Jan 20, 2024

Oh rats! How to get rid of them humanely

Last week, I discovered two rat traps in my backyard, close to my neighbor's fence. They were a strange and disturbing find because I didn't put them there so whomever did gained access without asking me and leaving rat traps outside makes no sense.

The reason it makes no sense to leave rat traps outside is simple — it does nothing to deter more rats. If there are attractants — like gardens, woodpiles, pet food left outside, birdseed on the ground, etc. — they’ll keep coming.

The best method of rodent control is prevention and exclusion. According to Alison Hermance, director of communications and marketing at WildCare, "Rodents tend to set up camp near our homes when food and space are made available to them. If we remove debris, ivy, construction waste, etc., there are fewer hiding places for rats. It's also important to eliminate their food sources like unsealed garbage, fallen fruit and birdfeeders left outside at night."

Vegetable gardens are big attractants as well but you can keep rodents away by simply planting or using mint and other herbs like basil and thyme. The smell of these herbs is a natural deterrent for rodents. Keep a few pots around the perimeter of your garden or scatter the dried versions around. Some people use cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil, however essential oils can be toxic to pets.

Another deterrent are solar-powered repellers. These gadgets use ultrasonic sound and vibration to scare away rodents.

(I suspect my neighbor placed the rat traps in my yard to protect his garden, so I’ll be having a little chat with him this week and sharing this advice.)

Rats inside the home is another story entirely. No one can dispute they don't belong there. Rats will eat anything a human will, and more. And they’re industrious. If they can find a way into your house, they’ll go looking for an easy meal. Sealing up any and all entry points, even small ones, is imperative. Check foundations, vents, eaves, etc. carefully.

If rats are still a problem indoors, use catch-and-release traps as a safe, sanitary and humane solution, and then seal all entry points. It is illegal in California and cruel to relocate animals, so trapped rodents should be deposited outside once entry points have been sealed.

Please stay away from glue traps, as they’re particularly horrifying. The animal simply dies of starvation and/or injuries sustained trying to free themselves. Worse, some people use them outside, which means all kinds of other animals can get stuck in them, including birds.

For more tips about peaceful coexistence with rodents — along with other wildlife — visit

Lisa Bloch is the marketing and communications director for Marin Humane which contributes Tails of Marin articles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Go to, find us on social media @marinhumane, or email [email protected].

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