How do rats get in the house? How do you know if you have rats? Why are rats a problem?

The Norway Rat and the Roof Rat are the two most common rats that invade homes and they can be very destructive. Following are some of the most common questions about these rodent pests – with answers to your rat problems!

How do I know if I have rats?

Rats are nocturnal – that is, they are most active at night – and they live in hidden areas, so you can have a major rat problem in your home even if you never see any. Because of this, you need to keep an eye – and an ear – out for signs of rodent presence. These include:

  • live or dead rats.
  • droppings, especially around human or pet food or in or around trash areas.
  • noises in the dark, such as scratching sounds from the attic.
  • nests or piled nesting materials in hidden areas.
  • gnawed wires or wood.
  • burrows around the yard; under the home, garage, shed, or other building in the yard.
  • smudge marks along walls.
  • rodent hairs along paths, in nests, or near food.

How do I know if it is a rat, not a mouse?

At 9 to 11 inches long plus tail, rats are much larger than mice. Rat droppings are 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length, but mice droppings are only about 1/4 inch.

What do rats eat?

Rats will eat just about anything, but they prefer grains, meats, and some fruits. Rats eat a lot – about 10% of their body weight every day.

How long will a rat live?

Rats generally live about a year, but they can live much longer if they have warmth, shelter, and food.

I think I found a rat nest, but it is in my attic. Would rats really be there?

Roof rats, as their name indicates, like high places, building their nests outdoors in trees or tall shrubs, and indoors in attics or upper levels of the home. Roof rats are very good climbers and can get into the home by running along tree branches, cables or wires.

Where should I put rat traps?

Traps should be placed where the rats are. Look for signs of nesting, gnawing, and droppings. Place the traps right up against the wall in secluded areas where rats are seeking shelter and along the runways and trails the rats are traveling.

I know I have rats, but my traps aren’t catching them!

Unlike mice, rats are fearful of new things, so they are most likely to avoid a new trap set in their path. If they happen to set it off (but brushing by, sniffing the bait, etc.) without getting caught, they will never come back. Because of this, it is best to place unset, baited traps first. Then when the rats get used to them being there, put new bait in the traps and set the triggers.

What is the best bait for rat traps?

Contrary to popular belief, cheese is not the best bait to use on traps. Dried fruits, unshelled nuts, or even pet food can be attractive to rats. But, be sure to attach the bait to the trap so that the rat cannot remove it without springing the trigger. The bait can be attached by tying it with thread or fine wire or even gluing it in place.

I think I have rats, but I never see any. Why not?

Rats are nocturnal creatures, so they are most active from dusk ’til dawn. If you do see rats during the day, it usually means that the nest has been disturbed or they are hunting for food, or there is a large infestation.

Why are one or two rats a problem?

In a single year, one pair of rats in the home can generate more than 1,500 young! This is because rats as young as three months old can breed and have babies. Each female can have up to 12 babies in each litter and up to seven litters in a year.

How do rats get in my house?

Adult rats can slip through 1/2-inch holes and gaps, and young ones through even smaller spaces. They can squeeze through holes that are much smaller than you would think is possible. Rats will also gnaw on little holes to make them large enough to squeeze through.

What can I do to get rid of rats in my home?

A number of methods of control are addressed in other About Pest Control rat control articles, including:
How to Get Rid of Rats and Mice
Two Step Rat & Mice Control Process

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