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Get Rid of Rats and Mice

By Valerie A.

Date Updated: November 12, 2020

Rats and mice will quickly take advantage of any source of food or shelter. These rodents consume food discarded by humans and can fit through the tiniest of openings to get into your house. Learn how to eliminate these pests from your home and prevent them from returning.

Habitats of Rats and Mice

The most common rodent pathways are sill ledges, fence rails, foundations, electrical wires, pipes, tree branches and conduits. Inspect your home, outbuildings and landscape for these rodent signs: droppings, gnaw marks and burrows.

Good to Know

Rats can fit through a 1/2-inch opening or the diameter of a thumb. Mice can fit through a 1/4-inch opening or the diameter of a little finger.

Preventative Steps to Keep Rats and Mice Away

A first step toward eliminating mice and rats from your home is getting rid of nesting options and food sources that can attract them.

  • Prune shrubbery, trees and other vegetation to keep it back from structures. Don’t let grass grow tall.
  • Establish a 2-foot-wide barrier of cement or crushed rock around structures.
  • Keep woodpiles, yard waste and piles of debris away from structures.
  • If you use bird feeders, choose rodentproof models. Put out a minimal amount of food at a time and store the food securely.
  • Protect small tree trunks with mesh or other material to discourage gnawing.
  • Cover compost bins. Keep them on a hard surface to help prevent rodents from burrowing up through the bottom of the bin.
  • Store pet food in containers that rodents can’t chew through. Remove uneaten food and clean up spills quickly.
  • Make sure garbage cans and recycle bins are chewproof and covered securely.
  • Keep crumbs off countertops and kitchen floors.

In addition to maintenance and upkeep, you can use repellents that make an area unpleasant to rodents. Indoor sonic devices use high-frequency sound to deter rats, mice and other rodents and typically don’t affect humans or nonrodent pets. You can also find repellents that deter mice and rats with active ingredients such as mint oils, garlic or predator urine.

Controlling Mice and Rats in Your Home

If you have mice or rats in your home, there are two methods of dealing with them.

Rat and mouse traps capture or kill rodents. Live-catch or nonlethal traps allow you to capture the animal and release it away from your home. Devices, like snap traps or spring traps, kill mice or rats with a mechanical action, and there are also traps that kill with an electric shock. Glue traps hold the animal in place for extermination and disposal. Mouse and rat traps require a bait to attract the animal. You can purchase an attractant or use a household material such as peanut butter.


Exercise care when selecting and using traps. Traps that kill rodents can also harm people and pets. If you use traps to kill rodents, consider types like snap traps that can kill quickly. Keep them away from children and pets, and check them frequently to ensure that any captured animal is dead. If you use glue traps, check them frequently, and terminate any captured animal quickly and humanely.

Rat and mouse poisons kill rodents when consumed. These rodenticides are available as pellets or as poison bait for use with bait stations. These products are harmful to people and other animals in addition to rats and mice. Use tamper-resistant bait stations, and keep bait and other poison away from children, pets and nontarget species.


You may want to consider poison as a last resort for controlling rats and mice. In addition to being harmful to other animals that might consume the poison, rodenticide can lead to secondary poisoning of an animal that feeds on the poisoned rodent.

Trapping and Baiting Rats and Mice

Most trapping and baiting programs start once an infestation is discovered, but by using bait and traps along the three lines of defense below, you can prevent an infestation from occurring.

Perimeter of the Property
Use traps or tamper-resistant bait stations along the perimeter of your property. With bait stations, use block bait that you can set on vertical or horizontal securing rods inside the bait stations. Choose the correct products to reduce the risk of trapping other animals or causing the secondary poisoning of nontarget animals.

Exterior Baiting and Trapping
Rodents tend to gravitate to warm air currents or areas where food odors emerge. Tamper-resistant bait stations or traps should be placed every 30 to 50 feet, depending on the severity of the infestation. Place bait or traps around every entry door.

Interior Baiting and Trapping
Device placement inside the home depends on the type of infestation. For mice, space devices at 8- to 12-foot intervals depending on the severity of the infestation. For rats, space devices at 15- to 30-foot intervals, depending on the severity of the infestation.

Using Rat or Mouse Bait

If you use bait or poison, choose the right product for the job. Your choice of bait or rodenticide depends upon the environmental conditions and the severity of the infestation. Identify the problem areas and the species involved. Place bait where rats and mice will find it. To be effective, keep the bait fresh.


Whatever rodent treatment product, trap or bait you choose, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for storage, use and disposal. Do this for your own safety and to maximize the efficiency of the product.

Keeping Rodents out of Your House

After reducing the population of rodents in your home with the methods above, apply rodent-proofing measures to keep them out.

Prevent Rodents From Entering Your Home

  • Close all holes in exterior and interior walls that might act as entry points.
  • Seal openings larger than 1/4 of an inch, particularly around doors and windows.
  • Install self-closing devices or storm door closers on frequently used doors.
  • Install the proper weatherstripping and bottom seals on garage doors to eliminate any gaps.
  • Tighten seals around pipes, drains and vents.
  • Cap chimneys and make sure the caps are in good condition.

Recommended Rodent-Proofing Materials

Eliminate Pest-Friendly Conditions
Follow the measures in Preventing Conditions That Favor Rats and Mice above to help prevent rats and mice from returning.

For more information on rodent control, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).