Lauren's Blog

Rats and You: How to Veto the Vermin From Your Home

Oh, Portland. The city of overgrown gardens, plentiful downpours, and backyard chickens. And, rats.

Yep, like any major city – especially a port city with shipping traffic – Portland has a rat problem. And like most major cities around the country, the pandemic + less restaurant waste = more rats migrating towards homes.

Rats can cause some serious damage to your property. They bust up sewer pipes, chew up electrical wires, treat insulation and wood as nesting materials, get into your pantries (not panties, PANTRIES), and carry diseases and fleas. YUCK.

But don’t panic! This is pretty “normal”, having rats residing right under our noses. Gross, but normal. Rats have been co-existing with humankind for centuries (hello, bubonic plague). We just don’t tend to see them until they get a little too comfortable, and start to impinge on our living spaces. No-one wants rats in the attic or the basement – trust me, I’ve seen it all, and nothing is worse than eau de dead rat in the ductwork. The stench, holy shit, the stench. And when my buyers are told by an inspector that a home they love and have put an offer on has a rat problem, they tend to freak the fuck out.

I’m here to tell you to calm the fuck down. Rats are COMMONLY found during home inspections, and I’d be willing to bet that most older homes in Portland have a rat or two or ten on the premises. There are myriad ways of dealing with them, and after many years of experience in homes – and the rodents who love them – I’ve got a few truths and treatments for your consideration:

What Attracts Rats? If you or a neighbor keeps chickens, you have rats. That’s a stone cold fact. It doesn’t matter if the coop is waaaaayyy out in the backyard, away from housing. You have rats. Sorry, friend, but you have rats. Rats, and lots of them. Keep a handle on them, and you’ll maintain happy relationships with your neighbors.

Telltale Signs Of Rats? Little “mole holes” in the garden. Rats burrow and dig, and what you think might be a mole? Probably a rat. Also, visible rat poop (larger than mice poop), gnawed bags of food, and the real winner, seeing a rat in person. Scream if you want to, that rat doesn’t care. And if you see one rat? You’ve likely got 10 more you haven’t seen…or 100. And aaaalllll their babies, with their squirming, pink, sightless bodies. Gag.

Oh God, Why Me? Well, it’s rainy season in Portland, and rats like to be warm and dry, too. You’ll likely notice an increased presence of rats (if you have them, and remember, you do) during the wetter months as rats are on the prowl for shelter, warmth, and a regular supply of food and nesting materials. Ie: Your attic, and your pantry.

So How Do I Get Rid of My Rats?

Look, it depends on how settled in they are. For a serious, established infestation, you’re looking at some home damage – sewer, attic insulation, wiring, etc – and it’ll be a couple of thousand dollars to fix. But you’ll likely no longer have a rat problem? Yay? Remember, this is a worst case scenario, so again, please don’t panic. These things are fixable, and if you’re buying a home with an infestation, the seller will likely be on the hook for remedying that situation with professional help. For your garden variety rat scenario, you can attempt to rid your existence of rats yourself, or at the very least, drastically impact the local rat population. Here’s a rundown of your options:

1. Hire a Professional! It’s more expensive, but it’s also very efficient, and you’ll have guaranteed success. Bringing in the pros means that your rat population will be decimated, any damages are brought to your attention, and you can rest easy going to the bathroom late at night. Oh…you haven’t heard about toilet rats? Rats that swim up the sewer pipes and pop out of your toilet when you least expect it? Nevermind. A pro will also locate the source of entry for the rats into your home, and fix that up quick smart. I strongly recommend hiring a professional to start with (most folk end up at this step, regardless), and I’ll leave a list of some of my preferred pest specialists at the end of this post.

2. Trust in the Marvels of Engineering to Outwit Your Quarry. Wanna give this rat catching gig a shot, yourself? Try a live rat trap, like The Ratinator. They can be pretty efficient in catching multiple rats, and are considered one of the more humane methods – you submerge the trap in water once a rat is caught, and the rat drowns. Please *don’t* relocate the live rat elsewhere to make it someone else’s problem, y’all. I hate to say it, but trapping rats means you’re gonna have to actually dispatch them. A trap like this is a gentler path for the more squeamish amongst you, but rats are also super smart and wary of all things, so it takes a little finesse for it to be effective.

3. Go the Classic Route. For example, a snap trap, but not the old fashioned wooden ones that are dangerous to set. Try something modernized and safer to use, like the TomCat snap trap. Easy to bait, easy to dispose of the dead rat (in a bag, in the garbage), easy to re-set, and can be used over and over. Just be careful that only rats can access this trap, as there’s a chance you might catch an unwitting squirrel or small child with that peanut butter. Read reviews, use common sense.

4. Adopt an Outdoor Cat. The Pixie Project and many other local animal shelters hope to increase adoption numbers of slightly-less-social-but-perfectly-awesome kitties, so if you have a safe, sheltered outdoor space, consider providing a home for a cat who needs it. It may not be the perfect lap cat, but it will likely be an excellent mouser! Keep it healthy and fed, and provide a warm, dry spot for it – there are loads of options online for building and purchasing outdoor cat shelters. All while eliminating any mouse or rat problems the way nature intended.

5. Poison. JUST KIDDING. Never, ever use poisons to treat pests (or on your garden, while we’re at it). A poisoned rodent can drunkenly stumble into a predator’s path, and bam, you’ve also poisoned the local owl/dog/cat/hawk. Plus it – and methods such as glue traps – are an unnecessarily cruel and painful ways to dispatch a pest, and poison is just bad for the environment in general. So please don’t use poison, like, ever.

So yes, it’s time to deal with your rat problem. Even if you don’t think you have a rat problem? Set a snap trap overnight and see if you do. Because there’s a good chance you do. And don’t be embarrassed, friends. It happens to all of us. Here’s some referrals of pest control folk who I’ve used both personally, and for my clients:

Oregon Pest Control (Dana Stensrud, my preferred pest controller)
(503) 348-6741
[email protected]

Columbia Pest Control
(503) 254-1606

Get Smart Rat Solutions (Brandon Clark)
(844) Got-Rats
[email protected]

Blacks Pest Service
(503) 723-7957
[email protected]

Good luck, and happy hunting!