How to Get Rid of Rats

Here's how to prevent rodents in your home, plus what to do if they've already come to visit.

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June 29, 2021

Ratatouille is such a cute movie, but you likely don’t want your own “little chef” and his extended family hanging out in your kitchen. In real life, rats pose several dangers to your home and health. These critters can do some serious damage to a home’s infrastructure, from ruining pipes to destroying walls to chewing through electrical wires. Rats also affect your home’s indoor air quality, from harboring diseases that can be transmitted via pathogens to leaving fecal droppings that can be severe for those with asthma or allergies. Yep, it’s pretty yucky all around. Whether you want to prevent rats or you’ve already seen a rat in your house and need to kick it out ASAP, we’ve got you covered. Read on to see which solution is best for your home.

Mice vs. Rats

It’s important to know whether you have a mouse problem or a rat problem, since the difference will determine what you buy. Some products claim they work for both, but there’s a humane factor to consider when shopping for traps. Rats are larger and stronger than mice. Remember Pizza Rat? Yeah, rats are tough. Mousetraps are not as large or forceful as rat traps, so, if a rat is caught in a mousetrap, it won’t kill it. The rat just gets stuck or injured and then it has to wait and suffer unnecessarily until it finally dies. That is not what you want.

Rats 101

When getting rid of rats, you have some options. There are all kinds of products, from natural repellants to heavy-duty traps. The three most popular traps are live, snap and bait. A live trap is a small cage — similar to a dog crate — that lets you catch and release the rat outside. A snap trap is the most budget-friendly and humane kill trap because once the lever is triggered, the rat dies instantly. And a bait trap is the end-all, Plan C. These traps come in various shapes and sizes but typically feature a plastic shell that houses a poisonous food pellet. Additionally, we do not recommend glue traps or sticky boards for rats. It’s the least humane type of kill trap as it does not kill instantly.

Natural Solutions

The best way to keep a home uninviting for rats is to keep your kitchen clean and tidy. Vacuum regularly. Keep the kitchen sink clean and free of dirty dishes. And stay on top of crumbs on the counters and along cabinet baseboards. Also, be sure to check around your kitchen trash can regularly especially if your trash can is under the sink in a cabinet and make sure food scraps or other trash hasn’t spilled into the back of a cabinet, as this would be a rat’s dream. Beyond cleaning, there are a couple of natural repellents and products you can use inside and outside to ward off rats. The most popular is peppermint oil. You can soak essential oil on cotton swabs and place them around your home, but there are also pre-mixed solutions on the market such as Mighty Mint’s peppermint spray. However, this isn’t an option if you have pets, as peppermint oil is poisonous to dogs and cats. For a perimeter solution outside, rats can’t take the heat. Sprinkle ground cayenne pepper around your home’s exterior to deter them. This also works for raccoons and other pests in your garden.

Best Live Trap

Of all the various rat traps, a live trap is ideal as it doesn’t kill the rat. This tiny cage has two-way doors so you can easily catch and release a rat outside preferably far away from your home. And you might want to invest in some natural repellant options after releasing the rat to make sure it doesn’t come back. This two-pack from Harris is top-rated and the reviews praise its easy-to-use design. However, if you live in a city and don’t have access to woodlands or a nearby meadow, you might not be able to go this route.

Best Snap Trap

A simple snap trap is both budget-friendly and the most humane way to kill a rat. These are just like your basic mouse traps with a lever triggered by pressure, but a rat snap trap is more sturdy and has more force to kill a rat instantly versus a small mouse. This plastic Victor trap has top reviews over traditional wooden models. And it's less than $5.

Best Bait Trap

If you have pets or toddlers, a snap trap isn’t the best option as it’s …. on display. For something concealed and hand- and paw-proof, a bait trap is your best bet. This Tomcat Rat Killer features a refillable bait station and a clear window to see when you need to replace the bait and check the trap. It's also weatherproof and a great option for garages and basements.

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