I have many plants in my balcony, around 20, and recently my Mom has noticed that rats are eating the plants. They finished Holy Basil in one night! All leaves are gone, even the buds. They are also munching on the new leaves of my Money plant.

How do I keep the rats off my plants?

The problem is we also get frequent visits from squirrels, but they are not of nuisance, at least to us. They don't eat plants. They just forage in the pots looking for something to eat. My mom is sure that the culprits are the rats, as she finds rat's poop scattered all around the Holy Basil and Money Plant.

We don't want to hurt any squirrels or pigeons or birds.

  • The rats have devastated my garden. They ate innumerable plants. The magnolias, spider plants, golden pothos, money tree leaves, peace Lily's, giant Thai elephant ear, and so many, many more. I killed many previously with sticky traps (which I don't like to use because they also kill birds), and with metal traps, but after watching the screaming death of their mother the new brood has wised up to all my traps and fall for nothing, and have multiplied. It's gotten unbearable. – Johan88 Jun 5 '20 at 17:56
  • @Johan88 try sprinkling red chilli powder on plants. Not too much. – 4-K Jun 5 '20 at 18:05
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    Didn't work. Even enormous amounts. Chilli. Black pepper. Bleach. Eucalyptus. Nothing is working. I'm literally hatching a plan to soak the area with WD 40 and set them on fire. – Johan88 Jun 5 '20 at 18:06
  • @Johan88 perhaps you can keep a pet dog or a cat or some bird of prey – 4-K Jun 5 '20 at 18:10
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    @Johan88 throw in some rats and it will be a mess ten times more. Yeah. Traps should help. More traps means some rat might get trapped. – 4-K Jun 6 '20 at 17:55

I'd be very surprised if its actually rats eating your plants - rats will eat almost anything, but plants would be the last thing on the list, unless its a fruiting vegetable plant such as corn. You may have rats coming to check out the balcony, especially if, at any time, you've eaten out there or left other foodstuffs lying around, including things like cat or dog food or birdseed, but if rats really are eating your plants, it can only be because there's absolutely nothing else around for them to eat - and that scenario is extremely unlikely.

Squirrels and pigeons both may attack plants, but the only way you're going to know for sure is to keep watch at night, to see if its a nocturnal visitor, whether that turns out to be rats, or something else.

  • I've had rat problems, IN THE CITY. But they did not eat the leaves, mostly the eggplant, tomatos, peppers...the fruit. I do know a bit about rats and they will eat anything if they are desperate. They can climb up brick. They swim in the water lines for long distances and can come up in the john. Perhaps some flashing along the edge of your balcony's floor...an 'overhang' of sorts. Don't mess with poisons or traps. The birds and squirrels will get in them before the rats will and whenever poison is put into the environment the litters of babies INCREASE. Quietly visit at night... – stormy Jul 6 '16 at 20:15
  • I conclude that it's the rats for two reasons: Squirrels are diurnal, and my mom finds rat poop scattered around the victim's pot. The victim here is the Holy Basil and Money Plant. If it's rats, how do I stop them? In case they are squirrel, how do I stop them, too? (I don't want to kill squirrels) – 4-K Jul 7 '16 at 6:26

Rats do eat hot peppers. I grow jalapeƱos, Serrano, Hungarian banana peppers and hot chilis and they nibble on them all. I have chased one out of the garden last night by my plants. Nothing else I know eats them. The only way I know to protect the plants it a trap with peanut butter. But be careful handling rat traps they pack a wall up. I usually wear thick leather winter gloves when setting them just in case to protect my fingers.

  • Slugs and birds eat hot peppers. I don't know that birds are a pepper pest, though, but they eat wild bird peppers. – Brōtsyorfuzthrāx Apr 27 '18 at 3:40

Rats were eating my tomatoes and cucumbers. They also ate just the flowers from pansies and snapdragons. And they caused around $5,000 damage to my car! It's very difficult to catch rats with the flip style rat traps and not practical with cats around. I used 5 rat bait boxes around my home. If you have pets, use bait that won't harm other animals if they try to eat a dead rat. We also got a kitten that grew up to be a great mouser. Rat problem solved!

  • so the best method is to get a cat that is not lazy? – 4-K Jun 11 '17 at 7:45

Rats do eat flowers. They are eating my dahlias and other flowers out of my pots at night. I've seen them. Squirrels dig around the plants and sometimes break them with their big butts while digging, but don't eat them. I am a wildlife rehabber and know for sure that squirrels also do eat spicy things. I have pictures of squirrels eating jalapeno covered nuts and other things like that. Pretty funny, because they sell suet that's hot because supposedly only birds don't mind the heat. The rats eat the plant down to the stubby stems.


Wrong...Rats do eat plants and from my experience they especially like herbs. I have tried to grow herbs for years in my "city garden" and the rats destroy everything within the first week. And unfortunately I have no cure - ours have moved on to also eating the electrical wires in our car and the cable tv wires. Rats are a nuisance.

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    I'm wondering where you are in the world, Foxkat48 - we have plenty of rats here, I often see them running behind the privet, but despite growing several herbs and other edible salad type plants, they never touch 'em. They'll eat fox and dog faeces, but not our plants – Bamboo Jul 6 '16 at 18:36
  • Bamboo, are you in the 'city'? I knew there was something good about rats!! Good observation. Us humans are responsible for these dudes...they have evolved right alongside us two legged idiots, grins! Brilliant animals, they know we are their diners and pubs with all our waste. Love it they eat the 'faeces' of dogs...you have fox IN the city? btw, has Joe U. contacted you yet? He is in London as well. Is there a way to get you two together properly? He needs help with choosing plants, he was on this site a while back. We can do this in chat sometime? – stormy Jul 6 '16 at 20:22
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    @stormy Yea sure and no he hasn;t got in touch yet. Yes, we have zillions of foxes, currently got a mum and 4 rather well grown cubs here every night making a racket, its 11.30 pm and they're out there now mucking around, and there's more in towns and cities than in the countryside (probably like the rats) yes I'm in London, west london, not the City of London,, rats everywhere countrywide in every town and city, or anywhere with sewers really.Which is probably the whole of England but probably not the whole of the UK – Bamboo Jul 6 '16 at 22:26

Sprinkle all parts of the plant with finely ground, the hottest you can find, hot pepper powder or hot pepper juice. Spray juice from a mister after filtering out chunks with cheese cloth or a coffee filter. Refresh after every rain. Mammals, but not birds, can taste the hot pepper and after one taste, they will stay away.

You can make your own hot pepper juice by soaking 1 part hot pepper powder in 1-2 parts water for 24 hours. Strain into mister through coffee filter in a funnel.

Wear gloves and do not touch your eyes or face!

  • I will try that. Seems like a good Idea. – 4-K Jul 8 '16 at 9:21

Rats also eat some cactus. I have lived in the suburbs for a while and have occasional bouts with rats in my potted cactus. How do I know they're rats? That's what I get in my live traps.

My trap strategy has been to place live traps along the travel paths. Rats don't see well (20/600 vision) and tend to walk along walls or structures navigating by whisker touch. Place the trap in the path and you're all set. I stopped using bait early on, they just stumble into the strategically placed traps.

What you do with them once you catch them is up to you.

None of this is probably practical for your balcony situation as live traps are kind of bulky. The only thing I would caution against is poison which is unfortunately the most effective solution in limited space. Poison can have many unforeseen consequences.

I've seen some light-based rat deterrents. Not sure how effective they are. People use them under the hoods/bonnets of their cars in Arizona.

Here is more info on rat behavior. You may find something useful.

Rat Behavior Link

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