Pair of Brown Rats

The Expert Guide on How to Get Rid of Rats Yourself

Discovering rats in your home or workplace can be a terrifying experience. When invading your home, these unwelcome pests don't just cause distress but can also spread disease, and damage your property. With rats able to breed rather prolifically, producing between 15 and 100 offspring per year, if you notice any signs of rats, it's crucial to do something quickly before it gets out of hand.

Although some third-party services like pest control service companies and your local authority may provide rat control services, they often charge high fees. Getting rid of rats yourself may seem a bit daunting, however with the right products and some sound advice from our team at, you can address your rat situation yourself in a quick and cost-effective manner.

This expert guide on how to get rid of rats yourself provides everything you need to know. From understanding rat behaviour to spotting signs of a rat infestation, to choosing the right DIY rat control products you use immediately, we've got you covered.

Are Rats Dangerous?

Rats present a significant threat to human health and property. The following are some of the most significant risks posed by rats:

Disease Transmission

Rats are historically infamous for spreading bubonic plague. Rats carry lice, fleas, and ticks and are a danger to your health, particularly when they are indoors and accessing your kitchen in search of food.

Most diseases are transmitted through their urine; you may contract Weil's disease, Salmonella, Listeria, Hantavirus, and Toxoplasma gondii from rats, all of which can make you quite ill if not treated promptly. Some people are allergic to dander, and the presence of rats in your home can cause asthma attacks and other allergic reactions.

Allergic Reactions and Respiratory Issues

Similar to mice, the dander, urine, and droppings of rats can trigger allergic reactions and exacerbate conditions like asthma. The allergens present can lead to respiratory distress, making it essential to address rat infestations promptly.

Food Contamination

Rats are opportunistic feeders and will readily contaminate food sources within homes and businesses. Their feeding habits not only lead to the direct loss of food but also pose a risk of foodborne illnesses such as food poisoning if contaminated food is unknowingly consumed.

Electrical and Structural Damage

Rats are destructive little creatures. They gnaw through wooden doors and window frames or through the struts in your roof. They gnaw the rubber casing around electrical cables and have been known to make holes in the rubber parts of car engines. This is all done stealthily, while you are away from home or fast asleep, and often it is not discovered until something stops working or you find a small heap of unexplained wood shavings.

Five risks to humans from rats

Types of Rats

Many estimates put the UK rat population at over 100 million which is significantly higher than the human population.

There are only two species of rats found in Britain, namely the brown rat (rattus norvegicus), and the black rat (rattus rattus).

Brown Rats

Brown rats, also known as common rats or Norweigian rats, are by far the most common type of rat in the UK. They are greyish-brown in colour and have a slanted head with a blunt nose, small hair-covered ears, and a hairless tail that is shorter than their body length.

They are the largest species of rats in the UK with sturdy bodies, sometimes weighing over half a kilo and measuring 23cm (without the tail). They like to live in places that provide food, shelter and water such as sewers, gardens and houses. Brown rats are skilled climbers and swimmers, and are not averse to crawling through sewers to get to your house.

Black Rats

Black rats are not as common anymore and are found mainly in coastal towns where they frequent dock areas. They are black to light brown in colour with a lighter underside, have a pointed nose, large hairless ears, and a thin tail that is longer than their body.

They are smaller of the two species of rats in the UK with lean bodies, weighing around 0.5kg and measuring 15cm (without the tail). They are very agile and quite often make themselves at home in roofs and attics, therefore they are more challenging to detect and manage.

Type of rats

Rat Behaviour

Why Do Rats Enter Our Homes?

Rats are driven by similar basic needs as mice, seeking out warmth, shelter, and food, which often leads them into our homes, particularly as the weather turns colder. Their ability to contort and squeeze through small spaces, sometimes as narrow as a 15mm, allows them access through various entry points. Common access routes for rats include breaches in building exteriors, such as foundation cracks, gaps around doors and windows, and openings in roofs or basements.

Rat entering the house

Where Do Rats Live Inside Our Homes?

Upon gaining entry, rats establish their nests in secluded areas that offer proximity to food sources and protection from predators. They are adept at creating nests from shredded materials found within the home, favoring locations such as wall voids, attic spaces, under floors, within cluttered rooms or garages, behind or beneath appliances, and inside furniture cavities. Rats are nocturnal creatures, spending the day hidden within these nests and emerging at night to forage.

What Do Rats Eat?

Rats are not picky eaters and will consume a wide range of foods, making them omnivorous opportunists. In their natural habitats, their diet can include seeds, grains, nuts, fruits, insects, and even small animals. However, once inside human dwellings, they will eat almost anything available, from kitchen scraps and pantry goods to pet food and rubbish waste. Rats typically find the moisture they need from their food but will seek out water sources if their diet is particularly dry.

Rats have a particular preference for high-nutrient foods, such as meats, nuts, and grains, but will not hesitate to consume whatever they come across, often leading to the contamination of food supplies.

Hungry rat eating

Why Do Rats Gnaw So Much?

Rats gnaw incessantly to keep their continuously growing incisors at a manageable length. This compulsive behavior leads to them chewing on a variety of non-food items, including but not limited to wood, plastic, paper, cloth, and even electrical wiring. Failure to gnaw would result in their teeth growing to the point where they could no longer feed effectively.

How Long Do Rats Live For?

The lifespan of a rat varies by species and environmental conditions. Wild rats typically live around one to two years due to predation and challenging living conditions, but in sheltered environments like homes, they can survive up to three years. Factors such as ample food, lack of predators, and warm nesting sites can significantly extend their lifespan. Despite their relatively short life cycle, rats' prolific breeding habits ensure their populations remain robust over time.

How Quickly Do Rats Breed?

Rats are known for their high fertility and rapid reproduction rates. A female rat reaches sexual maturity within a few weeks of birth and can produce multiple litters each year, each containing up to 12 pups after a gestation period of about 21-24 days. This rapid breeding cycle can quickly escalate a minor rat presence into a severe infestation if not promptly and effectively addressed.

Baby rats

Identifying Signs of a Rat Infestation

Because rats are nocturnal creatures, they are not always visible, and it may take weeks to realise that you have a rat problem.

Rat Droppings

Rat infestations are noticeable when you begin to see droppings in your home. Droppings are black and very similar in shape to a grain of rice, but slightly larger. You may also notice the unpleasant smell of rat urine.

Gnawing Marks

You may notice signs of gnawing as they search for food and nesting material. Rats like to make their nests out of shredded cardboard, fabric, foam rubber, and anything else that is soft enough. They also have a need to gnaw in order to keep their front incisors worn down, so they chew wood and plastic and will even resort to chewing the insulation around electric cables.

Rat gnawing cable

Scratching and Scurrying Noises

Rats make scratching and scurrying noises particularly at night. If you hear squeaking and squealing, it may mean that they already have a nest of babies, and it's time to act. Similarly, you may also hear them grinding their teeth and chattering when nervous.

Footprints and Marks

Look out for footprints and tail marks, especially in dusty and less clean areas. Rats have poor eyesight, and as a result, will run alongside your skirting boards when making their way around the house. If you notice dirty marks along the skirting board or nearby, it could also be an indication of rats. However, it may be an old mark, as their fur is oily and the mark is not likely to rub off easily, so there is no guarantee they will still be around.

Rat footprints

Preventing Rats in Your House

Once you have identified a rat infestation, or if you aim to prevent one in the future, it's crucial to ensure that your home is rat-proof. Identify their entry points, maintain cleanliness, and manage your outdoor space effectively. Such actions, will prevent new rats from getting into your home.

Identify and Seal Entry Points

To begin with, find and seal cracks and holes around the exterior of your house. Wide cracks can be sealed using expandable foam, and open pipes and gutters can be blocked off using steel mesh. Check and fix broken roof shingles. Check beneath the windowsills and beneath the eaves. Remove branches that are close to or touching the roof. Add door sweeps to the gaps beneath the outside doors. Do regular checks to make sure that these remedies are still in place.

Maintain Cleanliness

In built-up areas, rat infestations are more prevalent due to the availability of food in homes and in dustbins, for example. Make sure food is properly stored, preferably in glass or metal containers, and that waste bins are tightly closed. Pet food that hasn't been eaten needs to be stored or disposed of. Rats like clutter, keep your home tidy and close all cupboard doors.

Cleaning indoors

Manage Outdoor Space

Keep your garden clean too: rats love compost heaps, so a tip is to keep it free of kitchen waste, such as vegetable peels, and water the compost regularly to make it uncomfortable for a family of rats to move in. They will nest in a stack of wood piled up in a corner or make holes beneath sheds and wooden decks. The less garden debris you have lying around, the easier it will be to monitor for rat infestations.

Rats are driven by food. They will live in your garden if there is a regular supply of birdseed or dog food available. They love a well-stocked vegetable garden, so you may need to secure your veggies with wire mesh to keep them out.

Remove woodpiles, building rubble, and other unnecessary heaps that may be lying around your garden. Keep lawns short and trim large shrubs regularly.

Rat Control: Catching Rats with Traps

Let's take a look at the various options for trapping and removing rats in your home or workplace. We shall cover the different types of rat traps, when you might want to use them, and some tips on how to effectively catch rats.

Different Types of Rat Traps

Snap Rat Traps

Snap traps are what many people think of when they hear the term rat trap. They involve leaving food bait in a snap trap close to where rats are known to roam. When the food bait is taken, the snap bar is activated. The bar is attached to a strong spring that, which when released, has the power to crush the rat, usually breaking its neck or back. This is quick and usually lethal.

Well built traps that work properly are very effective at killing the rats quickly and therefore can be considered humane, however some cheaper traps are less effective so you must pick carefully.

Snap traps are simple-to-use, non-toxic and cost effective rat trap solutions. They also have the advantage of being reusable, however many people prefer to throw them out with the rat, creating waste.

The main drawbacks of using snap traps are the risk of risk of injury when you set them up, risk of injury to pets or young children. To counteract this, you may wish to consider using a lockable bait station that has space to accommodate a snap trap.

Snap traps also run the risk of misfiring, injuring rather than killing the rat. 

Rat snap trap

Live Rat Traps

Live rat traps including cages are ideal for people who are seeking a non-lethal solution to remove brown rats. Similar to other traps, live rat traps use food baits to entice rats, triggering a door to snap shut and locking the rat inside. After capture, the rat can be released into the wild again, usually 2-3 miles away to stop them returning.

The key advantages of live rat traps are that they do not kill the rat, and often mean you can remove it without direct contact or visibility. They are also preferred choices around young children and pets.

The main disadvantage of live rat traps is that you can typically only catch one rat at a time. Given the required time commitment to release rats, this makes them less effective during widespread infestations. You will also need to check the trap regularly, as rats can die if left too long. It is illegal to use live rat traps to capture and release the rarer black rat without license.

Live rat trap

Rat Zapper Stations

Rat zapper stations are humane traps that kill rats in seconds by delivering a high-voltage electric shock. Similar to other rat traps, zapper stations require a bait to entice rats who activate an electric circuit when they step on the plate.

They have the advantage of being very user-friendly as you'll need to place the bait inside and in some cases plug it into the mains. The other advantage is that many zapper stations do not require you to see or touch the dead rat once it has been caught has it happens in an easily removable kill chamber.

The main disadvantage of rat zapper stations is that they are rather expensive compared to non-electrical methods such as snap traps.

Glue Rat Traps

Glue traps consist of a board with an adhesive substance. When the rat walks over one of these traps, it will stick to the track and remain there until it is physically removed or until it dies of thirst or hypothermia. This is the least humane option and will be banned from general public use in the UK from April 2024.

Rats tend to be suspicious and avoid foreign objects that make a sudden appearance, so it may take some time for them to get used to the trap you have set. You need patience and some cunning to place it in the ideal location.

Best Practices for Setting Up Rat Traps

  • Wear gloves throughout as rats can detect your scent on traps you've handled and food you've prepared, and may stay away as a result.
  • The right bait can make all the difference. Rats are omnivores and love everything from seeds and nuts to meat and fish and even sweets.
  • A pea-sized amount of bait is ideal for snap traps, and any more might allow the rat to steal some without setting off the trap.
  • Place traps along walls or near potential entry points, since rats usually scurry along edges rather than dart across open space.
  • Place traps at right angles to the wall so they can be triggered from both directions.
  • Set traps every 50-100cm in areas where there's been signs of rat activity.
  • Set up as many rat traps as possible on the first night, as they become more aware of traps over time and may start to avoid them.
  • Remember, safety is key – keep traps out of reach of pets and children. To this extent, you may wish to consider using a lockable bait station that has space to accommodate a snap trap.

How to Dispose of Trapped Rats

The first and most important rule is never touch a rat with your bare hands. Always use gloves, preferably the disposable type, unless the rat is still alive and likely to bite you, in which case a pair of welding gloves may be safer.

Pick up dead rats with tongs or a shovel, and, still wearing your gloves, place the rat in a plastic bag, seal it, place it in a second bag, and throw it in the bin.

If a rat is caught in a trap and is still alive, a hard blow to the head should kill it. If the rat is still alive and uninjured and you don't have the heart to kill it, transport it out into the wild and set it free.

Disinfect all surfaces that may have been contaminated by swabbing them with a strong disinfectant. Remember that rat urine can get into the smallest of spaces. Throw away or disinfect the traps before storing them for further use.

Using Ultrasonic Rat Repellents

An ultrasonic pest repellent emits a high-pitched sound that's inaudible to humans but causes discomfort to rats, driving them away. The unit is usually plugged into a power outlet in the home, but battery-powered repellents can be sourced for use in places without electricity. Their effectiveness can be disrupted by walls and furniture, so it's best to place them in a position that is accessible to the infested area or place of entrance.

The jury is still out on this type of pest control, however. Your pets may also be affected by ultrasonic sounds, and unlike pests, they are confined to your home and cannot leave. There is concern that they may suffer from long-term neurological problems if subjected to frequent ultrasonic sounds. Low-frequency sounds have been known to affect some people too.

Using Chemical Rat Solutions

Chemical solutions for rats include rodenticides which are poisons that are specifically made to kill rats; however, they may also kill other mammals such as squirrels. They usually take the form of bait and are flavoured with substances like fish oil and peanut butter. The most important thing is to keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

Rodenticides have different effects on rats, depending on the ingredients. Some are anticoagulants that prohibit the recycling or production of vitamin K in their bodies, preventing the clotting of blood and eventually causing internal haemorrhaging and death.

Various rodenticides that are not anticoagulants affect rodents in different ways, causing either paralysis, a breakdown of the central nervous system, or restriction of the natural functioning of the body. Examples of these ingredients are bromethalin, cholecalciferol, zinc phosphide, and strychnine.

There are times when poison or chemical repellents might become the most effective solution:

  • When rat populations are widespread or escalating quickly, and proving difficult to control
  • If rats have become savvy to traditional traps or avoidance measures.
  • In environments where food sources are abundant and difficult to control.
  • To prevent the spread of disease in high-risk areas, such as food storage facilities.
Rat poison traps

Safety Considerations When Using Chemicals

When considering how to get rid of rats, several methods, including traps and natural deterrents should be considered. Using chemicals such as rodenticides is not a choice to be made lightly as they can pose significant risks to people, pets and the environment. All rodenticides are toxic when eaten, and some are toxic when inhaled or when they come into contact with the skin. Here are some essential safety tips you must follow:

Read and Follow Instructions

Manufacturer guidelines are there for a reason, to ensure your safety and the effectiveness of the product. Follow them to the letter.

Wear Protective Gear

Gloves, masks, and even eye protection are important when handling chemicals.

Safe Placement

Ensure chemicals are placed in areas inaccessible to children and pets (e.g. using tamper-resistant bait stations).

Monitor Regularly

Check bait stations frequently for signs of activity and to discard deceased rodents properly.

Know the Risks

Be aware that dead rats can also pose health risks; they may carry the poison in their bodies, presenting secondary poisoning risks to predators.

How to Get Rid of Rats in the Garden

A common question we receive is how to get rid of rats in the garden. This is because as well as in homes, rats can cause a lot of problem in your outdoor spaces too.

When you see signs of a nest outdoors, seal it off with steel wool and seal it off with silicone or spray foam to secure it. Patch larger holes with sheet metal and seal off holes in garages and outdoor sheds. Install metal pipe guards around gutters and bathroom pipes to prevent rats from climbing onto the roof or into windows.

For smaller infestations, rat traps can be set in the same way you would set them in your home, taking care to keep them out of reach of children and pets.

Fumigants in tablet form can be placed in rat burrows. When activated, they release a poisonous gas that will kill rats. These are suitable for larger rat populations, but it is important to note that fumigants are highly toxic and need to be handled with extreme care. They may not be available in your area due to legislation, in which case, would only be permitted for use by a pest control professional.

When to Use Professional Pest Control Services for Rats

You have tried setting traps without success. The rats aren’t even taking the poison you have left lying around, and yet, they are still breaking into your kitchen at night and leaving their unwelcome signs behind.

It’s time to call in the experts. If a rat infestation is out of control, it is not going to be easy to get rid of them, particularly as their breeding pattern is quite robust.

You may just want a professional opinion on where the rats are hiding and the extent of the problem. Alternatively, rat exterminators can set traps or use whatever methods of pest control they think are best in your situation and then advise you on how to maintain a rat-free environment.

Final Thoughts

We recommend that you try to deal with rats in your home and garden safely and humanely wherever possible. It depends on the extent of the problem and where the rats are situated as to which method would be the most effective. Smaller infestations would require the setting of a couple of traps, but larger ones require fumigation or the use of chemical baits that can be carried off into a rat nest.

Always exercise caution when handling rats and equipment, making sure that you, your family, and any other animals in the environment are not at risk.

Once you have eliminated your rat problem, do regular maintenance around your home to make sure there are no cracks or potential nesting sites, and be vigilant at all times.

We go to great lengths to ensure that all our DIY rat control products are effective, safe & easy-to-use.

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