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In theory, if you catch a live rat, you should relocate it outside of your home, make sure there are no other rats inside, and seal shut all rodent access points.
I should probably feel somewhat weird saying that if you catch a rat you should kill it, but I don’t. It’s a rat, you’re not doing it any favors by relocating it. Once they are removed from their environment and relocated, odds are pretty much against rats surviving in a novelty habitat. They will die soon after being relocated, probably of a violent death, either by the hands of predators, because of rat competition, or just due to starvation.
I understand how it’s really awkward to kill a living thing. Most people can’t do it with no pangs of conscience. I’m not recommending you do this, I suggest you capture the rat with a lethal snap trap, and then dispose of the body. Even so, I suggest that you look at the big picture. Urban and suburban rats are an absolute horror show. They’re dangerous to our health and to the structures we live in, spreading disease and wreaking devastation wherever they choose to settle. They multiply like crazy, and the majority of them have a lifespan of under a year. While good indicator species in the wild, urban rats don’t help our environment in any way.
Your options would be:
A) Release the rat somewhere far from your home, where it will soon die anyway;
B) Catch the rat with a lethal snap trap to start with, and dispose of the carcass;
C) Use live exclusion to capture the rat, then kill it in a quick way that won’t give you nightmares;
D) Hire a seasoned vermin control professional from the start.
I’m sorry if you would’ve wanted to read about some utopic rat rehabilitation center, or of some natural forest area where the rat would’ve lived happily ever after, but after all, I don’t imagine you’re a kid that wants all rats to share pies with Ratatouille in Unicorn Country while dancing the polka. I digress only in the purpose of sustaining my position in what concerns rats. Do the right thing by correctly and humanly exterminating any rat that trespasses on your property – no guilt trips are in order.
Read more about why lethal trapping with snap traps is the most humane method of dealing with rats in your home, and go ahead and check my directory of wildlife removal pros if you need help with rat extermination. For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does rat removal cost? - get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of rats - my main rat removal info guide.
Example rat trapping photographs - get do-it-yourself ideas.
Rat job blog - learn from great examples of rat jobs I've done.