingested multiple times.
Rat poisons also come in a lot of different physical forms – pellets, blocks, meal, paste, liquid, and others. Each type is more suitable for different situations and containers. For example, pellets are typically preferred for outdoor use while cubes and meal are typically chosen for indoor use.
Rodenticides can be used both in conjunction with rat traps and on their own. They don’t work well with rat deterrent products, however, unless you’re using the latter to deter the rodents to the former in a large property.
Just like rat traps, rat poison baits are best used in or close to the pathways of the rodents. For Roof rats, this means high in the attic, on roof support beams, on the holes and exits from the attic or from the hollow walls, etc. For Norway rats, the most suitable locations are once near the exits of their burrows, underneath sinks and other furniture, by the edges of walls, and so on.
Types of active ingredients used in rat poisons
We explained the basic differences and distinctions between the most popular rodenticide types, but let’s also take a more detailed look at the different active ingredients that they contain.
Anticoagulant rat baits:
- Chlorophacinone is a first generation anticoagulant and metabolic inhibitor that requires multiple ingestions to be effective and also carries a significant risk of secondary rat poison in dogs, other pets and kids.
- Diphacinone is also a first generation anticoagulant that needs multiple doses and carries a high risk for pets and humans. As other anticoagulants, it works by limiting the amount and production of Vitamin K in the system.
- Warfarin is one of the safest for pets and humans and therefore – most popular anticoagulants in rat poison. It is, however, a first generation anticoagulant that requires multiple doses to be effective, so most modern anticoagulant rat poisons have moved to more powerful ingredients.
- Brodifacoum is one such second-generation anticoagulant active ingredient. It is a 4-hydroxycoumarin vitamin K antagonist and it poses a significant risk for pets and other mammals due to its strength, but it bypasses the rodents’ natural resistances and works after just single ingestion.
- Bromadiolone is also a second-generation anticoagulant and a 4-hydroxycoumarin derivative and vitamin K antagonist. It works after single dose ingestion but is also highly lethal to pets, humans and other mammals.
- Difethialone is a very powerful and lethal second-generation anticoagulant that is banned for residential and exterior use in a lot of countries by organizations such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It works after a single dosage and is dangerous to pets and other mammals.
- Difenacoum is another 4-hydroxycoumarin vitamin K antagonist and a second generation anticoagulant. It works after a single dose and is highly lethal not just to rodents but to pets, humans and other mammals as well.
Non-anticoagulant rat baits:
- Bromethalin is a non-anticoagulant. It’s a neurotoxin that damages the central nervous system of rodents. It can work after single or multiple ingestions and poses a relatively low risk for pets and other mammals.
- Cholecalciferol is also known as vitamin D3 or colecalciferol. In high doses, it causes hypercalcemia and calcification of various internal organs which leads to death. It can work after both single and multiple dose ingestions and while it’s calcified as a low-risk ingredient for pets and other mammals, it’s best for direct contact to be avoided.
- Zinc phosphide is another non-anticoagulant rodenticide and it works by creating toxic phosphine gas in the rodents’ stomachs which kills them. It poses a medium risk for homes with pets as consuming the dead rats won’t poison your pets, but direct consumption of the rodenticide can be very dangerous.
Rat bait stations
Rat bait stations are a different mechanism by which to deliver rat poison to your unwanted rodent guests. These devices are usually great for smaller rats and mice because they themselves are not too big in size, however, there are large models that can work with bigger rats as well. The benefit of using bait stations is that you have a portable device in which to place the rat poison instead of putting it on the ground. Another benefit is that they offer a bit of protection for pets and kids.
Aside from their size and model differences, rat bait stations come in two general types – Ready-to-use (or disposable) bait stations and Refillable bait stations.
- Ready-to-use bait stations are typically smaller and come with their own bait. They are meant to be thrown away after use and are usually smaller in size. They are better suited for novice rat hunters and for lighter rat problems.
- Refillable bait stations are for those that know what they are doing and for those that are facing more significant rodent problems. Such bait stations can be refilled with whatever rat poison you’ve chosen to use but their drawback is that the rats might learn to avoid them after a while.
Rat bait stations are best used in the same locations and manners as rat traps. For Roof rats, this means in high places such as roof beams, attics, high shelves, and cabinets, etc. For Norway rats bait stations are best used in low, hidden and dark places that they are likely to frequent such as below sinks and furniture, by the edges of rooms, on the direct pathways between the rats’ burrows and their food sources, and so on.
The number of bait stations you should use depends entirely on the number of rats you’re dealing with as well as the number of locations you intend to target. As far as safety tips are concerned, as long as you avoid direct contact with the rat poison and you place the bait stations in places that are unreachable by pets and kids, everything should be fine.
Safety concerns of using rat poisons (for humans, pets and other animals)
One of the main drawbacks of rat poisons is that they are dangerous for use in households with pets or kids. Some of the stronger rodenticides are labeled as hazardous for wildlife as well when used outdoors.
The most important safety advice anyone can give you when it comes to using rat baits and rat bait stations is finding the right locations for them – somewhere that neither kids nor pets or wildlife will reach them. In terms of their size and functions the cat and rat organisms may have their differences, but what poisons a large rat will usually poison a cat as well.
Aside from the importance of the location, another important tip is to take all the precautions necessitated by the particular rodenticide. Things such as gloves, masks and other protective equipment are always recommended, including for rodenticides that are not dangerous upon skin contact.
You should always have on hand immediate remedy for rat poisoning (e.g. Vitamin K when using anticoagulants). This way, when you notice any rat poison symptoms in yourself, a child or a pet you can immediately take the antidote and go to an emergency medical specialist for a check-up.
Disposing of uneaten rat poison can also be tricky as it is considered an environmental risk and shouldn’t be freely tossed in the garbage. There are 4 main things to consider when you want to get rid of some unused rat poison:
- Can you give it to your neighbors or friends? Why throw something away when someone else might want to use it?
- Is recycling on the table? Contact your local waste companies whether they can recycle rat poison and they will advise you on how to package it and get it to them.
- Consider incineration. Some countries and states allow for the incineration of hazardous materials. Again – contact your local waste company and inquire about the option of incinerating rat poison.
- Trash disposal. If you are going to have to throw your unused rat poison in the garbage, call your local waste company for information on how to package and when are their collection times so that you can give them the poison directly.
These same points also apply for ready-to-use disposable rat stations, as well as for dead rodents that have been killed with a highly hazardous rodenticide.
Can you use rat traps together with rat poison baits for better control results?
We touched on that, but let’s give a clear answer here as well – rat traps and rat poison baits can be used together and in cases of large infestations it’s even recommended to do so. One of the disadvantages of rat traps is that they can’t deal with the rats that are inside the nests or burrows (rat babies for example) while rats often bring rat baits in their nests, thus reaching more rodents at once. Another benefit of using rat baits and rat traps at the same time is that it’s harder for the rodents to learn what they have to avoid and sooner or later they fall for one or the other.
Things that don’t work for long-term rat control
As we said above, there are lots of other products and tools that can be used for rat control in addition to rat traps and rat poison baits. The problem with these tools is not that they can’t work, but that they don’t offer as high overall effectiveness to be usable on their own.
Many of them, particularly when they are well-made, can be used as a complementary tool to rat traps and rat poisons, but on their own, especially for more extreme situations or for long-term control and prevention, they are not recommended.
For a long time, these were completely unusable and were made solely to rob people of their money. As their technology advanced, however, some high-quality modern ultrasonic rat repellents do offer a certain amount of rat repelling function. However, they simply aren’t, and likely will never be, powerful enough to work at 100% effectiveness on their own.
Natural repellents such as peppermint oil, other essential oils, etc.
Such natural repellents are proven to be unpleasant to most rats and rodents and therefore do have a mild repelling effect on them. However, no matter how concentrated they are, they will almost never stop a desperate, starving or freezing rat from entering your home.
Pets and other predators
Humans have used cats as a rodent control tool for millennia so their effectiveness in dealing with unwanted rodent pests is legendary and well-deserved. However, even the most skilled feline rat-hunter can’t deal with a colony of Roof rats that has settled inside your home’s walls. The reason cats used to do a good rat control service is that people used to keep the cats themselves outdoors where they could hunt down the rodents before they ever make it into our homes. Nowadays, cat owners keep cats indoors as pets and they usually have just one or two cats, and this is not enough to deal with a full-blown rat infestation. As a result, cats are more of a problem when dealing with rats than a help, as they make the use of traps and baits more complicated.
Call a rat exterminator
We hate it when it comes to this but sometimes we just need to call a rat exterminator. Some homeowners refuse to do this at all, sometimes out of sheer pride or in an effort to save money. Their arguments typically are that rat exterminators usually use the same products that you can purchase and use yourself. And, while there are some products that are sold to professionals only, it is true that a rat exterminator will usually use the same traps and baits that you could use yourself. The difference is that the exterminator is a professional with sometimes decades of rat hunting experience.
We’d typically recommend calling an exterminator if you are new to dealing with rats, if the rat infestation is particularly big and nasty or if the rat nests are in exceptionally unfortunate locations (such as – your home’s walls). Another good reason to call an exterminator if you’ve already killed a large number of rats using rat poison but they’ve started dying in unreachable locations and are drenching your home with the smell of dead rats.
Getting rid of rats is a tiresome, annoying, and often expensive and dangerous exercise. Unfortunately, chances are that you will one day have to go through it since most homeowners have rat problems at least once in their lives. That’s why good sanitation, prevention, and exclusions are so vital and why we recommend starting with them.
If those fail, rat traps and rat poison baits are your second line of defense. You may use some auxiliary products together with them as long as they don’t counteract their effectiveness, but rat traps and rat baits should be your main tool for dealing with a rat infestation.
Properly identifying the type of rodent you’re dealing with, where their nests or burrows are, as well as where their food and sources are, is a great next step to figuring out where you should place the rat traps or rat baits. From there, you should be well-suited to deal with the problem.