How to kill a rat in your house, instantly and humanely

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As I've discussed repeatedly, it's pointless to start killing the rats in your house until you've first solved the root problem - the openings they are using to get inside. But once your building is sealed shut and no more rats can crawl in or out, it's time to kill the last few rats that are stuck inside. Once done, your rat problem is solved forever! If you need help with a rat infestation, click on this map of Professional Rat Removal Companies serving every town/city in the USA.

Okay, no one is going to actually shoot rats like in the above photo. There are really two primary ways people use to kill rats:

POISON THE RATS: I hope it's the most important thing I say about rat control, aside from the importance of sealing the building: rat poison is horrible. It does not solve the rat problem. It is inhumane, as the death is slow and painful. It does not kill all the rats. Not every rat that eats poison dies. The rats that do die will die in your attic or walls, and cause a horrible stink - I guarantee it. But worst of all, it doesn't work. New rats just keep coming and coming, and the rats that don't die just keep reproducing. Poison is the worst.

TRAP THE RATS: Yes, you need to trap the rats. I have found that live cage traps absolutely do not work. But also, if you live trap and relocate a rat, it will die anyway. Rats can't live in an area outside their territory - 90% of the time they die within 48 hours of relocation. So I kill the rats. But how do you kill a rat in the house? There are many lethal traps out there, but I like the snap trap.

Yes, the old-fashioned wooden snap trap is the most effective option. Believe it or not, in hundreds of cases of testing over many years, this trap has proven the best. There legitimately is no better trap out there! These traps can be set to a very sensitive level, the flat bottom rests nicely on any flat surface, even insulation, which is where the best trapping spots are in the attic, along the runways. For more detail about the process, read my how to trap a rat page.

How to kill a rat in your house - I said above that no one is going to shoot rats, but from time to time I do, with an air-powered bb gun. 1000 feet per second is best, and that's pretty powerful for a small animal like a rat. I only shoot rats when they are running around in a house, and there's no better option to quickly get it - it's not like you can easily net a rat - they dart into tight spots at lightning speed, and are almost impossible to catch. But when they think they have a safe spot, they stay perfectly still in a crevice, and a bb gun is actually the most viable option I've found thus far. But if you're not looking at a rat in an emergency situation, it's the same thing. Set snap traps, in the cupboard, cabinets, behind the couch, behind the kitchen stove etc. Don't set them where you'll snap your fingers! If you want to be safe, especially around pets and children, you can use a special lockable rat box, and set the traps out in the open, in these locked boxes. I've done so many times. That will catch the rats in the home safely. Look online for the Protecta rat box and Snap-E snap trap. But remember, the only thing that really matters in order to solve the rat problem forever is to seal shut the entry areas outside the house.

Rat removal info - main rat removal information page.
How are rats getting in - this is what you need to read if you want to solve the problem.
How to get rid of rats - just another general guide.
Rat in building - general information on different parts of buildings rats get into.
Rat damage photos - just so you know what they are capable of, and so you can see the signs.
Pest control for rats - why to never hire a regular pest control company to do rat work.
Rat repellent - do repellents and rodent deterrents work?
Rat prevention - some tips to keep rats away, and lessen the number in the area.
Rats in the attic - a good guide to one of the most common problem areas with rats.
Photos of rat poop - for identification purposes.

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How to Kill a Rat: There are several ways to kill a rat and most people depend on traps or poisoned baits to eliminate rats from their houses. It is crucial to know that killing a rat or several rats is in vain if accesses, vents, holes aren't properly blocked off to ensure that more rats do not get into the house. This means that no matter how sophisticated your strategy is, it does not beat prevention.

Different methods of killing rats range from lethal snap traps to poisoning, shooting, electrocution and drowning.

Lethal Traps

Snap Traps
They are both effective and efficient lethal traps. The wooden snap has proven to be the best, its rat elimination rate being ninety nine percent effective. In order to get the best results from a snap trap, it must be placed in the right location. It cannot be randomly placed anywhere because rats are creatures of habits meaning that they would travel the same routes over and over. Ensure that the trap is set on this trail, which can be identified through their droppings. You should also set many, and not just one trap.

Glue Traps
They work but not very well. A glue trap doesn't kill the rat immediately, it just ensures that the rat is stuck to the pad and the effectiveness of this trap depends on the size of the rat. A big rat would either gnaw the stuck parts off like its limb or wriggle off the trap. If, in the alternative, a small rat gets stuck, it dies an agonizingly slow death in the most inhumane way.

Another con for this trap is that it cannot be used for a long period as the adhesive will wear off, especially after it has caught one or two rats. It also wears off when it has caught no rat in a long time.

Cage Traps

Cage traps more often than not, use a bait and a pressure sensitive pad that springs the cage door close immediately a rat steps on the pad. However, this is a laborious trap type as it doesn't kill the rat and can only capture one rat at a time. Users of this trap will either release the rat outside or kill it by clubbing.

Rats are cautious and rarely go near new things which is why this method is the least effective. The cage must be set properly and the wire mesh of the cage should not be wide enough for a rat to squeeze through.

Poisons kill rats but not effectively as not all rats that eat the poison will die and the ones that do eat it will most times die in a hidden corner, rot and cause a terrible odor in the house. The poison method is also ineffective because rats are cannibalistic in nature, and a dead rat will attract more rats to your house leaving you with a worse problem than before. Does Using Poison Cause Dead Rats In The House?

There are different types of rat poison:

  • Bromethalin attacks the nervous system and results into seizures, causing death within 36 hours.
  • Strychnine causes muscular convulsions and then a painful death through asphyxia
  • Anticoagulants causes internal bleeding and it takes a few days for the rat to finally die from shock.
  • Ethylene glycol causes damages in tissues and organs and then all organs start to fail one after the other till the rat dies within 24 hours

Natural Remedies

-Cats - If you own a cat, killing of rats would not be an issue as they are natural enemies. Your cat would need no prompting in hunting down this natural enemy.
-Ammonia - Ammonia has a pungent smell that disturbs rats. Sprinkling of ammonia in their hole will kill the rats in most cases.
-Human Hair - Rats choke on human hair. Place a clump of hair in their hole to kill them in no time.
-Pepper - Another remedy rats can't stand is pepper. They are unable to breathe when near pepper. The pungent smell of the pepper inflates their lungs and causes them to die. Try sprinkling some pepper near their holes.
-Bay Leaf - Bay leaf may be an aromatic leaf for humans but when rats eat them, they choke on the leaf and subsequently die. Place some bay leaves in their hole.
-Onions – putting some cut onion near a rat hole will kill it.
-Sound - Sharp sounds make the ears of rats bleed and kills them instantaneously. Place your speaker near their holes.

This is a mean method that involves the use of a small metal cage. A live wire is connected to the cage, which causes the rat to be electrocuted as soon as it steps into the cage.

Drowning involves a water trap set in such a way that the rat on its regular trail suddenly runs, falls into the water and drowns.

Customer Rat Email: HI David: In my total ignorance but everpresent imagination I can't help but wonder why one couldn't devise a pretty simple electrocution trap through a plastic pipe 2,3, or 4" with a suspended c.d. rigged above a slot to act as a trap door and a couple of exposed bare 12 volt d.c or 120 volt a.c. stranded wire lampcord ends inserted from either side for them to brush against as they go for the bait. I also understand that mothballs might be utilized to coerce the little, check that, BIG bastards to abandon the attic and take the pipe as the only way out. If so, how many mothballs would be required? Also what about 24 hour halogen floodlights; thus eliminating any dark hiding places to give them insomnia ? OR Metallica at full volume lol And finally; couldn't these vermin be netted and dropped into water? I sort of think they might be somewhat aggressive if cornered but I have 3 dogs, one of which is a proven rodent killer, to help and a reasonably open attic but I sure like your BB gun suggestion, especially with a semi or fully-automatic one! paul - p.s. what about carbon monoxide from a car exhaust. once they were killed and the attic was ventilated my dogs would sniff out the carcasses before they decomposed

My Response: Those are all interesting ideas, but not necessary. Just follow my advice: the ONLY important thing is sealing up the entry holes into the house. Then how you kill them doesn't matter, but snap traps are definitely the easiest. But I do have to say that mothballs are totally worthless.

Safe and Humane Ways to Kill Rats at Home

In the words of Shirley Bassey, "So let me get right to the point -"

There is only one safe and humane way for you to kill rats in the home, and that is by using rat traps - snap traps that are designed to kill the rodents on impact. There are other methods, of course, but many of these come with legalities attached that make them unlawful actions, and almost all of them have far more cons than pros.

Let's take a closer look:

What about poison for rats?

Experts have agreed that rats are showing a staggering immunity to the rodenticide that actually effectively worked to kill large populations of rats off just a few years ago. The rats are eating the poison - it is usually created with a smell or taste that attracts rats - but it's not killing them off. It's not as effective at causing damage anymore. We've used it so much that it no longer works.

The rat eats the poison and doesn't die, but when that rat is attacked by a predator, such as a cat or dog, or perhaps even a coyote, fox or raccoon, it then has the potential to "pass the buck". The rat can have five times, ten times, even fifty times the amount of "recommended" rat poison in its system, and this is then ingested by the predator when it chews, bites, or consumes the rodent. It will then, of course, kill the predator. Maybe not immediately, but after a while of being violently sick from secondary poisoning, the predator will be weak and vulnerable and likely to come under attack itself.

These dangers are just the tip of the iceberg as far as rat poison is concerned, but if the stuff doesn't work in the first place, there really does seem to be very little point in trying to use it at all.

How about drowning?

You could trap a bunch of rats and then drown them, but that's actually a really inhumane way to deal with an infestation. We've seen a number of websites that suggest a bucket and piece-of-wood combination to lure rats in and then cause them to drown, and although it is a smart idea in theory, in practice it's actually pretty cruel. Drowning any animal is considered inhumane and with some animal species, the act is highly illegal and could see you facing criminal charges.

Shooting, then?

Shooting is an option that can work very well if everything works in your favor. Ideally, you will want to find the rat, shoot it, and kill it in one go. If you miss, you'll scare the thing off and probably won't see if for a few days. If you hit it but don't kill it, the rat will scamper off (if possible) and then hide away in a nest for a few days, either getting better and returning to life as normal, or dying and attracting flies and maggots whilst giving off an awful smell.

Even if you do manage to kill the rat with your superb shot, you'll need to locate the carcass and remove it. If you don't, you run the risk of a potentially poisonous rat carcass being left out for any ol' animal to eat, and you're also running the risk that other scavengers will join the party. Raccoons, foxes, opossums, and coyotes are all predators of rats, and you can add owls, eagles and other birds of prey to the list too.

You will also need to bring a certain amount of common sense thinking into the equation when you're trying to shoot rats, too. (Although we do understand that the rodents can drive you to a slightly murderous way of thinking!) If you live in a built-up residential area, shooting a gun around all over the place is just going to scare people. Moving away from that point; if you're not a very good shooter, you're probably not going to hit the rat on the first try - or second. (Third, fourth, fifth - ) This approach might not be that cost-effective in terms of rounds!

Weird and wonderful suggestions

We've seen a number of odd ideas for killing rats on the internet, including homemade poison concoctions. Unless you are experienced in the world of mixing dangerous chemicals, it's not an advised practice. You should also consider the idea that other animals will get to the DIY poison before the rats do, killing them off instead.

Coke and other gassy drinks, bicarbonate of soda - There are quite a few ways that you could cause physical harm to rats and other rodents if you really put your mind to it, but it's not a good idea. The mess that these ideas would result in would be far beyond what you might expect, and the cleanup operations that follow will be longer than the rat-killing part of the job.

The best, quickest, and most humane way to deal with rats is to use snap traps. The other methods - Well, if you give them a try, you'll soon learn that they just don't work that well at all.

Go back to the Rat Removal page, or learn tips to do it yourself with my How to Get Rid of Rats guide.

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