Rat Infestation in House

This article contains comprehensive instructions for getting rid of a rat infestation in your house.  Follow all of the steps to deal with an infestation.  Each section contains recommended products that can be purchased on Amazon.

Here an outline of the topics covered:

How Do I Know if I Have Rats?

Noise is often the first sign of a rat in the house, as these animals squeak and squeal frequently.

They also habitually chew to keep their permanently growing teeth in check, creating scratching and grinding sounds as they destroy household items and structures.

Homeowners might notice feces and urine, especially in corners or near food supplies.

The pests also leave greasy trails on walls, floors, and ceilings from their oily fur. Together, these oils and droppings create a noticeable, musty smell associated with infestations.

Why are Rats in My House?

Rats enter homes in search of food, water, and shelter. They are able to squeeze through surprisingly small gaps in foundations, around doors and windows, and even along rooflines.

The pests quickly and easily make themselves at home, nesting in basements, attics, and wall voids while finding the fastest routes to food and water. Remarkably agile, rats in the house utilize pipes, cables, and wood joists to get around.

Are Rats Dangerous?

Yes.  Whether the problem comes from Norway rats or roof rats, an infestation can be both frustrating and dangerous.

Not only does a rodent’s chewing and scratching cause noise and damage, but the pests spread diseases through their feces and urine.  This is the main reason why you need to get rid of them.

Rats can even start fires by gnawing on wiring.

How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Step 1: Sanitation

In the case of rats, sanitation refers to cleaning and maintaining cleanliness.

Knowing where rats live in houses can help homeowners prevent a rodent problem.

Review the following points for sanitizing against rats:

  • In rooms that provide food or shelter, pay attention to cleanliness.
  • Sweep up spills and crumbs in kitchens quickly
  • Store pantry goods in air-tight containers
  • In attics and basements, clear away unneeded boxes and debris to deny the pests hiding places.
  • Keep garbage sealed to avoid attracting rats with the smell of decaying food.
  • Do not have your pet’s food outside, but, if your pet resides outside, feed him and collect the food after twenty minutes.
  • Birdseed and lawn clippings are another attractant for rats.

Step 2: Exclusion

Exclusion refers to the process of rodent proofing.

Because rats can pull themselves through holes about the size of a quarter, it is important to know where they enter homes and how to close off these areas.

Common entry points include:

  • Gaps around garage doors
  • Cracks in venting and flashing on roofs
  • Breaks under siding at ground level
  • Torn screens in upper level windows
  • Entrances to subfloors and structural voids in crawl spaces

These crevices should be sealed.  You can use cement, hardware mesh, expandable foam, or steel wool.  Caulking or foam sealants can be used, but only in conjunction with screening or wire mesh as rats can eat their way through these sealants.

An overlooked part of roof rat control is thoroughly reviewing a home’s exterior to rat-proof it. Ill-fitting garage doors can invite the pests inside, as can any gaps around vents, pipes, and cables.

Pay special attention to the roofline, looking for spaces in eaves, uncovered chimneys, and siding that has pulled away from the structure.

Step 3: Trapping Them

The best line of defense for home and business owners remains traps.   Safer and with easier clean-up than poison baits, traps are many people’s first choice.

There are numerous rat traps available to the public, but each requires a different set up and placement strategy.

Below are a few of the most common types of traps:

  • Glue boards (sticky traps)
  • Snap traps
  • Electronic traps
  • Rodenticides (poison)

Most of these solutions remain available at local hardware and big box stores.

It is important to note that most store-bought devices may require multiple applications in order to fully eliminate pest problems, and may become expensive and time-consuming.

Glue Boards

Glue boards are best suited for mice, but are sometimes used against rats.

Glue boards, or sticky traps, are simply pieces of wood treated with adhesive.  They are the cheapest trap option, but can be ineffective, since a strong rat is often able to pull itself free.

This type of rat trap is easy to use, as homeowners simply add special glue to a paper plate or pie tin. The glue does not harden but is strong enough to hold smaller or immature rats.

Keep in mind that the adhesive will not operate correctly when dusty or wet and is not safe around kids.

Catchmaster Glue Trap

  • Contains 10 scented, non toxic trays
  • Place multiple trays in areas of activity

Snap Traps

Humane Snap Traps

These are the most common type of trap used for rat removal.  Live catch traps may be used as rat traps to humanely capture and release rats.  Fairly simple and inexpensive, these traps consist of a wood board, a treadle for bait, and a spring-loaded bar.

The HAVAHART® 0745 and l025 traps are best suited for use as rat traps. They should be placed where activity has been seen. Suggested baits for rat traps are cheese, bread, birdseed, peanuts and peanut butter.

Live traps are humane, but add the risk of handling live rodents during removal.


  • Humane
  • No direct contact with rats
  • Easy to use and carry

Lethal Snap Traps

The Victor® and Tomcat snap rat traps work well as humane killing devices and should be placed along walls or behind appliances.

Victor Snap Traps

  • Classic metal traps
  • Scented (pre baited)
  • Reusuable

Large Snap Traps

  • Plastic traps
  • Can be set with your foot or hand
  • Reusuable
  • 8 pack

Cons of Snap Traps

When used correctly, snap traps can be very efficient. However, if the pest triggers a snap rat trap without being caught, they can learn to avoid them in the future.

Another problem with snap traps is that they must be placed at a right angle against walls or rodent runways, which can be difficult. If accidentally triggered, the powerful bar may also break fingers and toes.

Electronic Traps

The newest and most high-tech option, an electronic rat trap delivers an electric shock to rats when they take the bait inside.  High-tech electronic traps are closed boxes that deliver an electric shock when their sensors register the removal of bait.

These types of live rat traps use the pests’ curiosity against them, allowing them to wiggle in without being able to back out.  Because it is closed off rather than open, this type of trap is safest around children and pets.

Covered electronic traps are typically the most expensive and must be emptied and recharged with every catch, so they require some maintenance.

While humane, releasing live rats only transfers the problem to another area.

OWLTRA Indoor Electric Rat Killer
12,952 Reviews
OWLTRA Indoor Electric Rat Killer

  • Can kill 60 rats
  • No need to touch dead rats
  • Kills quickly

Step 4: Killing Them with Rodenticides aka Bait

Rodenticides (baiting) are another effective form of lethal controls.  Available in a variety of forms, baits consistently lead to successful removal of the pests when used correctly.

This is because other methods such as traps or glue boards do not always cause the rats to perish immediately, forcing homeowners to manually remove or exterminate the captured rodents.

Rodenticides are a convenient and effective method of rodent control.  Rodent bait packs can be used for indoor and outdoor control and can be placed along walls, by gnawed openings in or beside burrows, in corners or in locations where rodents and their signs have been seen.

Victor offers a variety of rodenticide bait solutions.

Victor M925 Rodent Poison
3,948 Reviews
Victor M925 Rodent Poison

  • Weather resistant
  • Place along walls or other areas of activity
  • Place the bait balls 8-12 ft part

Cons of Rodenticide

Poison baits require less up-close involvement in rat removal, but can create a different problem. Because a poisoned rat is could die behind a wall or in some other hard-to-reach place, homeowners will would to contend with weeks of horrible odors. Not only that, the remains can attract insects.  So keep this mind if you decide to go this route.

Ultrasonic devices can be another solution. These devices give off an inaudible sound to humans or non-rodent animals, but keeps rats out of your house. Also try the Victor® Sonic Pest Chaser.

Common Invaders

It also helps to know the type of rat in question, as this determines where to place traps. Norway rats stay close to the ground along walls and in corners, so these are the most likely places to catch them. Roof rats, on the other hand, are agile climbers, so traps should be set high on rafters and in attics.

Norway Rats

norway rat illustration with droppings
Norway Rat
image srouce: Purdue.edu


Size: From the tip of the nose to the end of the tail, the average adult Norway rat measures 16 inches in length.

Color: Though coloration differs between individuals, Norway rats are most commonly a grayish-brown color. The pests may also appear solid gray, black, or reddish-brown.

Characteristics: Notable characteristics of the Norway rat include large, furless ears, a scaly tail, and coarse fur that covers the body.

Frequently referred to as the brown rat or sewer rat, Norway rats are a predominant pest of the United States. Between the harm they inflict on buildings and the diseases they spread, the pests are estimated to cause nearly one billion dollars in damages each year in the U.S. alone.

The rodents are mostly nocturnal and active year-round, so homeowners and property managers must be vigilant when it comes to control. Able to adapt to nearly any environment, Norway rats are a huge problem within our service area of the Mid-Atlantic region.

Trapping Norway Rats

Due to their incessant digging, Norway rats can cause tremendous damage to the integrity of foundations and other structures, such as patios, sidewalks, and decks. In addition to leaving burrows throughout the yard, the pests also gnaw on stored goods, walls, and wires. To evade home destruction and disease, residents may turn to Norway rat traps as a means of elimination.

Roof Rats

roof rat illustration with drawings
Roof Rat

These pests prefer to gather at high altitudes, skilled at jumping and climbing. In the wild, they nest in trees and vine-covered fences. When nesting in homes, roof rats typically choose the attic, entering through cracks in the roof or under eaves from overgrown branches, vines, or utility lines. Once established, roof rats in the attic readily breed and thrive, safe from natural predators.

Damaged Caused

Roof rats in attics can cause quite a bit of damage. Their incessant need to gnaw leads them to chew into structural beams and through electrical wiring, causing fuses to blow and creating the risk of fire. Unlike Norway rats, which leave feces and urine stains all over lower level floors, roof rats in attics tend to spend their days between floors, in utility spaces, and above false ceilings. The mess they leave remains hidden, which leads to a foul odor and a difficult clean-up job. If droppings are found in open spaces, it is likely a sign of a significant infestation. Roof rats are also capable of spreading leptospirosis, rat-bite fever, and plague.

Roof Rat Proofing and Removal

To eliminate roof rats in the attic, rodent-proofing begins up high. Look to the roofline to ensure that all gaps and cracks one-half inch or greater are covered with metal flashing or steel wool. Cut back overgrown vines and branches to avoid giving these agile pests easy access indoors. It also helps to remove their food sources by keeping kitchens clean of crumbs and liquid spills. Trapping roof rats in attics can be difficult because of the cramped space, as well as the danger of kicking up dust from disease-ridden feces and dander.

Thinking About Roof Rat Traps?

Once a homeowner starts considering the use of roof rat traps, there is usually clear evidence of the pests’ presence. Although less predominant than Norway rats in many states, roof rats are common attic-dwellers throughout the country. As they like to live high above the ground in trees and vines, it’s easy for them to enter a home via roof vents and cracks.

The Difficult Job of Removal

Roof rat traps might catch some of the rats that are present, but they won’t prevent others from getting inside. This is why exclusion of future rodents is a vital part of any control effort. However, because the pests are such good climbers, finding and blocking all the access points for roof rats is difficult.

Drawbacks of Roof Rat Traps

Setting roof rat traps requires thinking like a rat and going to the places where they live, which are often high up, cramped, and dirty. Added obstacles include the possibility of inhaling dried fecal dust, which can cause illness and respiratory distress. Also, roof rat traps must be emptied, requiring getting up close and personal with dead rats.

Trapping roof rats is difficult because they fear new things in their environment. Glue traps are the least effective yet most humane methods of control available, while common wood traps are the most consistent option.

Dealing with Rat Droppings

This is super important, please read before cleaning up droppings.

MAJOR Health Hazard

All waste is unsightly and odorous, but rat droppings can also contain bacteria that is harmful to both humans and pets.

In fact, rodents are responsible for spreading Hantavirus, which can be deadly to people.  Other diseases transmitted to residents through roof rat droppings include lassa fever, leptospirosis, and salmonellosis.

It is imperative that homeowners refrain from consuming foods that have been contaminated by rodent waste and to avoid cleaning up rat feces without proper protection.

Homeowners who attempt to remove the rodents’ nests without proper protection risk contamination, as well.

Removing  Droppings the Safe Way

It is absolutely essential to follow these guidelines.

  1. First, put on a face mask.
  2. Second, protect your hands with heavy duty gloves made from rubber, plastic, or other chemical resistant materials…this is crucial.
  3. All rat waste must be doused with a mixture of bleach and water, or some kind of major disinfectant. You cant over do the amount of disinfectant that you use.  Let the droppings soak for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Wipe up the feces with paper towels, rags, old t shirts, etc. and throw them in a garbage bag.
  5. Wash the area again with a disinfectant.
  6. While the gloves are still on, wash your gloved hands with the disinfectant or bleach solution before taking them off.  Or spray them with a similar solution.
  7. Throw the gloves in the garbage bag, and then double bag the same garbage bag.
  8. Scrub your hands with soap and water.

You cant be too safe when it comes to dealing with rat droppings.

IMPORTANT: Do not sweep or vacuum droppings, as the particles can go airborne and spread dangerously.