Rats can make a home almost anywhere. They infest homes, agriculture, and foodstuffs, and they easily adapt to their surroundings. Despite poor eyesight, rats are active at night when they explore and learn about their surroundings. They memorize pathways and landmarks. Rats are active throughout the year and an infestation can start at any time. Controlling rats can be difficult because they avoid new objects, including traps and baits. If you notice rat damage or see droppings, consider checking your entire property for other signs of rats.
- Reduce clutter inside and out. Clutter may allow rat activity to go unnoticed over time.
- Check unused cars for evidence of rodents. Rat or mouse infestations in vehicles can cause wiring or other damage.
- Rats are excellent climbers. Trim or remove dense vegetation, including tree limbs, near gardens or buildings.
- Exclude rats and mice by sealing cracks and crevices larger than a quarter inch.
- Install door sweeps and weather stripping to keep rats from entering under a door. Metal materials may be necessary to prevent chewing.
- Remove materials rats may use for nesting or shelter, including cardboard boxes and newspapers.
- Identify your rodent first. Young rats may look similar to mice but certain features can tell them apart. Try contacting your local Cooperative Extension Service.
- Unlike mice, rats require a source of water in addition to food. Remove pet water bowls and fix leaking faucets. Empty bird baths if necessary.
- Be vigilant; rats can learn from each other, and through trial and error. Rat control may require constant effort and a variety of methods.
- Observe trails or signs of rodent activity to target the resources they use. Smudge marks on surfaces can indicate heavily-traveled paths.
- Check a large area when evidence of chewing is found. Rats may travel hundreds of feet per day for food or water.
- Rats have teeth made for gnawing. Store unrefrigerated food, pet food, and birdseed in jars, tin boxes, or durable plastic packaging.
- Large infestations may require the use of traps or rodenticides.
- Use large portions of bait at trap stations. Use a variety of food types, including fresh foods, to find what bait works best.
- Before setting live traps, consider placing sprung traps with bait (food) for a week or more. Rats may become comfortable approaching the traps with time and familiarity.
- If you chose to use a rodenticide bait, always read and follow label directions. It’s the law. Try a lower toxicity product first.