Millions of kind-hearted homeowners don’t want to live with rats, but don’t want to use killer traps, poisons, and predator animals, either. It takes a little extra effort to get rid of rats naturally, but it’s not impossible to remove rats without harming them. Before removing rats, however, it’s essential to make sure new rats can’t find their way in.
Make Your Home Inhospitable to Rats
Many people make major investments in high-tech methods of humane rodent removal after they have made their homes an impenetrable fortress to rats. The problem with this strategy is that locking rodents out usually also involves locking rodents in, and the devices and chemicals used to repel rats only make them more anxious and agitated. Before you do anything else, take measures that will cause rats to leave your home voluntarily.
An indoor cat or dog is a minor deterrent to rat infestation. Cats sometimes catch mice, but only the most skilled feline hunters can catch a rat. In a battle between a puppy or a kitten and a full-grown rat, the puppy will lose and the kitten is likely to be killed. Most pets need even more protection from rats than you do.
Pheromones (such as those derived from lion urine) that are strong enough to drive rats out of your house may also be strong enough to drive you out of your house.
Fight rats with the power of sound. Much as dogs can hear dog whistles, rats can hear high frequencies that don’t disturb humans but that greatly aggravate rats. The mistake most users of devices such as the powerful ultrasonic rodent repeller (please note that the link takes you to a post about squirrels, but it works the same way with rats, as they are both rodents) is putting the device at a door leading to the outdoors, on a kitchen counter, or near a cupboard. Putting the ultrasonic rat repellent at a door just keeps rats in, not out, and putting it in the kitchen only causes rats to feed elsewhere in the house. Start with one unit in a corner of your home farthest from the doors and remove rats from that room. Keep that unit running, and add one unit per room, about once every other day, until you have chased rats out of your house. Be forewarned that rats may still come back in if you don’t follow up by closing entryways, as described below.
Don’t Provide Rats an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet
Another way to reduce rat infestations is simply to ensure they don’t find your home to be an all-you-can-eat buffet. Keep rice, grains, beans, and sugar in closed glass or metal containers rather than in the sacks in which they are sold. Make sure every member of your household makes a habit of closing the container. Keep breakfast cereals in solid containers or in the refrigerator. Don’t leave pots and pans or half-filled glasses out on the counter or in the sink, especially at night. Keep cupboards closed. And make sure everyone shuts the door tightly when coming in or going out.
Keep pet food in closed containers, and feed your pet from a stainless steel bowl—the bowl will be too slippery for rats to climb. Even better, feed and water your pets with an automatic system set to provide them with food and water during the day, when rats are not active, but not at night. Install baffles at the base of bird baths and bird feeders set on the ground, or use PVC pipe (too slippery for both rats and squirrels) to hang bird feeders above the ground.
Make Your Home a Rat-Proof Fortress
Rats are naturally cautious animals. They are not likely ever to cross a street. They do not like to cross open spaces. A rat usually ventures less than 50 meters (165 feet) from the place it was born unless it is carried to a new location by human activity. Homeowners who can secure a 50-meter radius around their homes have a good chance of keeping them rat-free.
Rats live where humans don’t care to spend their time, especially in the garbage and in the sewer. Garbage offers an endless source of food, and sewers offer vast corridors for escaping predators and finding new food sources. If you lock down escape routes for rats from trash cans and the sewer half the battle is won. Here’s what is essential for keeping rats away from your home.
- Make sure any connection to the sewer system is rat-proof. It’s essential to let the city know when manhole covers are broken or sewer pipes are broken. The plumbing vent must open above your roof, not below it, and should be covered with rat-proof mesh (as described by the ICWDM). Since the drain-pipe vent maintains neutral air pressure so sewage drains away from your house by the force of gravity, it’s essential that the pipe be wide enough that a rat can’t get stuck. A rat blocking the sewer vent can cause sewage to back up into your house.
- Make sure that trash it stored in rat-proof containers, especially at night. Plastic garbage bags of household trash or lawn clipping left at the curb overnight are an open invitation to rats to feed. Trash cans need a rust-proof lid, and the lid must be tightly closed except to put trash in and empty trash out. Large metal trash collection bins must sit directly on the ground to prevent providing a nesting place for rats feeding on spilled trash.
- If your home is not built on a slab foundation, look for tunnels, burrows, and fresh fecal droppings at ground level around your house. If your home is built on a slab foundation, make sure doors and windows continue to fit during drought or rainy weather that may cause the soil underneath your home to shift. If you have a basement, make sure water does not accumulate in window wells and that all basement doors and windows are left shut, especially at night, and are airtight.
Rat Poisons and Rat Traps
For centuries, all rat poisons were “natural,” involving either caustic chemicals that eroded the rat’s digestive tract or potent herbal poisons such as strychnine and squill. The downside to natural poisons that kill rats is that they also kill humans and pets. Rat traps are a safer tool for rat removal.
Rat traps may either capture or kill. Glue sheets capture rats but leave them to starve, be eaten by other predators, or die from struggling to get off the glue. A rat zapper, for example, offer a swift and relatively humane end to the rats they capture. Havahart rat traps allow rats and other rodents to be captured and released to the wild.
Whichever kind of rat trap you choose, there are three keys to success
- Place the trap against a wall. Rats don’t like to travel across open spaces.
- Place the trap parallel to the wall. Rats won’t detour away from the wall to enter the trap door of a Havahart trap and they won’t be caught in a spring trap they approach from the sides.
- Don’t handle rat traps with your bare hands, especially if they are sweaty. Rats can detect your scent and will avoid the trap. Pick up traps with several thicknesses of newspaper or dry paper towels to keep them scent-free.
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