Rat Control - How to Get Rid of Rats

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Effective pest control efforts in the UK have diminished the numbers of the common black rat in recent years, but the Norwegian brown rat species is still an active problem. The common pests migrate indoors in colder weather as they search for warm and comfortable environments. They will nest in households, sheds, barns, warehouses, offices and any other building they can gain access to. It is hard to keep the resilient creatures at bay, as they can find access via open windows, cat flaps, ventilation systems and cracks in a building's foundation. The only way to efficiently manage and deter a rat infestation is with pest control measures.

Identifying the Pest

A rat's nocturnal habits and dark fur can make identification difficult. Often mistaken for mice, rats are actually much larger than other household pests, and the typical male weighs around 500 grams and measures about 1 foot (30cm) in length. Typically, however, a sighting is not needed as there are many other signs of a rat infestation.

Warning Signs

There are many warning signs that can indicate a rat infestation.

Hearing scratching noises in walls, floors and ceilings

Finding sausage-shaped droppings that are around 12mm in length

Discovering gnawed walls, floors and cables, as well as ripped food packaging

Signs of nesting made from piles of shredded newspaper and cardboard

Tracks where they have walked over dusty floors and left marks with their dragging tail

Grease smears on skirting boards etc, left as they brush past with their greasy bodies

If the signs of an infestation are present, there are many different ways to effectively treat the problem.

Calling Council Pest Control

Some local authorities and councils offer a pest control service. For a large fee, technicians will visit domestic properties to identify the problem and start treating the infestation. As rats need to be baited with poison, the treatment can take weeks and several visits, but the technicians will ensure the infestation has been properly eliminated. This can be very expensive but with less and less local authorities having pest control departments this leaves you with the option of private pest control firms, which can be as expensive or DIY pest control.


Rat poisons can be but it should be used with caution and care. The poison needs to placed effectively in locations that the rats are most likely to be present. This is usually where the rats are entering and exiting the property, or where they are going for a source of food. Once the rats eat the bait it can take 2-4 days to take full effect but the whole process of identifying ideal location, baiting, the rat becoming comfortable enough to take the bait, and then easting a sufficient dosage can take weeks before it kills them.  If poison is used, the rat corpses need to be located and properly disposed of, which can be a difficult job. Also, if a household has small children or pets, the poison can be fatal if accidentally ingested.


Traps are an alternative to poison, and there are several varieties available. A spring loaded rat trap is like a mouse trap, but larger and powerful enough to kill a rat. They are effective and typically quite cheap. Electronic traps, like the Electronic Battery Operated Instant Rat Killer Trap, unleash an electric volt when triggered by a pest. Again, these will effectively kill the rat, and are safe to use. Finally, there are humane rat traps which will ensnare the rat in a small cage. Although this won't kill them, the rats will still have to be disposed of properly. Also if you catch a live rat, it is illegal to release rats back into the wild.


A rat repellent system uses ultrasonic noise to distress rodents. The noise disturbs mice and rat's living patterns and drives them away, but household pets like dogs and cats are unaffected (although they shouldn't be used with hamsters or gerbils). These systems are effective, humane and easy to use.

How to Keep Rats Away

The best deterrent for keeping rats away is to make households and buildings as unappealing as possible. Rats are always on the lookout for food, so keep everywhere as clean and tidy as possible, paying particular attention to kitchen surfaces and areas near cookers and fridges. Never leave food out and keep it in airtight containers. This includes pet food and, if pets are feed outdoors, always remove their food bowls after feeding.

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