Rats in the attic is a common challenge throughout the United States. If you hear scratching in your attic, or the pitter-patter of feet up and down the walls or above the ceiling in your house, and the noise is coming at night, it's most likely rats or mice. Daytime noises are more likely squirrel, and raccoons sound larger. Do an inspection of the attic to verify the species. Rat droppings are much larger and thicker, averaging 3/8 inch, while mouse droppings are quite a bit smaller than grains of rice. Here are the 11 steps to get rid of rats in the attic:
After you read the below information, you may be able to do it yourself, but if you want to hire us to professionally solve
your rat problem permanently, you might want to read How much does our rat removal cost? to get the lowdown on prices.
Left image: a rat entry area - Right image: a snap trap set in the attic in an area of rat activity.
How to get Rats out of your attic - While you may not think much about it, your attic is the ideal place for little creatures like rats. Think about it. You probably rarely go into your attic, it's warm and dry, and there are usually lots of great places to hide and make a nest. The insulation alone is the perfect material to start building a nest out of. It is warm and soft, and a rat is not worried about a little fiber glass in its lungs when it is only going to live for a brief time.
The problem with rats in your attic is that it is rarely ever just one. Rats love to live in large communities, so when you have a rat infestation, you truly have a major army there. A community of rats can be as many as 100 or more, depending upon how much food and space is available. Because the attic is usually so spacious and unencumbered the only thing standing in the way of the rats success if food.
Left image: me removing rats trapped in an attic - Right image: sealing shut a gable vent entry area, from inside the attic
This means that the attic has to be your primary area of offense if you are going to rid these creatures from your home, but you have to have a very smart plan. I want you to consider that if you simply cause the rats to scatter and don't deal with the problem in an intelligent way you will have rats running to every place they can find refuge in your home and on your property. Now you don't just have a big problem in one place; you have a whole lot of smaller problems all over the place. This is why a carefully, well thought out plan is essential.
Where you want to begin is by finding where the rats are coming into the home. You need to make sure you find every entry point, because if you miss even one you are still giving them a way to get into your home. This means they will keep getting in and you will truly never solve your problem. Look for every place you can find where there is a small crack, slit, hole or gap in your home. This includes around spaces like vents and where hoses come into your house, especially near your dryer. Look for gnawing marks because this can be a sign to you of where they are getting in.
If you do find places like this you want to make sure that you seal them well. Sealing should be done with steel wool. This is especially hard for the rats to chew through, and is actually quite painful for them to do so, meaning they will leave those places alone and you have removed the places they are getting in.
Rats can be caught in live cage traps, but there's no point - they can't be relocated outside alive. They won't survive.
It may seem odd to you to seal them all first, but this is the where you need to begin. If you leave those holes open and scare them out, by the time you get around to closing them all up you can be sure that some if not many will have returned.
Your next step is to put up traps all around the attic. Traps can be live ones if you wish to catch many at once and give the rats a new home somewhere else by releasing them at another location, or you can choose traps that will end the lives of the rats. There are three primary kinds of traps that will do this. The first is the standard looking mouse trap that most of us are familiar with. The difference with the rat model is that the much more force is released in the trap. A mouse trap would just injure a rat, and so more force is needed.
There are traps that are much like fly paper. The rat steps on the trap and its little paws get stuck. There is a small amount of poison in the paper and as the rat gnaws at it the poison is eating and it dies. Even if the paper is not eaten the poison is secreted through the skin causing death. I do NOT recommend any kind of poison, or sticky glue traps. There is no point. They are ineffective compared to snap traps. In addition, they are far less humane.
The last kind of a box poison trap. This is like the roach motel idea. A rat goes inside the box where there is a tasty morsel. The treat is actually laced with poison, so that when the rat eats the treat it dies. Once three of four have died in the box, you simply throw out the box and put out a new one. Again, I DO NOT recommend this type of trap. A snap trap is far more effective. You want to solve the problem. Use the right tool. Never use poison or gimmicky traps. The Victor Easy Set snap trap is the best. I am not paid to endorse that trap, it's just that I've been doing this for a decade, in hundreds of attics, and the wooden snap trap is the most effective tool, by far.
Whenever you remove traps be sure to wear gloves and a mask. Rats carry many parasites and disease with them, and so this is a great way to safeguard your health.
You may want to consider putting used kitty litter near places you have found where they are entering your home on the theory that rats hate cats, and that smell is enough to keep them away. However, it doesn't work that way. Rats won't leave because of a repellent. If they leave their only habitat, they die. The only way to solve the problem is to seal shut entry holes. That's it.
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The bottom line is that getting rats out of the attic is not always easy, especially depending on the condition of your house. If you have an older home in disrepair, or one with many architectural openings, or an elevated home off the ground with openings underneath, or a plumbing issue, solving the rat problem could be very difficult. You absolutely must find all entry holes and seal them shut with steel repairs. Nothing else matters. Our wildlife removal experts have seen it all, and are experienced at understanding house architecture and plumbing and they can find every last entry area in order to solve the problem. If you are unable to do it yourself, I recommend that you click here to hire one of our rat pros in your town. We get rid of rats in the attic in every city and town in the USA, with over 1000 qualified rat control experts listed on this site.