Rats can be a menace in any home. Last week, I experienced firsthand the havoc that they can cause. In this article, I outline the steps you can take to protect your home, appliances, and health of your family from these deadly rodents.
It was 1:13 a.m. I woke up to the sounds of someone working the lock. I tiptoed across the bedroom mindful of not waking up my husband. I checked the lock of the balcony and brushed the curtain an inch to look outside the window for any movement. Nada.
Everything was in place. Assured, I crept back into bed. There was a nagging thought because the neighbors were not in town.
Five minutes ticked by. The sound of rustling of the locks started again.
This time, my spouse woke up startled. “Someone is in,” he said and shushed me with a finger on his mouth. In all these years, I have never seen him so worried. The noise was real. The walls leave little room for privacy here; we are accustomed to the sounds of footsteps from the neighbor. But, this was different. In the dead of the night, it freaked us out.
Golf club in hand, he scanned room after room eliminating entry points. We triangulated the source of the noise. To cut a long story short, we mustered the courage to open the door to the bathroom and there was this huge gal ~ a rat (almost the size of a bandicoot) chewing away at the bathroom door. She ran like a headless chicken across the bathroom. We promptly retreated, slid a couple of sticky traps under the door and shut the door.
The smart cookie did not get caught in the days that followed with sticky traps or the slide and shut mouse cages. Turns out a new walnut shampoo that I bought and used the day before attracted her into the bathroom. She eventually made her way into the kitchen and found shelter inside dishwasher. She made a breeding nest with packing material present on the sides of the machine.
In the night, she would come out in search of food, poop, and go back in. One night, the sound was so loud that it felt like animals were having a party in the kitchen. The nightmare gave us sleepless nights as the traps did not work at all.
One trap caught a small mouse but the big lady was still out and about.
Eventually, on day 3, once we knew she was in the dishwasher, we turned on the machine, she came out and we caught her by turning a bucket upside down.
But the damage was done and we foot a huge bill to fix the inlet pipe that she had chewed.
We have a very clean home so I was surprised by the rodents’ entry. But what I have come to realize is they are outdoors and there is little you can do to control the external environment.
How did I know there was a rat infestation?
Often the presence of a rat in the house goes unnoticed for days together because they are nocturnal animals. They are quite scared of humans and noises and avoid coming out unless they are starved which was the case at my home. These are the signs that pointed to the presence of rats at my home:
- bitten mesh
- droppings in the utility from the night
- screeching noise in the traps
Rats are social animals. Seldom there is one. A breeding rat is the one that usually causes havoc.
Do naphthalene balls work against rats?
No. Unfortunately, naphthalene or moth balls don’t repel rats. It is a false belief that moth balls keeps rodents away.
I have seen it in reality. I placed a few moth balls on the window sill and they pushed them down. So , no naphthalene balls do not deter rats.
Do spearmint or lemongrass oil repel rodents?
Again a misconception. It is widely believed that the smells of certain essential oils like spearmint and lemongrass oil pushes away rodents, or say some articles on the web.
But, it’s NOT true. The essential oils have no effect on the rats. I sprayed lemongrass, peppermint, citronella and spearmint essential oils around the area of rat infestation and it had absolutely no effect on them.
Do any of the home remedies to repel rats actually work?
Unfortunately, no. Rats are most attracted to smell. But these evolved rodents seem to be less affected by scents that are believed to be exterminators like onion or garlic peels, moth balls, and essential oils.
Are glue pads / sticky traps effective?
Glue pads / Sticky traps from good brands are effective for mice and smaller rats but they are not strong enough to catch the larger ones.
How do I set up a rat trap and lure the rat into a cage?
Your safest bet is to set up a rat trap. Place a bait like a small piece of burnt coconut inside the hook. The lever should only slightly touch the secured end. Any slight touch and the door should close with the mouse trapped inside. See it in action in this video.
Rats are very sensitive to smell – thousand times more than humans. They can smell things that humans can’t. The peanut butter I churn in my kitchen and the walnut shampoo from the bathroom is a testimony to this menace.
The food you keep as a bait is what will lure it in the cage. But the lever has to be a hair trigger lest you find the mouse feeding on the bait and escaping without a trace.
The sneaky fellow pulled a hard one on us once.
Is rat poison safe to use?
Highly recommend AGAINST the use of rat poison inside homes. If it eats and dies in an inaccessible place like a chimney track or false ceiling, it would be an expensive deal to take that down and clean.
Best would be to use organic means or granules for outdoors.
It is also best to AVOID rat poison where there are kids or pets at home.
How can you prevent rats from entering the home?
Prevention is the best cure. One of the first things you’ll have to do is identify its rite of passage i.e. the entry point from where they are entering the house. Is it open a drainage trap in the kitchen / utility or garage?
- Identify the source and plug it. In our case, it was a hole in the utility where the drainage pipes run through. The door was covered in a mesh made of aluminum. The rats bit through the aluminum mesh to make their way into the house.
- If you are using a mesh to secure a window or door, be mindful of using only a stainless or hard metal that they cannot bite through.
- Use a drain flap.
How to protect your dishwasher and other appliances from rats?
Rats cause damage to appliances by chewing away on the wires. It put a hole in my pocket to get the inlet pipe of the dishwasher repaired. One of the ways you can protect the wires is by using a rat protection wire like this one.
How to get rid of rats permanently from your home?
- Get a pest control done specifically for rodents once every three months until you see no more droppings.
- Identify their entry points and seal them completely. It can be drainage, crevices in the outer walls.
- Look for any loose sink traps in the kitchen and bathroom. Place a heavy weight so that they do not have access to it from drainage holes.
- Use granules used in fields for rodent control. Once they realize the path they were used to is not safe anymore, they will stop coming.
- Do not leave food unattended outside.
- Close the trash bins.
I have come to realize that prevention of rodents early on will save you a ton of money later on. In conclusion, keep your surroundings clean, watch for droppings, and if present, exterminate them completely.