Critter Control: Rats

Norway rats are burrowing rodents that are the largest and most common rat. They average about one pound in weight, and have coarse, reddish brown fur and a blunt nose.


They're nocturnal and rely on their keen senses (other than sight) for information. They are good climbers, diggers, and moderate swimmers. They tend to use the same routes over and over. Rats eat up to half a pound of food a day, and waste up to ten times this amount.

Good Points

None, other than they're useful to scientists in the laboratory. In that case, they're smart and adaptive.

Bad Points

In addition to all of the damage they cause, they are dirty, dangerous, and can carry a whole host of diseases, including trichinosis and salmonellosis.

Favorite Foods

Just about everything, and plenty of it. In the garden, melons and tomatoes are susceptible to attack, but the real treats are fruits and berries.


They burrow under buildings, causing structural damage, and gnaw wires, water pipes, doors, windowsill, ceilings, floors - you name it - they damage it, especially if it somehow leads to food.



Rat poison, available at just about every hardware store, is the quickest and surest control. Be sure to follow all directions to the letter.


Rat control begins by storing all food materials in rodent-proof containers, collecting and disposing of refuse, and properly storing all usable materials. Permanent removal of harborage and sources of food will eliminate existing rat populations.

Ground Cayenne pepper liberally sprinkled at likely entry and exit points, and along their runs (identified by their fecal pellets), is a safe, effective control.

To stop them from gnawing, apply a thick layer of Tabasco Sauce to the area. They are also sensitive to ammonia, and are absolutely terrified of ferret scent.

To prevent rats from entering and exiting through their old familiar gnawed openings in wood or drywall, pack the opening with steel wool or copper mesh similar to that used for scrubbing pots and pans, and then seal it.

The most common method of dealing with rats is to trap them, but believe you me, it's an art. Use cheese, chicken, cereal grains, or a mixture of peanut butter and oatmeal as bait. Place the trap in a runway with the trigger end against the wall. Tie the bait to the trigger so that it can't be removed without springing it. Now for the good news — a trap that kills the rat using a mild electric shock! Once the rat is dead, there is no need to touch the carcass, just empty the trap into the trash. A final word of caution - be very careful when handling dead rats - they carry many parasites.

Finally, if all else fails, try one of the ultrasonic devices that are available. There are several that work by creating stress on their bodies, which causes them to flee the area.

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