by Harvey Bond
If you suspect you have a rat infestation, your first impulse might be to close off any openings you suspect the rats may be using to enter and leave your home, or simply scream. Do neither of these; instead, figure out what type of rat is causing the problem, and then use one of the five primary methods of rat combat to rid your home of infestation for good.
There are two main types of rats known for causing infestation in North America – Norway rats and roof rats. Norway rats prefer to nest underground. They dig holes outside of your property around gardens, trees, and other shrubs, as well as against foundations These holes lead to burrows, which eventually tunnel into your house via pipes, cracks in the encasement around them, or any type of unprotected crawl space. Since Norway rats are fond of the lowest nesting places, they will most often be found in kitchens or bathrooms.
Roof rats prefer just the opposite type of nesting location. Extremely skilled climbers, these rats tend to build their homes in high places, such as cabinets or attics. Scaling any form of material from which your property is constructed poses no problems for these limber rodents.
Roof rats climb wood, brick, or stucco siding then find a small point of entry into your home, such as an exhaust pipe, bathroom vent, or space between the roof and the boards surrounding it. If your house happens to be airtight, these indomitable rodents will chew a hole straight through any material they can.
The location of your houses rodent infestation should provide a strong clue as to what type of rat is responsible. The location of droppings ensures that rats have traveled through the area recently and will do so again. The shape of these leavings can also help to confirm what type of rat is the culprit. Though both types of rat leave waste approximately the size of a black bean, the droppings of Norway rats are smooth and rounded, while those of roof rats have pointy ends.
Once you have determined that you do indeed have a rat infestation, several methods of combat are available to you, including poisons, glue boards, snap traps, live traps, and electrocution.
Two main types of poisons are often used to battle rat infestations: rodenticide and liquid bait. Rodenticides are poison baits that seem like attractive foods to rats. Most rodenticides are anticoagulants, which means that they prevent the rats blood from properly clotting. Once a rat has ingested such an anticoagulant in multiple doses (generally for at least 15 days or until signs of feeding have stopped), any bleeding it undergoes becomes deadly.
Since its blood cannot clot, any type of injury that ruptures an artery or vein, such as a cut or internal hemorrhage, causes the rat to bleed to death. Rodenticides should be placed in areas where the rat infestation seems most obvious, but also with caution – make sure that this poison is not in a location where it can be inadvertently consumed by family pets or small children.
Liquid bait is formed of a poisonous concentrate mixed with water, and is ideal for dealing with rat infestations during dry seasons, or in areas where rats have few water sources. Adding a little sugar to the liquid bait should make it even more attractive to rats, who need water daily unless they are somehow feeding on very moist food.
Liquid bait containers should be safely enclosed in liquid bait stations (available from commercial suppliers as well as self-construct able) in high places like cabinets or crawispaces, as well as any other out-of-the-way locale where the target rats will be the only ones to find and ingest it.
In both rodenticide and liquid bait station usage, the food and/or water provided needs to be fresh, as rats will not eat food that is stale, dirty, or spoiled in anyway. Both types of poison should ideally be placed between the rats nest and their main food source, if possible.
It is relatively easy to construct as opposed to purchase your own liquid bait container station. These containers can take many forms and be constructed of many different materials, but it is key to design them so that multiple rats can feed at once. A bait station can be formed of a simple flat piece of wood (at least eight inches long to prevent children from gaining access) nailed at an angle to the wall with with the food positioned between the wall and board.
Bait stations can also be constructed from pipes, or more elaborate boxes with two holes cut into the sides, equipped with childproof latches for easy checks to make the sure the bait is fresh and still being consumed. Each station should have at least two 2AM-inch openings, preferably at opposite ends of the station so that rats looking into one end can see an easy escape route, and thus be more inclined to venture in.
Glueboards and snap traps are somewhat outdated means of dealing with rat infestations, but can still meet with success when the problem is limited to one or two animals. Glueboards are pieces of plastic or wood with non-drying glue spread on top to which the curious rat will become stuck. Glueboards can be bought from commercial suppliers or self-constructed.
In order to build your own glueboard, cut a square or rectangular shape from a sturdy substance such as plastic or wood (avoid paper at all costs). Spread a form of non-drying glue (Rodent Bulk Glue is fairly popular) on the board, and place it near a wall or under furniture where rats are likely to travel. The downside of glueboards is that only one can be used per rat, and often, a rat ensnared on such a board will scream with a human-like sound that may not only be hard for human occupants of the house to bear, but also scare other rats away from additional glueboard investigation.
Extended trigger traps are the spring loaded, updated version of the snap traps (planks of wood with metal triggers) of yore. They, like glueboards, are best used in cases where only one or two rats are causing a problem.
Place the traps as close to the wall as possible in a location the rodents normally frequent. The disadvantage of using trigger traps is that once rats see their own kind dead, which they inevitably will when the traps spring, they will consistently avoid any further traps you set out at all costs.