What does a Rat Exterminator do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A rat exterminator is a pest control specialist who works primarily with rats. Rat exterminators may also handle other mammals such as mice, possums, raccoons, and so forth. These pest control specialists can be found working in many regions of the world. In an emergency situation where an exterminator is not available, it may be possible to receive assistance from a local government animal control agency.

Some exterminators use rat poison to eliminate rodents.
Some exterminators use rat poison to eliminate rodents.

Historically, rat exterminators had working dogs who were trained to find and attack rats. Today, they are more likely to use traps. Live traps will keep the rats alive, allowing the exterminator to remove them for relocation or extermination. Other rat traps will kill the rats in the process of trapping them, with the rat exterminator collecting the traps to dispose of the dead rats.

Brown rats are a common rodent pest.
Brown rats are a common rodent pest.

Like other exterminators, a rat exterminator can evaluate a structure to determine whether or not rats are present, and can make estimates about where in the structure the rats will be found, and how much damage they have done. The exterminator can eliminate the rats and assist a contractor or homeowner with repairing damage and taking steps to reduce the risk of future rat infestations. For example, a rat exterminator may recommend covering large holes which could be used for ingress and egress, or may suggest that materials such as grain be stored in ratproof metal containers.

Rat exterminators may also handle other mammals, such as raccoons.
Rat exterminators may also handle other mammals, such as raccoons.

Rat exterminators can also work as consultants when it comes to rat prevention. Many people would like to avoid rats in the first place, and an exterminator can inspect a structure and make various recommendations. Such an inspection is less costly than hiring an exterminator to eliminate rats later, and will save wear and tear on the structure. A rat exterminator may also be hired to inspect a structure during the escrow process if it is being sold, as the presence of rats may be a dealbreaker for some buyers.

Rats in a structure are a definite cause for concern. They can bite people and pets, causing infected abscesses or transmitting disease. They also carry insects which may carry disease, and can do significant damage to a structure which can be costly to repair. Rats chew, which can potentially lead to things ranging from electrical problems caused by damaged wiring to damage to structural supports. Rat urine and feces are also undesirable in a structure, as they can carry disease and they have an unpleasant odor.

Pest control specialist who focus on exterminating rats can be found all over the world.
Pest control specialist who focus on exterminating rats can be found all over the world.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


What do rat exterminators do with the dead rats? I can't imagine them just being tossed in a trash bin. Is there a place where they are incinerated?


I actually met a rat exterminator because every month at a place I previously worked at, we would have the rat exterminator come in and dispose of the mice that were in our mouse traps.

I would have much rather them use a live trap, but I wasn't in charge of that department, plus I wasn't brave enough to catch them myself! Also, there were a lot of people who weren't employed there that just showed up at all hours of the day, so the management probably didn't want anyone from the "outside" hearing any strange noises.

Luckily, the mice stayed in the non-running, extra bathrooms we had at our work. We left the doors shut and only went in there if we needed supplies. I know this is weird, but the non-running bathrooms were also our supply closet! We had limited space obviously. If we left a snack in one of our cabinets, we would have little brown surprises to clean up the next day. I was relieved to see their feces instead of the mice themselves though!

We worked in an old building, in a dingy basement, so that is probably why we had mouse problems almost every month. I do not know why this problem was not permanently fixed within the three years I worked there though!

I hope I did not gross or freak anyone out with this story, I tell it so hopefully some people will feel better about their job!


There are a number of skills that a rat exterminator has to learn before he is ready to do his job of getting rid of the rats. He has to be able to figure out where the rats may be located. Then he has to go into icky basements, between walls, or in the crawlspace of homes. Catching the rats and disposing of them brings him face to face with the rats.

Then he has to access the damage. Entries into the house have to be shut off, damaged parts of the wood structure and wires in the house have to be repaired.


Just the thought of having rats lurking around in my house gives me the creeps. I sometimes think of the deplorable living conditions in the middle ages in crowded cities like London. Sometimes there were huge infestations of rats. The fleas riding on infected rats bit people and caused the Plague. Boy - did they need rat control.

I'm all for animal protection, but in the case of rats, with their habit of biting and being frequent carriers of disease, I think those that are invading homes should be exterminated, rather than relocated.


@Latte31 - My sister works as a public interest attorney representing people that live in deplorable conditions in New York City. By the time my sister gets these cases, many of her clients are living in small apartments with children and have a rat infestation that the landlord won’t take care of.

These are really poor people that live in tiny rent controlled apartments because they cannot afford to go anywhere else. Well, one landlord denied having any rats and said that it was impossible and that my sister’s client must have made the rat story up.

Well, my sister hired a rat exterminator and took pictures of the rats and brought it to the judge. I can tell you that after that all the rats were gone for good.


Lonelygod – I am so terrified of rats that just seeing one on television makes me squirm. I think that you really have to get rid of these animals as soon as possible because they do carry a lot of diseases. I realize that your wife is worried about the rats but I think that your health and the health of your wife should be more of a priority.

Not only that but you don’t want these rats getting into your home do you? This could not only be a nightmare, but it would drastically reduce the value of your property.


@lonelygod - I can understand your wife's concern for animal welfare, but sometimes I think that things like rats just fall under the pest category and should be taken care of swiftly. There are so many exterminators for rats out there that I just made sure to find the cheapest option available. I guess live trapping just never occurred to me.

One thing I have found that works pretty well is rat repellent. Peppermint oil is a surprisingly good and natural choice. Apparently rats can't stand the smell of peppermint oil and head for the hills. It worked OK for me after I initially hired a rat exterminator to take care of the bulk of my problem.


When we purchased our new house rat control became a big issue as we didn't know that there were vermin in our basement. Apparently it was something the previous home owners forgot to mention.

The extermination of rats can be a fairly quick procedure though, and we hired a company that specialized in live trapping and rat removal so that my wife wouldn't be upset. She is very sensitive about animal rights issues.

A lot of rat extermination companies out there just put out rat bait and traps which kill the rodents. I think this is a bad way to go if you care about animals.

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