Banish Rats With These 7 Environmentally Friendly Methods

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated April 20, 2022
A mother and daughter play at home
Photo: fizkes / Adobe Stock

Don’t panic with these humane elimination methods

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Your floorboards should be the only things squeaking in your house. As more people become aware of the harmful effects of rat poison, homeowners are making the switch to a more humane method of getting rid of rats. Use these seven environmentally friendly rat-proofing tricks to uninvite these unwanted houseguests.

1. Use Live Traps

Trapping and releasing the rodent is one of the most common environmentally friendly options. Live traps can be found for just $10 to $20 at most stores. Be sure to check the traps frequently to avoid starving any trapped rodents. If you do catch a rat, release it in an area away from residential homes where they’ll have shelter but won’t return to your house. 

2. Try a Low-Power Electric Shock Mat

For some homeowners, the thought of catching a rat and personally releasing them into the wild is enough to make them squeal. Avoid coming in contact with any rats with an electric shock mat. 

Though it might sound intimidating, some products on the market include a low-power electric shock that deters rats and other pests much like an electric fence—only much weaker and undetectable to humans. These mats come in tile form, which you simply install over your floors to rodent-proof your house without harming them.

Build a mat fence around the perimeters of your home, car, garage, attic, or deck. The only downside to this option is that the mats can take away from your home aesthetic, so you might want to use them in dark, low-traffic areas that are more likely to attract pests in the first place.

3. Mix Ammonia for a Rat Deterrent

Rats can’t stand the smell of ammonia because it reminds them of their predators’ urine, so use this to your advantage by making a rodent repellant out of ammonia. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 cup of ammonia

  • 1 cup of vinegar

  • 1 10-oz. glass spray bottle

  • 1 bag of large cotton balls

Pour your liquids into the spray bottle, then give it a shake. Spray the cotton balls with your newly made rat repellent and put them in problem areas as needed. Replace the cotton balls every one to two weeks and give the area an inspection to make sure there are no signs of rodents.

4. Make a Peppermint Oil Rat Repellent 

It’s not all candy canes and breath fresheners when it comes to peppermints. You can also use the oils to ward off rats and mice. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup of water or 70% rubbing alcohol

  • 2 teaspoons of peppermint oil

  • 1 bag of large cotton balls

  • 1 8-oz. glass spray bottle

Combine all of your ingredients in the spray bottle, and then shake it to combine thoroughly. You can spray this solution in any location where rodents may be lurking. For a longer-lasting effect, spray the solution on cotton balls and place them at entry points and other rodent-prone areas. Change out the cotton balls every one to two weeks.

5. Make It Spicy

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recommends cooking up a spicy rat deterrent. This solution might look akin to something you’d put on a burger, but you can actually use it to keep rats out of the house. Gather these household ingredients and follow the steps below:

  • 1 tablespoon of tabasco sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper oil

  • 1 cup of vegetable oil

  • 1 cup of distilled water

  • 1 garlic clove

  • 1 16-oz. glass spray bottle

Rodents dislike pepper and other spicy ingredients—you can even add in horseradish and peppermint to make this concoction more likely to deter rats. Mix them all into a spray bottle and spray in the attic or garage or apply to cotton balls and place them around the house.

6. Get a Cat

A cat sits in a living room
Photo: maryviolet / Adobe Stock

If you’re not a cat person, knowing one can help control a rat infestation might just give cats brownie points and even convert you into a cat lover. Known as “working cats,” many local areas have working cat programs that care for felines and then release them in areas that have rodent issues. 

Alternatively, you can adopt a cat and get the benefits of those fluffy cuddles while also relying on your rat-killing machine to take care of the issue for you.

7. Purchase Poison-Free Traps

Poison-free traps are technically environmentally friendly since they don’t threaten the environment, but none of them are humane. Though often the least popular method, spring traps pose no threat to the environment and provide a quick death for rodents. 

Glue traps are nicer to look at since the mouse is hidden inside, but they offer one of the slowest deaths for rodents so avoid using them. Most pest control companies opt for spring traps for this reason. Rat extermination costs anywhere between $200 and $1,200 to hire an emergency pest control pro near you to take care of the infestation.

Environmentally Friendly Rat Control

Unlike rat poison, environmentally friendly rat control doesn’t contain pesticides. There are all kinds of rat control options that won’t poison rats; instead, they either deter rodents from entering your home or capture and release them. The most eco-friendly options come in recyclable packaging.

Environmentally friendly rat control is beneficial in the following ways:

  • Poison-free

  • Prevents secondary predator deaths

  • Keeps the ground poison-free

Dangers of Conventional Rat Poison

It’s no surprise that homeowners often see rat poison as the “no muss, no fuss” method for rodent removal since there’s generally no cleanup. However, rat poisons harm the environment.

Once a rodent ingests poison, it’ll die in a few days and become an easy meal for predators and scavengers. After eating poisoned prey, the predator can bleed internally due to the accumulation of rodenticide. That predator could easily be your family pet or that adorable family of owls up in the tree. 

What’s worse is that unknowingly decreasing predators via rat poison actually leads to a boom in the rodent population. Next time you smell a rat, consider environmentally friendly methods for rodent removal instead. 

Signs of a Rat Infestation

Not sure if you have a rat problem? There are a few tell-tale rodent infestation signs that they’re sneaking around your home:

  • Rat droppings

  • Nesting materials like fabric, plant matter, and bits of paper in unused rooms

  • Holes and nibble marks in food packaging

  • Holes in the wall 

  • Your pet looks like it’s stalking something (hello, Tom and Jerry)

  • Ammonia-like smells and chalky residues in the house

Rat Infestation Prevention Tips

Rodents are creatures of habit and don’t stray far from their homes and food sources. As temperatures drop in the fall and winter, rodents may seek out food and shelter indoors. To prevent an infestation, follow these rat infestation survival tips:

  • Make sure doors, windows, cracks, and holes are properly sealed. Mice and rats have long, slender, cylindrical bodies built for burrowing. With healthy mice and rats, if their head fits through a crack or hole, the rest of them will fit too.

  • Remove any food sources. Toaster bread crumbs, spilled birdseed, dog or cat food, and any other food left out overnight make for easy meals for rodents. Mice and rats have a very pronounced sense of smell and use it to detect food, pheromones, and predators.

  • Regularly throw out the trash. Don’t leave trash indoors for long periods, as rats can chew through bags searching for food. Regularly discard trash in a closed bin.

  • Get rid of rodent habitats. Old wood and boxes are ideal gathering spots for rats, so don’t leave either of these out and about for rats to get into.

Finding an Environmentally Friendly Rat Control Company

If you already have an infestation, you might need to address it by calling your local pest control company. Ask about their poison-free options for rodent control to ensure a safe and environmentally friendly rodent removal process. 

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