Keeping your home free of rats is important, as rats can be found almost everywhere in the world. Should they get the opportunity to find access to food, water and shelter, they will not ignore the chance of forming a nest inside or near your home. To be able to prevent a rat infestation, you will need to follow a series of steps and protect your house from becoming attractive for these rodents.
Rats present health risks other than direct transmission of diseases. Their urine and faecal pellets can contaminate food and water supplies rendering them inedible and undrinkable. Rats also have mites and fleas that can readily jump to domesticated pets, and in some cases, onto people. They are perceived in most of the world as dirty animals that spread disease to humans and domesticated animals. It is true that a number of serious diseases and illnesses are transmissible from rodent to human or pets.
Keeping a clean house is the first and most important step when wanting to prevent an infestation. As they will not find the opportunity of freely feeding in a clean house, rats will not dwell or build up nests in the area. Pay attention to any crawl spaces, as rats prefer to hide in such locations. Make sure to also check where plumbing, electric and heating cables or pipes enter and exit your house, and should you find any openings larger that 6 mm, be sure to close them up with either steel wool or hardware cloth.
Beside checking the inside of the house, thoroughly check the outside as well, and fill up any gaps found where the house meets the ground. Also check the roof, where you have exit vents, or where two roof lines intersect. Checking the roof is important, as arboreal rats, such as the black rats, have no problem jumping onto the house, moving in, and finding their way to your generous supplies of food, water, heat, and shelter. For this reason, as well, you can trim the trees near you house that have branches near the roof, in order to stop roof jumping.
To be able to rodent-proof your house on the outside, you will need to create a clean environment, that will not attract rats into your yard.
- stack firewood at least 50 cm off of the ground and keep it several away from your house;
- plants bushes, shrubs and large plants at least 1m away from all buildings;
- place bird feeders on poles where the seed is not accessible to rodents;
- clean up pet food and bird seed debris;
- keep all garbage inside trashcans with securely closing lids;
- plant mint in your garden as rats do not appreciate its strong smell;
- reduce the food and water source of rats in and around your home;
- block access to water sources, and do not let water gather in your yard from roof eaves.
As rats will eat almost anything, avoid storing food outside. If you’re going to store food in a garage, basement, or shed, store it in rodent-proof containers. Types of food rats like are the following, so make sure you take all of them into consideration when storing them adequately:
- pet food;
- organic fertilizer;
- fallen fruit and vegetables from the garden;
- pet droppings;
- water sources (fix leaky faucets and cover pools and drains);
- compost (turn it frequently and use a pest-proof composter);
Holes, vents, openings, and other access points into your home might as well be a welcoming sign for rats and other creatures. On top of removing lures from outside, it’s also a good idea to cover any access points that rats could use to enter your house. When doing this, be sure to use materials that rats can’t eat through, such as wire mesh, concrete, or mortar, as they will chew their way through caulk easily.
- plug all holes in walls and floors that are more than 1.25 cm in diameter;
- cover vents, crawl spaces, and access points;
- fill in gaps where pipes or lines enter the home;
- fix gaps in doors, windows, and siding;
- repair foundation cracks;
- cover openings in the chimney, as rats can drop down onto the roof from tree branches.
Natural and chemical repellents
The use of repellents can help you protect your house against rodents. Whether you use natural or chemical repellents, or use a cat, as it is a natural predator for rats, using repellents can also help in preventing an infestation.
A natural way of preventing rats from nesting near your home is keeping a cat as a pet. Being a natural predator for rats and mice alike, having a cat around the house will make your home less attractive for rodents and discourage them from prowling around. The good thing is that even if your cat is not a great mouser, the smell of the cat’s presence in the home deters rodents. If you do not own a cat, but a neighbour does, you can get some used cat litter and scatter it in the places where you’ve seen the rats, as the smell will scare them away.
Install a barn owl box if you live in a house and have a yard and trees. Barn owls are found all over the world, and they love eating mice, rats, and other rodents. While you can’t keep one as a pet, you can encourage a barn owl to take up residence near your property, and it will hunt and consume rodents in large numbers afterwards.
When it comes to using chemical repellents against rats, you can also place rags soaked in ammonia or put mothballs in open containers and leave them in the corners of the basement, attic or other areas of your home where rodents are a problem. They will avoid these strong smells, and thus, also the location where the smell comes from. The same strategy works with peppermint oil rubbed on beams, shelves or next to doors, or in any other location where you have seen the rats travel. Eucalyptus, grapefruit, sage, and lavender essential oils can also be used.
Ultrasonic electronic devices to repel rats can also be an option. They emit a high frequency sound that is thought to be annoying to rodents, making them nest elsewhere. Humans cannot hear the sounds, but some pets might get affected, especially hamsters, so they should not be kept in proximity of these devices.
As rodents need to chew solid things and by doing this, they can cause damage to walls, electricity wires, doors frames, books and even food containers, and thus an infested location increases the risk of fire. They can also spread diseases, and just their plain presence can be a nuisance for a property owner. It is imperative to keep your home clean and clear of debris that rats might consider food, to seal all possible entrances and to repeat the above steps from time to time in order to ensure that rats do not decide to make your home their new home. Should this happen and you end up dealing with a rat infestation, it will be harder to get rid of these rodents, that it would have been preventing them to appear. In case you are confronted with such an issue, visit our relevant article and find out ‘How to get rid of Rats’.
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