The best offense is a solid defense. Rat proof your home by sealing up entry points, keeping your home clean, manicuring your landscape, eliminating roof rat food and water sources, and spreading the word to your community and neighbors.
Investigate. Figure out how roof rats are getting into your home.
Roof rats can come into the home from anywhere, but generally, they enter from the roof. Check the areas surrounding your ducting, chimney, ventilation, cooling, and roof work thoroughly. Also, check the siding and around the base of the house for any possible gaps that lead into the home. Check for gaps around front doors, back doors, pet doors, and garage doors. Look for clues such as droppings, gnaw marks, and grease trails. Roof rats use the same paths frequently and mark these paths with urine, droppings, and grease marks. If you listen for it, roof rats can be heard. Baby roof rat pups make small squeaking sounds which can easily be heard through your walls. Mature roof rats may be heard as they travel through your walls and ceiling.
Seal up all points of entry. Make sure no additional Roof Rats enter the home.
Do not skip this step! Before you set traps, be sure no additional roof rats can enter your home. Otherwise, new roof rats will continue to enter your home, and you will be setting traps forever. With this in mind, after all points of entry are found, seal them up! Make sure doors do not have any gaps in the corners or sides. Keep doors shut whenever possible. Install screens on all windows.
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Remember, roof rats produce a lubricating grease on their bodies that enables them to squeeze into the smallest of holes. Play it smart– if you can stick your finger in the hole, seal it up! Roof rats also have sharp teeth that can cut through cement, metal pipes, aluminum siding, sheetrock, drywall, wood, plastic and a variety of other materials. Seal up holes with steel. Steel wool, steel plating, and steel mesh sealed with heavy duty caulking work best.
Just like you would on the exterior of your home, make sure there are no holes in the walls, baseboards, floorboards, or ceiling in the interior of your home. The holes created by pipes or electrical cables are especially a target. Many of these holes in the walls are made by kitchen appliances like stoves and refrigerators. Water heaters and air conditioners can also create holes in the wall. Make sure the areas around the holes are sealed up well.
Eliminate food and water sources. Starve them out!
Roof rats like to hide in dark, dirty, abandoned spaces. If your home is open, bright, and clean, you have a better chance of keeping roof rats away. Use a tight sealing lid on both your indoor and outdoor trash cans. Roof rats love to get into any leftover food. Make sure trash is not accessible to them. Don’t leave food out, and clean off dirty dishes quickly after use. Keep your pantry closed and make sure there are no holes in the cracks in the corners of the pantry door or cupboard that roof rats could get into. Don’t overwater potted plants. Roof rats will drink from plant saucers.
Just as you should keep the inside of your home clean, it is equally important to keep your yard tidy. Pick up trash and litter around your yard. Keep your grass cut short. Empty trash cans often. If you have fruit trees, pick up excess fruit off the ground and harvest ripe fruit quickly. Thin out all trees and bushes. If you can see through them, roof rats cannot hide inside them. If you have a lot of trees, make sure none of the tree branch canopies touch one another. Tree branches should be cut back at least 4 feet from other trees and rooflines. Roof rats are excellent climbers and jumpers so make access to the roof is difficult. Roof Rats will drink from any available water source. If you have an irrigation or sprinkler system check to see if there are any leaks. If you keep pet bowls outside, be sure to only give your pet the food and water you know they will consume in one day. Rats will eat all varieties of pet food as well as bird food, and will drink from bird baths. Find a way to make access to bird baths and bird feeders difficult, or consider eliminating them altogether.
Set traps in areas you believe roof rats are traveling in.
No matter the traps you choose set them close together. Remember, roof rats travel the same paths frequently. Look for trampled down paths lined with droppings and grease marks. Set the traps along these paths. Rats usually occupy abandoned spaces like old furniture, inside the walls, inside your attic. Meaning, they don’t like new things. So, when they see a shiny new rat trap in their space, they will be wary at first (rightfully so). Don’t be surprised if nothing happens for a little while. Another strategy would be to place the trap but don’t set it or turn it on for a few days so that the roof rats get used to it and don’t suspect a thing when you do actually set it. Whatever you do, make sure that when you do start using the traps, check them often and dispose of the bodies quickly.
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Don’t use rat bait or poison – unless you have to.
Poison is not a good choice. First of all, it is very inhumane for the roof rat. They die a painful and slow death after 3-4 days of consuming the poison. Second, a poisoned roof rat can die in any hard to reach location, making it near impossible to dispose of the roof rat. Third, you never know if/when they actually ingest the poison, so it becomes difficult to confirm the termination of the rat. You just have to look around your home hoping they actually ate the poison as well as hope you find all the dead ones. If you don’t find all of them quickly, a rotting roof rat corpse is a stinky, unpleasant surprise. So bottom line- be careful. If it’s a bait bock, pellet, or spray, it can harm adults, children, and house pets too. So if you do use poison, use a bait station, which holds the poison inside so that only rats can access it.
Safety first – Dispose of dead Roof Rats properly.
Roof rats are the same black rats that spread the black plague in the dark ages. Today, roof rats still spread all kinds of disease and food contamination. Fleas often accompany roof rats, which can also cause harm to humans. For these reasons, never handle roof rats or their fecal matter without gloves. Never sweep or vacuum roof rat droppings, as it could spread germs. Instead, spray the rat droppings with a disinfectant or bleach cleaner. Let the cleaner soak for 5 minutes or more. Then use a paper towel to wipe up the mess. If the rat droppings fell on carpet, get it steamed or shampooed.
Similar to disposing of dog poop, dispose of roof rats with a plastic grocery bag or gallon zip top bag to pick them up. Then, turn the bag inside out and tie it or zip it closed. Throw away the body in an outdoor trash can or dumpster. Wash your hands with the gloves on, throw away the gloves, and wash your hands again with the gloves off. Roof rats germs don’t mess around! It’s important to be ultra thorough when handling roof rats.
Contact a professional exterminator.
If the roof rats in your home are overwhelming you, consider contacting a professional. If you would like these pests to be dispatched off-site, professionals use live traps very effectively.