Rats in the house

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Topic: Rats in the house

Home and Garden January 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Rats in the house

I have seen previous posts with input from POPville about rodents and exterminators generally, and certainly am familiar with DC rats on the street and sidewalk, but I am for the first time experiencing the phenomenon of rats coming into the house.  Our rowhouse and our neighbor’s rowhouse are located near construction sites in U Street/Columbia Heights.  Two weeks ago, after spotting a rat in our living room, we discovered that they had chewed the insulation out from around the freon pipe that runs from our AC unit on the deck into our house.  Our neighbors have had rats showing up in their HVAC closet for several months, though the design of their house is such that they haven’t been able to definitively identify an access point. 
We’ve both engaged exterminating companies.  So far we’ve trapped 3 rats and our neighbors have trapped more than a few over the past few months.  So here are my questions:
(1) Can anyone share insight beyond what I’m getting from the exterminators?  They seem good, but have the strategy of looking for access points and putting out traps and hoping we stop catching rats, and hoping the construction comes to an end quickly.  I’m concerned that we haven’t found all the access points (or won’t find new ones) and that we’ll get a breeding situation in our floors/walls.  Plus, construction is not going away anytime soon.  We’re willing to invest in a long term solution (aside from moving, and we’ve thought about that).
(2) I can’t imagine we are the first homeowners to experience this – so why have I never heard about it before (beyond the obvious)?  And what collective action can prevent repeat occurrences for all of us? 

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During the first winter in our home (New construction) we caught 5 mice in 3 days! We immediately had a pest control company come out to assess the situation. They found 8-9 holes that had not been closed during construction. Small holes behind the washer/dryer, stove, under the sinks, anywhere tubes were coming out of the walls. They said that until the holes were closed we would continue to have problems. The construction company closed the holes and we haven’t had problems since then (Four years ago). The rats/mice need an entry point once the entry point is closed the problem is solved.

Same thing happened to us.  New construction home, rats coming in from behind the stove.  Called in the contractor, they moved the stove and patched the hole where the gas line was coming in.  Sixteen years later and no rats since.

When I was a kid my neighborhood had a problem with rats and mice invading b/c of new contruction displacing them. Our neighbors had exterminators come all the time to try to deal with them. We had 3 indoor/outdoor cats, so my family only ever saw a few dead rodents outside. They never got in the house. Cats are great.


I had an on again/off again problem with rodents (both rats and mice) in my CH rowhouse. Patching the access points is definitely the way to go. Look at the locations where pipes enter/exit the house and seal them off, then place many, many traps in those areas. If rodents are entering through the basement, placing collars on pipes leading to the upper floors may slow them from moving out of the basement.


When I had mice the solution was sealing every tiny hole to the outside.  Mice can come through a hole about 1/2″ in diameter.  The exterminator filled all holes and cracks with steel wool and/or that expandable foam stuff.  After he did so, we killed the ones already in the house with snap traps, and that was that.  I assume rats are the same, only ickier.
Also, it’s probably not a bad idea to stick a poison bait station outside.  I have one, and I refill the poison about once a month.

Are we sure they are rats? Contact DC DOH Rodent Control   [email protected]  Office: (202) 535-2636
Mobile: (202) 834-6314
If they are mice, they can’t help.  I would suggest making small holes in the ceiling, baiting the holes then sealing them. You might get a dead rodent smell but should stop mice. Of course a more permanent solution is seal holes but if you are in row house you are bound to have floor joists through the brick walls that seperate your houses and when they made the holes for the joists they usually didnt bother sealing them leaving room for mice to travel between the houses. So even if you sealed your outside, if you neighbors don’t you are at risk.

I’ve never had to deal with rats indoors (only outdoors), but I’d recommend sealing any possible points of entry with steel wool and (based on what I’ve read from other PoP commenters–I think Victoria?) using a RatZapper trap.


If you like cats, get one or two. My house is holier than swiss cheese and the Vatican put together. Since I got cats I have never seen a mouse nor evidence of a mouse inside. Cats are great for this. Listen and understand. They can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until the mice are dead.


Rat Trapper–about $50 on Amazon.  That sucker has killed 11 brown mice since I purchased it in November.


Controlling rats is about population control and requires a coordinated effort in more than just your individual home.  You will need to work with your neighbors and the city to effectively deal with the problem.  If you lived on a farm, a barn cat might help control rodents.  But in a city, forget about it.  We have plenty of alley cats in my alley, and the rats still persist because, among other things, some of my neighbors are filthy pigs.  So, what do you do?
– As others have said, seal all entry points into your house with rat proof materials – metals are great.
– Place poison baits all around the outside.  They are inhumane, but you are trying to eliminate the rats, right?  Killing is killing. 
– Contact the city and have them come out and inspect the area – try to coordinate with them if possible
– Contact an exterminator or other animal control specialist.  You want someone who understands rat behavior and habits and can intelligently approach the problem.
– Work with your neighbors so your combined area is rat unfriendly. 
– Rat traps.  Another potentially inhumane solution, but again, you want to eliminate them.
– Read up on rat behavior and prevention.
– Clean up outside and inside your house.  Do not leave piles of leaves or debris or garbage anywhere.  No newspaper piles or clothing piles or packed closets.  Rats need nests – don’t leave them any. 

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