Preventing rodents and keeping them away
Find information on bait and trap for rodents, how to prevent entry into your home, and when to hire a professional.
Bait and trap for rodents
If rodents have entered your home, shed, garage, vehicle, or other spaces, the best trap is the simple and cheap wooden "snap trap." They are sold in hardware stores. Snap traps for rats and mice are different sizes. When setting snap traps, it is important to bait the trap with food and place it near the droppings. Poisons are not recommended for rat control inside buildings, as poisoned rats can die in hard to reach places and cause a very bad smell.
To control rats outside in areas along a building, fence, wood pile, etc. you may want to use bait stations. Always secure poison in bait stations so that it is not available to children, pets or wild animals. You must follow the instructions on the package label.
Dead rodents must be double bagged and placed in the garbage. Do not touch a dead rodent with your bare hands. Use gloves and wash your hands with soap and warm water after removing gloves. Note: Only dead rodents can be disposed of in the garbage.
Keep rodents away
Don't give food and shelter to these most unwanted guests! The time to act is before you see signs of rodents, which may include droppings, nests, gnaw marks, or a dead rodent.
Sources of food that attract rodents include birdseed, pet food, fruits and berries on the ground, bread crumbs, food waste, grease (such as an outdoor grill), and garbage. If you feed them, they will stay.
Remove their food
- Bird feeders should be on poles and seed in trays that rats can't reach. If a squirrel can reach the bird feeder so can a rat.
- Keep garbage can lids closed tightly.
- Pick up fruits and vegetables in your yard.
- Do not leave your pet food outside.
- Keep all stored food in rodent-proof containers.
- Use only rodent-resistant composters, keep lids tight, and do not compost any animal products (fish, meat, chicken, cheese, butter).
- Pick up dog waste in your yard daily.
Remove their places to hide
Places where rats and rodents like to stay and seek shelter include firewood and wood piles, bushes, vines, tall grasses, and rockeries; unsecured buildings like garages, sheds, greenhouses, and barns; and vehicles, appliances, old furniture, and junk.
- Stack firewood 18 inches off the ground and away from all buildings.
- Move your wood pile at least twice a year.
- Plant bushes so they will stay at least 3 feet from your house.
- Keep bushes, vines, and tree branches cut back at least 3 feet from your house. Roof rats get into your house from tree branches that hang over the roof.
- Mow your lawn regularly.
- Keep yards and alleys clean—take junk to the dump!
Seal up to prevent entry of rodent and rats
Prevent rodents from entering your home by checking inside and outside the house for gaps or holes.
Finding a professional pest control company
Some rodent problems, such as heavy rodent infestations (piles of feces, numerous nests or dead rodents), may be too extensive to control on your own. For these situations Public Health recommends that you consult with a professional pest control company.
You can find pest control professionals online or in the phone book. Inquire about "integrated pest management" or "IPM" services. IPM methods often use less poison and use other techniques to control pests. Some crawl space/attic companies also offer pest control services. Interview companies and ask for references, including previous customers. When working with a professional pest control company, be clear about what you want done and check their performance.
Ask to see their license. All pest control companies should be licensed and registered with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). Washington pesticide law requires most businesses that commercially apply pesticides to be licensed as a Commercial Applicator.
- Search for a WSDA Pesticide and Structural Pest Inspector license.
- Guidance for cleaning up after rodents, CDC
- Fact sheet about rats and mice (563 KB)
- How to Keep Rats Away from Your Home (713 KB)
- Poster of an illustrated neighborhood showing how to keep rats away from homes.
- Bird Feeders and Rats: What You Need to Know (1.091 MB)
Bird feeders are very popular in King County and provide many hours of enjoyment for people who love to watch birds. However, if you feed birds expect to see increased rat numbers around your home.
- Hantavirus downloads and resources
- Rat mite information:
- Rodents and disease control, CDC
- Rodent control after a disaster, CDC
Surviving rodents after a disaster often relocate to new areas in search of food, water, and shelter. Learn tips on how to remove food sources, water, and items that provide shelter for rodents.
- Living with Wildlife - Old World Rats
Learn more about rats, including how to spot signs of, prevent, and remove them.
- Rodent regulations: Board of Health Code, Title 8