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How to prevent rats?

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Key Points:

  1. Rats are quite difficult to deal with, prevention is the key. WikiHow has many articles talking about rats, but each standalone article can't form a solid and comprehensive solution. Therefore, we have rewritten and integrated several articles together to create a better version.

Rats are annoying and could cause lots of troubles to our home. Here we quote the best way to prevent rats provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Get Rid of Mice and Rats, How to Keep Mice Out of Your House. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Nobody wants mice setting up shop in their home—but how do you get rid of these critters for good and make sure they never come back? Don’t worry. We've researched the best ways to prevent mice from coming indoors and we'll explain how to quickly and efficiently remove mice if they do get in. We'll also touch on recognizing early signs of rodent activity so you can nip the problem in the bud.

Part 1: Prevention

1. Watch for signs of rodent activity. Gnawed food packages and mouse droppings are common red flags. Check in your pantry, along with your kitchen cupboards and drawers—do you notice any gnawed bags or boxes of food? Take a close look near these food items, too. If mice are active around your home, you might see some small, brown mouse droppings next to their food sources.[1] While you’re at it, keep an eye out for:

  • Small piles of torn paper, dried-up weeds/plants, and/or old fabric—mice use these piles to build their homes, or "nests"

  • Gnawed openings along the base of the wall

  • Keep in mind that mouse droppings are only around 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in (0.32 to 0.64 cm) long.

2. Block off any entry points to your home. Mice can fit through blueberry-sized openings in or around your home. Sealing off these entry points, however small, is one of the most effective ways that you can permanently keep mice out of your home. Scan both the inside and outside of your home for any gaps, holes, or other openings that seem wide enough for a mouse to squeeze through. Here are a few DIY solutions to get started:

  • Cracks and small holes: Fill in these gaps with quick-drying cement. You can also seal these openings using steel wool that’s held in place with caulk.

  • Holes without wiring: Stuff these holes with a piece of copper mesh pan scrubber.

  • Big holes and openings: Fill in these openings completely with cement, or seal them off with sections of lath screen, lath metal, metal sheeting, or hardware cloth.

  • Doors and windows: Remove and replace any damaged weatherstripping.

3. Install metal door sweeps. Door sweeps help block any gaps beneath your doors. They come in different materials, but metal is the best option for keeping unwanted critters out of your home. Thankfully, these devices are cheap and easy to find online or at any home improvement store.

4. Fix any plumbing leaks in your home. To mice, a dripping faucet or leaking pipe is like a free water fountain.

5. Clean up any food-related messes. Crumbs, birdseed, and other messes offer mice a free meal. Look around both the inside and outside of your home for some potential food sources. Clean up any messes that you find, like stale bread crumbs around your toaster or scads of birdseed scattered around your backyard.

6. Store leftover food in airtight containers. Mice will sniff out and get into food that’s easy to access. Go through your pantry and cupboards and look for any ingredients/foods packaged in paper, cardboard, or another flimsy material. Transfer these foods to sturdy, air-tight containers that mice can’t nibble through.

7. Clean up any uneaten pet food. Mice will treat your leftover pet food as a free, all-you-can-eat buffet. Keep an eye on your pet’s food and water dishes throughout the day. If your furry friend doesn’t eat all of the food, toss it out or store it in a sturdy, airtight container.

8. Take your trash out frequently. Rodents and trash are peas in a pod. Dump out your trash frequently so the bags in your home aren’t overflowing. Then, securely close and place your outdoor trash cans at the very end of your driveway, so mice won’t be tempted to check out your house after a late night of dumpster diving.

9. Clean out any clutter in your yard. Mice love hunkering down in overgrown brush and piles of clutter. Circle around your yard and take a close look at any bushes, shrubs, mulch piles, and tall grass. Trim down any plants so mice aren’t tempted to take shelter there, and remove any weeds or piles of trash that the critters could use as a hiding spot.

Part 2: Get Rid of Rats

1. Look into humane traps. Cage traps catch the rodent alive. When the mouse or rat steps on the baited pan located inside the trap, the mechanism is tripped and the door closes. This traps the rodent without killing it.

2. Consider lethal traps. Snap traps are easy to use and kill the rodent quickly. These are the least inhumane of common traps. When the rodent attempts to take the bait, the mechanism snaps onto the neck to kill it. Glue traps are also good to use.

3. Experiment with bait. A desirable bait will make traps much more successful. Whole nuts, peanut butter, bacon, or small wads of cotton (for nesting material) are all good options that work with just about any rat or mouse species. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Tiny pieces of bait work best.

  • A variety of traps with different bait increases your chance of success.

  • Fresh bait is more attractive. Replace the bait frequently.

4. Try poisons as a last resort. Poison is mostly useful for farms, not homes. A poisoned rodent often ends up dying within your walls or in other inconvenient locations where they are difficult to clean up. Poison is also not safe for areas with children, pets, or livestock. Consider poisons only for grain storage areas and other places that require constant protection:

  • Some rodenticides take several days or even a couple weeks of feeding to kill the animal. Newer anticoagulants like brodifacoum or difethalone can work in a single dose and are somewhat less dangerous to humans and pets.

  • Packets of poison can be left intact for the rodents to gnaw through.

  • Liquid baits containing a little sugar work especially well in dry weather and for rats.

  • Place the poison and the bait in a covered box big enough for several rodents, but not accessible to other animals or children. These work best with a hole on opposite ends, about 2½" wide (~6cm) for rats or 1½" (~3.5cm) for mice.

5. Try homemade repellents alongside other methods. Repellent materials discourage rodents, but rarely solve the problem. There are quite a few home remedies for keeping mice and rats out of your home. Unfortunately, once a rodent is inside, it's not likely to move out into the cold or stop taking your food just because of a bad smell. But if you make cleaning and food storage your top priority, these secondary approaches might help convince your whiskered enemies to move on:

  • Essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, lemongrass, basil, and thyme have all been used as rodent repellent. Try putting drops of the oil onto cotton balls and placing them strategically at openings where rodents are coming in.

  • Steel wool is great for blocking rodent holes, as mice and rats will rarely chew through it. Try to wedge it in enough that it can't be pushed out of the way.

  • Aluminum foil often shows up on blogs as an anti-rodent "life hack," but this is at best a mild deterrent; rats will sometimes even take the foil to insulate their nests. Covering your fruit bowl might not be a bad idea, but papering every kitchen surface in foil might annoy you more than the rats.

  • Some people lay out scented dryer sheets hoping the fragrance will deter rodents, but there is no real evidence showing that this works. Try it if convenient, but don't bother buying any just for this purpose.

6. Contact a professional exterminator if nothing else works. Hire an exterminator. Contact a professional rodent exterminator if you’ve tried a few different methods and you’re still having problems, or if you aren’t comfortable trapping or killing mice and rats. Ask around for recommendations, call the exterminator, and ask for a quote.

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