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How do I Choose the Best Rat Poison?

By Kay Paddock
Updated May 16, 2024
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Rat poison is designed to kill rats and control their population. The poison allows homeowners and business owners to exterminate rats and other vermin in the area by targeting them with special bait. Rat poison can be designed to kill with a single feeding, or to lure rats back to feed multiple times and take the tainted bait back to their nest. The three types of bait that are most commonly purchased for non-professional use are bromethalin-based, vitamin-based and anti-coagulants. The type to choose depends on where the poison will be used and how quickly results are needed.

Bromethalin-based poisons are chiefly designed for use outdoors or in commercial applications such as warehouses and plants. Bromethalin is a highly lethal, fast-acting poison that will typically kill rats within a day or two of feeding. This rodenticide attacks the rats' central nervous system, paralyzing them and causing death. Brands like Fastrac® and Talpirid® use bromethalin as an active ingredient.

Vitamin-based poisons kill rats by overwhelming their systems with vitamin D, which causes them to absorb huge amounts of calcium into their bloodstream. Too much calcium causes things like kidney failure, slowed heartbeat and muscle weakness that eventually end in death. Vitamin-based poisons are found in brands like Ortho® pest control products.

Anti-coagulant poison is designed to eradicate rats by preventing their blood from clotting. Warfarin and brodificoum are two of the many different substances used in these poisons. Rats that eat this bait may not become ill for several days. They bleed internally which causes a relatively slow death. The benefit of this type of rat poison is that the rodents will often return to the bait more than once. This allows them to take food back to their nest, providing more effective pest control. Brands like d-Con® use this method, but it is worth noting that many popular brands often use a combination of two or more poisons in some of their products.

When choosing rat poison, it is important to remember that none of these poisons should ever be within reach of children, pets or wildlife. They are all designed to be lethal. People or pets that ingest anti-coagulant poisons are typically treated with intravenous Vitamin K to counteract the effects. Bromethalin-based and vitamin-based poisons ingested by pets and humans are often harder to treat and can require more drastic measures. Sometimes the effects of rat poison can't be reversed, even with emergency medical or veterinarian treatment.

Rat poison used indoors should be put in a container that only rats can get into to avoid the poison from being scattered or available to children and pets. Most brands come pre-measured in small boxes or containers that limit access, so no one has to handle the actual poison. These can be placed behind appliances or underneath cabinets. While many products are designed for indoors, the use of poisons inside can sometimes mean that rats will die inside a wall or beneath the floor, which can cause mess and odor. Traps may be a better option for some homes.

Poisons placed outdoors should also be hidden from children, pets and any non-targeted wildlife to avoid accidental poisonings. These also come in access-limited cartons to prevent anything but rodents from reaching the bait. Read labels carefully before using any type of bait to be aware of the ingredients used and the proper steps to take in case of an emergency.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon972439 — On Oct 03, 2014

Just use a baseball-bat! Problem solved.

By anon958671 — On Jun 29, 2014

Don't want the rat to suffer? Better off your family and neighbors I guess. I just a bought a place and they going nuts ripping they insulation out of my walls. The dogs caught several, so all I need now is a vet bill. Never mind the possible disease or possible lawsuit if some kid gets bit, etc., etc.

If people killed them outright, maybe the billions of dollars in damage they do every year would lessen.

By bluedolphin — On Oct 06, 2013

@fBoyle-- If the rats are in your home, I highly recommend getting a trap with bait that will keep the rat enclosed in there. These usually look like a box and mimic the rat's home. This way, the rat is likely to die inside the container.

If the rat dies somewhere where you can't get to it, it's going to cause a terrible stench.

By turquoise — On Oct 06, 2013

@fBoyle-- I don't think that there is any pleasant way to get rid of rats. If you want them gone, you have to accept that.

Rat traps are probably the fastest way to kill rats. My landowner uses them when he suspects an infestation. We don't have any pets or small children, so it's not a problem. He puts some peanut butter on the trap and the rats go for it every time.

If you can't use traps, then definitely go for a rat poison bait. I think that the anti-coagulant ones work faster than you think. They work in a day or two at most and that's the norm for most rat poisons.

When I was a child, my dad used a pink rat poison but I can't recall the name. That stuff was so strong! It would kill the rats in less than a day! I don't even know if that poison is available or legal anymore. It was probably taken off the shelf for being too dangerous.

By fBoyle — On Oct 05, 2013

Killing rats isn't exactly ethical, but I find all these vitamin based poisons and poisons with medications a bit too much. Yes, I want to get rid of rats, but I don't want them to suffer for hours and maybe days before they die. I want something that will work fast and cause them as little pain as possible.

What type of rat poison has these qualities?

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