10 Ways to Get Rid of Rats without Killing Them

by | Jan 18, 2024 | Rodent Control

If you live in a city like Portland Oregon, chances are you’ve encountered a rat at some point.

Most city people aren’t fond of harming furry little animals. So you’re definitely not alone in the search for good-quality information on how to get rid of rats without killing them.

So here’s the 10 things that make up the foundation of the best no-kill rodent control approach:

Norway rat eating bird seed.

1. Learn Rodent IPM

What is IPM? It stands for Integrated Pest Management, and it’s the core theory that uses pests’ biological behaviors, natural predators, and adjustments in their environment to eliminate pests without toxic pesticides.

A basic understanding of rodent IPM will help all these pieces fit, and give you the tools to keep rodents away naturally.

2. Take Down Bird Feeders

• The #1 top way to get rid of rats without killing them is by eliminating their food sources. What this does is forces rats away into riskier situations to find alternate food.

• Because with access to consistent high-protein food like bird feed, rats can multiply by a factor of 10 every other month.

It’s definitely a bummer to decide to take down bird feeders because of rats.

Feeding wildlife is a popular way for urban residents to connect with nature.

But rats will inevitably find bird feeders in the city, and start breeding nearby. Left unchecked, rats can cause problems for human health & safety. And create an increased demand for lethal poisons and traps.

Experts suggest a safer way to connect with nature is to learn about native plants, and consider creating habitat for pollinators, birds, wildlife.

*However, if you want to keep your bird feeders, you can disrupt the rats reproductive cycle by removing your feeders every 60-days.

full bird feeder with finch

3. Secure all Garbage

How to Keep Rodents out of Garbage

Unsecured garbage is one of rats’ main food sources in the city. But with just a few proactive measures you can prevent rats eating garbage:


  • Rinse or wash food containers before putting outside. Recycle all recyclables.
  • Make sure all garbage is in sealed bins at night. Metal trash cans are best.
  • Can rats chew through plastic bins? Yes. So pull plastic bins 2-4′ away from walls, fences or anything rats can use to climb up on them. Replace gnawed bins ASAP.
photo of overloaded garbage can

4. Secure Compost Bins

How to Keep Rats out of Compost

Few compost bins are designed to keep rodents out permanently. But here’s a few things you can try to get rid of rats from your compost bin:


  • Choose a heavy duty polyethelene or metal container, with no gap greater than 1/4″
  • Many bins can be screened from the bottom with 1/4″ hardware cloth to prevent rats from burrowing in.
  • Always mix and cover food scraps with soil, mulch, or brown materials to prevent attractive smells.

If you continue to notice rats, or if they gnaw into your bin, stop composting food scraps for at least 60-days, or get a more secure bin.


4. Pick up Fallen Fruits (and Nuts)

What Do City Rats Eat?

Rats also love to eat fruits, nuts, insects, grass seeds, fertilizer, road kill, dog poop, earthworms– anything with a scrap of nutritional value.

Pick up fallen fruits and nuts daily–or as often as possible. Harvest garden veggies at the earliest opportunity, at least 3x per week during peak summer months.

Think carefully about anything that rats could be using for nutrition, and do your best to cut off their access to it.

Click to Get Rid of Rats.   

5. Secure Chicken Coops, Pet Food & Livestock Feed

If you have pet chickens, goats, ducks, hogs, alpacas, or whatever– make sure that their food is totally locked down at night.

How to Rat Proof Chicken Coop

• All chicken coops in the city should be a fully enclosed 1/4″ mesh (or wood) cube. I used to recommend just covering the ground underneath the coop with mesh. But too many customers continued to struggle with rats burrowing under the mesh, and the feed falling into the tunnels below.

• The best rat proof chicken coop has a concrete slab foundation. This prevents Norway rats from accessing any chicken feed from underneath.

If you have other livestock, make sure their food is always stored in air-tight metal containers. Put only enough food outside for your animals to eat, make sure they glean it all–or rats will come and feed off it at night.

If you feed stray animals or wildlife, make sure that any uneaten food is brought inside or disposed at night. If you see a rat during the daytime, remove all outside food for at least 60-days.

6. Landscaping

Eliminating rats’ hiding places is equally as important as cutting off their food sources. Without harborage from predators, they’ll get picked off naturally while looking for safety elsewhere.

Rats hide in the shadows.  So any shrub, vine, or groundcover capable of casting a shadow creates a potential hiding place for rats.

How to Keep Rats out of Yard

  • Keep grass cut short.
  • Reduce thick ground covers like ivy.
  • Trim vines & shrubs away from sides of home, gutters, and fence lines.
overgrown backyard with small patio and shed or fence

7. Eliminate Hiding Places

In cities, rats love to hide in voids under sheds & old outbuildings, piles of bricks, rocks, logs, firewood & yard debris.


 How to Keep Rats Away from Home

  • Dispose of old piles of rocks, brick or concrete.
  • Get rid of lumber stacked outside or under decks.
  • Move firewood storage at least 100′ away from buildings or fences.
  • Reduce or elminate items stored under tarps or up against your house.
  • Seal gaps in sheds, garages, or other outbuildings with copper or galvanized mesh.
  • Check your crawlspace & attic for evidence of droppings, tunnels or footprints.

8. Using Scent Repellents

Wondering if you can just get rid of rats with some natural rodent spray?

Using scent repellents for rats can be one piece of an IPM strategy. But there’s not strong scientific evidence that scent repellents are effective.

City rats are evolved & adapted to live freely among cats, dogs, peppermint, chilli power, or other strong smells.

*In general, scent repellents should be used as a one-time deterrent, as part of a larger IPM strategy including sealing entry points and removing food & hiding places.

9. Encouraging Natural Predators

Although rats apparently aren’t repelled by predator scents, they’re still acutely aware when they’re in an unsafe area. And they can be deterred by creating an inhospitable environment; a predator hunting ground.

The key to bringing in natural predators of rats is to know what animals eat rats in the city, and where they like to hunt.


What Hunts Mice and Rats?

  • Cats, raccoons and opossums like to hunt rats in bushes, crawlspaces, and under decks. Remove lattices from decks and porches to allow predators underneath to chase away rats.
  • Coyotes can be invited to hunt on your property by digging 18″ access holes under perimeter fencing.
  • Encourage hawks by leaving dead tree “snags.”
  • Consider building a barn owl box for rodent control.
  • Always follow steps 1–8 to create an uninhabitable zone for rats, forcing them to scurry along & become an easier target for predators.
Opossum in the forest with Oregon grape

10. Talk to Your Neighbors

Diplomacy can sometimes be the trickiest part of no-kill rodent control. You could be doing everything right–but if there is ample food or hiding places nearby, you’ve still got a problem.

One great way is to strike up a casual conversation with your neighbors. Ask them if they’ve seen any cool wildlife. Most people are excited to share stories of urban wildlife sightings.

Find common ground while connecting on the miracle that is the natural world.

Oftentimes (in Portland) the conversation may naturally touch on rats. If the time feels right to bring up the information you learned in this article, please share.

How to Get Rid of Rats without Posion

In conclusion, if you’re limiting food sources, and keeping hiding places to a minimum, you’re basically doing everything you can to get rid of rats without putting out traps or poison.

If you’re in the Portland OR area, and are interested in learning more about professional rodent IPM service, contact us today.

Curious whats sets us apart? Learn more about Pest & Pollinator here.

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Pest and Pollinator contact information phone 9712568440 email info@pestandpollinator.com