Having wild animals that are active in and around your home can be a hugely frustrating experience for anyone. Rats in particular can be an especially annoying visitor. Rats have a certain image that will send a shiver down the spine of many homeowners, from their association with transmitting diseases to the ‘grease’ that they leave behind when they brush against other surfaces. The temptation you experience during a rat infestation is to want to kill all of the animals regardless of how it happens, and just to get those creatures away from your home and family.

However, you don’t have to kill rats in order to get rid of them from your home. In many cases, the lethal methods used to deal with rats are actually very inefficient and potentially dangerous. Scattering toxic substances to kill rats around your home may be the traditional way of killing rats, but what happens when the rat dies and starts to decompose in your home? Let’s have a look at some more humane ways of dealing with rat problems.

Signs That You May Have Rats in Your Home

There can be many reasons that lead you to start to think you might have rats in your home, from food bags that look like they have been gnawed open to droppings and even scratching sounds. But what are the key signs of rat activity that you should be looking out for when you’re trying to establish whether or not you have a rat infestation in your home?


One of the first things that will indicate that you have rats present is the small pellets of feces that they will leave behind, which are usually dark brown when they are fresh, and between half an inch and an inch long.

Musky Smell

If rats are nesting in a particular spot, you may also be able to detect a musky smell where the rats have urinated regularly.


Looking around the areas where you think rats may be active, you may also see dark smudges on surfaces at ground level, where the rats may have brushed against the surface, leaving some grease from their fur.

Signs of Gnawing

Signs of gnawing can also indicate rat activity, e.g. on pipes, wooden surfaces, and electrical wires.

Inspecting the Property for Rat Activity

One of the first things to do when you are trying to deal with a rat infestation is to thoroughly inspect the property. This way, you can really understand where the rats are active, which will then give you a better idea of how to get rid of them. This can be a time consuming job, especially for larger properties where there can be many spots that rats could use to get in and out.

It is important to make sure you have all of the right protective equipment for the work.

The inspection will need to be done both inside and out. Here are the points you will especially need to be looking out for around the exterior of your home:

  • natural angles
  • gaps
  • vents
  • ducts
  • at the ground where the house meets the floor
  • around the roof-line of your house
  • anywhere there are pipes coming out of the house

When it comes to inspecting the inside of your house, here are the places you should look for:

  • The attic. This is one of the most common areas where the rats are active in a domestic property. You will really need to get down into the corners to be able to see where they may be getting in and out.
  • Wall cavities and any dark hidden areas of the home where you or your family do not go too often, such as behind cupboards and storage areas. If you have a garage or outbuildings where you store pet food or gardening produce, then you should also check these areas thoroughly too.

By carrying out this inspection, it should help you to identify where the rats are active and how they are getting in and out, as once you’ve removed the animals it is also important to seal up any points they have been using to get in and around the property. You can then work on the most effective and efficient plan for dealing with the rats and getting them out of your home.

Using Live Traps

One humane method that is often mentioned when it comes to dealing with a rat problem is the use of live traps. It is a popular option, with a wide range of different types of traps.

When it comes to placing live traps, the advice is much the same as using snap traps, in that they should be placed in areas where rats are most active. Baits can also help make the trap more successful. Baits range from peanut butter to marshmallows to commercial baits.

Live trapping rats is a viable option for dealing with a rat problem, but it is important to note that it can be a time-consuming job. Rats are social creatures, and if they are active on a property, there are usually several present.

Relocating Rats Caught in a Live Trap

Another of the tasks that comes with live trapping is deciding where to release the rats you catch. Ideally, this should be several miles away from the original property. It is also very important not to release rats in an area near the homes of other people, as you can just be passing the problem on to somebody else. It is also important to take precautions when you are relocating rats, such as wearing gloves to protect your hands and transporting the animals safely. 

Using Exclusion Funnels

Exclusion is another humane option for dealing with rats. In this approach, the inspection of your property is very important, as holes small sizes need to be discovered.

  1. Locate the holes rats have been using to get in and out of your property.
  2. Seal up some of these holes.
  3. Install exclusion funnels over two or three of the holes.

The funnels will allow rats to squeeze their way out, but are tough enough to prevent the rats from returning to your house.

For this method, you will need to continuously monitor the areas where you have seen rat activity. If you have found all of the holes the rats were using to get in and out, then you should see a reduction in fresh droppings and smudges. After a while, you should notice that no fresh signs appear. Once you are confident that rats have all been dealt with, you can then remove the exclusion funnels and seal the remaining holes.

How Effective is Rat Exclusion?

Once rats have found their way into your property, it can be difficult to get them out. Rat exclusion is an approach that will require a lot of detailed work when inspecting the property at the beginning. It does also require regular monitoring to make sure that the exclusion measures that you are using are working. However, when it comes to using a humane approach to deal with rats, it can be one of the most effective methods. There are also plenty of professionals who successfully use exclusion as a way of dealing with rat problems in domestic and commercial properties.

Other Steps to Keep Rats Away

While getting rats out of the home or attic can be challenging work, prevention is definitely better than trying to deal with rats that have found their way into your home. The key factors that will attract rats to your property are usually:

  • the shelter provided by your property
  • the food sources around the area

When it comes to dealing with shelter that rats find around your property, removing woodpiles and eliminating dark areas which could provide cover are measures that can make keeping rats away easier. However, the most important prevention methods involve stopping potential food sources. Storing garbage in plastic or metal cans, ensuring pet food is kept in canisters, and protecting potential food sources in the garden can all help to keep rats away.