How can I clear rats from my house and garden.


The following information and answers to frequently asked questions about rats will help you to get rid of rats

  • Why are rats attracted to my home? 
  • What diseases do rats spread?
  • What damage to my home can rats cause?
  • The Pros and Cons of the best ways to get rid of rats.
  • Two tried and tested ways of trapping rats.
  • What you can do to keep them out of your home.
  • Why are rats a problem? 
  • How to use traps to catch rats.
  • How can I find out where the rats are getting in to my home?


Rats in your house or garden are a common problem
I eat electric wiring, carry Weils Disease and crawl over your food

 If you think you have rats in your garden or even your house, you probably have! 


Rats are never far from us humans, we are there source of food and habitat, 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. It is unlikely to be alone either, rats live in extended family groups

 Why are rats attracted to my home and garden? 

Rats are never far from us humans, we are there source of food and habitat, 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. It is unlikely to be alone either, rats live in extended family groups. Whilst staking out a garden where the householder suspected rats might be living I saw about 20 rats all scurrying about together. 

What diseases do rats spread?

Even rats living in the garden cannot be left untreated  Rats cause us many serious problems. The most serious is Weils Disease, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by rats to humans and domestic pets via bacteria in the rats’ urine. Symptoms of Weils Disease (Leptospirosis) NHS

Rats also transmit Salmonellosis, rat-bite fever, listeria, toxoplasmosis and toxacaria to humans.

How is disease transmitted by rats? 

If the Weils bacteria gets into your bloodstream the resulting infection can be fatal if not recognized 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. 

How can rats damage my 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. 

For these reasons 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.

The best ways to get rid of rats from your home and garden?

The best solution is to trap and kill the rats and take action to deter them from coming into your house and garden.

The Pros and Cons of the best ways to get rid of rats. 

  • 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.
  • The most effective method is to deter the rats completely  Over the long-term deterring rats by removing or denying access to all food and shelter is the only permanent solution. More about this later.

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 out find 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.     

8 important facts to know about rats that will help get rid of 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. 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. Rats are poor climbers, but are clever in the ways they get into your home, using ivy and similar climbers to climb in, even using a down pipe as a back rest to climb between the wall and the pipe (see the picture)  Even full-grown rats can squeeze through a 15mm Gap. these are things to bear in mind when securing your home against rats.
  6. What do rats eat? Almost anything we do and more, they are attracted to bird tables and can be seen feeding off the scraps that the birds drop also under decking eating the crumbs and bits we drop. They can be carnivores too killing nesting baby birds for food.
  7.  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. 
  8. You can see why we can't just leave rats to get on with it.

10 things to do that will deter rats from coming in to your home and garden

  1. Rats invaded your home because they found it a safe place  to live and breed, free from predators, plenty of food with places to shelter and bring up their young. Denying them access to food and shelter will go a long way to not having this problem again
  2. If the rats have got into your house find the entry points. Look for broken air-bricks, gaps under doors or in door-frames.
  3. Cut back vegetation they can 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.  
  4. Most access points can be rat-proofed. Air-bricks can be fitted with framed mesh and the gaps at the bottom of doors can be fitted with bristle strips. 
  5. Rats can chew through most things so fit materials that are rat-proof. Check every few weeks for signs of gnawing.
  6. Cutting out the supply of food will make your home less attractive to rats. Keep your bird and pet food in containers and do not over feed the birds
  7. Fit removable panels to decking and other platforms and check underneath regularly.
  8. Remove all rubbish, old planks, settees and sections of galvanised panel, anything rats could shelter under from your garden.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. 

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