How To Get Rid of Rats in the House, Rats in Walls, Outside (When To Go Pro)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | February 26, 2024

Man with a giant rat behind him wonders how to get rid of rats in your house or yard and how to ensure you are eliminating rats in walls as well as when to call an exterminator for rats and signs of rat infestation.

Whether you live in the city or the country, many people want to know how to get rid of rats.1

Rats are prolific and (can be) problematic rodents that exist on every continent (except for Antarctica) and can survive and thrive in a variety of environments are locations.

They eat and contaminate human food and transmit a range of diseases to pets and humans alike, not to mention the fleas they carry can pose an additional threat.

The sooner you can eliminate them, the better.

This guide explains the options you have when trying to learn how to get rid of rats in the house or walls, or wherever they are, some safe methods for pets and children, and when you should call a professional to treat a rat infestation.



Photo of a Rat in an oval frame on green background.
  • Description: Medium-sized, long-tailed rodents
  • Natural Habitat: Woods, forests, fields, and meadows
  • Locations: Every continent except Antarctica

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Not Evaluated


Signs You Have Rats in the House

It’s not always obvious when you’re facing a rat infestation, and you might be unsure if rats are the source of your problems. If you’re on the fence, here are some strong indicators that rats are the culprits:

  • Droppings: Rat droppings are small, dark brown, and shaped like pellets. Rats can produce up to 40 droppings per night, so the more you see, the longer rats have likely been present (and the more rats you’re likely dealing with in your home).
  • Teeth Marks or Holes in the Walls: Rats love to chew, and their teeth are strong enough to break through a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, cardboard, and even metal. If you see teeth marks or holes in your walls, you’re almost certainly dealing with rats (or some other type of rodent).
  • Scratching Sounds: You might not see rats in your house, but if you listen carefully, you might hear them. Particularly at night, when rats tend to be the most active, you might hear scratching sounds as they scurry around your attic, basement, or in your walls.7
  • Footprints: In dusty areas like basements or attics, you might spot tiny footprints that rats have left behind.
  • Nests: Rats make nests out of shredded materials, including paper, fabric, and insulation, and set them up in secluded areas (crawlspaces, attics, etc.). If you notice tiny piles of shredded materials, that’s a good sign that rats have been in the area.
  • Grease Stains: Rats have filthy, oily fur and often leave grease stains behind, especially on the walls and baseboards. Spotting and following these marks can help you trace rat activity throughout your house.
  • Strong Smells: You may also sniff out a rat problem before you come face to snout with one of these rodents. Rats typically give off a strong, musky, ammonia-like smell (it’s also present in the grease marks they leave).

Signs You Have Rats Outdoors

Rats might not have taken up residence in your home, but that doesn’t mean they’re not causing problems outdoors. In addition to the warning signs listed above, the following are some issues that could point to an outdoor rat infestation:

  • Hose Damage: You might not notice signs of gnawing as quickly outdoors as you do in your house. However, a good place to check if you suspect rats is your hoses. Rats often gnaw on hoses and leave tiny teeth marks or even large holes behind.
  • Burrows: Rats, particularly Norway rats, are excellent diggers and can quickly dig holes and create burrows underground.8 If you notice signs of digging in your yard or garden, it’s possible rats are the culprits.
  • Increased Animal Activity: Sometimes, pets like dogs and cats are more attuned to signs of rats than humans. If your dog or cat seems to be drawn to a particular portion of your yard and is intently sniffing or digging in an area, that could be a sign that they smell or hear something you can’t — like a rat.

How To Get Rid of Rats Indoors

If you’ve noticed indicators of rats inside your home, whether they’re in the walls or scurrying around in your attic, here’s how to get rid of rats using the following tips:

Conduct a Thorough Inspection

Start with a careful assessment of your house.

Tour the entire home, paying special attention to areas like crawlspaces, the attic and basement, the space behind the water heater, and other spots where rats are likely to set up shop.

Graphic that shows the indicators of rats in the house.

Take note of all signs of rat damage, such as droppings and grease marks, to get an idea of how severe the infestation is.

Mark any openings, no matter how small (rats are great at squeezing through tiny spaces) that they might be using as entry points, too.

Seal All Openings

Next, seal all openings using caulk or wire mesh, to prevent rats from roaming freely through the house.

Clean Carefully

Get rid of clutter and dust, as they tend to invite rats and other rodents. If you get rid of places where they can build nests and burrow, you’ll make your home less hospitable.

Set Up Traps

Finally, set up snap traps to catch rats in the act.9 Use plenty of traps and set them up primarily in areas where you noticed the most signs of activity.

Graphic that shows the signs you have rats outdoors.

Remember that trapping is generally the quickest and most humane way to kill rats.

How To Get Rid of Rats on Your Property

If you suspect you have rats in your garden or anywhere else on your property, these tips on how to get rid of rats will help you eliminate them before they have a chance to sneak into your home:

Inspect and Clean Up the Yard

In addition to cleaning up inside your house, it’s also important to clean your yard.

Get rid of piles of trash or debris, which are calling cards for rats and other pests. Rake and dispose of leaves, twigs, and other plant matter as well.

Invite Natural Predators

Rats have many natural predators, including owls and other birds of prey.10 Consider inviting birds onto your property by providing a water source (like a bird bath). Don’t set out birdseed, though, as that will just attract more rats.

Use Dry Ice

Dry ice produces carbon dioxide, which anesthetizes rats and eventually kills them.11 Place it at the entrance of the rat burrows you’ve identified to kill them as quickly as possible. Be sure to wear gloves to prevent skin damage, though.

Set Up Traps

You can also set up snap traps outside to eliminate rats more efficiently. You may want to conceal them under items like boxes or crates, though, to avoid accidentally trapping other animals.

Home Remedies To Get Rid of Rats

You can try a variety of DIY and home remedies to get rats out of your house and off your property. Here are some of the most well-known and effective options to consider:

  • Essential Oils: Peppermint, eucalyptus, and clove oil are all popular rat deterrents. Their strong scent does a good job of keeping these pests away.
  • Hot Peppers: Hot peppers, as well as black pepper, can also prevent rat issues because of their strong smell and taste.
  • Ammonia: Ammonia also has a pungent odor that rats do not enjoy. It also kills rats when they’re exposed to it.
  • Onions: Onions are toxic to rats, and their strong smell also acts as a deterrent.12 Be sure to replace onion slices set out around your property daily, though, or else they’ll start to rot and invite more pests.

When Should You Call a Rat Exterminator?

For minor infestations, the tips shared above (including using homemade rat repellents and rat-killing solutions) can resolve your issue.

In more severe situations, though, you should leave rat removal to the professionals.

Graphic that shows the home remedies to get rid of rats.

The following are some signs that indicate you should call an exterminator instead of trying to handle rats alone:

You’ve Seen Evidence of Rats

Rats are highly social creatures that generally travel in packs.13 If you’ve seen one rat on your property or a small amount of evidence that rats are present, chances are you’re dealing with mischief (the name referring to a group of rats).14

Reaching out to an exterminator will help you eliminate the entire pack as quickly as possible.

How To Get Rid of Rats: Your Home Remedies Don’t Seem To Be Working

If you’ve tried some of the home remedies listed above but still aren’t seeing results, don’t continue throwing more DIY efforts at the problem.

You’re better off calling an exterminator to come in and use heavy-duty, high-performing methods to get rid of rats once and for all.

You Want To Keep Rats From Coming Back

Calling an exterminator is also a good option when you’ve had rats in the past and want to prevent them.

It’s easier to get in front of a rat problem and prevent it than it is to deal with an active infestation, so don’t hesitate to be proactive and reach out before you see evidence of rats.

How To Choose the Best Rat Exterminator

If any of the situations discussed above are relevant to you, chances are an exterminator can help. How do you know which exterminator is right for your home and your specific rat issue, though?

Use these guidelines to pick the best extermination company for the job:

Ask About Permits

A licensed pest control professional with the proper permit is more likely to use safe and accredited chemicals and methods to get rid of rats on your property. Conversely, unlicensed exterminators are more likely to use subpar chemicals that could cause resistance and create a more serious rat issue.

Each state has its own guidelines regarding pest control permits, and you can usually check online to see if an exterminator’s license is up to date. For example, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has an online search tool where you can input a person’s name and license number to find out if they’re legitimate.15

Read Reviews or Check References

Always read reviews or ask for references before agreeing to work with a specific exterminator.

Ideally, they will have positive reviews on third-party sites like Yelp or Google. They should also be willing to provide specific references and connect you to past customers if you want to speak to someone directly about their experience hiring a specific extermination professional.

Check Availability

Nobody wants to wait weeks or months for an exterminator to come to their home and address a rat problem.

When considering which person to hire, find out how quickly they can come and help you out. If they’re booked out for weeks or months, they’re probably not the right fit for you, especially if you’re dealing with an active infestation.

Look Into Safety Measures

Don’t forget to ask about the specific safety measures an exterminator takes when treating a home.

For example, do they use bait that is safe for pets and kids? Will you need to leave your home while it’s being treated to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals?

Get a Few Quotes

Resist the urge to work with the first exterminator who comes your way or shows up in a Google search. Instead, get quotes from at least three companies.

With this approach, you can compare them side by side to better understand prices, the particular services they offer, the results they promise, etc. This comparison will help you ensure you’re being treated fairly and getting the most bang for your buck.

Consider Ongoing Maintenance Options

If possible, choose an exterminator that offers ongoing pest control maintenance options. For example, do they come back monthly or quarterly to inspect your home and make sure their treatments are effective?

How To Make Your Rat Removal Efforts Stick

Whether you use home remedies or hire an exterminator (or both), your work isn’t done just because you’ve gotten rid of the existing rats in your home.

You should also take steps to stop more rats from coming back in the future.

Graphic that shows the odds of rodent sighting in US homes.

Here are some tips to keep rats out of your home:

Seal All Gaps and Holes

Rats can squeeze through holes just a quarter of an inch in diameter (the width of a pencil).16

Even if a hole seems inconsequentially small, it could still look like a wide open door to a rat. Seal it — and all gaps and holes throughout your home — to ensure rats stay away.

Eliminate Food and Water Sources

Like most animals, rats are opportunists. If they know they have access to food or water in your home or on your property, they’re going to risk it all to get their paws on that food or water.

The good news is that there are lots of steps you can take to get rid of food and water sources.

Avoid letting pet food sit out overnight, for example, and clean out your pantry to ensure there aren’t any crumbs or stray bits of food on the ground or on the shelves.

Use containers with tightly fitting lids, too, instead of leaving food in cardboard boxes (which rats can easily chew through).

Clear Clutter

Do your best to keep your home clutter-free. Clean out basements, attics, and other areas that tend to act as catch-alls and keep them neat and organized.

Not only will this make it harder for rats to build nests and hide out in your house, but it will also help you keep your mind clear and minimize stress.17

Use Natural Remedies as Deterrents

Many of the natural remedies mentioned earlier in this guide work better as preventative measures than active infestation controllers.

If you’ve eliminated rats and want to keep them away, consider using strategies like sprinkling essential oils around your property — especially if you prefer a more all-natural approach.

How To Keep Rats Out of the Garden

Taking care of the exterior of your home will also help to prevent rats from creeping inside.

Follow these guidelines to keep rats out of your garden and reduce the risk of them finding their way into the house:

Trim Tree Branches and Shrubs

If tree branches or branches from bushes and shrubs are too close to your home, you’ve essentially created a runway for rats and other pests.

Trim tree branches so they’re at least six feet away from the roof, and keep shrubs at least two feet from the house.18

Keep Your Yard Clean

In addition to decluttering your home, declutter your yard regularly as well.

Avoid letting piles of trash or unused items stack up on the property, as they can act as open invitations for rats and other pests.

Clean and Cover the Compost Bin

If you have a compost bin, make sure it’s covered tightly and that the outside is kept clean.

If you leave the lid off (or don’t have a lid at all), you’re likely attracting rats and other pests with the smell of decomposing food, yard scraps, etc.

Redo Your Wood Pile

A good rule of thumb is to keep your wood pile at least 3 feet away from your house or any other structure.19

Not only will this help to keep rats away, but it can also reduce your risk of dealing with termites.

Rats are common, but that doesn’t mean you just have to accept them in your life.

Knowing how to spot signs of an infestation, when to hire a professional, and how to choose the best exterminator for your home can eliminate the problem quickly.

Most Common Types of Rats

Nearly 60 different species of rats have been discovered worldwide.2 The following are some of the most common types of rats you might encounter in your home or on your property:

1. Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus)

The Norway Rat is one of the most common rats in the United States.3 It goes by many other names, including these:

  • Common Rat
  • Street Rat
  • Brown Rat
  • Sewer Rat
  • Hanover Rat
  • Wharf Rat
  • Parisian Rat
Photo of the Norway Rat on a grass.

(Image: Zeynel Cebeci22)

This rat grows to be about 12-18 inches long (including their tails). It is nocturnal (although, in large populations, they can also be active during the day) and has brownish-gray fur, a stocky body, a bald tail, a blunt snout, and small, hairy ears.

Norway Rats are good swimmers and often set up nests in basements and the lower levels of buildings. They also live outdoors in the soil, under sidewalks, and near rivers or streams.

Photo of a Roof Rat on the ground.

(Image: CSIRO23)

2. Roof Rats (Rattus rattus)

The Roof Rat is also known as the House Rat, Black Rat, or Ship Rat. It has black, brown, or gray fur and a long, naked tail. They’re more slender than Norway Rats with larger ears and eyes.4

As their name suggests, roof rats often create nests on roofs and in other high places, although they are also capable of burrowing underground if needed.

3. Woodrat (Neotoma cinerea)

Woodrats are also known as Pack Rats or Trade Rats.5 They are similar in size to the Norway Rat but are distinguishable based on their hairy tales and large ears. They have light brown fur, but their feet and bellies are lighter-colored.

Photo of the wood rat hunting for food on grass.

(Image: Public Domain24)

Woodrats often build nests from twigs and other plant materials. They are active year-round, particularly at night, and are excellent climbers.

Marsh Rice Rat on a dry soil looking upward.

(Image: Southeast Ecological Science Center, USGS25)

4. Marsh Rice Rat (Oryzomys palustris)

Marsh Rice Rats are medium-sized and have gray fur with flecks of brown or white. Their belly fur and toes are typically white as well.6

These rats are semi-aquatic and fast swimmers. They typically reside in wetland habitats, such as swamps, marshes, and river floodplains.

Regardless of the type of rats infesting your home, there is a solution.

Understanding the options you have for knowing how to get rid of rats is the first step to eliminating the problem.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Get Rid of Rats

What Are the Average Rat Exterminator Prices?

Rat exterminators, on average, charge around $350 for their services.20 For low-level issues, they may charge less — around $200. However, for more difficult infestations with hard-to-catch rats, the cost could be as high as $1,200.

Is Rat Poison Dangerous?

Yes. Traditional rat poisons like bromethalin and zinc phosphide can be dangerous, especially to pets and children.21 Always talk to your exterminator about the chemicals they use, if any, and the potential risks associated with them.

What Kills Rats Instantly?

Snap traps are the most reliable solution if you want to kill rats instantly and as humanely as possible. Many other options, including rat poisons, are slower to work and will cause more suffering before they take effect.


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6Bloch, C. P., Dreelin, E. A., & Sowell, A. L. (n.d.). The Natural History of the Marsh Rice Rat, <i>Oryzomys palustris</i>, in Eastern Virginia. ODU Digital Commons. Retrieved October 17, 2023, from <>

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9Rats / Home and Landscape / UC Statewide IPM Program (UC IPM). (n.d.). <>

10rats. (2019). <>


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13INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT: RATS AND MICE When are rats and mice a problem? (n.d.). <>

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15Licensed Pesticide Applicator Search. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2023, from <>

16How to Seal Up to Prevent Rodent Infestations | Healthy Pets, Healthy People | CDC. (2023, February 15). <>

17University, U. S. (2022, July 1). The Mental Health Benefits of Decluttering. <>

18SPACING OF LANDSCAPE PLANTS. (n.d.). Wsu. Retrieved October 17, 2023, from <>

19Firewood Best Management Practices California Firewood Task Force. (2017, July 1). Retrieved October 17, 2023, from <>

20Farney, B. (2023, July 5). How Much Does A Rat Exterminator Cost In 2023? Forbes Home. <>

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22Rattus norvegicus – Brown rat 02 Photo by Zeynel Cebeci / Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International ( CC BY-SA 4.0 ). Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

23CSIRO ScienceImage 10564 The black rat Rattus rattus Photo by CSIRO / Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0). Resized and Changed Format. From Wikimedia Commons <>

24Photo by Ken Cole, USGS. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

25Photo by Southeast Ecological Science Center, USGS. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from <>

26Species Information Image: Rat near body of water Photo by Matt Seymour. (2018, December 10) / Unsplash License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Unsplash. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from <>