How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!

Learn what attracts rats to your property, the best ways to get rid of rats, and how to prevent them from ever returning
Phyllis McMahon
Phyllis McMahon
Research Writer
Phyllis teaches English Literature at a local college and loves writing in her free time. She’s also a great cook – her British beef Wellington is something the best res read more
Reviewed By
Chas Kempf
Chas Kempf
Expert Consultant
Chas works in a professional pest control company and knows all the nuances of this job. Also, he’s a fantastic tennis player and loves to organize BBQ parties for his fam read more
Last updated: August 28, 2023
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Knowing how to get rid of rats before you even spot one is something every homeowner should do. Even though you shouldn’t expect to be infested with rats, knowing what to do beforehand will save you a lot of time. Acting quickly will minimize the exposure to potential damages and diseases.

But what if you’ve only seen one rat running around? Does that mean you suddenly have a rat problem? Though the scope of an infestation is hard to judge with the sighting of just one rat, its mere presence should be enough to get you into action. You don’t want rats around, and you definitely don’t want them sticking around.

Are you ready to take action against rats? To ensure your choices are effective, you need some vital information first. Read on to find out the kinds of rats there are and how to get rid of rats for good.

Rats vs. Mice

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!

A rat and a mouse may look similar, but they’re not the same. After all, both scurry around with their long whiskers and long tails. While one might be adorable enough to be a pet, the other is enough to bring trouble and headaches.

One of the main differences between a rat and a mouse is that a rat is bigger than a mouse. Even if a mouse is bigger for its size, it’s still smaller than the average-sized rat. If you see a huge critter running around, it’s definitely a rat.

Another clue is on their tail. Rats have long, hairless tails, while mice have hairy tails. Even if you can’t accurately judge its size, you can determine what you just saw by paying attention to its tail. There are more detailed differences between the two, but for now, the most apparent distinctions are enough to give you a clue about what you saw.

Common Species of Rats

Before you scramble around trying to find out how to naturally get rid of rats, you should familiarize yourself first with some of the most common species of rats. There are several of them, but two species are commonly seen in houses: Norway Rats and Roof Rats.

Norway Rats

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!If you saw a brown rat, chances are high that it was a Norway Rat. Its other names include brown rat, common rat, and sewer rat. Even though they didn’t actually come from Norway (they’re from China), you can find this rat everywhere except Antarctica. They also eat just about anything.

Roof Rats

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!Also known as the black rat, house rat, or ship rat, black rats are the other type of rat you might find in your house. They’re believed to have come from India and have spread worldwide by hiding in ships. They prefer a vegetarian diet and like to nest in high places. And as the name suggests, these rats have black fur.

What Attracts Rats to Your Property

Rats are not that complicated when it comes to their needs. They’re satisfied as long as they have a source of food and water and a comfortable nest. That’s why they always exist very close to humans.

With some precautions, you can plan how to get rid of rats in a house. Here’s a look at what they prefer, so you can cut the supply early and drive them away.


How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!Food is always the number one reason any animal would travel, including rats. If you have something they like and it’s openly accessible, you can bet they’ll jump at that opportunity. Who wouldn’t? That’s why you should always know how to get rid of burrowing rats to prevent them from hiding after grabbing food.

Knowing what they like to eat will help you prevent them from coming near you. Norway Rats, for example, eat just about anything. They can eat meat and plants, depending on what’s available. In busy cities, they survive by eating food scraps that people throw away. On some occasions, they can even kill a bird or lizard as their source of protein.


Just about anything on Earth needs water, and rats are no exception. Though they don’t need that much water to survive, they compensate for the lack of food by drinking more water. They get most of their water intake from what they eat, however. A study even found that they can eat dehydrated food and still not need water as much, if at all.

With that in mind, make sure you don’t have any sources of standing water around your house. Don’t give them water to compensate if you’re trying to starve the rats.


Once you give rats a stable food and water supply, they’ll also want to find a suitable place to settle down. If you’re going to get rid of rats in the house fast, you need to know where they like to live.

For Norway Rats, you want to limit where they can seek refuge on lower levels, closer to the ground – your basement, behind your walls, underneath old appliances or furniture. They don’t like climbing, so you won’t find them going to higher places. Time to research how to get rid of backyard rats.

Roof rats, on the other hand, already give you a hint about where they like to live – higher, elevated places. They like to climb up and nest inside ceilings and attics. You might even find them nesting in trees. This is when knowing how to get rid of rats in walls and ceiling comes in handy.

What Damage Can Rats Do?

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!If not detected early, rats can cause havoc in your life. They’re destructive with their constant gnawing and spread diseases to humans. Waiting too long to figure out how to get rid of rats will harm your wallet and your health.

Physical Damage

The most obvious sign of a rat infestation is the physical damage caused to your house and your belongings. Rats can and will chew through the structure of your house, especially if it’s made primarily of wood. They can also chew through your home’s insulation and drywall. And if you find them nesting underneath an appliance, chances are they’ve also chewed through the wires, rendering it inoperable.

Even your personal belongings are not safe from rats. If you keep your items stored away in cardboard boxes, rats can easily chew through them and into the contents. Books and clothes are particularly susceptible to this.

Unused furniture is also an easy, soft target. Knowing how to get rid of rats in the attic can save your belongings from these rodents.

Spreading Diseases

If you know of the black plague, then you’re familiar with how rats can help spread diseases. Though they’re not always spreading some plague, rats still carry diseases. They can even serve as transportation for ticks and fleas and cause further infections to humans and other animals. That’s why knowing how to get rid of pack rats is vital.

Here are some of the most common diseases they can cause:

  • Diseases directly from rats
    • Hantavirus – a severe and fatal respiratory disease transmitted via direct contact.
    • Leptospirosis – can lead to meningitis and kidney damage if left untreated. It is transmitted through dirty waters contaminated with rat urine.
    • Salmonella – is naturally carried by rats and is transmitted via direct contact.
  • Diseases indirectly from rats
    • Colorado Tick Fever – caused by a bite from a tick carrying the virus
    • Plague – caused by a bite from a flea carrying the plague bacterium
    • Tularemia – caused by a tick, flea bite, or direct skin contact

Signs of a Rat Infestation

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!You don’t need to see the actual rat running around to determine that rats have taken residence in your house. There’s a chance you may not actually see one because most of them are nocturnal. Regardless, vigilance and observation can point you in the right direction.

Here’s how you can tell if you have unwanted rodents in your dwelling:

  • You find rat droppings.
  • A strong, pungent smell exists in a specific part of the house.
  • You can hear scratching noises from behind the wall.
  • If the suspected area is quite dusty, you can see trails.
  • There are markings on the wall, close to the dusty trail.
  • You find gnaw marks on the wall or your items.

If you find any of these signs, it’s time to get to work. Even if you only notice one sign and you’re not quite sure if it was a rat or not, it’s still helpful to take some preventive measures.

How to Get Rid of Rats in the House

If you’ve confirmed that you do have rats in your house, it’s time to learn how to get rid of rats in the house with home remedies. While some of these steps are reactionary, the others are more like long-term preventive measures to stop them from returning. As always, make sure you do these steps in conjunction with each other to ensure maximum effectiveness.


How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!If you’re wondering how to get rid of rats without poison, here’s one. Rat traps are the most common way of eliminating rats in your house. They’re simple, practical, and provide immediate visual confirmation.
There are several types of rat traps available:

  • Snap traps – When most people think of rat traps, this is the first image that comes to mind. The general concept is the same whether it’s made of wood or plastic: place some food on the trap plate and activate it. Once the food is removed from the plate, the spring will release the upper clamp, immediately snapping down on the rat to kill it. If the rat doesn’t die immediately, it will die from its injuries or starvation because it can’t move. Some traps like the one from Kat Sense, even have a cover, so you don’t have to look at the dead rat.
  • Live traps – These work similar to a snap trap; but instead of killing the rat, it traps the rodent inside a cage. The trap plate is usually long enough to accommodate the entire rat, and the trigger is placed just far enough away for the door to close behind the rodent. A viable solution if you want to get rid of the rat humanely.
  • Glue traps – Unlike the other two, glue traps are not reusable. That’s because of the strong adhesive on its surface, designed to keep the rat in place until it dies of starvation. Simply place some bait on the trap and wait for a rat to get stuck. For better and quicker results, use poisoned bait.
  • Electric traps – Imagine a live trap, but electrified. Electric traps lure a rat and zap it with a high-voltage electric shock. Though it usually needs around four C batteries, most electric traps can kill several rats before running out of power. Just make sure you empty the trap after every kill.

Bait Stations

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!Bait stations are great when you want to use poisoned baits but must keep them away from unintended targets, such as pets, kids, and other wildlife. They look unassuming – a hardened plastic enclosure with locked partitions inside for bait and an entryway large enough for rats to enter. The idea is to keep rats attracted to the bait inside and have them return until they’re dead, all while ensuring it’s secure enough from external tampering.

The downside, of course, is you won’t always be able to confirm whether the bait has worked or not. Because you’re letting the rats move around until the poison takes effect, you won’t immediately find out whether they’re gone or not.

We recommend taking a look at the list of best rat bait stations that we reviewed earlier, then you will definitely be able to get rid of rats in the yard without harming pets.


How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!Another common way to get rid of rats is to use rat poison. They’re not as instantaneous as traps, but they guarantee a kill. These are ideal for killing rats in obscure spaces, such as the ceiling or a disused basement, because they’re out of the way. Here are some of your options for poison:

  • Bromethalin-based poison – this rodenticide has been around for a while; it was authorized by the EPA in 1984. It works by causing the brain to swell, eventually leading to death. It may take a few days to kill a rat.
  • Vitamin D-based poison – Works by causing a Vitamin D overdose on rats, leading to too much calcium in the blood. It takes a while to work because calcium buildup inside the rat’s body must first reach toxic levels.
  • Fumarin and Warfarin-based poison – Commonly known as anticoagulant rodenticides, these work by preventing the blood from clotting properly. The rat dies from lethargy due to uncontrolled internal bleeding, but it takes a while to be effective.

Natural Deterrents

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!Hate rats but can’t quite bring yourself to kill them? Want to know how to get rid of rats with black pepper? Here’s how.

Rats can’t stand the scents of some things, so use that information to your advantage. You can either use a store-bought rat repellent or one of the natural options:

  • Peppermint oil, either applied on a cotton ball or mixed with water for spraying
  • Cayenne pepper, black pepper, or crushed pepper – sprinkle at the entrance of their holes or burrows to stop them from reentering.

Check out our reviews of the best rat repellents that can be bought online if you are not a fan of DIY.

How to Get Rid of Rats Outside

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!Because disease exposure doesn’t matter whether it’s inside the house or not, learning how to get rid of rats outside is essential. Thankfully, the steps are similar to what you already need to do indoors:

  • Keep trash cans closed and secured: As you’ve read earlier, Norway Rats can eat anything. That means if you leave a bag of trash outside, rats are free to bite the bag open and rummage through it. Make sure they’re in a secure container to keep rats away.
  • Don’t leave disused furniture or appliances in your yard: If you don’t want rats taking shelter in your house through furniture or appliances, you don’t want them doing the same outside, either. Always dispose of disused furniture or appliances instead of leaving them outside.
  • Check your house for cracks and gaps: Rats can fit through a small crack, so make sure you prevent them from doing so. Look for any cracks along your wall and up to your roof, and seal them as you find them.
  • Don’t leave food for wildlife outside: As much as you’re tempted to leave your bags of feed for birds and other wildlife outside, you shouldn’t. Or if you really must, keep them inside a secure container. You don’t want rats feasting on them instead.

When Is It Time to Call a Professional?

If you’ve had to ask yourself, “how long does it take to get rid of rats,” it’s time to call a professional exterminator. Some rats have developed a slight resistance to poison, plus there’s a chance you have more rats than you initially thought. Spend your money better and let the experts take care of the problem. For example, they’ll know how to get rid of rats in a garage.

Professional exterminators will use similar steps as you, but they can target rats better due to their expertise. They will place traps in spots you may not think of, and they can use poisons that are more toxic and unavailable to the public. They will also know how to get rid of a rat’s nest. Additionally, they know when to keep checking for results, so you can be sure they will eradicate the rats.

How to Prevent a Rat Infestation

How to Get Rid of Rats: Drive the Nasty Creatures Away Fast!Once your house is finally rat-free, you must ensure they won’t come back again. The last thing you need is for them to return after you’ve spent the time and money trying to purge them.

Here’s what you can do to keep them away from your property:

  • Always make sure your trash can is closed and secure.
  • Keep your house and yard tidy. Don’t give them anywhere to shelter.
  • Don’t leave food out in the open, especially outdoors.
  • Seal and repair cracks and gaps around your house.
  • Spray peppermint oil diluted in water on the corners of your wall, your home, and any entryways.
  • Keep a secure, tamper-proof bait station around just in case of a stray rat.

And as always, stay vigilant. Spotting the signs early can help you take quick action.

Final Thoughts

Having a rat infestation in your house can be alarming and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. You have many DIY options at your disposal, so always ensure you know how to get rid of rats. You can also use some natural deterrents to drive them away if you can’t bring yourself to kill the rodents. Failing that, professional exterminators are always there to help.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure, so you must take steps beforehand. Now is always a good time to start decluttering. Not only will you keep rats out by doing so, but you might also find treasures you never knew you had. You wouldn’t want to lose them to rats, would you?

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