Will Rats Attack Humans? What You Need To Know

by Derrick | Last Updated: April 21, 2021

Many people are fearful or even appalled by rats, but is it justified? How much harm can these rodents actually cause? If you’re wondering if rats will attack humans, here’s what you need to know. 

Rats will not attack humans randomly, but they may exhibit defensive behavior if they feel threatened. However, even if they don’t attack you, rat bites, scratches, contact, and feces can transmit harmful diseases. Always wear protective gloves and masks when handling or cleaning up after rats.

Keep reading to learn more about the potential harm rats can cause, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent them from bothering you in the first place. Stay safe!

Are Rats Aggressive?

Rats are not generally aggressive animals. Like many other critters, rats may become hostile when they feel threatened (and who can blame them?), but they are not typically known for displaying violent behaviors. 

The occasional rat bite is possible, but it usually doesn’t occur spontaneously. An individual who falls asleep with traces of food on them may get nipped by a scavenging rat. The most common subjects of rat bites are individuals with minimal mobility, babies, and homeless folks. 

Remember that it’s safest not to approach wild rats. If they feel endangered, your chances of being hurt increases. Stay away whenever possible. 

Can Rats Hurt People?

While rats aren’t the vicious type, there is a chance they could harm you. If you believe you have contracted any of the following diseases, see a health care practitioner and let them know you’ve been in contact with a rat. 

Rat Bites and Scratches

As mentioned, it’s unlikely that a rat will bite or scratch you out of nowhere, but it can still happen. These can be painful and scary as is, but there’s also a chance that your wound could become infected

Rat-bite fever (RBF) is the most prominent health concern associated with rat bites. This disease is caused by one of two bacterias: Streptobacillus moniliformis or Spirillum minus

Symptoms of RBF include headaches, joint pain, fevers, and vomiting. Luckily, antibiotics can treat rat-bite fever. However, the disease may be fatal if left untreated. 

Contact Transmissible Diseases

Handling rats can be just as hazardous as getting bitten by them. Wild rats can carry numerous types of bacteria and viruses that can potentially infect humans. In fact, you don’t even need to come in direct contact with a rat to contract some of these illnesses — surfaces contaminated with animal tissues, saliva, and urine can all carry these diseases. Here are a few to watch out for:

To minimize your risk of contracting any contract-transmissible diseases, demonstrate caution if you must handle rats or contaminated surfaces. Wear a mask and gloves when cleaning potentially infected objects, cover any wounds well before handling rats, and take preventative measures to keep them away from food-handling areas. 

Fecal Hazards

Rat droppings are definitely unsightly, but they can pose a significant health hazard too. Inhaling 

air contaminated with dried rodent feces or accidentally consuming infected food can be dangerous and even deadly

Hantavirus and LCMV can both spread through exposure to rat droppings. Both can lead to severe disease with hantavirus, potentially causing respiratory troubles, meningitis, and liver failure. Likewise, LCMV is a form of meningitis that can cause confusion, sensory and motor problems, headaches, and fevers. 

If you consume contaminated food, you may develop the common food poisoning Salmonellosis. Most of the time, symptoms only last a few days, but possible complications include dehydration or joint pain. If the bacteria gets into your blood, circulation issues may arise. 

How To Get Rid of Rats

If you believe you have rats invading your property, try out any of the following methods to get rid of them. Keep in mind that — as with all wildlife — it’s best to use humane, painless practices to clear these rodents out of your home whenever possible. However, it’s also essential to take your own health and safety into account. Aim to evict the critters humanely, but sometimes lethal control is necessary. 

Use Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil may remind you of candy canes and cold weather, but rats can’t stand the scent. Use this to your advantage and DIY your own rodent repellent with just two ingredients: peppermint oil and cotton wool balls. Add a few drops of the oil to each ball and place them in the corners of your house to keep those pesky rats away. 

A bottle of Lab Bulks Peppermint Essential Oil will last you quite a while. Plus, it’s 100% pure and therapeutic grade, so you can run this invigorating scent through a diffuser, add it to beauty products, and just about anything else your heart desires!

Use Bait

If you’re looking to take a more humane route than setting up a traditional mouse trap, trapping the rat(s) with some bait can be a great alternative. Rats will eat just about anything, so you don’t have to stress too much about which foods to use. 

Opt for some low-mess snacks with strong scents like stinky cheese, nuts, or dried fruit. Meats like bacon and fish work well too, but keep in mind that black rats are herbivorous, and these foods won’t draw them in. 

Put Peppers Around the House 

Similar to peppermint oil, rats aren’t fans of peppers. Black, cayenne, and chili peppers are all irritating to these critters who depend significantly on their sense of smell. Sprinkling these spicy seasonings around the house — especially in small spaces, along baseboards, and near holes — can keep rats at bay. 

Peppers can be toxic to rats in large quantities, but it’ll only take a tiny bite for them to realize this isn’t a snack they enjoy.  

Call an Exterminator

Despite your best efforts, sometimes the only option left is to call a professional. Exterminators are the experts — they know all the tips and tricks to fight stubborn rodents. 

Or, maybe you want them out ASAP and don’t have the time or tolerance to try your hand at DIY methods. No matter what, they’ll know best, so don’t be afraid to give your local exterminator a ring. 

Rat Prevention Tips

As the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense. It’s much easier to combat rat infestations before they even happen and address them at the source. Here are some tips to avoid rat encounters in the first place.  

Keep Your House Tidy

Sanitation is critical when it comes to preventing rat infestations. They love to burrow and chew just about anything, so any junk left sitting out may be the perfect haven for a rat party. Wood piles are a prime rodent spot, so keep these to a minimum whenever possible.

On top of that, the more cluttered mess you have, the easier it is for rats to hide from you. Move belongings away from walls so you can easily keep an eye on what’s around.

Close Any Gaps in Walls

Check your home for any holes. Rats can squeeze through gaps as tiny as 1 inch (2.54 cm), so keep a close eye out for any potential pathways. If you spot any, seal them up as quickly as possible. 

Unfortunately, there are some openings, like heating vents, that you can’t and shouldn’t close. Instead, stay vigilant with cleanliness and keep a steady eye on potential burrowing spots. 

Clean-Up Food Waste

Rats love food — and they especially love eating human food. If you’re one to leave scraps and waste lying around, that might be the root source of your rat problem, or at the very least, it’s encouraging them to keep coming back. 

One of the simplest ways to avoid these critters crawling around your space is storing food in airtight containers like this set of 14 Shazo Airtight Food Storage Containers. Similarly, ensure you regularly dispose of your garbage to prevent rats from feasting on your kitchen waste. 

Final Thoughts

Rats are not aggressive animals, so they are not known for randomly attacking humans. However, if a rat feels threatened or endangered, they may become hostile. It’s best not to handle or clean up after rats without protection as bites, scratches, physical contact, and fecal matter may transmit harmful and potentially deadly diseases. 

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