The sad truth is that we can never be 100% certain that we won’t one day find rats on our property. Short of sealing our entire homes and yards off with an impenetrable sci-fi-ish barrier, there isn’t much we can do to guarantee that we won’t have a rat problem in the future. There are ways to drastically minimize the risk, however, and finding those starts with figuring out what attracts rats to your house or property.

Rats may be highly intelligent and cunning animals but they are still animals nonetheless. As such, they are driven by the same impulses and desires as the rest of us – food, reproduction, and safety. Fortunately for them and unfortunately for us, our homes tend to offer all three of those things – after all, that’s what we need them for as well.

Food sources – is there anything a rat won’t eat?

Rats are omnivores, so the answer to the question “What do rats like to eat?” is “Pretty much anything they can get their paws on.” Food leftovers, your pet’s food, half the contents of your trash bin, birdfeeders, fruits and nuts that have fallen off of the trees on your property, small bugs and pests on your property (including mice or smaller rats), pet and bird excrements, plants and veggies in your garden, and so on. Even outside of straight food sources, rats like to chew and nibble on anything they can – wood, plastic, cables, anything they can get their sharp teeth through, even just for the sport of it.

Water sources are also important for a rat as they are for any other mammal. If you are curious about how long can a rat go without water, then the answer is about a couple of days, sometimes up to 3 days. As with most other animals, however, health issues will start forming after about 24 hours. Depriving a rat of water is quite difficult, however, since it’s really hard to fully isolate them somewhere without them finding a way out.

Simply put, there are hundreds of things in your home that a rat would love to bite and swallow so rats will always be attracted to your home. However, you can minimize that attraction by removing the more obvious and easily accessible food sources. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t leave your pet’s food outdoors overnight since rats are mostly nocturnal. If you want to feed your pet in the yard, do it in the daytime and while you’re around.
  • Don’t leave your pet’s water bowl outdoors as this is likely to attract rats, especially in hot and dry areas. If you have to do it, at least make sure that you return the bowl indoors overnight. Also, make sure that you remove all other easy-to-use water sources from your yard and property – barrels of water, buckets, ponds, anything of the sort can get rats’ attention and drive them closer to your home.
  • Clean underneath birdfeeders so that there is no spilled food.
  • Keep your trash bins away from your actual home and make sure that there are a few food leftovers in them as possible.
  • Clean your entire yard and property regularly – any fallen nuts and berries, any bird or pet poop, and dirt or chewable materials can attract rats to it.
  • Make sure that the entrances to your property, your home, and your food storing facilities are sealed off as well as possible. And that point is what gets us to our next section.

Nesting opportunities – where do rats hide?

Safety and reproduction are the other two basic needs that rats have and they are easily combined in their search for nesting opportunities. Live outdoors can be harsh, especially in the winter, so, quite understandably, rats are always on the lookout for new shelters where they can establish a nest. Pretty much anything with a cover on it can serve as a rats nest, from a pile of wood or stones in the garden to the comfort of your home. Rats tend to prefer damp and moist places which is why they often dwell in sewage, but even a rat won’t set up a nest in running water – they are not fish.

Can rats swim, though? Yes, they can. Rats are excellent swimmers if you are wondering where rats come from, the answer includes your home’s piping and even the toilet bowl itself. Depending on the exact type of rat you’re dealing with they will be more likely to come on land or through the sewage, so knowing what kinds of rats are more prevalent in your area is beneficial.

The ideal nesting spot for a rat is warm but not hot, covered and isolated, but close and accessible to food sources, safe and stable, but close to water sources. This can include your crawlspace, your basement, your ceiling, sheds, garages, warehouses on your property, as well as anything else with a cover on it.

What can you do to keep rats off your property?

We already mentioned that you should keep all rat attractants such as food and water away. That’s the easiest step – just don’t give them a reason to come to you. The next vital thing to do is to make your home and property as inaccessible as possible:

  • Seal off all the openings into your crawlspace;
  • Screen your windows;
  • Seal off all exterior attic entries;
  • Seal off the gaps underneath all doorways – don’t be fooled by the rats’ larger size as they can still squeeze through holes that are just half an inch wide;
  • Screen your roof vents;
  • Seal off all holes in your building’s walls no matter how tiny they seem. Even if a whole is less of half an inch wide, if a rat is determined enough he can gnaw it until it’s large enough for the rat to fit through;
  • Maintain your home’s pipes and sewage system;
  • Clean your lawn. Anything that can attract a rat’s attention or offer it even just a temporary shelter needs to be removed;
  • Keep trees at least 10 feet away from your house – rats are good climbers and jumpers, so they can easily hop on top of your house from a tree.

And as a final bonus tip: Clean everything after you’ve dealt with a rat infestation. Rats are attracted to places the smell of a former rat nest as this tells them that the area is suitable for them. So, if you’ve just driven rats off your property, do a proper cleaning to remove all rat droppings and smells.