I think I smell a rat. Oh, I think I smell a rat.
December 13, 2012 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Help! Are the rodents too smart for us? I am losing my wits and feel like poison may be the only option, but I have two big ole dumb dogs that would most likely eat the poisoned rats outside.

We've had mice before... little tiny ones, but they seemed to go away of their own accord. However, now I am seeing bigger droppings and more frequent and I am terrified that we have upgraded to full on rats, which makes me sick to think about. We've tried the De-Con no see no touch type traps, which were unsuccessful. Now we are trying the straight up snap traps (rat sized), and have had several trips, but none caught. I know that the ultimate answer is to block up all the ways to get in, however, we rent and there is a crawl space under the house. At some point someone mentioned that if we have a crawl space there isn't much we can do in that regard, just treating the ones in the house. Also there is a tiiiiny weird closet area off our kitchen that contains the hot water heater, and prevents us from getting around to the back of the space, there seems to be a lot of activity in that area, so I am guessing they are getting in in a place that we can't even access. What can I do? Anything? I can't use poison because the dogs are very likely to eat the dead rats in the back yard, and I don't want to risk that. Would calling an exterminator be of any help? What do they do that I couldn't do really? (I have a friend that worked for terminex, and she said that they don't really have much to offer in the rodent area) Is that the case for all extermination companies? Any help would be appreciated at this point! I am bordering on desperation!
posted by Quincy to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The problem with poison is then you have dead rats in your walls/crawlspace, and that is not any more fun than live ones. (...Really. I have reason to believe one of my neighbors jumped the gun on that recently, and I've had to dispose of two corpses recently, one... squirmy.) My condo building has used an exterminator who has set traps to deal with rat and squirrel infestations, and they've been very effective. (This should be your landlord's problem, of course - you shouldn't have to pay for pest control if you're renting.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:50 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Rat Zappers, a little box that electrocutes them. Cats. These have solved our problem. I wouldn’t use poison and didn’t want to use other traps.
posted by bongo_x at 9:50 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the traps.. what are you using for bait? If it's cheese.. try using peanut butter instead.
posted by royalsong at 9:52 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We've been using peanut butter so far
posted by Quincy at 9:54 AM on December 13, 2012

We had the same problem . . . though we went straight to rats without a pause for mice. We have a dog and cats, one of which is a fine hunter. None of our home remedies, including many ingenious traps and our cat(s), worked. So we finally called the exterminator. Goodbye rats. None of our pet animals were harmed in any way.

I'd suggest researching animal exterminators in your area.
posted by bearwife at 9:56 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The kind of traps where the animal enters and a trap-door prevents their escape is more effective in my experience than the traps that kill. They make a number of rat-sized ones. Disposing of the rats is another matter, but animal control or a pest control company can help if you're not up to (humanely) killing them yourself.

Don't use glue traps - they're not humane at all, and like the snap-traps, rats will soon recognize them as hazards to avoid.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:01 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding avoid glue traps. Helping a neighbour Remove one of those from a freaked out dog with a freaked out mouse still attached is no fun at all for anyone.

Rats are smarter than mice and soon learn traps are not good. Changing up locations can help as can changing up bait (bacon fat is good) rats soon learn that the thing that smells like this food that is just there = death.

An exterminator is the easiest way to go and you can also get their advice on what holes etc need to be blocked up to stop them coming back in.
posted by wwax at 10:10 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

From what I understand, rats don't like the smell of moth balls or peppermint. Perhaps put either one of those around their known entrances and see if the smell keeps them away?

And yes, your landlord should help you with this.
posted by luckynerd at 10:23 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would go beyond an exterminator and look for someone who specializes in rodents. My dad has a house in a rural area with a serious rodent problem (raised foundation too since you mentioned). He had monthly service from a reputable exterminator and the problem just got worse and worse. They would put down traps, make some efforts to block the rodent entry, but it wasn't working.

He had a recommendation for new guy that is like a rat whisperer. He spent 7 HOURS at the house and crawled in the attic, under the house, through the cupboards and under the sinks - everywhere. He regaled my dad with exciting stories about the rat highways they had set up and their living quarters in and under the house. He went through 12 cans of expanding foam and bag after bag of steel wool and mesh. When he was done, my dad said he was covered head to toe in rat crap and grinning.

So funny story aside, get a rodent expert, not just a bug guy who'll throw a few traps down. You need to keep them out.
posted by cecic at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Having paid several hundred for an exterminator, I will share that one thing he did was put oil of peppermint around all the areas where rats might get in.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2012

Response by poster: @cecic Man, I wish I could just hire that guy. Or maybe the TurtleMan
posted by Quincy at 11:11 AM on December 13, 2012

I just watched a show yesterday on NatGeo Wild called "Rat Genius" which demonstrated how rats are so wiley that home extermination methods like snap traps and even poison don't work for long. Rats will eat very slowly, so if they feel even a little sick they will stop eating and actually communicate to other rats that there's poison nearby. I think an exterminator is your best option, especially since they reproduce at an alarming rate.
posted by xyzzy at 11:14 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can't find the link now, but I read a long rat catching guide where the chap put down little piles of sawdust every day for a couple of weeks. The rats got used to them and liked to play in them. Every day he cleared them up and put them down again, then on the last day he put rat snap traps in them, and he got most of the rats that night.

I caught a few rats in my crawl space but they haven't touched the traps in a while. I used porridge oats.

Chap at the shop told me to tie the traps to a brick or nail with wire, so that if they don't kill the rats straight away, they can't crawl off and die somewhere where they'll fester and stink the whole house. Nasty but it's not a nice business.

I never managed to work out where they got in from outside. Thought about using smoke to show where they got in or channelling car exhaust smoke into their burrows to gas them. (ok that could be dangerous, that's why I didn't do it.)

They also really hate fine chilli powder, so try sprinkling that around if it's dry, it might keep them away.

Good luck.
posted by guy72277 at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding a Rat Zapper. They are magical things. A housemate bought one and it took care of our mouse problem in a couple days. He loaned it out to other friends and it took care of all their mouse problems too. I think rats are a little smarter and you have to give them a couple days to get used to eating out of the un-set trap before setting phasers to kill. But it really is an amazing device and totally worth it, especially since you'll have it for forever.
posted by schroedinger at 2:03 PM on December 13, 2012

My go-to never-fail rat catching apparatus is:

1. a bag of microwave popcorn
2. two mousetraps

Pop the popcorn, eat half of it (that's the fun part!), then lay the bag someplace where the dogs can't get at it, preferably along a wall, because rats and mice follow walls when they sneak around. Set two traps -- you need two, because the bag is wide enough and rats are smart enough they may be able to go around the trap. Put the traps just inside the opening of the bag. Rats love microwave popcorn so, so much. Check them regularly. I've never had one go more than a day without catching a rat when we've known there was one in the house. Last spring we had four in the house: three caught this way, one by the cat, in less than two days.

Other than that, I sprayed expanding foam into every opening I could find, and I regularly take the dogs over to pee in the areas where I think the rats are coming in. Still, about a month ago, one daring rat made it into the house. We heard him in the walls. That afternoon, our kitty had laid the rat's cold corpse in the doorway to our bedroom, so it turned out I bought microwave popcorn for nothing.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:08 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are renting then please tell your landlord that you are having pest problems. They may be willing, or may be legally required, to help pay for an exterminator.
posted by bq at 4:06 PM on December 13, 2012

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