A Complete Guide To Rat Trapping

Isn’t it annoying when rats start living alongside you in your house, damaging your property and contaminating your food? Do you not hear the gnawing sound they make when they are chewing on your leftover food? if yes, then it is natural for you to get worried and seek a solution to get rid of these pesky rats for good.

If the infestation is not dealt with promptly, your house will soon turn in to a permanent residence for furry nibblers. They are renowned for wreaking havoc, destroying your property and furniture, contaminating your food and so much.

By letting these destructive pests live in your house, you are not only risking the life of you and your family, but you are also risking the peace of your mind. Apart from that, you will end up with even greater issues staring you in the face if you have mischief of rats living and nurturing, right under your nose.

Roof rat maze
Roof rat maze

Identifying Between Rat and Mouse

At first glance, rats and mouse may appear similar but if take a closer look you will realize that they do, in fact, have different looks and characteristics.

Mice: There is no big difference between a mouse and a young rat that is why the mouse is often mistaken as a rat. the distinctive characters of a mouse are, its floppy ears, smaller size, longer tails, and long whiskers. They too infest your home and breed at an earlier age.

Rats: although similar physique as a mouse, rats are relatively bigger than an average mouse. They can withstand any weather conditions that is why you will find them everywhere around the world. They are not picky about their residence, rats can live anywhere including homes, gardens, and farms. If they’re inside your house, they are likely to build a nest in attics or ceilings. Some rats reside in shrubs and trees as well.   

Identifying the Types of Rat

To get rid of rats for good, it is important for you to know what type of rats are infesting your home. Knowledge about rats and their types will help you find them, looks for the signs they leave behind and eradicate them.

Roof Rats

Unlike other rats, roof rats or otherwise called black rats have long tails, round eyes, and big ears. These features make them easily distinguishable against other rats. Due to their smooth dense fur, they are most likely to leave a slick of grease on the floor or along the walls as they hasten around. They like to build their shelter in the upper part of the building hence got the name roof rat. They prefer nesting in cozy warm attics and ceilings. Not only do they contaminate your food and damage your property, but they also serve and vectors of dangerous diseases.

Wood Rats

Wood rats are almost the same size as Norway rats but thanks to their hamster-like features, you can identify them easily. These rats are gifted with fine and furry tails which are features mutual to both wood rats and hamsters. These bushy tail rats live on your leftover food and contaminate it. They are also known for stealing smaller things like your jewelry or button. With woos rats infesting your house, you will have more things to get worried about including health, hygiene and your valuable belongings.

Norway Rats

Norway rats or commonly known as brown rats are relatively larger than both those rays mentioned above. They can grow up to 16 inches. They have brown and greyish shaggy fur, small eyes and ears, and their tail relatively smaller than their head and body combined. Signs of Norway rats include greasy and dark rub marks of fur along the surface, gnaw marks throughout the house, blunt end droppings and burrows packed with food. they have perfect incisors which are a great tool for gnawing cables, wood plastic, paper, and other hard material. Norway rat is also known as sewer rat as it prefers to nest low to the ground, you will find them residing in your garden, woodpile or even in the basement. These rats create big colonies because they reproduce countless times during their one year of life expectancy.

Roof rat
Roof rat Rattus rattus

How Do Rats Enter Your Home

When it comes to survival, rats are very persistent and relentless. They can enter your house through holes and gaps as small as ¼ of an inch. All they need is a gap big enough for their skull to pass. To rats, giving up is not an option, they can directly enter your home through sewers. They travel through gutters and squeeze through an opening in pipes, and if that’s not enough to scare you, they also climb walls, creep along roofs and travel across rooftops through pipelines. No wonder they carry diseases and pests with them. Any gap under doors or windows can become an easy entrance for these rodents. If you can’t see them but feel their presence, then you should step up your hearing sense, you might hear them crawling across floorboards, scratching inside the walls or chewing through cables and wood.

Signs of Rat Infestation

Now that you know all possible passages through which rats can get access to your house, it is time to look for signs that show rat infestation in your house. Rats are very stealthy creatures when they infest your home, they make sure not to be seen or heard, that is why it is likely that you will never see rats when they plague your property. They hide in attics and gaps around the corner and come out at night in search of food. you can not possibly install cameras around your house to keep an eye on rats and their mischievous activities at night, so it’s important that you look for signs of infestation. No matter how stealthy and secretive rats are, they do leave some signs for us to observe. Below are some rat infestation signs, if you find any of these signs at your home, leave everything and act at once because it is urgent, and it needs to be dealt with immediately.

Droppings: Rat dropping are the ultimate sign of infestation. Rats leave the droppings of their waste and even the crumbs of food they munched on. Average rats produce 40 droppings a night. Similar to the size of a rice grain, these droppings are dark in color. Best places to look for droppings are, near the food source, trash bins, and pet food bowls.

Noises: Rats make a variety of noises including hissing, squeaking, and chattering. Each of these noises is a means of communication, rats produce a hissing or squeaking sound when they are scared or in danger. Rats grind their teeth and produce chattering sound which is an indication of stress.

Rat Holes: with their strong incisors, rats are capable of chewing through anything and create burrows anywhere they want. They are known for digging to get access to food and to build nests.

Smell: Rats give off a foul strange odor, which may be due to their droppings of waste.

Greasy Marks: Rats are dirty. They live dirty places that’s why whenever they scurry around your house, they leave oily smudge and smear marks along the walls and surfaces.

Are Rats Dangerous to Humans or Not?

Rats spreading illness and diseases is not a myth, but a fact. Over years rats and mice are responsible for spreading diseases that had deadly outcomes. Thanks to, modern medicines and their advancement as well as innovative pest control methods and improved sanitation, the risk of passed on the disease by rats, is not as exasperating as it used to be in the past. This, however, does not change the fact that rats do carry diseases and harmful pests. These diseases are treatable with medicines if they are treated right and as early as possible. Their lifestyle, habitat and the unhygienic environment they dwell in, maybe the reason behind rats housing host of diseases which are harmful to you and your family if passed on. These diseases are mainly transmitted through drinking and eating food and water which has already been contaminated by rat feces. It can also be transmitted through rat scratch or bite.

Before you think about getting rid of rats through baiting and trapping, think about the consequences and seriousness of the situation. While handling dead bodies or even living rats always be medically prepared, keep your first aid box with you all the time. Seek immediate medical help if you notice that you have been exposed or at risk of any disease carried by rats. Following are the list of diseases and harmful organisms spread by rats.

  • Hantavirus
  • Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV)
  • Salmonellosis
  • Plague
  • Rat bite fever
  • Tularemia
  • Weil’s disease
  • Leptospirosis
  • Murin Typhus

Do Rats Damage property?

Rats can cause a great deal of damage to the structure of your house. they can contaminate your food as well as your pet’s food. you cannot even begin to imagine just how destructive rats are. No wonder, one sign of infestation can send a homeowner in to complete state of panic. An adult brown rat eats as much as 50 kilos of food per day, that is, it has to be fed 15 to 20 times per day. Here’s a shocking part, since they nibble on anything just to fulfill the curiosity of its taste, a single rat may contaminate 10 times as much food as it eats. Rats are always chewing on things to keep their incisors sharp and strong. They even chew the insulations and wires in the house which result in a power outage and house fires. All these damages can cost an enormous amount of money. The dirty droppings they leave scattering around is also damage to your house. a rat may excrete waste 60 times a day, that’s too much for a few inch-long rats. These droppings are not only stinky and smelly, but they also act as a magnet to attract other rats. The more droppings you have the more chances of getting more rats in your place. Rat dropping is also the main cause of spreading of diseases, you are likely to get infected by salmonella and tapeworms if you unknowingly touched a dropping with your bare hands. Black rats like to chew on eaves of the roof, so don’t be surprised if you find a leak in roof on a rainy day and water dripping down the roof. As if all the nuisance is not enough, Norway rats damage the very foundation of your home. Having rat infestation in your house can quickly become a costly ordeal for you.

Rat Trapping Guide

Before you think about getting rid of rats, there are a few steps that you must follow to get rat free and rat proof home. Rat infestation is a serious issue and it can get any homeowner into trouble. Therefore, it is imperative that infestation should be taken care of immediately and in the right way. Since rats are very persistent furry critters, they will fight for their survival in spite of your many attempts to eradicate them. It is not as easy as it sounds to trap rats. There are several types of traps, baits, poisons, repellent sprays and bait stations out there, which can help in rat eradication. Some traps can result in an instant at spot killing, while others are intended for a live release. By the end of this article, you will be able to tell what type of trap to use for what type of rat and where to place it. We don’t want to jump directly to that part before we talk about traps, there are few steps that you must follow before taking any action or placing any trap or bait.

As a professional, 97% of the traps we use are Victor snap traps. Most other brands are too weak or fall apart quickly.

Victor rat traps
Victor rat traps


Inspecting your house or area where you think you might have an infestation is the first and most crucial step. The inspection will help you to find both, the places where rats might be hiding and the places through which rats might be entering your home. During the process, you might come across areas which need your immediate attention or places that need a quick fix. You might find some unsealed cracks and holes or any area that must not be left unattended.

Play a little game of hiding and seek and find out where the population is hiding. Think about all the possible areas where rats could be housing. Lofts and attics, walls, kitchen, basement, cellar, sheds, garage or maybe backyard, make sure to go through these areas. Attics are dark places which are commonly empty and turn out to be an ideal place for nocturnal rats to reside. Attics contain cables, cardboard boxes, insulation, which are the best places for rats to build nests in. moving up and down the building is made easy for rats, by pipes along walls. They get access through small gaps and scamper through pipes. Basement, where you usually store food, drink, and other important stuff is not safe from rats either. These dark dank areas often become nest to many rats providing them with easily accessible food, warm well protected shelter and easy entry points to move in and out. Kitchen and laundries have electrical appliances like washer machine, dishwasher, microwaves which provide warm places to hide. Outside your house, in garage and sheds, rats like to build nests there because they are well protected and full of equipment. In the garden, there are large shrubs, woodpile, trash cans and birdfeeder which basically have all the supplies including shelter, food, and water that rats need to live, thrive and start a family and soon a colony.

Rat-Proof Your House

Next step is to rat-proof your house. Before getting rid of rats once and for all, it is imperative to not leave your home vulnerable to rats again. Taking steps to make your home rat proof will prevent re-infestation. Without getting rid of factors that allow easy entry of rats, all your hard work will go to waste. There is no point in buying expensive poisons and traps, and putting so much efforts to place them around home only get re-infested later by rats again.

First and foremost, close all holes and seal all gaps bigger than a ¼ inch. All vents and gaps in attics should be sealed at once, also attend to gaps under window sills to make no entry points are left open. All the pipes which provide outside water supplies should be sealed. Don’t leave your woodpile anywhere around your house and cover your chimney to stop rats climbing up and down. Don’t leave your lawns unkempt, maintain your garden by cutting grass time to time so you can see rats lurking around. Get rid of any long shrubs or that might bridge to your house, any shrub or plant too close to your house will allow rats to dig under the foundations. Use natural repellents like garlic, bay leaves peppermint oil and onions to deter rats from entering your property and getting rid of the smell from the previous infestation.

Using Humane Traps to Get Rid of Rats

Traps work best when you know the location where the population of rats is hiding. You can set traps around rat infested areas and lure them out using bait. Traps are useful in a way that you don’t end up with stinking dead bodies of rats lying around your house. humane live traps allow you to capture living rat whom you can transport to a different place far away from your home. It is a good method to get rid of rats without actually killing them, but if you have a serious infestation, this method will cost you a great deal of time and effort. These traps are small sturdy boxes, made up of steel or plastic. Steel traps are rust and corrosion resistant, so they can be placed anywhere indoor or outdoor. These traps come in different sizes, depending on the type of rats you are dealing with. Some traps have one door which closes automatically when the rat gets inside, while other traps have two doors on either end of the long cage like a box. The handle on top of the cage makes transporting prisoner rats effortlessly.

We have experienced a lot with live traps. We have a favorite BUT it must be secured to the floor, otherwise, the rat will tip it over an escape. But otherwise, we love this trap.

Gingbau Chipmunk Trap Humane Live Rat Trap Cage
Gingbau Chipmunk Trap Humane Live Rat Trap Cage

Using Killer Traps to Get Rid of Rats

Traps are great alternatives to poison as they are not toxic and safe to work with. For decades they are being used as an effective form of rat control. Like humane traps, snap traps to require a great deal of patience and efforts, but the hard work certainly pays off.  These traps are not for the weak heart, if you cannot stand the sight of dead rats with their skull snapped in a trap, then this is surely not your cup of tea. Be careful when disposing of those dead bodies though.

There are different types of traps out there in a market. we will talk about a few of those, including snap traps, glue traps, electronic traps and gas traps. Which trap to use depends on how severe the infestation is and what type of rat is infesting your house.

Snap Traps

snap traps are very popular because they offer quick result in cheap price and can be used multiple times. When you think about snap traps, the trap which probably comes to mind is the one we see on television and cartoons, a wooden block with metal trigger and piece of cheese attached as a bait. The real-life snap traps work in a similar way, by luring a rat to wood or plastic surface by a bait which is attached to a trigger. Rat is killed instantly, the moment it charges forward to take a bite of that bait. All this might sound easy, but it is tedious and creates a hell of a mess. The trick is, to set up the trap in the right place under constant supervision. Snap traps are not suitable for households where there are children or pets.

I say it in every article…we use Victor snap traps 97% of the time.

Victor rat traps
Victor rat traps

Electronic Traps

Electronic traps resemble cages without a door to capture rats. These traps instantly kill rats in a more humane way than a snap trap. Once the animal gets inside the trap, it delivers a powerful electric shock to the rat which results in killing rats at the spot, instantly. Before you buy any electronic trap, make sure you buy a good quality trap, some traps deliver weaker electric shock than it is advertised which doesn’t kill bigger and stronger rats. This will result in a slow and agonizing death of rats. Disposing of the dead bodies is also less messy and less troublesome.

You have many to choose from; “The Rat Zapper” is the originator and is the choice for this professional.

Glue Traps

Glue traps are cruelest of all traps as they make sure that the rat dies a slow, agonizingly painful death. They are basically just a leather strap, wood or plastic surface covered with a thick layer of glue. Since rats have poor eyesight, they can’t really differentiate and think of the adhesive coat as an extension of the floor. Bait is placed in the middle of the adhesive when rat treads carefully on it to get the bait, its paws will get stuck to the glue. The strong adhesive will hold on to the rat for as long as you either show up to dispose of the rat, or it dies from dehydration if left there for a long time. In some cases, rats will rip their flesh or limbs off to get free or, suffocate themselves by getting their nose stuck into the glue. In either case, it is not a pleasant sight to see, so we suggest that you use the trap which you find convenient and effective.

Regardless, there are occasions when glue boards are of best use. A pro tip is that oil breaks down the glue so if have an animal on a trap…or a child steps in it simply put some vegetable or olive oil on the glue board and the glue will dissolve.

Setting Up A Rat Trap

First, use Victor rat traps. Some of the most common mistakes people make when setting up rat traps are, placing the traps at wrong places, leaving the traps unmonitored and not placing enough traps. Using Rat traps is all about finding the right location. Before setting up a trap, it’s wise to carefully look for areas where rat activity has been observed, locate their nests and feeding location. Place your baited traps on the travel routes of rats or else you will not be able to catch any rat at all. You can easily determine their location by inspecting every area and look for any rat droppings, claw marks or grease marks. If you find any of those, this is where you need to set up a rat trap.  If you don’t want to go through all the trouble of locating rat spaces, buy many traps and just place them everywhere. Rats are clever, they don’t wander around carelessly. They will go out of their way to avoid a dangerous situation. First, gain their trust by letting them feed off the bait in a trap, this will instill courage in them and guarantee a second visit. Next time the rat will let its guard down and approach the bait confidently.

Best Baits to Lure Rats

Rat is incredibly fussy and picky creatures, although they can not resist the sight and smell of appetizing meal. While there are many rat baits out there in the market, we will list down some tantalizing treats to serve the taste buds of this picky rodent – all of which can be easily found in your kitchen. All you have to do is, just check your fridge and cupboards, and you will find best baits hiding in there such as peanut butter, cheese, chocolate, cured meat, syrups, and jams. We have categorized the bait lists according to the type of rat infesting your home – commonly Norway rat and the roof rat. Different rats have different food preferences and we respect that.

Roof Rat’s Favorite Bait

If your house is infested by roof rats and you want to lure them out with bait then, this list will be of great help to you. all the favorite treats for roof rats include:

  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruits
  • Fresh fruits
  • Insects
  • Snails
  • Slugs

Baits for Norway Rats

Norway rats are a less picky eater as compared to roof rats, which make it easier to choose from the list of baits. They can be lured out by anything as long as it’s edible and smells great. Below is the list of things that Norway rats enjoy eating.

  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts
  • Bacon
  • Gumdrops
  • Dried fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Slices of sausage or other meat products.
  • Nesting materials.

Pros and Cons of Using Rat Traps

With so many rat eradicating solutions out there such as trapping, poisoning, baiting, and shooting – trapping stands alone as one of the safest, cheapest and quickest method of all. We shall talk about some pros and cons of using rat traps that might need your consideration.

pros: Trapping is a safer way to get rid of rats as compared to poisoning which might be risky for children and pats. Rats traps are more effective and give quick results for smaller rat infestations. It is easy to locate and dispose of off dead rats before it gets too stinky and smelly.

Cons: Unfortunately, for large and severe infestations, rat traps may not be very effective. It can be extremely tedious, laborious and time-consuming.  While traps may be safer than poison, they are not much safe for children – especially snap traps. These types of traps close shut with serious force, that’s great when killing a rat but not so great if a child or pet happens upon a trap. It is encouraged to use rat traps inside secure bait stations, to safely trap and easily dispose of the dead body. Some glue traps are not considered humane because of their ineffectiveness which can result in the slow and painful death of a rat. Moving a dead rat with glue trap attached is a sight not suitable for faint hearted people.

Tips for Trapping Rats

Number one rule of rat trapping is to place traps in the right places. For more effective results, place the traps hidden along paths where rats are most likely to travel. Place traps in closet, under furniture – such as sofa, tables, chairs or even cabinets and under floorboards.

If you are using rat traps to get rid of rats, you might need plenty of traps to place everywhere. The top principle of utilizing any rat trap is to use many traps. You may require more traps than the size of the population infesting your house. Usually, people underestimate their number and end up buying fewer traps which are insufficient for trapping the whole population.

Know the difference between rat traps and mouse traps, and make sure you always buy rat traps because n average mouse trap is never enough to catch a notorious rat.

Inspect the area before placing a trap. Set up traps in areas where you have observed rat signs such as droppings, grease marks or scratch marks. These signs will confirm rat activity in the area.

Place traps 15 – 20 feet apart since rats like to touch surfaces as they move, place the traps accordingly.  It would be a good idea to place traps touching a wall.

Use the best bait in your traps according to the diet of the rat. Keep in mind the species you are dealing with, because different species of rats eat different food. Black rats are herbivorous while brown rats are omnivorous in nature. Regardless of whatever species of rats, use bait with a strong smell to lure rats into traps.

Set snap traps in such a way that their trigger end is almost touching the wall by setting them extended at a right angle from a wall. You can set traps in pairs as well in such a way that triggers situated on either side to intercept rats.

Don’t set up all traps in one day and expect to see the results the next day. Rats very clever and cautious creatures, some rats are shy to explore new places or objects. Place unset traps in new and different locations for week or two will increase the chances of catching rats.

Allow rats to feed off the unset trap for a day or two. The critters will get accustomed to this safe trap and accept it as part of their regular turf. Bait the trap next time and set it up to snap a rat.

Some rats are trap shy, no matter what you do they will not get in the trap. You can trap these rats all in one night by simply selecting an area where you will be putting your bait such as a pile of grains, bark, sawdust or any other natural area where rats assemble.  Bait large number of unset traps with nuts or peanut butter. You can either hide the traps in a cardboard or pie pan – or you can just leave the traps in the area. Rats will soon start discovering the traps and feeding off the bait, they will start to get used to of the traps and baits. Set up a large number of traps enough to kill a large population of rats before they become shy of traps. This method is called “mass trapping” and it will kill rats en masse and seriously get rid of the population before they even repopulate. You might have to repeat the process again depending upon the infestation.

Different places require a different number of traps. Place the traps according to the need of each area, for instance, trash room may require as many as 1 – 2 dozen traps while the living room may require as few as 3 – 4 traps.

If you still have infestation left even after mass trapping, it means you are dealing with the wisest and cleverest of rats. They have alpha rats and beta rats in their population. Beta rats get caught in snap traps easily, but alpha rats are not an easy catch.  They are very cautious around traps and know very well how to avoid them. to get rid of alpha rats you can either use live traps or rodenticides. Poisonous rat baits are also very effective as they kill rats instantly.

Stop the rats outside your house before they even get inside. Placing snap traps outside along the fences and trellises will prevent rats from getting into your property any further.

Do not ever touch rat traps with bare hands. Always wear gloves when handling traps and baits. Rats can detect the human smell, if you touch the trap with your bare hands, rats will know the human involvement, and will stay away from the trap.

To catch a rat in trap successfully, place a small bait in the center of the trap. Always use a moist bait which won’t dry up and fall off easily. If you place a dangling piece of meat, a rat could easily pry away the bait, set off the trap and enjoy its treat somewhere far away from the trap.

Wash your hands before handling the traps, make sure you haven’t touched any animal before touching the trap with bare hands.

Always use gloves when dealing with rat traps and rat corpse, to reduce the chances of contacting ectoparasites or diseases causing organisms.

When to Call A Professional

If rats have done great damage to your property and started contaminating it, that’s where you need professional help. Rats can be very persistent, you may be thinking that you have dealt with the infestation and solved the whole rat ruckus situation, only to find out another infestation a few days later. When all your home remedies, DIYs, poisoning and trapping skills fail, that’s when you need to call for professional pest control services. Rat infestation in your house for too long can put yours and your family’s health at stake. You can seek help from pest control professionals and exterminators any time you feel that the problem is too much for you to tackle on your own.

Q & A

Q. What if I read off of this and I cannot decide what trap to use?

A. If in doubt, go with Victor snap traps. Just make sure they are placed in an area where children and animals will not get caught.

Q. What do I do with dead rats?

A. Place dead rats in a plastic bag and put in the garbage or even better, dig a hole in the yard and bury them.

Dusty Showers has been in the urban nuisance wildlife and pest control field since 1993. Taught by Garon Fyffe, a pioneer in humane nuisance wildlife management, Dusty has a passion for finding humane solutions to human & wildlife conflicts. Dusty was the only individual invited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in the lat 1990's to help write legislation for legal protection of Florida bats. With an instinct for solving wildlife, Dusty found pest control to be an easy "add-on interest". Dusty started his first business "Animal Instincts Wildlife & Pest Management" in the Tampa Bay, Florida area in 1995. Eventually selling Animal Instincts in 2002, Dusty went on to start Creepy Creatures Termite and Pest Control in 2009, which he still owns and operates today in Palm Harbor, Florida.