Rats have an overwhelmingly high reproduction rate. According to Do It Yourself Pest Control, it only takes two to three months for a rat to reach sexual maturity. These rodents can give birth to four to seven litters a year with as many as eight to 12 pups per litter. If you do nothing, it would only take a few months for an infestation of rats in a house to get out of control. A few simple steps, when taken early, can exterminate rats from the home and protect against long-term rodent problems.
The most common rats found inside North American homes are Norway rats and roof rats. There is not too much of a difference in the behaviour and appearance of these two breeds. The major distinction between Norway and roof rats is the location of their burrows and travel routes. Norway rats are great swimmers and prefer to burrow underground, while roof rats excel at climbing and typically stick to elevated locations such as attics, roofs and trees. Detecting rats in the home is easy when you look for the right signs. The first thing to watch for is dark pellet droppings of about 1/2-inch long. These are commonly found around food, under sinks or near garbage. If you suspect rats in the home, you may lightly sprinkle flour or baby powder over rat runways such as along cabinets or around stoves to discover the location of their traffic-ways. Also, look for small holes in walls and the bottoms of cabinets of about 2 inches in diameter. Outside burrows may be along the foundation of the house or underneath shrubbery. An active burrow will have marks of frequent use, such as lack of vegetation and padded down earth. Once you detect rats, act immediately to get them out of the house by eliminating garbage and setting traps.
Pets are rarely effective at controlling rat populations, and poisons are dangerous. Using traps to catch the pesky rodents is almost always the best approach. There are three main types of traps available on the market: snap, glue and live. Snap traps are the typical wooden, spring-loaded rat traps that have been around for years because of their effectiveness. Keep children and pets away from snap traps to avoid broken fingers and paws. Glue board traps can be messy but useful by literally gluing the rodent invader to the trap. Furthermore, live traps are very efficient at catching rats alive as long as the trap has a 1/2-inch grid or smaller to prevent the creatures from escaping. Set more than one trap at once, and use any combination of traps you want. You can determine which traps work best for you by a trial-and-error method. Set traps in between the rats' feeding area and burrows. Rats often use the same runways to get around, so the traps will be more yielding if you place them along these runways. Though human scents rarely intimidate a rat the same as a natural predator, such as a cat or dog scent, try to touch the traps only when reinstalling bait or clearing a dead rat. Check the traps daily to prevent the putrid smell of decaying rat in the home. After you set the traps, it may take a few days or even a couple weeks to catch anything, but do not move the traps. If the rats continue to leave traps alone, try baiting the traps without setting them for a few days. Once the rodents are used to eating off of unset traps, the traps will be more proficient when set. If this still doesn't work, move the traps somewhere else between the rat burrows and their food source.
Rat poisons, or rodenticides, include a poisonous bait used to kill rodents with one dosage. You can buy rat poisons from hardware stores and the Internet in the form of a seed, liquid, block or pellet. When setting poisons, remember to firmly attach the bait to the floor or lower wall in a location where no pets or children can reach. If you have pets and children in your home, you probably want to avoid poisons altogether. Rats do not always die immediately after eating the poison, and they may walk off before dying under floorboards or in walls. To avoid horrible aromas from dead rats, stick to traps. Remember that if the family cat or dog eats a poisoned rat it will become poisoned as well and risk death. Though poisons are fully capable of killing rat populations, the overall advantages of poison do not outweigh the risks.