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How to Get Rid of Rats in Your Attic [7-Step Extermination]

The first step to eliminating rats in your attic is to seal your attic so that more rats cannot get in from the outside. Next, determine what type of rats are in your home and where their common travel routes are by using a motion-sensing camera. Then, purchase traps, bait them, and place them in areas where rats frequently travel. Once they’re trapped—lethally or non-lethally—you can remove the rats from your attic. After the rats are gone, it’s time to clean. Disinfect your attic and remove the waste that rats left behind.

How to get rid of rats in attic

7 Steps to Remove Rats from Your Attic

Rats invading your attic is a serious issue that needs to be resolved the right way. If you are unable to DIY rat removal, it is recommended that you hire an extermination service. To handle end a rat infestation yourself, follow these steps:

Seal Your Attic to Prevent More Rats From Getting In

The first step in rat removal is to patch holes in your attic that lead to the outside. This will stop more rats from coming in as you try to trap the rats that are living in your attic. Rats can fit through extremely small holes, so look closely for entry points rats may be using. Holes larger than a quarter inch (½ cm) in diameter should be sealed up. You’ll also want to patch these holes with material that rats can’t chew through. It is recommended that you use materials such as:

  • Steel wool with caulk to keep it in place (for smaller holes).
  • Cement.
  • Sheet metal.
  • Spray polyurethane foam.

Rats are experts at chewing and will chew through different types of material to get into your home. You should not use materials such as wood, brick, plastic, or soft metal because rats can gnaw their way through them. Once all the rat entrances are closed, it’s time to move to the next step.

Identify the Rat Species

If rats are in your attic, they are most likely black rats, also known as roof rats due to their affinity for roofs and attics. The Norway rat prefers sewers and basements, but this does not mean that they can’t end up in your attic. To determine which rat is in your attic, you should:

  • Place a motion-detection camera capable of night vision, like this one, in your attic.
  • You can also use this wildlife camera that is designed to capture videos of animals when motion is detected.
  • Use the footage from the camera placed in your attic to identify the rats.
  • Identifying the rat is important for knowing what bait to use in traps.
  • Videos you capture should also show where the rats go most often, so you will know the best areas to place traps.

If your camera footage shows black rats with fairly pointed noses and tails longer than their bodies, they are black rats. If the rats come in other colors (such as brown or gray) and their bodies are over 8 inches (20 cm) long, they are most likely Norway rats. What type of rat you have will help you choose an effective bait in future steps.

Choose Your Rat Traps

The only way to get rid of rats in your attic is by trapping them. However, you have a choice between live traps and lethal traps. Live traps—like the name implies—catch rats alive without harming them. These are usually cage traps. Lethal traps kill rats instantly and humanely. Since rats are considered pests in most areas, lethal traps are often encouraged. Live trapping requires capturing the rats, then taking them to a natural area for release.

Whether you plan to exterminate or relocate the rats, you need to look into the laws where you live. In some places certain rat trapping methods are illegal. For example, in Washington DC residents are required to contact a service for humane trap and release of rats since it is illegal to use snap and glue traps.

Pick Your Bait

Before placing baited rat traps, you should determine which bait to use. For black rats, use nuts, dried berries, or peanut butter as bait. For Norway rats, use bacon, peanut butter, or small pieces of meat. Use the same bait for all the traps. Rats are more likely to take food they are familiar with, so the longer you use the same bait, the more likely you are to catch rats.

  • Black rats (AKA roof rats) prefer nuts and dried fruit, and may sometimes eat peanut butter bait.
  • Norway rats respond to meat bait, such as bacon and sliced hot dogs, but will sometimes eat dried fruit or peanut butter.
  • Do not use rat poison—this leads to rats dying inside your walls, which can make your entire house smell awful.

Never use rat poison as bait. Poisoned rats take hours to die, meaning they can crawl deep into your walls and then die, leaving a hard-to-clean mess and foul odor. Any animal that tries to eat a poisoned rat can also be killed. Local wildlife and household pets may bite or eat a poisoned rat, which in turn will kill the second animal. To make removing attic rats easy, avoid rat poison.

Place Your Rat Traps

To determine where to place your rat traps, review the video footage you recorded in Step 2. Take note of the paths the rats use on video. Place rat traps along these paths. It’s also a good idea to place traps along walls. Rats prefer to walk along a wall or beside a beam, rather than cross open areas. By placing rat traps in the right location, you’ll catch all the rats quickly.

  • If you have footage of the rats in your attic, use it to determine placement points for your traps of choice.
  • Be sure to place traps on the routes rats typically take, especially alongside walls.
  • Wear sturdy gloves and be very cautious when placing rat traps—some lethal traps are powerful enough to cause injury to hands and fingers.

Always wear heavy work gloves when setting rat traps. Additionally, take care when setting and placing rat traps. Lethal traps may have powerful springs capable of crushing your fingers if they are accidentally triggered. Work carefully and follow the manufacturer guidelines for setting the rat trap of your choice.

Check Your Traps Daily

Check your rat traps every day if possible. This will allow you to quickly find rats and dispose of them. It will also let you find traps where the bait has been stolen but no rat has been caught. Carefully inspect each trap and reset it if necessary. Checking daily keeps your traps active and ensures you’ll catch more rats quickly.

  • Check your traps daily to find trapped rats and reset triggered traps with no rats.
  • Replace bait in traps if the bait has been stolen.
  • Dispose of dead rats safely by sealing the rat in a plastic bag and throwing it away.
  • Relocate live-trapped rats the same day they are caught to prevent the animals from dying from thirst or hunger.
  • When there is no sign of rats interacting with traps for 5–7 days, you have probably wiped out the infestation.

When you have caught a rat in a lethal trap, dispose of it by following the CDC guidelines. Disinfect the area and dispose of the dead rat in a sealed plastic bag. If you have caught a rat in a live trap, it’s essential to relocate the animal quickly. A rat left in a live trap without food and water will die, defeating the purpose of live trapping. Once you see no more signs of rats in traps or on video for 5–7 days, it’s time to clean up after the infestation.

Clean Up

Since rats are vectors for disease and can have ectoparasites that also carry disease, it is imperative to use caution and be thorough when cleaning up after an infestation. There will be debris from rats chewing on things and nesting in addition to the excrement they leave behind. Here is how to properly dispose of rats and what they leave behind:

  • Use disposable gloves, shoe covers, and a face mask.
  • Place rats in plastic trash bags and close up the bags before placing them in the trash.
  • For nesting material, urine and feces, soak areas with a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 9 parts water) for at least 20 minutes prior to cleaning.
  • Do not vacuum or sweep—only use disposable materials such as paper towels or rags to clean up rat waste.

The reason you should clean with caution and disposable products is that rats and their droppings can spread bacteria and viruses to humans. It can be exceedingly difficult to eliminate all of the rat waste in your attic since rats can infest small crevices and walls. To guarantee your space is not biohazardous, hire a professional pest service to disinfect your attic.

Once the space is clean, monitor it for rat activity going forward. You’ll know you’ve successfully wiped out the infestation when you do not see new rat nests and droppings in your attic.

How Do You Prevent Rats from Invading Your Attic?

There are some measures you can take to decrease the chance of rats returning after you’ve cleared an infestation. The attic should already be sealed so outside entry is less likely. Other steps to keep rats away include:

  • Trim tree branches and ivy that could provide access to your roof.
  • Do not keep firewood close to your home.
  • Be sure containers that have food or garbage inside them are closed fully so rats cannot get into them.
  • Make use of airtight containers for food and other materials so as not to attract rats.
  • Have your attic inspected by professionals that can find any entry points you may have overlooked and give you tips for keeping your home rat-free.

If you are looking for a proactive or natural method, you should consider attracting owls to your backyard. You can do this by installing nesting boxes or perches. This will invite owls to your trees so they can chase away (or eat) potential rodent invaders.

What is the Best Way to Get Rid of Rats in Your Attic?

If you have rats in your attic, you can take these steps to remove them and keep them out:

  • Patch up holes in your roof and attic with material rats can’t chew through.
  • Capture a video of the vermin to determine what kind of rats are in your attic.
  • Use lethal traps or live rat traps, based on your preference and local laws.
  • Choose bait based on rat species, to attract the rats more easily.
  • Place traps alongside walls, since that’s where rats travel.
  • Check rat traps on a daily basis and safely dispose of rats.
  • Dispose of dead rats by closing them in plastic bags.
  • Continue trapping rats until no rats interact with the traps for 5–7 days.
  • Clean and disinfect your attic after the rat infestation is wiped out.

While you can take care of a rat problem yourself, the safest way to remove and prevent rats in your attic is to hire a professional removal service. Professionals know the best ways to trap invasive rat populations and keep your family safe.

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