What Smells Do Rats Dislike?

Keeping your home free from rats and other rodents are essential for your health and the health of your family. If you have a problem with rats in your home, place of work, or anywhere else, it is important to know how to repel these little critters. Rats have a tremendous sense of smell. Just as some smells attract rats, there are also many smells that rats dislike.

Knowing something about a rat’s sense of smell can help you deter them from setting up home on your property. Rats’ sensory organs have the ability to pick up certain chemicals in the environment that affect their behavior. This means that rats instinctively hate certain smells because these aromas mean danger for them. You can, therefore, use this information to your advantage if you discover that you have a rat on your property.

Of course, no one wants to see a rat in their home or to find evidence that rats have infested a basement, garage, or any other living area.

The best way to keep rats away from your home is to avoid clutter and dirt. This not only creates aromas that will attract rats to your home but gives them the perfect environment to build their nests and live in.

What can you do to make sure that rats are not attracted to your home? In this article, you will learn about the various smells that repel rats. Along with other preventative measures, you can use these odors to deter and repel rats. So, what smells do rats dislike? Let’s begin by taking a look at some of the strong chemical smells that keep rats away.

Chemical smells

There are, of course, many chemicals that repel rats and stop them from infesting your home. However, many homeowners are wary of using these chemicals because they are toxic to humans and to the environment. For example, many people claim that rats hate the smell of mothballs. While the smell of the chemical naphthalene which is found in mothballs may deter rats, you would need to use such a large volume that they would be toxic to humans. This scenario was described in an informational article published by the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC).

This article related how one man placed several boxes of mothballs in his basement because he had heard that rats detest the smell of mothballs. The next day, the man’s wife complained of breathing difficulties and developed a chronic headache. After contacting the NPIC, the man learned that mothballs produce a toxic gas that can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, and respiratory irritation.

There are also some claims that the smell of substances such as bleach, paint thinner, ammonia or other strong toxic chemicals can deter rats. However, there is no scientific evidence that rats hate the smell of such chemicals.

The smell of predators

One of the smells that rats definitely dislike because it heightens their sense of danger is the smell of their predators. If a rat comes across the odor of an animal like a cat, ferret, stoat, or raccoon, they are likely to stay away.

Evidence of rats’ aversion to the odor of predators has been published in The Journal of Neuroscience and Behavioral Neuroscience. Researchers discovered that smells from cats and ferrets elicit a strong stress response in rats. They noticed that when rats were exposed to cat and ferret odors, their stress hormones rose and their behavior changed. So, keeping a cat at home to keep vermin away might not be such a bad idea. Cats are not just good at natural pest control, but even their odor seems to act as a pest deterrent.

Researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute also determined that rats dislike the urine of carnivores. The urine of meat-eaters has a specific compound (2-phenylethylamine) that rodents hate. To humans, the smell of urine is slightly offensive. But, to rats and mice, the smell of urine is the smell of danger. Of course, it is unlikely that you will want to use the smell of urine to deter rodents. Furthermore, rats living in natural environments live among predators, finding ways to avoid being eaten. If your home is attractive enough (easy access to food and shelter), predator smell may not keep them from inviting themselves in.

There are, however, some natural aromas that may help to keep rats away.

Natural smells

Read on to find out what smells rats hate that will not negatively affect the environment and are safe for humans. We will also let you know if there is any scientific evidence to back up the claims of these natural rodent repellents.

Keep in mind, however, that rats make their homes in many very smelly places, including sewers, so any potentially repellent scents will have limited effectiveness if your home is otherwise attractive.

Peppermint

Many websites claim that rats do not like the strong smell of peppermint while other websites claim that peppermint does not affect rats at all. While peppermint will make your home smell nice, is there any evidence that peppermint can repel rats?

There is actually some scientific research which shows that rats do avoid the smell of peppermint. For example, researchers in Thailand found that peppermint oil was somewhat effective in keeping rats away. They came to this conclusion when the rats spent less time in areas where there was the smell of peppermint. Interestingly, the same scientists discovered that bergamot is another smell that keeps rats away. Bergamot is a citrus fruit whose flavoring gives Earl Grey tea its distinct taste. While humans can either like or detest the flavor of bergamot, it seems to be a smell that rats dislike.

Because rats seem to dislike peppermint, you could try using a peppermint spray at the entry points to your home. You could even plant mint in your garden to help deter rats from setting up home in your yard. 

Eucalyptus

The potent aroma of eucalyptus oil seems to be offensive to rats and could prevent them from nesting, feeding, or living in your home. One of the reasons that the scent of eucalyptus can be used as a rodent repellent is that it contains compounds rats hate. A study published in 2014 found that spraying a solution of 5, 10, or 20% eucalyptus oil repelled house rats. The scientists observed that the rats avoided food in a part of their enclosure that had been sprayed with the eucalyptus solution. However, it should be noted that there was food on the other, untreated, side of the rats’ enclosure, suggesting that the repellent effect may only exist when there is an alternative.

Eucalyptus oil

Amawasri Pakdara/Shutterstock.com

One of the drawbacks of using eucalyptus oil is that you have to spray every day to keep the rats at bay. On the positive side, even though rats do not like the smell of eucalyptus, the pleasant aroma will keep your home smelling fresh.

Citronella

While citronella is known to repel mosquitoes and other flying insects, there is some evidence that the smell can be off-putting to rats. For example, some researchers found that rats tended to stay away from food in parts of their pens that had been treated with citronella oil, preferring to eat from the untreated side of their pens. The researchers concluded that a daily application of citronella could act as a potential natural rodent repellent. The same caveat applies here as we mentioned for eucalyptus oil, however. Another study assessed the effects of citronella inhalation on rats and found that it decreased appetite.

There are many smells that rats do not like and you may be able to use these to keep them away from your property. However, any good rat prevention and control method should incorporate a multi-faceted approach to keeping the critters out. So, first make sure that rats have no way to enter your home through the basement, attic, or openings in external walls.

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12 Comments

Trevor

Will a mouse (or rat) enter a shed if the gasoline generator is going an blowing out fumes?

    Karen

    Mice, rats and other rodents will most likely keep away from your shed if you have the gasoline generator going. Not only due to the smell but also because of the fumes as well as noise.

    Carol DL Green

    Rat made a huge hole in my radiator. How to seal it up. The hole is too large for steel wool.

    Karen

    We are not experts on fixing radiator damage, therefore you should probably find a professional who could give you more adequate advice.

    Marilyn Moore

    We have rats outside. Our yard is clean, but the neighbors around have a lot of shrubs and oranges. I spray with pure peppermint oil, but they run right through it. We have small dogs and don’t want to use outdoor poisons

    InsectCop

    Here is an article about getting rid of rats. You should check it out to figure out what the best solution to you might be.

Larry & Carey Suggs

HELP !!! Rat infestation in my house..In my beds & sofa..I have cronic asthma and cant breath..It’s a living hell..I called Arrow company to get rid of them..they sit out traps..never caught anything..now there telling me and my elderly Dad that there done and all the rats are gone..they have screwed us over..I paid them near two grand and still stuck with rats..Can anyone help ?

    Karen

    First of all, I suggest you contact them again because such treatment towards customers is simply unacceptable! It might also be a good idea to look into your options on maybe pressing some legal charges if they don’t fix the problem (and don’t refund the money at the same time).
    At the same time, you can also try dealing with the problem yourself, since having rats around can be quite the trouble! Some tips can be found in this article. Good luck!

Bill

Your comment on citronella being a natural repellent may be incorrect. I have a buddy that lives in Cape Coral Fl. area, where palm/roof rats are a real problem. His neighbors palm/roof rats chewed through the screens of his lanai, and ATE the citronella candle on his patio table.. No other damage, just a well gnawed on citronella candle.

    Regina Burnett

    What did your friend end up doing to get rid of them? I have the same issue,luckily they’re not inside,but I want them gone ASAP. Massey’s pest control came a put stuff down ,but in still seeing one fat one!

    AMANDA

    Bill I agree citronella not working nor does the eucalyptus oil mentioned above, they are still scaring the hell out of me parading in my kitchen as if they are paying rent:( I have closed all the holes, no food in site, will try the traps in meantime I hope they will starve to death sorry rodents but I’ve had it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

musabi

Rodents, rats (identified by size of droppings but not seen) and mice (seen) invaded my deceased mothers empty house along with clothes moths. There were bags of spices, curry powder, garam masala which they have chewed through and eaten but otherwise food only in tins. Rodents have chewed at plastic document/sheet holders, bars of soap, detergent boxes, clothes from all materials including manmade cloths (unlike moths which prefer natural materials, wool, silk, cotton paper) stationary, pens, pencils, erasers, wooden picture frames and even some of the plastics containing harmful and other household cleaning products, and much more. My point is rodents didn’t need ‘human’ food here but seemed to excel in chewing almost everything in sight and defecating and urinating over everything. I read that ammonia is supposed to be a deterrent but the smell of their own ammonia and other noxious chemicals from their toiletting, spread throughout each room in the house and saturating the carpets was nauseous and highly unpleasant and obviously didn’t seem to affect or deter them (unless they were working in shifts). Wearing a face mask was necessary and even then the atmosphere caused severe coughing fits within and outside this environment.

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