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Why Are Rats In My Garage?

Why Are Rats In My Garage?

Rat infestations are dangerous, and can quickly escalate beyond control. Rats are responsible for carrying severe diseases, which can be transmitted through almost any form of contact. Plus, rats can attract other pests like snakes and skunks. Rat infestations are not to be taken lightly.

Why Do Rats Enter Garages? Rats and Mice enter a garage for shelter, food, and water. The potential proximity of these essential needs makes a garage an ideal nesting location for rodents. Properly sealing cracks in walls and ceilings as well as removing food and water sources is critical to preventing infestation.

Is it A Rat Or Mouse In Your Garage? Either Way, It Needs to Go!

There are a few differences between mice and rats, including size and color. Mice are more curious, rats are more destructive. Mice tend to climb into higher levels, and rats are more inclined to invade ground level and below. While mice can infest your garage just as easily as rats, it is rats that cause the most damage, and are harder to get rid of.

I live in an area that is blessed with both small mice and large rats. Either is cause for alarm. They carry disease and will attract snakes. Whatever type of rodent you have, it imperative that you get rid of them and prevent more from returning. While I’m focusing on “rats” here, note that these methods will work for dealing with either rodent!

What Do Rats Eat In A Garage?

Everything. In the wild, rats tend to feed on seeds, fruits, vegetables, and the occasional insect. However, in more populated areas, they will eat just about anything. Trash, compost, and pet food are all within the dietary range of a hungry rat. I first realized that a rodent was in my garage when I noticed holes in the back of a bag of grass seed.

Rats have an incredible sense of smell, and will travel 300 feet from their nest in search of food. Even if you store food in airtight containers, a determined rat will find a way in. They have been known to chew through aluminum, glass, metal, concrete and other building materials in search of food.

What Attracts Rats To A Garage?

Food, water, and shelter. These three variables need to be present within about 100 feet of each other in order for rats to move in and get comfortable. They can find shelter among clutter, stacked firewood, or overgrowth in your yard. In addition to food inside the garage, rats will raid a vegetable garden, eat fallen nuts and seeds from trees, and even feed on dog feces.

Water may be a bit deceptive at first. While rats may use obvious water sources, such as a bird bath or fish pond, there are many other sources they can use. Look for leaking or condensation from pipes, dripping faucets, and pet dishes. Remember; rats will chew through just about anything in search of food and water, so even leaky pipes behind walls are fair game.

How Do Rats Get In A Garage?

Any hole larger than ½” is large enough for a small rat to fit through. Since rats reproduce so prolifically, a few juveniles can quickly create a nest in your garage. Even if your garage is watertight, most rats can climb almost vertical surfaces, and can jump over 4’ in their quest for a nest.

Overhanging tree branches, stacked building materials, and even play equipment can all give a rat access into your garage.

How To Find A Rat In Your Garage

If you think you may have a rat infestation, take a quick tour around your garage. Signs of rats are fairly easy to recognize, especially if you know what to look for:

  • Droppings. Rat droppings are small and look like little black grains of rice. One rat can produce over 25,000 droppings per year, so if you have rats, their droppings should be easy to find.
  • Grease marks. Rats have a dirty, greasy coat. They also tend to follow the same paths in search of food and water. As they follow these paths and rub up against the walls or other items, they will leave greasy, black marks behind.
  • Rat tracks. Along with grease marks, rats will leave little footprints along their paths, which you should be able to see in the dust, or as they track food material back to their nest.
  • Nests and burrows. Rats will dig extensive burrows to reach food and water and establish nesting. They will chew through your boxes, insulation and other soft materials and drag them into their burrows for soft nesting areas.

If you’ve searched your garage and found evidence of rats or mice, it’s time to take action. A quick response will prevent the population from getting out of hand. It’s important that you carefully inspect your garage and home for damage after you get rid of the infestation. Rats can cause serious hazards by chewing through wires and burrowing under your foundation.

Ridding Your Garage of Rats

There are a few natural management methods for dealing with rodents:

  • Neighborhood watch. If you have an infestation, chances are the whole neighborhood also has a problem. Killing a few rats won’t really solve anything. Try to get your neighbors involved in a management plan so you can attack the problem together, and increase success.
  • Clean up the garage. Buy heavy-duty shelving, and heavy-duty storage containers. Move all items up off the floor and onto the shelves, and sweep or power-wash the floor.
  • Remove food and water sources. Buy trash cans with tight-fitting lids, and store pet food in heavy-duty storage bins. Keep pet bowls inside. Fix leaky pipes or faucets, and clean the gutters so rain will drain properly.
  • Flood the burrow. If you can locate the burrow, you can flood it to try to drown or remove the rats. However, some burrows can be extensive and may run under your house.
  • Repellents, noises, and cats. These methods may help get rid of rats, but they probably won’t succeed on their own. Rats get used to high-pitched or annoying noises very quickly and have almost no reaction to repellents. Also, cats are easily intimidated by full-grown rats, and generally leave them alone. So, while these are certainly natural control methods, they are usually not very effective.

Set The Trap!

While these management strategies will help make your garage less inviting, the best way to actually reduce the population is to set traps. Snap traps are the safest and most cost-effective, but they are also the most labor intensive. You will need one or two dozen in order to definitively rid your garage of rats.

Set the traps along their paths, as evidenced by dark, greasy stains. Rats are creatures of habit, and very smart, so if they see your trap as a threat, they will make a new path around it, and the rest of the rats will follow suit.

To help increase success, place baited traps along the paths, but don’t set them. Check them daily to see if the bait has been eaten. If all the bait has been eaten, double the number of traps and bait them again. Keep increasing the number of traps until a few have been left untouched.

This process will condition the rats to see the traps as harmless. Once you are confident you have the right amount of traps, bait and set them. Dispose of the dead rats with gloves and thick trash bags.

Another option is to use glue pad traps. These work great for mice and smaller rats but may not hold a large rat. I used a heavy duty mouse glue pad similar to this one on Amazon to catch a mouse in my garage. I chose this one because I wasn’t sure if I was going to catch the rodent or one of the snakes that were entering my garage trying to eat it! Fortunately, I caught the mouse.

All you do is lay these glue pads along the edge of walls where you suspect the rodent is traveling. I set out two of these and the next morning had my catch. Warning, the rat will not be dead. It catches them but it doesn’t kill them.

How do I prevent rats from entering my garage?

It’s much easier to prevent an infestation than to remove one. Rodents are attracted to food, water, and shelter, so the goal is to make these things unavailable.

  • Shelter. Your first line of defense is your yard. Keep your lawn cut, and the landscape from getting overgrown. Do not stack firewood or building materials in the yard or near the garage. Keep shrubs and hedges trimmed up, and prune any tree branches that hang near any structures. Keep the inside of your garage clean, and store all items up off the floor.
  • Food. Again, your first line of defense is your yard. Clean up fallen nuts and seeds, and keep compost in a sturdy plastic bin. Move pet bowls inside, and clean up their waste regularly. Find trash cans with tight-fitting lids, and store your trash outside the garage if possible.
  • Water. Find and repair leaky pipes and faucets. Clean the gutters so rainwater drains properly. Make sure birdbaths and ponds are located away from the garage, and put covers on pools or hot tubs.
  • Inspect. Wait for it to get dark, and ask someone to stand outside the garage with a flashlight. While you stand inside, ask them to walk around the garage slowly while you note any place light can come through. Repair holes and cracks with wire wool held in place with expanding foam. Rats can enter your garage through a pencil-sized hole, so no space is too small to fill.

The Ecosystem Of Pest Control

Here’s a real world example of unintended consequences.

We had spiders, a lot of them, around our house. My wife did some research and learned that birds eat spiders. So, to attract birds, she hung a couple of bird feeders on our front porch. As it turns out, those bird feeders result in a lot of fallen seeds, which attracted mice. And guess what those mice attracted? Snakes!

To really understand the complex interconnection between pests, take time to read How To Reduce Pests In Your Home: Insects, Rodents, and More.

Always remember that rodents are entering your garage for food, water, and shelter. Remove those sources and seal every entry point that you can find. If rodents are in your garage, they are sure to attract snakes next.

Already have snakes entering your garage too? Click here to learn how to deal with snakes in your garage!

Rodent Barrier Hardware Cloth: Stop Rodents From Squeezing In Through Cracks

I am an avid fan of air-sealing when it comes to home efficiency but rodents can chew right through Great Stuff expanding foam and bore their way into your garage. I’ve learned a little trick that is simple and easy but helps to make your garage rat-proof.

Here’s my super-simple approach to keeping rodents from entering your home.

How To Stop Rats From Coming In Your Garage Or Home – Before sealing cracks with an expanding foam such as Great Stuff, first secure a strip of Rodent Barrier Hardware Cloth over the gap. Then, seal the gap with expanding foam. This ensures an energy-efficient air-seal while preventing rodents from chewing their way through.

Amazon carries several brands of Rodent Barrier Hardware Cloth. These are essentially a metal mesh that reinforces the barrier between your garage and rats.

Stop Rats From Getting In Garage Doors

I picked up a set of these Garage Door Rodent Guard strips off of Amazon and used them to reinforce the vinyl weather stripping on each side of my garage doors. They are thin metal and can be bent around the vinyl. Once in place, it makes the bottom corners where the garage door and wall meet much more difficult for a mouse to squeeze through.


Prevention is key when dealing with rodents. By properly air-sealing your garage and removing food sources you can significantly reduce the points of entry where rats or mice enter.

If you do see signs of rats, it’s important to respond quickly. If left unchecked, the population will grow exponentially and can cause severe damage. Fortunately, routine maintenance and repairs will help reduce the odds of an infestation dramatically.

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