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What attracts rats?

What Attracts Rats?

The tapping of tiny feet in the walls. A faint scratching coming from the cupboards. Strange droppings under the sink. These are telltale signs that a home may have unwelcome rodent visitors. For homeowners and renters alike, a rat infestation can be a frustrating and concerning problem. Understanding what attracts rats in the first place is key to preventing them from taking up residence in the spaces we call home.

In this guide, we’ll explore the behavioral drives of rats, identify their most common attractants, practical tips for preventative maintenance, and share recommendations to evict these pests, if they do cross the threshold.

Let’s get started with a primer on our furry foes and what makes them tick.

Basic Rat Behavior

Rats are resourceful rodents that have adapted well to coexisting with humans. The two rat species most likely to take up residence in homes are the roof rat and the Norway rat.

Roof rats are agile climbers that nest above ground in trees, attics, and crawl spaces. Norway rats are larger and burrow underground, nesting in basements, sewers, and garden spaces.

Despite their differences, both species share common survival drives that motivate their behavior. Rats need access to three key elements to thrive:
  • Sustenance: Rats are omnivorous and will eat almost anything, but prefer high-calorie foods like grains, meats, fish, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables. They require 1⁄2 to 1 ounce of food and water daily to survive.
  • Hydration: Rats get most of their water from the food they eat, but will also drink from dripping taps, pet bowls, puddles, and other accessible water sources.
  • Shelter: Rats nest in hidden locations with access to food and water. They seek spaces in walls, ceilings, cabinets, cluttered garages, wood piles, and overgrown yards.

Understanding these basic survival needs will provide insight into what attracts rats into our homes and gardens. Limiting access to food, water, and shelter is key to preventing infestations.

A home attracts rats by having available food, water, and shelter.

Understanding What Attracts Rats to Your Home

Now that we understand what motivates rats, let’s explore the most common attractants that draw them to us. Rats have an amazing sense of smell and can detect food and water sources from great distances. Consequently, identifying and eliminating these attractants can shut down the open invitations that tend to bring them our way.


Like humans, rats need to eat to survive. Any accessible food source is an open invitation for rats to dine and dash. Common food attractants include:
  • Open trash bins and compost piles
  • Pet food bowls left out overnight
  • Fallen bird seed from feeders
  • Fruits/vegetables growing in gardens
  • Grease drippings and food particles in grills or outdoor kitchens
The best offense is a good defense when it comes to protecting your home’s food sources. Store all trash and compost in secure bins with tight-fitting lids. Bring pet food dishes indoors at night. Clean up fallen bird seed and ripe produce. Keep grills and outdoor kitchens spotless. Removing access to food takes away rats’ primary motivation for entering your home.


Like humans, rats need water to survive. Dripping outdoor faucets, stagnant birdbaths, leaky pipes, and pet water bowls can all attract rats looking for hydration. Rats only need a few tablespoons of water per day to survive. Eliminating water attractants is critical.

Fix any leaky plumbing or dripping outdoor faucets. Change birdbath water and pet water daily. Don’t leave any standing water sources outside your home. Keep gutters clear and ensure proper drainage to avoid stagnant puddles. Making water unavailable forces rats to seek sustenance elsewhere.


In addition to food and water, rats seek shelter in hidden cracks, dense vegetation, woodpiles, and other harborage. Overgrown gardens, cluttered garages, attics, and basements can seem like five-star hotels for rodents seeking shelter.

Trim back overgrown bushes and vegetation around the home. Clean and organize garages and basements to eliminate clutter. Inspect your home’s exterior for cracks or holes and seal any entry points with wire mesh, caulk, or concrete. Pick ripe fruit from trees and vegetables in gardens to discourage nesting.

A messy home or garden can attract rats.

Proactive Home and Garden Maintenance Tips

Now that we have a better understanding of rats, let's discuss some proactive maintenance tips to help prevent infestations. Diligence and consistency are key - don't let your guard down

Routine Self-Checks

Conduct regular inspections both inside and outside your home to identify any conditions that could attract rats. Check for potential entry points, food and water sources, overgrown vegetation, clutter, etc. Inspect the exterior of your home as well as the attic, basement, garage, and garden areas. You can set reminders to inspect monthly, quarterly, or whenever works for you.

Cleanliness is Key

Equally important, good sanitation and cleanliness practices make homes much less enticing to various pests. Sweep floors, vacuum furniture, and wipe down counters daily. Take out trash and recycling every night. Wash dishes right after meals. Clean up crumbs and spills immediately. A clean home doesn't offer leftover food sources.

Thoughtful Landscaping

Finally, your garden and landscaping should discourage rats, not welcome them! Keep vegetation trimmed and clear away any overgrown areas. Remove wood piles, debris, and clutter where rats could nest. Cut back tree branches and bushes that touch the home. Move woodpiles and compost bins far from the home's foundation. Mindful landscaping removes shelter.

When to Bring in the Experts

While sealing up holes, removing food sources, and staying vigilant can deter rats, significant infestations often require reinforcements. Extensive droppings, chew marks, burrows, and frequent sightings indicate an advanced issue.

Attempting amateur rat control rarely works, as populations rapidly multiply and dead rats pose health risks. Instead, consider humane, effective tools from suppliers like RNS Products. The Rhino Excluders® one-way doors offered will allow contactless eviction, excluding rats without poisons. When paired with prevention methods like sanitation and sealing entry points, these professional-grade tools enable effective rodent removal. For severe, persistent infestations, RNS’ full line of ethical, pet and family-safe products is a smart choice.

However, at a certain point professional pest control services may be needed. If the issue seems beyond DIY remedies, don't delay - bring in qualified pest experts. With the right prevention tools and eventual professional assistance if necessary, you can rid your home of any unwelcome rodents.

Final Thoughts

Like any unwanted house guest, rats overstay their welcome very quickly. But with knowledge of their behaviors, proactive prevention measures, and the right tools, we can revoke their open invitations into our homes.

We've covered the core attractants that draw rats in and practical steps to eliminate them. Remember to keep food secured, water sources dry, and shelter unavailable. Conduct diligent property inspections and leverage humane exclusion products as needed from trusted suppliers like RNS Products to keep your home and yard safe and clean!
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