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Rats can make a home almost anywhere. They infest homes, agriculture, and foodstuffs, and they easily adapt to their surroundings. Despite poor eyesight, rats are active at night when they explore and learn about their surroundings. They memorize pathways and landmarks. Rats are active throughout the year and an infestation can start at any time. Controlling rats can be difficult because they avoid new objects, including traps and baits. If you notice rat damage or see droppings, consider checking your entire property for other signs of rats.

Prevention tips:

  • Reduce clutter inside and out. Clutter may allow rat activity to go unnoticed over time.
  • Check unused cars for evidence of rodents. Rat or mouse infestations in vehicles can cause wiring or other damage.
  • Rats are excellent climbers. Trim or remove dense vegetation, including tree limbs, near gardens or buildings.
  • Exclude rats and mice by sealing cracks and crevices larger than a quarter inch.
  • Install door sweeps and weather stripping to keep rats from entering under a door. Metal materials may be necessary to prevent chewing.
  • Remove materials rats may use for nesting or shelter, including cardboard boxes and newspapers.

Control tips:

  • Identify your rodent first. Young rats may look similar to mice but certain features can tell them apart. Try contacting your local Cooperative Extension Service.
  • Unlike mice, rats require a source of water in addition to food. Remove pet water bowls and fix leaking faucets. Empty bird baths if necessary.
  • Be vigilant; rats can learn from each other, and through trial and error. Rat control may require constant effort and a variety of methods.
  • Observe trails or signs of rodent activity to target the resources they use. Smudge marks on surfaces can indicate heavily-traveled paths.
  • Check a large area when evidence of chewing is found. Rats may travel hundreds of feet per day for food or water.
  • Rats have teeth made for gnawing. Store unrefrigerated food, pet food, and birdseed in jars, tin boxes, or durable plastic packaging.
  • Large infestations may require the use of traps or rodenticides.
  • Use large portions of bait at trap stations. Use a variety of food types, including fresh foods, to find what bait works best.
  • Before setting live traps, consider placing sprung traps with bait (food) for a week or more. Rats may become comfortable approaching the traps with time and familiarity.
  • If you chose to use a rodenticide bait, always read and follow label directions. It's the law. Try a lower toxicity product first.

If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Last updated January 29, 2024


  • Identify your pest. Young rats may look similar to mice.
  • Be vigilant; rats can learn through trial and error. Rat control may require constant effort and a variety of methods.
  • Remove clutter inside and outside.
  • Exclude rats by installing door sweeps and sealing cracks and crevices larger than one quarter inch.
  • Observe trails or signs of rodent activity to target the resources they use.
  • Look for brown or gray smudges along walls and other surfaces. These marks indicate heavily used paths or rat entrances.
  • Remove food and water sources when possible. Uncovered garbage, pet food or water, birdseed, and leaky faucets can attract rats.
  • Keep food in sealed jars, tins, or heavy plastic containers to prevent damage. All rodents have teeth specialized for gnawing.
  • Trim trees and vegetation growing along walls or near roofs.
  • Introduce traps early. Estimate how many traps you will need from the suspected number of rats.
  • Anticipate occasional trap failure. Set additional back-up traps.
  • Set traps with large portions of bait. Try a variety of bait types, including fresh foods.

If you choose to use a pesticide, read the label before you buy. Try a lower toxicity product first.

If you have a pesticide product in mind, have your label handy and click here for information about that product.

County Extension Offices

Through its county agents, the Cooperative Extension Service gives individuals access to the resources at land-grant universities across the nation. These universities are centers for research in many subjects, including entomology (the study of insects) and agriculture. Each county within the United States has an Extension office, which is staffed with agents who work closely with university-based Extension specialists to deliver answers to your questions about gardening, agriculture, and pest control. You can find the phone number for your local county extension office in the local government section (often marked with blue pages) of your telephone directory or by clicking on the map below.

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Small Map of US States

U.S. States:

AK | AL | AR | AZ | CA | CO | CT | DE | FL | GA | HI | IA | ID | IL | IN | KS | KY | LA | MA | MD | ME | MI | MN | MO | MS | MT | NC | ND | NE | NH | NJ | NM | NV | NY | OH | OK | OR | PA | RI | SC | SD | TN | TX | UT | VA | VT | WA | WI | WV | WY | Washington D.C. |

U.S. Territories:

Puerto Rico | American Samoa | Guam | Northern Mariana Islands | Virgin Islands

Additional Resources:

Information on Specifics Types of Rats:

Norway Rats (Brown Rats)

Roof Rats (Black Rats)

Woodrats (Pack Rats)