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How to Get Rid of Rats

Rat populations, specifically Norway and Roof rats, are on the rise all over the United States, particularly in urban areas. Known as carriers of disease, these creatures are drawn to areas of dense human population where they can easily find food and places to establish nests.

While historically associated with the spread of bubonic plague, rats do not themselves transmit the frightening disease. The creatures are instead the means by which the fleas that carry the plague pathogen are exposed to humans.

Rats do spread other diseases which put human health and safety at risk. These include leptospirosis (which damages liver and kidneys) spread by their urine; Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (viral illness that can have long term physical effects) transmitted through both rat saliva and urine; and rat bite fever. Most of these diseases and illnesses are also transmittable through rat feces.

The very idea of a rat infestation is the stuff of nightmares for most of the general public and the first impulse is to kill the rats or find someone who will. The pest control industry is seeing rapid job growth due to the increase in rat infestations nationwide.

There are humane and inhumane methods for rat control. Humane techniques may or may not result in the death of the animal; inhumane means end inevitably in death, usually prolonged and painful.

Humane Rat Control Methods

Animal rights advocates recommend attempting to live in harmony with rat species whenever possible. This is accomplished by rat-proofing a property to make it less attractive to rodents on the theory that prevention of a problem is always the cheapest and most effective way of dealing with it.

When animals must be removed from an already infested property animal rights activists suggest the use of non-lethal traps. These traps capture the animals alive and unharmed and must be immediately followed by the release of the rats outdoors. Release does not mean dumping the rats miles away from point of capture but rather within 100 yards of the original location. Rats released farther away than this are more likely to die or be killed due to their unfamiliarity with their surroundings.

Live capture traps must be checked frequently—as often as hourly—to protect the rats from injury, dehydration and starvation. Release should also occur as quickly as possible to avoid stressing the animals to the point of injury and death.

How to Get Rid of Rats Humanely and Permanently

When there is no alternative to a rat infestation other than extermination, there are means and methods that are considered more humane; dispatching the animal quickly and as painlessly as possible. Most of these involve direct contact with the animal and involve dispatching rats one at a time.Many people find it difficult to regard rats and mice as anything other than dangerous pests that should be killed without conscience and which are unworthy of any kind of compassion.

• Asphyxiation: Euthanasia using carbon dioxide (CO2) is the only method approved by the American Veterinary Association for home use. Vinegar and baking soda when mixed together produce C023 gas. When combined in the proper amounts these common household ingredients produce C02 levels that will first anesthetize then kill the rodent. In addition to the vinegar and baking soda, an airtight container must be secured to contain the carbon dioxide gas and animal.

• Cats are natural predators of rodents; rat terriers were specifically bred over centuries to catch and kill rats. How humane this method can be is a point of debate, but it has the advantage of being the most natural way to get rid of rats.

Snap trap rat traps: This is the old tried and true mechanical mousetrap technology, only with a larger trap to accommodate the species’ larger size. If properly loaded and set the spring action of the trap kills instantaneously.

• Electrocution traps: are fairly new inventions marketed as a “green” alternative to the use of rat poison. These devices lure the animal into a containment chamber and automatically administer a lethal electric shock.

• Cervical dislocation involves physically restraining the rat belly down on a hard surface. A quick, decisive yank on the tail that results in the sound of ripping or popping should result in a quick death. This is not a method for the squeamish and if not performed correctly can result in great suffering for the animal.

Even these so called humane methods of rat extermination have significant drawbacks. Cervical dislocation requires having first mastered the technique so that death is instantaneous and involves direct contact with the rat; asphyxiation requires getting the ratios of vinegar to baking soda exactly right and snap traps may result in the animal being caught by paw or tail rather than killed outright resulting in great suffering.

Non-Humane Rat Control Methods

These include:There are any number of methods for killing rats which are not only inhumane; most are downright violent and some are illegal.

• Blunt-force trauma: this method of dispatching a rat is considered the least humane and is prohibited by law in many jurisdictions. Blunt force trauma can be administered by picking a rat up by the tail and bashing its head against a wall, placing the rat in a sack and striking with a mallet or hammer. Usually the animal is not killed with the first blow and must be repeatedly struck.

Shooting with a projectile: While this might seem more humane than blunt force this method depends on hitting the rat in the brain stem on the first shot using a BB or air gun, or using guns that fire bullets. There will be blood and tissue splatter which can spread disease; suffering will be extreme if the first shot is not a kill shot. There is always the possibility of missing the target entirely and endangering others with a stray shot or ricochet.

• Freezing rats alive: placing a rat in a container and putting it in the freezer may seem more humane than shooting or beating it to death, but it is not a quick and painless death for the animal.

• Sticky glue traps are trays or boards which have been sprayed with industrial strength adhesives. These devices capture rats and mice when the creatures walk into or across them. Death takes days and is usually the result of a combination of dehydration, starvation, exhaustion and stress. Struggling may result in tissue tearing and other trauma. These types of traps are cheap, but can also trap beloved pets and beneficial animals and insects.

• Drowning: Again, less violent and seemingly more painless than other methods, but still inhumane due to the time it takes a rat to drown (which can be several minutes).

• Rat Poison: although still used by many consumers and pest control companies, rat poison does not provide a quick or painless death. Whether anti-coagulant based or chemical, poisons can take up to a week to actually kill the animal during which time they will suffer horrendously.

Rat poisons and sticky glue traps are currently still legal means of extermination in most areas, but the use of other inhumane methods of killing rats can and does result in legal fines and jail time in many jurisdictions.

Best Way to Get Rid of Rats according to…

Animal rights advocates such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) advocate means and methods which do not involve death. Killing rats according to these animal activists only removes the problem temporarily—get rid of one and another will inevitably and quickly take its place.

First and foremost, these groups stress the importance of controlling the problem before it begins by reducing the attractiveness of a location to rats. Making a house impervious to rats is the single most important action that a property owner can take to prevent rat infestations.

Suggested actions to take to rat-proof a structure include:

• Keeping living areas clean and free of easily accessible food and water sources. This means cleaning up food spills as they occur; storing food items in gnaw proof containers; keeping food preparation areas diligently free of grease and food debris; repairing leaks in water pipes and fixtures immediately on discovery and avoiding areas of standing water as much as possible in and around the house.

• Sealing off rat points of entry in buildings and homes. Rats are opportunistic and ingenious; they take advantages of cracks and crevices as small as a quarter to gain access to structures. Roof rats have also been observed using phone lines to gain entry via small openings in house eaves. Basements with wooden floors and openings in building foundations are other points of vulnerability.

• Do not feed pets outdoors or have food dishes permanently positioned outside the house. If there is no alternative to outside feeding, pick up dishes and food debris promptly and thoroughly after pets have finished eating. When storing pet (or human) food in sheds, garages or basements sturdy plastic, glass and metal containers must be used.

• Do not maintain a birdfeeder near the house. The spillage from bird feeders is a huge attractant to rats. Either feed birds only in times of severe weather when they cannot forage for themselves or station feeders away from house, garage and other outbuildings.

• Keep grass cut and bushes at least 18 inches away from the outside of the house. This exposes points of available entry and makes it more difficult for rats to roam about unobserved. This action will also reveal burrows and nests near the house and should help to get rid of rats in backyards. Rats like most wild creatures avoid high exposure areas.

• Keep woodpiles away from the sides of homes and garages. Wood stacked against the side of a structure can allow rats to burrow into structures unseen or hide existing points of entry. This will pre-emptively eliminate the possibility of rats in walls by cutting off a prime avenue of access.

Ideally, these simple, effective measures result in natural population control by denying rats sustenance and shelter. Rats can and do live in areas of high human population density undetected and without creating significant public health hazards when these methods are assiduously employed.

21 Responses to How to Get Rid of Rats

  1. Mary says:

    My barn has become infested with a large number of rats – 40 plus and still reproducing. I believe this is due to chicken feed that I was not able to clean up during a very cold winter. I think a DIY method is not suitable for this many. Friends want me to sue poison but I do not want to. I am think of hiring a rat catcher expert who uses snap traps and guarantees his work.

    Can you give me advice on the best way to proceed.

  2. John says:

    Kill all RATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Death to the Devils critters!!!

    • Sylvester says:

      I have huge rats that’ve chewed through a solid wooden door to enter an outside storage room, chewed their way into the wooden eaves, into two different parts of my roof. I deposit poison, wait a few days then seal up the holes with aluminum/metal sheeting, cut to size and foam stuff sealant. They just move to another part of the house!I have a cat and dog, but keep them away because of the poison. Yes, kill ALL rats! Humane, nothing. They serve no useful purpose, just cause damage and spread disease.

  3. Tina says:

    rats have become rife around and in my chicken houses and run?? How can I get rid of them ??

  4. Cynthia says:

    I think I have rats under my shed unfortunately it’s NOT. On a cement slab. I have a dog but these critters are wicked quick. I don’t want to use poisons because of my dog and I don’t really want her to catch them, afraid of diseases.

    I’m thinking of putting chicken wire down into ground all around the shed but how deep do I have to go? I took my dog away for the weekend and my husband caught 4 in rat traps. Ugh!

  5. Stephie says:

    :( I don’t want to make any rats suffer. I had pet rats when I was younger, and while I know there’s a difference between domestic and wild rats, I never want to hurt an animal. I can’t believe that those non-humane methods have actually been used by people, those are awful. Cervical dislocation is absolutely horrendous and disgusting. I’ll try to rat-proof my home first, but if I still have trouble, I’ll contact my local humane society and ask them for advice on what they suggest.

  6. Anthony says:

    My sister has a rat in her backyard coming from a neighbor’s yard and her grandson plays in the yard. What can be done to get rid of the rat?

  7. M says:

    Maybe adopt a few rescued feral cats. Some feral cat rescues look for people with barns to take care of cats they rescued that have been vaccinated and fixed. Housing a few of those would significantly reduce your rat population since it’s likely that an infestation could come back in a barn. That’s one reason people used to have many cats on their farms.

  8. J says:

    We have found rat droppings in our garage in florida but have not physically seen the rats. We also have seen chew holes in vents around the base of the garage so know that is their point of entry. We have not seen any evidence or droppings inside so at this point they have remained in the garage. What is the best way of getting rid of them. Typically we see roof rats here but since they are coming in the garage and not seen or heard signs of them in the attic thinking they may be Norway rats? We tried to seal the vents with steel mesh but they gnawed right through it to come back in. There is not food in the garage and never has been so not sure why they are trying to get in there at night. Our garbage cans are outside but in heavy plastic containers that are supposed to be rodent proof. any help would be greatly appreciated.

  9. Sylvia says:

    I’m in Surrey BC and believe a Norway rat arrived in a dishwasher a friend gave me. It found it’s way to the hot water tank enclosure that is very tight to the tank. To keep it from roaming I’ve been feeding it dog food kibble. The cat can’t get to it. Help!

  10. Dave says:

    Im for the blunt force trauma method. Traps, shovels and what have you. Let the tree huggers hug rats but I am going to e rat ocate them. Basically put them out of my misery.

  11. Yomna says:

    These are some listings you can try:ASPCAAnimal Protective ServicesAnimal ControlIf all else fails, call the plcoie to find out who to contact or call a veterinarian he/she should be able to tell you who to call.References :

  12. deepu says:

    Big rats are spoiling the drainage system and gathering the mud in the pipes making the drain blocked. In spite of keeping the tablets of rat killing also we are not getting rid of the rats. Do these big rats spoil the basement of the house. We are afraid of them. Pl. solve our problem

  13. Ouida says:

    the rats are in my home again. husband and I are 68 and not in best of health. how do we get rid of the rats before they make us sick? we also have what they call field rats and they are also in our home. PLEASE HELP

  14. Alan says:

    A rat in my kitchen last week and no sign of him since. I have set all the traps and a cage and he hasn’t come back.

  15. neil says:

    i have rats in my home in waun wen swansea

  16. Kim says:

    how do you get rid of a rat if its hiding behide your fridge?

  17. Valerie says:

    Rats are disgusting. I don’t believe in humane treatment of such a vile creature. I have killed over 100 rats in my house and garage. I even have one residing in my couch. I don’t understand what is attracting them to my house. I will use whatever means necessary to eliminate them. They are good for nothing, like mosquitoes. Maybe I’ll try the baking soda and vinegar. PETA needs to take a chill pill :)

  18. RAMS says:


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