Rats eat electric wiring, carry  Weils Disease and crawl over your food
Rats eat electric wiring, carry Weils Disease and crawl over your food

How to get rid of rats from my house and garden?

This will take a few minutes reading, but understanding the ways of rats and why they come into your house and garden in the first place will make sense of the methods I have outlined in this article to deter and get rid of them. 

Rats are never far away from our homes, we are there source of food and shelter, so if you have recently seen one in or near your home or garden then it is likely to be living nearby and is searching for food, access and shelter. It is unlikely to be alone either, rats live in extended family groups.

Why are rats attracted to my home and garden?

Rats are attracted into your home and garden by 3 things;      1; food, 2; shelter and 3; access.

1;What foods do rats eat?

 Let's look at these in a bit more detail, first food.  What foods do rats eat? They eat all the stuff we eat.... And more.....

  • Fruit and Berries are rats favourite food. Rats are drawn by the smell and sweetness of raspberry, blackberry, apple and pears when the fallen fruit is left to rot on the ground.
  • Grains and seeds  are natural rat foods even seeds from your flowerbeds or leftover ripened broad-beans from the garden. Bird Feeders where about a quarter of the food ends up on the floor "Rats love em" are a major rat attractor. They also get into garden sheds where you have stored grass seed, or the worst scenario-crawl all over and eat unprotected cooking and baking ingredients like rice.
  • Nuts, rats love nuts, they are a high-protein energy source and rats will seek them out.
  • Meat, rats will eat all types of rotten or not fish, poultry and red meat. Rats don't hunt for meat unless they are starved of the stuff they prefer, they just eat whatever meat they find.
  • Pet Food is a real treat for rats containing all the nutrients needed to keep cats and dogs and rats fit and healthy 
  • Plants, Plant seeds are a favorite food, but rats are born survivors and if hungry will eat just about anything they can get their teeth into from grass and weeds to small twigs and bits of bark. 
  • Food and animal by-products, yes rats will eat anything to survive even things that to us would seem non-edible, such as worn clothes and leather. They will nibble and test and if the taste or smell is OK and the rat is hungry enough they will eat it.
  • Food scraps and rubbish. We have shopped to much and cooked to much to eat ourselves, don't want it and throw it away. Rats love it especially bread, cheese, meat, fruits and vegetables and eat it.
  • Takeaways that end up over someone's garden wall.
  • Salt, by the way, is one of the biggest attractors of rats, rats love salty food. 

Don't throw your hands up in the air and admit defeat yet. The 2nd essential thing rats need is shelter 

Fat rat
Fat rat

2;Where do rats shelter?

Rats choose to live somewhere that is dry, offers protection from predators mainly cats and dogs and with reasonably access to food. 

  • Cluttered cupboards in your home offer all three of these, try to keep floors clear of clutter especially linen and anything rats can make nests from.
  • Chicken coops and rabbit hutches  offer shelter and food, try not to store food under the hut and keep the space between the structure and ground clear. 
  • Garden sheds, again try to keep floors clear of clutter and if the shed is built with a gap between the base and the ground leave at least one side open for inspection and possibly access for a dog or cat if you have one. Make sure all food is stored in secure rat-proof containers. 
  • Compost bins and heaps provide not only food, but a dry warm and fairly safe to live in. Not much you can do about blocking access, apart from maybe covering the heap with chicken wire.  
  • Ponds. Rats need to drink and if you have bushes or a rockery around the pond it may, but is unlikely, be enough to provide shelter for rats to set up home. Personally I would keep the pond for its benefit to your garden wildlife.
  • Decking. Fit removable panels to decking and other platforms and check underneath regularly.                
  • Garden rubbish. This is something you can and should do something about by removing all rubbish, old planks, settees and sections of galvanised panel, anything rats could shelter under from your garden.    Persuade scruffy neighbours, you know the ones, the ones with sofas and old fridges all over their front garden, to clean up their act.  If they make excuses, "late for the social" or "tired up all night watching my massive flat-screen TV"  etc. report them to the council.
  • Cavity walls. Rats love living in cavity walls, they are safe and dry with easy access to your kitchen. They get in either through a hole in your external wall or an underground drain.  This can be complicated if you live in a terraced house or semi-detached property as the problem may be coming from the neighbours side.

The list could be endless, but shelter alone will not attract rats they need food too I/E, a shed in the middle of a field won't sustain rats, whereas the same shed in the middle of a farm will. Simple really isn't it. Stop the rats access to food....... Access is next.

 

3;Access (how to stop rats getting in)

Rats are poor climbers, but make up for that by the clever ways they get into your home, using ivy and similar climbers to climb up and in, even using a down pipe as a back rest to climb between the wall and the pipe. Full-grown rats can squeeze through a 15mm Gap.

 

These are things to bear in mind when securing your home against rats. Rats got into your home because they found easy access to a safe place to live and breed, protected from predators and with plenty of food.

 

Blocking access to food and shelter will help get rid of them and stop them returning. 

Paying attention to these 5 things will help to stop them getting in;

  1. If the rats have got into your house you will need to find and block the entry points. Look for broken air-bricks that can be fitted with framed mesh. Gaps under doors or in door-frames can be fitted with bristle strips.
  2. Cut back vegetation the rats climb up to get access through gaps in the eaves or up the wall using a drain pipe as a back support. The bottom of drain pipes can be fitted with rat-deterrent drain pipe guards.  Rats can chew through most things so fit materials that are rat-proof. Check every few weeks for signs of gnawing.
  3. Service pipes and plumbing through external walls are an open invitation for rats to explore enter and if they like what they see and enjoy the food you have left out for them, set up home. Rats will get through one inch gaps around pipes where the cement has fallen out over time. 
  4. An up and over garage door (not much you can do about the gaps around the door) is an obvious entry point and to avoid human contact they will head for the nearest dark secluded place in a cluttered garage, so once again deny access to these safe places by, if possible, leaving a gap between the wall and storage cupboards, etc. Rats will also head for the kitchen or utility where they usually get behind washing machines, fridges or freezers.
  5. Cutting out the supply of food is the best means of defense and will make your home less attractive to rats.

Remember rats will only take up residence in your garden and home if you or your neighbours make it easy for them by providing a safe shelter to live and breed with plenty of food and water. Make it as hard as you reasonably can for them.

 


Nasty facts about rats that will make you want to get rid of them.

If you think you have rats in your garden or even your house, you probably have! Whilst staking out a garden where the householder suspected rats might be living I saw about 20 rats all scurrying about together. Even rats living in the garden should not be left to get on with it,

 

Rats cause these 4 serious problems;

 

  1. rats spread diseases.  The most serious is Weils Disease, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by rats to humans and domestic pets via bacteria in the rat's urine. Symptoms of Weils Disease (Leptospirosis) NHS  Rats also transmit Salmonellosis, rat-bite fever, listeria, toxoplasmosis and toxacaria to humans.
  2. How is disease transmitted by rats? If the Weils bacteria gets into your bloodstream the resulting infection can be fatal if not recognised and treated. If rats urinate in damp long grass or around garden ponds the bacteria can remain active for up to a month. The bacteria gets into the bloodstream via cuts and grazes so children crawling around on hands and knees in a rat infested area are particularly at risk. Poor hygiene also plays a part, ingestion from contaminated food dishes and by not washing your hands properly can transmit the disease. 
  3. Rats damage your home? Rats can cause a lot of serious damage if they get into your house by gnawing through soft metals such as lead and aluminium, thick wood like supporting beams, breeze blocks and electrical wiring leading to fire risks. 
  4. Neighbours. For the reasons above leaving rats to get on with it is not an option. A garden full of rubbish and part eaten fast food makes the perfect habitat to attract Rats and is unfair to neighbours.
 Luckily most of us find the nearby presence of rats disgusting and even frightening and hearing them scurrying within a cavity wall or loft at night will bring about urgent remedial action.

If you already have an infestation of rats the quickest way to get rid of them is to trap or poison the rats

Before we look at ways to trap or poison rats it will help to understand some more about them 

  1. Rats are mostly nocturnal with poor sight, but their sense of touch, hearing and smell are very well developed and they use these very successfully to be alerted to danger.
  2. They are naturally wary of new objects and this can cause problems when you lay your traps as they will ignore them for up to two weeks. 
  3. Rats are mostly active at night. It is unusual to see much rat activity during daylight hours unless they are disturbed or food is scarce or living in an area with little disturbance.  
  4. Rats live close to their food source and tend to follow regular routes, something to bear in mind when setting traps.
  5. Breeding. Rats breed even faster than rabbits in the right conditions and they are, plenty of food and water and undisturbed cover for rearing young and escaping from cats and dogs. Rats start to breed at around three months old and produce about six litters of around 6-11 per litter each year. 

The Pros and Cons of the best ways to poison or trap rats

The Pros and Cons are; 

  • Rat poison. Pros: Poisoning can be a very effective way of dealing with rat infestations.  Cons: Can be a problem where children and pets are present. You also have no control over where the poisoned rat will eventually die and especially indoors you can be left with the foul smell of a rotting rat carcass in a wall or ceiling cavity.
  • Live Rat traps. Pros: Trapping rats is my favoured solution, but remember rats are very wary of anything new or out of routine so the traps will need to be left for at least a week for the rats to get used to them. Cons: The downside to using the live trapping method is you will be left with a live rat to kill humanely.
  • Snap traps. The old-fashioned wooden snap trap that kills the rat outright is the most effective method I have found in testing over many years. Pros: When the correct size is used correctly it kills rats quickly and effectively. Traps are reusable and are basically effective forever until they're sprung, so they can be left in "problem areas" semi-permanently. Cons: Can occasionally fail to kill outright and cause non fatal injury and bleeding. Possible to hurt yourself if the trap is sprung accidentally.


As we discussed earlier in this article over the long-term deterring rats by removing or denying access to all food and shelter is the best permanent solution.

 

More about setting live traps and snap traps next.

 

How to use traps to catch rats

Live rat trap.

Live trapping allows you to humanely kill the rat or remove it well away from your property so you know it has gone.

Bearing in mind the habits and routines of rats we have discussed earlier, place the rat trap in the area the rat takes from where it is living to get to food. The more traps you set the more chance you will have of catching them. 

Rats are very wary of new objects and will avoid them to start with, be patient and don't move them,  an old object becomes a new one if you move it.

You can tempt the rats into the traps using bait, anything edible will work including bread, chocolate, biscuits, fruit, I would avoid meat as you may attract more flies than rats. 

Check the traps at least once a day and when you catch a rat humanely kill it as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary suffering.

Snap traps. 

The spring-loaded snap trap is a proven, effective way to trap rats. Snap traps work by snapping a metal wire over the rat's neck when it tries to grab the bait. It is important to choose a rat trap that's big enough to kill the rats, using traps that are too small may maim the rat without killing it or lead to a protracted death from strangulation. I use the heavy duty snap trap here. 

  • Easy to bait - attracts rodents to ideal strike bar location
  • Economical and reusable for years of service
  • Easy to release - fingers never touch the rodent
  • Easy to set - vertical strike bar for quicker response time
  • Large trip paddle - Insures catch from all sides

How can I find out where the rats are getting in to my home

Tracking rats-runs.

You think you have seen a rat in the garden or heard a rat gnawing or scurrying around within a cavity wall or loft at night, ugh! And you now want to trap or poison it.  First you will need to find out where it is living and feeding and the route it takes getting from one to the other. The route may lead to neighbouring properties. 

One way is to quietly position yourself at sunset and watch what happens, rats have regular routines and you will get a fairly good idea of where to place the trap or poison.

An easier way to find out where the rats are going in your house

 A lot easier and quicker way to track rats is to use the fluorescent tracking dust featured here, it is really useful in detecting rat activity. You sprinkle a small amount where you think the rat is active and then when it's dark inspect using an UV torch. The effect is a bit scary seeing how active rats can be during the night. This will confirm entry points to the house and in dry weather can be used in the garden too. 

More information about using Flourescent tracking dust at the bottom of this page or by clicking on the picture. Rats will also leave droppings in the house and remains of nesting materials and food they have carried to the area and this can help locate the rat. Never handle rat droppings as they could contain disease organisms. Always wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly.


How to use rat tracking dust to track where rats enter and go in your house

Finding out how rats get into your property and where they go, to enable you to place the traps in the best place, can be difficult. Sitting and watching in the dark or setting CCTV to record the rats scurrying around you property can work, but by far the easiest way is to use fluorescent tracking dust. The powder shows you exactly where the rats and mice have been and where they are going. 

  • The Rat fluorescent tracking dust works by sticking to the rats feet, as the rat scurries about it deposits tiny particles of fluorescent dust with every step it takes. Each of the rat footprints is then highly visible in simple infra red torchlight. 
  •  It is simple to use, sprinkle a small amount of the luminous dust around the area you think they frequent. This could be where you have seen them, where there have been signs of gnawing, an area with droppings, holes or scratches, etc. 
  • Next evening, wait until it is dark or draw the curtains and using the torch follow the trail of illuminated rat footprints to place your rat traps. Tracking powder can be used outside in dry weather.
  • This rat detection method saves time and money in the long run, as you will know exactly where to block entry holes and place traps. Meaning you won’t waste time placing them in areas where rats never go. You will be able to place traps every 3-5 metres with pinpoint accuracy.  

If you have got an hour to spare, read this online book of the account of the life and experiences of an expert Rat-Catcher named Mr. Ike Mathews who caught rats as a professional for about 25 Years in the 1800s First Published in 1898. 

"In placing before my readers in the following pages the results of my twenty-five years' experience of Rat-catching, Ferreting, etc., I may say that I have always done my best to accomplish every task that I have undertaken, and I have in consequence... more from Ike Mathew's book