Humans have a weird relationship with rats. Domesticated rats are deemed as adorable, but wild rats have a shocking reputation as carriers of disease. Does that automatically mean they deserve to die a painful, miserable death? Of course not, which is why I decided to write a post on how to get rid of rats humanely.
Many will question whether or not you can get rid of rats without killing them and, sadly, in some instances extermination may be necessary. In a number of cases, however, humane removal of rats is indeed possible, so that’s what we’re going to concentrate on today.
There is a caveat, though. Removing rats from your home humanely takes a great deal of effort, and sometimes humane trapping methods result in the most inhumane deaths for rodents if you’re not on top of the problem and willing to put the time in. More on that later.
First, though, let’s take a quick look at why wild rats aren’t really welcome in our homes.
Why rodents are bad news in the home
There are numerous reasons why you’ll want to keep your home rat-free, not least of which is their ability to carry disease. Things like hantaviruses and Leptospirosis (AKA Weil’s disease) are no joke and can be easily transferred from rodents to humans via contaminated food, water, and even dust! (1, 2, 3)
Rodents can also cause allergic reactions in some humans, such as skin outbreaks and allergic rhinitis. There are three key allergens that rats produce: urine, saliva, and dander (the dead skin cells rats shed whilst grooming). (4, 5)
Rodent problems don’t end with health issues, either; a rat infestation can cause damage to your home, too! Not only will they chew just about anything, causing damage to wooden beams, insulation, and drywalls, they’ll also have a good go at your home’s wiring as well. (6)
This gnawing will often leave electric wires exposed as they strip the insulation from them, which in turn can lead to fires in the home. Not good.
Why do rats come in the house anyway?
There are two main reasons why rats will enter your property: food and shelter. Homes are more susceptible to intruders during winter months for this very reason; food is in short supply and the warmth of your property is quite the draw for any self-respecting rodent.
So, with this in mind, what are the best ways to stop rats from entering your property?
Rat prevention is better than cure: rat-proof your home!
Instead of waiting until it’s too late and then wondering how to get rid of rats from your home, why not make your property unattractive to them in the first place?
Here are 8 ways to effectively rodent-proof your home and keep rats away:
Do away with clutter
Rats are quite secretive creatures, so they love having lots of places to hide and stay out of sight. Reducing the amount of clutter in your home will naturally lower the amount of places for them to conceal themselves and, therefore, make your property less appealing.
This should extend past your living quarters and include areas such as sheds and garages close to your home. Attics, too, are prime areas for rodents to seek out, so keep these as uncluttered as possible if you want to make your home less appealing to those little squeakers.
Keep your home clean
Now, this isn’t playing to the common misconception that rats are dirty animals, they’re not, but a dirty home will be a far more attractive place than a clean one, largely because of easy access to food.
Crumbs and tiny morsels on the floor will attract the first foray, as will uncovered trash cans, and this will lead to further investigation as the critters seek out more food.
This leads us nicely to our next rat-proofing point…
Store food securely
Use metal or glass containers wherever possible, as these will stop any intruders from gnawing their way into your food supplies. Cardboard boxes and plastic bags are no problem for rats, and even plastic containers will give way to those impressive teeth eventually, so metal and glass are the way to go.
It’s also important to ensure that said containers have tight fitting lids as well. Rats are extremely intelligent and inquisitive animals, so a loose lid will prove no deterrent to a hungry rodent on the prowl.
Make sure these precautionary measure extend to your pet supplies, too. Be sure to clean up all traces of cat or dog food (even vegan dog food!) as soon as your pet has finished eating. Granted, leftover scraps are not an issue with most dogs, but just be aware of how attractive even the tiniest of morsels can be to a roving rodent.
Keep your pet food in tightly sealed containers and try and elevate them wherever possible as well. While rodents are perfectly capable of getting up to shelving, keeping food off of the floor will add an extra layer of difficulty for them to surmount and they may choose an easier target instead. They are opportunistic creatures, after all.
Check for holes and seal all entry points
This can be easier said than done, but it will be one of the most effective measure you can take to keep rats out of your home. Unbelievably, even a decent size rodent can gain access to your home through a hole the size of a quarter (just 0.995 inches in diameter!), so leave no hole unsealed.
Don’t believe me? Check out the video below!
Same goes for cracks and suchlike. Seal anywhere you can visibly see a gap or even where you can feel a draft, especially underneath doors. Specialized pest control door sweeps can provide a decent barrier to entry that help deter unwanted visitors.
If you really go to town on this point you’ll benefit in other ways, too. Fewer gaps and holes mean a more energy efficient home, which will mean a warmer property with lower energy bills. Bonus!
Finally, if you have a chimney you should really seal that up as well. Obviously, I’m not talking about blocking the flue! You can buy a device called a chimney cap that fits on top of the stack. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an unnecessary step…rats are supreme climbers! While on the roof, check for other entry points, too.
Cut back trees and hedges
Further to the climbing point mentioned above, it’s a good idea to keep any trees or hedges which are close to your property trimmed back. Having long branches that touch, or even come close to, your property is asking for trouble, as you’ll effectively be creating a pathway to your roof.
This little fellow shows just how effortlessly a rat can scale a tree, but he’s not so sure about swinging on the bird-feeder!
Rat-proof your pipes
Another easy climbing frame is your external pipework. Thankfully, there are two easy tricks you can employ to stop Ratty in his tracks without causing him any harm.
First, you can paint your pipe with smooth, high-gloss paint to prevent the critter from gaining purchase whilst attempting to scale your drainpipe.
Second, you can add a cone-like guard to your pipework to stop them getting above a certain point. These are frequently used on bird feeders to stop squirrels stealing the bird-feed, but they work equally well if installed properly on external pipework.
Paint your house
What? How on earth is decorating going to stop rats getting in your home? I’m not talking about inside, but outside. Again, using a high-gloss paint on your brickwork or stone exterior will help prevent rodents climbing your walls.
You don’t need to paint the whole house, just a band about 18 inches deep around the property will do the trick. Just make sure you position said band at least three feet from the floor…rats may well jump above it otherwise!
Don’t think a rat can climb a vertical wall? Take a look at the start of the video below! You’ll clearly see the little chap scaling the wall before opting for the easier option of using the wires and pipes.
Keep your garden in good shape
Staying on top of your landscaping duties will also help keep rats out of your home by keeping them away from the perimeter of your property. Make sure there aren’t too many overgrown areas for rats to find shelter in and keep clutter to a minimum outside the home as well inside.
If you have a compost heap, be sure to keep it as far away from the property as you possibly can. Be aware that food scraps will attract ratty to your heap, so you might want to rethink the way you compost.
I’d recommend a compost tumbler and would strongly advise against placing animal-based foods in there – something us vegans won’t have to worry about – as things such as meat and fish scraps will be irresistible to our long-tailed friends. Same goes for dairy waste, too. Keeping the tumbler closed and clean on the outside will also help.
How to get rid of rats humanely
As I mentioned at the top of the article, there are humane ways to trap rats and remove them from your home. Don’t think that this is a hands-off affair, though. You’ll need to be willing to put both time and effort in if you want to remove rats from your home.
If you’ve skipped the prevention section above, you’re going to need to go back and read through it. If you’ve already got a problem with rodents in your home, getting rid of rats that are already present will simply make more room for others to take their place. You really need to make your home rat-proof to stop others moving in once you’ve gotten rid of the current occupants.
Humane traps are the best way to get rid of rats, but they take work – they are NOT a set and forget option. Failing to be vigilant when using humane rat traps is worse than killing them outright with more conventional snap traps as the animal will suffer for far longer, often dying of thirst, starvation, stress, or cold.
Traps need to be checked at regular intervals, preferably every couple of hours at least, to ensure any rats caught are not suffering and can be released as quickly as possible.
Successful releases are the subject of much debate, too. Some will argue that releasing rats too far away from the capture site could result in death as they’ll be unsure of where to find food, water, and shelter.
There’s also a good chance they’ll be released slap bang in the middle of another rat colony, which wouldn’t end well for the released rodent either. PETA recommend releasing any rats caught within 100 yards of the capture site to avoid this. (7)
If you keep this in mind and release really isn’t an option (such as in an urban environment, for example), then the best way to kill rats is to take them to a local veterinary clinic where they can be euthanized quickly and painlessly by injection. I know it’s awful, but in some cases it can be the only real solution.
Best bait for rat trap
Even the best rat trap in the world is going to need something to attract these wily critters. Rats are ridiculously clever animals, so you’ll need to make sure whatever you use as rat bait is so irresistible they effectively lose their minds!
So, what is the best rat bait I hear you ask? Well, you can forget cheese for a start. Sure, they’ll eat it, but it won’t make them go wild with desire like you see in the cartoons. Plant-based cheese recipes will probably be even less attractive, despite their deliciousness to us humans.
You’d also do well to consider the type of rat that you have a problem with. Norway rats love sugary, fatty, high protein foods like dried fruit, bacon (I know, vegans, I know!), peanut butter, and even sugar covered gummy candies.
Roof rats, on the other hand, will go out of their way for nuts, cereals, and berries. They will, however, also fall for dried fruit and peanut butter, so these two make the best rat bait for both species if you’re unsure which one you have present in your home.
Rat control methods to avoid
Unfortunately, there are plenty of rat traps and other pest control devices on the market that are far from ideal. While it may be necessary to remove rodents from your home, causing them undue suffering most definitely isn’t.
So, with this in mind, items such as rat glue traps should be avoided. Glue traps – usually flat pads or boxes coated with extremely strong adhesive – are cruel, plain and simple.
While the though of a snap trap may leave some cold, at least they dispatch the animal instantly (providing they are set correctly, of course). Glue traps for rats or other small mammals, on the other hand, cause a lingering death that can take hours, if not days, to kill rodents.
During this time, animals will often chew at their own limbs in order to free themselves from the adhesive. Wriggling can also cause their faces to become stuck to the pads, which can inflict painful damage to their eyes and ultimately lead to slow suffocation.
Cheap catch and release traps are also to be avoided, as they’ll sometimes injure the animal as the door snaps shut. Legs and tails can become trapped, which is far from humane and causes the animal to suffer in the short-term and can possibly reduce the chances of a successful release. If you’re going to try and release any rats caught, be sure to buy your catch and release rat trap from a reputable manufacturer, such as Havahart.
Finally, there’s poison.
Rat poison should be avoided at all costs as it will, like glue traps, cause a great deal of suffering as the animal endures a slow, lingering death. Using poison for rats also runs the risk of affecting other wildlife and even domesticated pets and humans. DO NOT USE RAT POISON UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!
Getting rid of rats humanely…answered!
Getting rid of rats can be a major headache, but it’s still important to act as compassionately as you can while you do so. Rats are not being vindictive when they enter your home, they’re just being rats…trying to find food and shelter to look after their families.
No one wants wild rats in their home, unless your home happens to be the Karni Mata Temple in Rajasthan, India, where rats are deemed to be holy creatures (see video below), but we can still show them respect as we try to revert back to living rat-free.
To echo what I’ve already said above, prevention is far better than cure when it comes to a problem such as having rats in your house. Follow the preventative tips above and you may just stay one step ahead of this highly intelligent little animal.
Have you got any rat related stories you’d like to share? Did you manage to humanely overcome an infestation? Or maybe you have some more preventative tips you’d like to share with other readers? Whatever you want to say, drop me a line in the comments box below.
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- CDC | Diseases directly transmitted by rodents | https://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/direct.html
- GOV.UK | Hantaviruses: The characteristics, diagnosis, epidemiology of hantaviruses | https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hantaviruses
- Jon Henley | Weil’s disease: the cause, the symptoms and the precautions to take | https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/26/weils-disease-andy-holmes
- Mayo Clinic | Pet allergy | https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352192
- Professor’s House Staff | What is Dander? | https://www.professorshouse.com/what-is-dander/
- Mark King | Pests that can damage your home and make a hole in your wallet | https://www.theguardian.com/money/2012/nov/17/household-pests-rentokil-rats-mice-moths
- PETA | Living in Harmony with House Mice and Rats | https://www.peta.org/issues/wildlife/living-harmony-wildlife/house-mice/