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How To Get Rid of Rats in the Attic


A rat in an attic, chewing on wires. This is an electrical fire hazard.

Some attics have many rats. These were running on the air ducts.

Here's a rat running through the attic insulation. Note the trail it makes.

The only way to get them out is to trap and remove them from the attic.

This is probably the single most common scenario that I deal with on a day-to-day basis: rats in the attic of a house or apartment or office building. Florida is full of rats, and in the more southern areas, the Roof Rats (rattus rattus) are more common. They love to climb, and live most of their lives off of the ground, and like most rats, are commensal rodents, living in conjunction with people - eating people food and garbage, and living and breeding inside of buildings. They are a problem, not just because they make noise at night, running about and scratching in the walls and attic, but because they gnaw and chew, and can chew electrical wiring, which can cause a fire hazard. Over 30 different types of disease are associated with rats and their droppings. They include Rat-bite fever (Streptobacillus moniliformis bacteria), which is transferred from rats to humans by the bite of a rat. Rickettsia virus can create a condition similar to chicken pox. Hantavirus is outlined below. Eosinophilic Meningitis is an infection of the brain, and caused by rat lung worm angiostrongylus cantonensis. The droppings of rats can cause Leptospirosis or Salmonellosis. They breed very quickly, and one mating pair can have about 60 young per year, and all the young are sexually mature within three months, so infestation problems can sometimes get out of hand. You want to get rid of the rats in the attic as soon as possible. Here is an analysis of the various strategies:

Poison the Rats: This is actually the worst thing you can do. It won't kill all of the rats. New rats will just come to replace the dead ones. The rat carcasses will rot in your attic and walls and cause a horrible stink. The process never ends, and never solves anything. Plus, it's inhumane, if you care. You can poison for years, and you'll still have rats, and when the poison does work, you'll just get a horrendous stink in your house.

Trap with Snap Traps: This is the best way to remove rats. Traps are more effective, they kill immediately, and you can remove the trapped rats to avoid the decomposing odor. Read more about rat trapping here. However, trapping alone is never enough to solve the whole rat problem in the attic.

Click the below photographs for examples of how to properly trap rats:

Screw traps into the wall at a ceiling entry hole

Remove a drop ceiling panel and set near waste

Traps set on a roof at an eave gap entry hole

Set the trap over a high-activity area, a wire

Trap with Glue Boards: There's a lot of other traps, from ones that electrocute to glue boards. They're all kind of silly - yes, they work, but not as well as snap traps, and they're often inhumane or simply much less effective. Glue boards have a very high failure rate. When I go into an attic in which someone else has set glueboards, I don't see any trapped rats - I see a lot of rat fur on traps, glue traps turned upside down, a single rat food gnawed off, etc. They don't hold rats very well, and once one has gotten a bit stuck and pulled off, they won't go on a glueboard again.

Trap with Cage Traps: Yes, you can actually use live cage traps to trap and relocate rats, if you really want to be humane about it. They do work, but the only problem is that there can be a lot of rats, and it's easier to set a lot of snap traps than cage traps. Plus, the snap traps fit better in the tight areas where rats lurk in attics. Plus, do you really want to relocate rats acclimated to living in an attic?

Clean up Garbage: People think that rats are very dirty, and thus only live in dirty areas. This isnt' true. I've caught rats in gleaming clean hospitals and doctor's offices. They'll live wherever there's shelter and food source. True, garbage does attract more rats. But keeping clean does not mean that you won't get rats. Most of the rats I get are in nice, clean suburban areas.

Keep Vegetation Trimmed: Rats, Roof Rats in particular, also like heavy vegetation. They feed off of citrus trees and nuts and fruit from other trees. They use trees to climb up and onto houses. So trim back the trees, right? Well, same as with garbage, while heavy vegetation helps attract and sustain rats, lack of it won't eliminate a rat problem.

Get a Cat: Seems like a good idea, and yes cats will catch a rat here and there, but for the most part, when you've got rats in the attic, you can have a dozen cats, and it won't matter. I once worked on a house that had eight cats. And I caught eighteen rats out of the attic!

Seal Entry Points Shut: Okay, this is actually the one and only thing that really matters. If you've got rats in the attic, you've got to find out how they are getting into the house, and seal those entry points closed, permanently. Then it doesn't matter how much vegetation or garbage or cats or poison or glue boards or anything you have. Once they're blocked out, problem solved! No more rats in the attic. Our company here in Orlando, or any good company nationwide, should be able to inspect the building and find every last rat entry point, and seal them shut permanently, and that's it, problem solved.

Clean the Attic: It is in fact a good idea to clean and decontaminate the attic. Not only have the rats left behind the parasites and diseases mentioned above, but they actually communicate with their scent. Pheromones in their fur grease and urine tells other rats, "hey guys, live here!". So if you leave that smell behind, new rats will work hard to get to it, and may chew their way in. So have the attic deodorized and decontaminated.

If you need help with a rat problem in your attic, I have compiled an excellent National Directory of Rat Trappers so that you can hire someone in your town.

Click here for my rat control photo galleries.



For more rat control and trapping information, go back to the Rat control page.

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