5 Tips for Getting Rid of Rats Without Using Poisons

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated July 29, 2022
closeup of a rat running around outside on concrete
Photo courtesy of Alex O'Neal

When it comes to keeping pesky rats at bat, eradication doesn’t have to mean extermination

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If you have rats invading your property, you won’t want to befriend them like Remy from “Ratatouille⁠”—rats are prolific disease-spreaders and can wreak havoc on your home. 

But don’t flip out if you see a rat racing across your kitchen floor. You don’t necessarily have to call out the professional exterminators to set out controversial poisonous bait. The tips below offer solutions to get rid of rats naturally and humanely.  

Signs of an Infestation

You might think one rat sighting isn’t anything to worry about. But these critters reproduce quickly, and if they find an easy food source, they’re going to return—probably with their buddies.

By taking prompt action, you reduce the chances of being overrun. Even if you haven’t seen these elusive creatures, some common signs you have a rat problem include:

  • Droppings and urine stains

  • Clumps of nesting material

  • Small chew holes in walls, floors, or food packaging (rats can fit into gaps as small as two fingers wide)

  • Unpleasant odors from a build-up of rats and their feces and urine

  • Sounds of scuttling paws (especially at night when they’re more active)

  • Paw tracks

  • Coughing and sneezing household members who have rodent allergies

How to Get Rid of Rats Naturally

1. Be Proactive With Preventative Measures

You can use all the traps in the world, but if you don’t take measures to discourage rats from entering your home, you’re always at risk of new ones setting up residence. Some ways to rodent-proof your home include:

  • Seal gaps that are potential points of entry (don’t forget to check attics, basements, and garages)

  • Keep things clean and clutter-free (indoors and in your yard)

  • Store garbage, dry foods, and pet foods in rodent-proof, airtight containers

If you’ve got the right home and lifestyle to adopt a cat, not only will you be on the receiving end of their lap snuggles, but they can also help scare off rats.

2. Don’t Just Rely on Natural Repellants

If splashing some peppermint oil around your home seems a too good to be true permanent solution, that’s because it is. However, using temporary repellants alongside other measures may help and won’t break the bank 

Try spraying a combination of peppermint oil, black pepper oil, clove oil, and cayenne pepper around your home’s foundation or soaking it into cotton balls and placing them at likely entry points (and out of the way of any pets). Ultrasonic repellants may help, but some rats happily tolerate the sounds or get used to them.

3. Don’t Forget to Check Live Traps

Using live traps is more humane than snap traps, but if you don’t check them frequently (ideally twice a day) or use a suitable design, the rat could suffer unnecessary stress or even perish trapped in the cage. Plus, if you release them too close to your home, they are likely to head back, and there are lower survival rates if release is too far away, in an inappropriate location. Always look for somewhere there is a natural water source, food, and shelter. 

4. Stay Away From Glue Traps

Glue traps are sticky boards that trap the rats (and other critters) when they walk over them. 

Although are still available to buy, they cause unnecessary pain and stress, and there are other kinder and more effective alternatives.

5. Call in the Pros for an Infestation

If you’re dealing with a major infestation or you’re planning on using a rodenticide, hiring a local professional pest exterminator may be the way to go. 

The cost of hiring a rat exterminator averages around $340. This could be a worthwhile investment, as they have the expertise to support safe and speedy eradication and prevention. Some pest control companies also specialize in more humane methods of removal. 

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