Step By Step Guide To Getting Rid Of Rat Infestations In Chicago

How much do you know about rats? Do you know that they are nocturnal and primarily crepuscular? Those are big words. They simply mean rats are active at night and particularly active at twilight. These two facts about rats are extremely important to dissect if you want to understand how to effectively address a rat infestation in your Chicago home because applying rat control products is not the most important step in rat control. Rat traps often fall short but residents who apply these traps don't realize it because they don't know how to detect animals that hide during the day and prefer to live in dim light or utter darkness. Join us as we walk step-by-step through how to get rid of roof rats and Norway rats in Chicago. We'll also answer a few critical questions you should know the answers to if you have city rats on or inside your property. 

Before we start, we'd like to quickly remind you that you don't have to read a step-by-step guide to rat control to get help with a rat problem. You can jump to our contact page and reach out to us for rodent pest control in Chicago. Our highly-trained and experienced technicians can assist you and answer any questions you have. With that said, let's dig in and look at the steps you'll need to take if you hope to get rid of rats in Chicago. 

rat inside a home

Identifying A Rat Infestation 

The first, middle, and last step in rat control is detection. At every point in a rat control plan, it is critical to know how to detect signs of rats. Initially, an inspection will help you tell where rats are likely hiding. As you work to remove rats, detection lets you know if your efforts are working. Once there are no signs of rats, detection provides peace of mind and prevents rats from continuing to impact your health and/or damage your property. Do you see how it works? Great. Let's look at what signs you should look for and how to analyze the evidence you find.


You can find rat droppings in many places. Finding droppings is one of the best ways to analyze a rat infestation. Droppings that are moist and black are fresh. Droppings that are gray and crumbly are old. You can also consider the size and number of droppings to guess what species of rodent is infesting your home and the size of the population. A group of rats will leave more fecal matter than one or two rats.

Another way to use droppings to detect rat activity is to clean them up when you find them. Use a mask and gloves when you do this to protect yourself from diseases. After cleaning rat feces, you can check back in a couple of days to see if more feces appear. If they do, you know you still have rats. Here are a few places you might find droppings in your home:

  • Check behind objects and in storage spaces within your garage.
  • Look in the crawl space under your home or in the void underneath your back deck for scattered droppings. Don't be surprised if you find piles of dog waste. City rats sometimes collect and feed on the waste of domesticated canines. It is gross but true. When you find dog waste, Norway rats are likely the culprits. 
  • Look around the appliances in your kitchen and the cabinet under your sink. Also, check drawers, shelves, and food cabinets.
  • Check behind food items on your shelves in your pantry and objects on the floor.
  • Look for droppings on attic insulation and around storage boxes or stored furniture.

You'll find droppings in any dark, secluded space in or around your home. Use a flashlight and wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty or damaged.

Grease Marks

In many cases, rats leave grease marks for you to find. As rats move along a route, the oils from their fur are left on surfaces. When you find grease marks, clean them up or cover them with paint so that you can return and see if rats are active.

  • Rats run along baseboards. You'll definitely see grease marks on baseboards in any areas where rats are exploring.
  • Rats run along pipes. They often come up underneath homes by way of the city culvert system. When they do, the pipes under your home will likely have black marks from the greasy fur on those sewer rats.
  • Roof rats hide in rafters. If these rats are in your attic, you may see black spots on trusses and other wood members.
  • Rats darken the area around holes as they go in and out. An adult rat can fit through a hole the size of a quarter. Keep this in mind. 

It is harder to track rat activity using grease marks as a clue, but in some cases, these marks might be your only clue.

The Scent Of Urine

There is one thing you can count on with rats. They are going to leave their urine in all the places they explore. If you have a rat infestation, you're likely to catch the scent of urine in secluded areas of your home. The more rats you have, the stronger the scent will be. While you can't use this to determine whether or not rats are continuing to infest your Chicago home, it is a helpful warning sign when you search your home to find out if rats have gotten inside. 

Why Are Rats Drawn To Residential Buildings?

You now know that rats like to hide in dark places, but that isn't the only important fact you should know about rats. You should also know that they like tight spaces. Are you ready for another big word? Rats are thigmotactic by nature. That ten-cent word means they are drawn to touch stimulus and like to squeeze into spaces where their bellies and backs are touching two solid surfaces simultaneously—like squeezing between an oven and a wall. Thigmotaxis also plays a role in why rats get into residential buildings. A rat doesn't know that you have food in your home. It doesn't stand in your yard, look at your home and think, "I bet that big tree-like thing has food in it." They explore your exterior and are invited to enter your home when they find tiny holes. Use a caulking gun or cans of expanding foam to seal potential entry points. While a rat can chew through these materials, they're not likely to do so. 

Here Are Six Tips For Dealing With A Rat Infestation

Now that you know how to detect rats and take steps to keep them from accessing your home, how do you get rid of roof rats and Norway rats? Here are six suggestions in order of least to most effective.

  • Address plumbing issues. Rats may not want to live with you if they can't find water to drink. While a rat can derive much of the moisture it needs from the food it eats, it will want to have access to a water source. In some cases, they may go outside to get a drink, so we'll put this tip first as it is the least effective.
  • Clean. Rats eat food debris. If you have a clean home, rats will have a harder time getting a bite to eat. Be sure to clean in hidden places, such as around your oven and refrigerator.
  • Protect food sources. Rats may get into your stored foods and find a bite to eat. You can prevent this by storing food in sealed containers. These containers don't prevent rats from getting in. They seal the smell inside so rats don't know there is food in them.
  • Use rat traps in secluded spaces. It is a difficult and unsavory job to catch rats, but catch them you must if you hope to stop an infestation.
  • Contact a licensed professional. It pays to have a trained technician handle your rat problem. Technicians know how to effectively deploy traps, place bait stations, use other control products, and ensure the success of the rodent control program by performing professional inspections.

These tips, along with detection and exclusion work, can allow you to get control of a rat infestation. If you're up for the challenge, you may do this yourself. But remember that help is available.   

What Does Aerex Pest Control Do About Rats In My Home?

At Aerex Pest Control, we use industry-leading control solutions. The methods our technicians apply are field-tested, and they leverage years of experience to ensure all the rats in your home are removed and that rats don't continue to enter your home and present a threat. Would you like to learn more? Reach out to us for more information or to schedule a service visit. With over 70 years of experience, you can trust Aerex Pest Control for all your pest control needs. 


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