February 22, 2018

Rats have made life hard on humans for thousands of years. These nuisance pests invade homes and contaminate living areas with feces, urine, fleas and dander. They transmit viral and bacterial diseases to people and cause property damage as they chew on everything in sight. As people expand communities into the rats' natural habitats, these pests will continue to raid homes and to create problems for residences and businesses alike.

What's the Big Deal With Rats?

If people keep rats as pets, what's the problem with them? Well, let's take a look at history. Rats are disease carriers and responsible for the Black Death, a deadly plague that ravaged most of Asia and Europe in the 1340s. This disease killed more than 20 million people and continued to affect and to kill people for centuries afterward.

We don't have to go all the way back to medieval times to see how rats have negatively impacted people. Today, these rodents transmit numerous diseases to humans both directly and indirectly, such as:

  • Hantavirus
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis
  • Rat-bite fever
  • Salmonella

Rats also spread other diseases to people, including the plague and Colorado tick fever. In fact, domesticated rats are known to harbor the bubonic plague. Though it's rare, there's always a chance to come into contact with an infected rat whether it's wild or a pet.

Some people believe that you can only get a disease from a rat if you get bitten or touch its feces or urine. However, most people contract hantavirus by inhaling contaminated dust. The rats will defecate in the dust, which gets swept up with a broom or circulated throughout a ventilation system. Before you know it, you've inhaled the dust and become infected with a viral disease.

How to Identify Common Rat Species

With 51 rat species in the world, you're bound to run into at least one or two wherever you live. We're not going to cover every species that exists on the planet. Instead, we'll dive into three of the most common rat species that you'll encounter in and around homes and businesses. It pays to know how to identify rats so that you can understand which treatments to use when eliminating them.

Norway Rats

The Norway rat is one of the most common species in the world. It's known by many names, including barn rat, sewer rat, house rat and brown rat. It has many defining characteristics:

  • Brown or gray fur
  • Shaggy coat
  • Scaly ears and tail
  • Shorter tail
  • Small eyes and ears

This rodent grows up to 16 inches in length and produces up to 50 droppings in one day. Even if you can't see a Norway rat, you can identify it by its feces, which are about 3/4 inches in length and rectangular in shape with blunt ends. You might have a difficult time locating this rat since it's nocturnal and prefers to stay out of sight during the day.

Roof Rats

The roof rat is quite common in homes and businesses and goes by many names such as black rat and ship rat. It stays on the lookout for food and water and hides in attics and other high areas in buildings. You can tell a roof rat by the following characteristics:

  • Black or brown fur
  • Long, scaly tail
  • Pointed nose
  • Large eyes and ears
  • Small, slender body
  • Smooth fur

Roof rats are smaller than Norway rats and prefer to eat fruits. However, they're omnivorous and will feed on most anything that's available to them. They grow up to 14 or 15 inches in length and produce between 40 and 50 droppings per day; the droppings are small and curved with pointed ends. Roof rats emit a musty odor and make unusual noises as they scurry around in attics, roofs, trees and other high places.


The woodrat is another common rodent and is attracted to shiny objects, which it will steal and take back to its nest. This thieving characteristic earns it the name "packrat" as it steals trinkets from interiors and exteriors. You can identify a woodrat by its:

  • Brown, black or gray fur
  • Rounded body
  • Bulging eyes
  • Long, soft fur
  • Large ears

It grows to 7 inches in length but weighs the same as a Norway rat. Because of its chubby appearance, many professionals call the woodrat a giant hamster. The woodrat leaves behind piles of oval-shaped droppings in areas as it travels inside and outside. It's an omnivore and eats everything from seeds to other small mammals. It prefers to build its nest indoors and find its food outdoors.

Big Rodents Equal Big Problems

It's not the size of the rodent that counts. It's the number of young that it produces in a lifetime. For instance, a female Norway rat breeds up to 12 times in a year, producing as many as 22 young each time. It only takes two months for a Norway rat to reach maturity. If a few rats have invaded your interior space, it will only take a few months before you have a complete infestation on your hands.

Woodrats reach sexual maturity in less than three months and may have up to four litters per year. Although a female only has between two and four young per litter, the total number of offspring adds up quickly in a single year. Once rats infiltrate your property, you have more than health risks to think about.

Rats Cause Property Damage

Numerous rat species are active mostly at night. However, it's common to see the juveniles roam around during the day. Whether it's the adults or young rats, they cause massive property damage over time. Rats, like all rodents, have teeth that continue to grow even as adults. If they don't gnaw on hard objects every day, their teeth could grow and cause health problems such as difficulty eating. Their teeth can even grow into their bottom jaws and cause death.

Rats will chew on most anything in the vicinity. If they're outdoors, they'll gnaw on tree trunks, barn walls, wood planks and other random objects. When they come inside, their gnawing can lead to costly repairs. They'll gnaw on furniture, walls, cabinets and boxes. The rats will also chew through wires, which could lead to short circuits and fires in the attic or behind the walls.

In addition, rat droppings and urine contaminate interior spaces. It costs money to replace urine-soaked cabinetry and to clean the droppings out of the walls and other areas. You may have to hire a professional cleanup service to handle the contamination or else put yourself at risk of contracting a rodent-borne disease. When it comes to rodents, the only solution is to eliminate them before they get out of control.

Rat Prevention: Sanitizing Interior and Exterior Spaces

Before you eliminate the rats, it's best to sanitize and to cleanup the interior and exterior spaces. Even if you get rid of one infestation, another one will pop up in the right conditions. It's important to take away their food and water sources, including any areas where they're likely to build nests and to raise young.


Indoor Rat-Prevention Tips

  • Minimize the clutter to take away rodent nesting sites.
  • Keep the lid on the trash bin at all times.
  • Cleanup the kitchen after every meal to prevent crumbs and sticky spots.
  • Seal any cracks and crevices leading to the outdoors to plug up rodent entryways.
  • Transfer boxed goods to plastic containers to keep out rodents.
  • Put away the pet's food bowls at night.

Outdoor Rat-Prevention Tips

  • Pick up the debris in the yard to prevent rodents from nesting beneath it.
  • Keep the trash bin closed and sealed to keep out rodents and other pests.
  • Place wood piles farther from the house to keep rodents away from the foundation.
  • Inspect the exterior for cracks, gaps and small entryways for rats to pass through.
  • Seal the cracks and crevices with foam or silicone sealant.
  • Keep the lawn mowed and the shrubs trimmed
  • Cut back any tree limbs that contact the house.


Rat Elimination: Baits, Glue Boards and Traps

You have many treatment methods to choose from when dealing with rats. Whether it's two rats or a widespread infestation, you need to act quickly before these rodents completely take over your home and property. Baits, glue boards and snap traps are three common treatment options for capturing and killing these disease-carrying pests.

Rodenticide Baits

Rodenticide bait blocks contain poison and give the rats something to chew on. Bait blocks are usually flavored with peanut butter or some other food, luring the rats to feed. They can gnaw on the blocks to wear down their teeth while eating something to fill their bellies. Rodenticide baits contain diphacinone and other poisons, which prevent the rats from feeding and slowly kill the rodents. Some popular bait blocks include:

  • JT Eaton bait block rodenticide
  • Contrac Blox rodenticide
  • Fastrac All-Weather Blox

The best way to use bait blocks is to place them in baiting stations such as the Protecta rat bait station. You'll want to set them out every 12 to 25 feet on your property. The bait stations not only keep the bait fresh but also prevent children and nontarget pests from tampering with the poison. Some bait stations trap the rats without harming them, allowing you to catch and release the rodents in the wild far away from your property.


Snap Traps

Snap traps quickly capture and kill the rats as soon as they touch the trigger pedal. These effective rodent control products come in many different sizes and materials, from wood-based traps to heavy-duty plastic models. A snap trap has a trigger pedal with a center cup. You can place different food baits in the cup to lure the rats, such as peanut butter, cheese or gumdrops. When the rat takes the bait, the trigger releases the trap. The wire or plastic trap comes down quickly on the rat, killing it instantly in most cases.

Some of the more common rat snap traps to use include the Trapper T-Rex rat trap and other wood-based models from Victor. Set the snap traps in areas where rats travel, hide or enter, such as:

  • Inside crawlspaces
  • In corners
  • Along baseboards
  • In attics and basements


Glue Boards

Glue boards come in handy for those times when you can't use poisons or snap traps. These products consist of a rectangular board with a glue surface. The glue is scented or flavored with peanut butter and captures rats with the slightest touch. If the rats struggle, their bodies become more stuck to the surface, keeping them trapped until they die or you can remove them.

Note: It's not always possible to remove a rat from the glue board. Therefore, you may have to kill the rat in a humane way if it has not died by the time you check the glue board.

Place the glue boards in areas where rat activity is high or in places where the rodents enter or exit your home or property. Make sure to place the boards out of the reach of children and pets to prevent tampering with the glue. You can also set the boards in rat bait stations to keep dust and debris from rendering the glue ineffective. The stations will also prevent children and other animals from tampering with these pest control products.

If you want to catch the rats with glue boards, try the following products indoors or outdoors:

  • Catchmaster MaxCatch giant glue boards
  • Trapper rat glue board traps
  • Catchmaster 48WRG cold-temperature glue boards
  • Catchmaster 72TC glue boards

Another major benefit of using glue boards is the ability to catch other pests. Glue boards can capture everything from rats and insects to snakes and lizards. Therefore, if you have a multipest infestation, place a few glue boards indoors and outdoors, and get rid of the nuisance pests all with one product.

Controlling Rat Infestations. How to keep Rats Away

Although bait blocks, snap traps and glue boards provide curative rat control, they also help you to prevent future infestations. Just because you get rid of one infestation doesn't mean that another one won't happen in a few weeks or months from now. Prevention is the key to keeping rats out of your home and property. You'll want to continue using the glue boards or other products even after you no longer see the rats or notice the signs.

Because glue traps are nontoxic and don't pose a risk to the environment, you should keep a few boards in pest-prone areas just in case. You can always check them once per week or so and monitor the pest activity more effectively. Once you have control of the situation, you can scale back your pest control efforts and perform preventative checks every two or three months.

DIY Rat Control With Pedchem

You don't always have to call in the professionals when rats invade your property. With the right treatments, you can check for and monitor rat activity while setting up curative traps, baits and glue boards to remove the pests. Pedchem provides numerous rat control products for do-it-yourself pest control and professionals in the field. Whether you're eliminating an existing infestation or preventing one in the future, rely on the many rodent control products available online at Pedchem.

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