Oh rats! We’ve got a problem. Your home is a cozy shelter that is warm and dry so it’s not surprising any number of animals would want to take refuge there. Rats are one such critter and they’re sneaky, agile, and determined so if you’ve got rats in the house, you’ve got an issue to deal with.
Where Rats Roost
Rats can hang out just about anywhere in your home. They’d prefer to lounge unbothered close to a food source, such as the pantry, but since they’re likely in danger there, they hide out in walls, the basement, the back of little-used closets, and cupboards, and the attic.
If you think about it, the attic is a particularly enticing playground. It’s large with little threat of human interaction. And it’s a protected space that is worlds better than living outdoors. If you hear the telltale scratching of rats in the attic, take heed. It’s not a problem to ignore.
Not all Rats are Created Equal
Just like many other animals, there are many different species within the rat family—each with its own characteristics. One type of rat is literally known as an attic rat, for obvious reasons. Their ability to climb, jump, and chew their way into your attic means your efforts to restrict them require a top-down assessment of your home.
When you understand the breeding patterns of rats, it brings into focus the magnitude of the problem if left unchecked. Rats breed prolifically and a female rat can have five to seven litters every year. Multiply that by the number of babies in each litter and it’s not uncommon for a single rat to birth 40-80 babies every year.
The Damage They Cause
As annoying as it is, listening to digging sounds while you’re trying to sleep is the least of your problems. Rats are hard on a house. They’ll dig through anything in their way, from wires to pipes to insulation. They can open up avenues for their friends and family to join the attic party and they’re not great house guests either. An area inhabited by rats will be covered in poop, emit a distinctly unpleasant smell, and can spread disease.
Step 1 - Block Entrances
Getting the rat spread under control means finding their entrances. Think small—really small. While mice can enter a space as small as an eraser head, rats can squeeze through anywhere they can get their heads into so you’re looking for the smallest gaps under doors and around windows. They may also enter through cracks in the wall.
The garage is another area that commonly opens to the attic. If you have a helper, you can go into the attic with a flashlight and have your helper identify areas where light comes through. You can also work your way around the house, top to bottom, looking for any evidence of chew marks on siding, pipes, wires, gutters, and trim.
There are a variety of materials you can use to block entrances and keep future invaders from breaking through. Consider hardwire cloth, expansion or firm foam, copper mesh, metal flashing, steel wool, cement, and sheet metal.
Step 2 - Trim Back Trees
Attic rats make their nests in trees. But when they identify a better option in your attic, they’ll abandon their perch in favor of yours by scurrying down the branch and jumping onto your roof for access. To discourage this behavior, keep branches trimmed at least six feet from the home.
Step 3 - Keep it Clean and Debris Free
Keeping rats out of the attic starts on the ground. Eliminate shelter close to the house by keeping burn and debris piles far from the home. Also stack firewood away from the structure.
Step 4 - Food and Trash
Trash cans inside or outside and food sources will also draw the rodents in. Keep trash cans tightly sealed and store food in tamper-proof containers.
Step 5 - Set Traps
If rats have already taken up residence in your home, set traps throughout the space, targeting the paths they take. If you know where they’re entering the house, try to catch them on the outside before they enter.
Step 6 - Call a Professional
A rat problem can quickly spiral out of control. Whether you’re dealing with them yourself or decide to call in a professional, the sooner you start on the problem, the better the outcome will be.