Once rats are in a home, they're a challenge to get rid of due to their high intellect and keen abilities. They have lived side by side with humans for centuries, but their presence isn't necessarily a good thing in that they can carry a number of diseases and cause serious damage to structures if left unchecked.

wild rat
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How To Get Rid Of Rats

Secure Your Home's Borders

Rats only need a small amount of space through which to squeeze themselves into your home, so repair any holes that are over a 1/4 inch wide. If you think it's too small a space to provide access, cover it anyway. Openings around doors, windows, attics, basements and vents can all provide a smooth pathway into your living space.

Keep Clean and Carry On

Kitchen areas should be cleaned regularly, as crumbs are a substantial meal for any rat. Food, human or otherwise, should be stored in covered plastic containers, making it impenetrable to vermin. If you're feeding pets outside, make sure to clean up after them and hang bird feeders away from areas that provide an easy climb. Any trash should also be removed from your home daily and covered in a plastic bin outside.

Rats, like humans, need water to survive, so make sure to inspect for leaks and clean any areas where there's standing water both inside and outside your home.

Getting a Rat Out With Lethal and Nonlethal Options

Fatal traps and harsh chemicals, such as poison, can be used to exterminate rats, but there are also more natural, humane ways to get the job done.

Lethal traps have been around for quite some time, but they're not for the faint of heart. Once baited, "snapping" traps will kill a rat instantly. They're traditionally wood or plastic and made for repeated use. Keep small children and animals away from this type of trap as it can injure them. The same goes for glue traps, which stick to the rat when it runs over them. However, their death won't be instant. In fact, glue traps are the least humane of all the options at your disposal.

Electronic traps "zap" a rat who wanders inside. They're killed instantly by the jolt. Make sure to charge the trap batteries before use.

Poisons are very effective against infestations but shouldn't be used in a home with small children or pets. Poisons will kill the rats, but if the rat dies inside a wall or some other unreachable part of your home, it will leave an unbearable stench.

Humane traps are available online and in hardware stores. Put just a little bit of food in this type of trap, and the rat will trip a lever which will shut it inside. Once it's trapped, take it to a field and release it, but make sure it's far enough away so that it doesn't return.

Repel Rats Without Trapping Them

Both man-made and natural rat repellents can head off vermin long before they make a home inside yours.

Peppermint oil is a scent that rats hate. Put it in a spray bottle with water and spray where you believe vermin are congregating, and they'll avoid the area. Peppermint, daffodil and hyacinth plants are useful too, so place as many as you can inside and outside your home to keep rats at a distance.

Sonic repellents plug into any electrical outlet and emit a sound that's like nails on a chalkboard to a rat, causing it to avoid the area. The devices are said to only work, however, if the rat is out in the open. They can still find a place to hide and get away from the sound.

Maintenance is key to keeping rats at bay. Even if you don't see a rat, that doesn't mean it isn't there. By practicing cleanliness and following these simple steps, you'll be free of a potential rat problem sooner than you think.