Rats are probably the least welcome house guests; however, it is not unheard of to be in a situation where you have to deal with a rat infestation. The importance of knowing how to deal with such a situation can’t be overstated.

When it comes to trapping rats, rat traps are the go-to method. Their popularity stems from their ease of use and ready availability. Although rat traps are easy to use, there are certain things that must be taken into consideration.

The roof rat is technically Rattus rattus and also known as the black rat, citrus rat and fruit rat.
The roof rat is technically Rattus rattus and also known as the black rat, citrus rat and fruit rat.

Advantages of Using Rat Traps

There are many reasons why most people prefer rat traps when faced with a rat infestation. Rat traps generally provide quick results, especially if you have a smaller infestation. Moreover, they make it easier to locate the rodent’s body afterward making disposal easy and decreasing the likelihood of having to deal with the foul smells that dead rats emit. Finally, rat traps are a safer option compared to poisons, etc. especially if you have pets and children in the building.

Disadvantages of Using Rat Traps

Although rat traps can prove to be a good option in many scenarios, they are pretty much a waste of time and effort, if you are dealing with a much larger rat infestation. This is because to counter such a large population, you will need an extremely high number of traps. Setting and monitoring all these traps can be a laborious and time-consuming task. Moreover, the rats will become trap shy once a few of them have been trapped.

More is Less

When it comes to setting traps for rats, it is a good idea to go for a large number of traps. In fact, using plenty of traps is probably the most important rule when it comes to trapping rats. Multiply the number of times you have spotted rat activity by 4 and that is the least number of traps you need to set up. In a trash room or other commercial locations, you might need more than 2 or 3 dozen traps to successfully counter a rat infestation.

The reason behind this is that more often than not, the population of rats would be much larger than you expect. On top of this, with a reproductive cycle of 21 days, rats are some of the fastest breeding pests to infest your home or other buildings.  

Position Matters

The way you position the rat traps can also significantly impact the level of success you will have with your rat trapping endeavors. There are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind while placing rat traps.

The most obvious guideline is to place the most rat traps in those areas where you have spotted the highest rat activity. If you haven’t spotted any of the little nuisances then look for other signs of their presence such as rat droppings, scratch marks on wall corners or slide marks.

Rats, by nature, are cautious and shy creatures. You will rarely find a rat scurrying out in an open space. Instead, they tend to stay close to walls and in enclosed spaces. So, place the traps accordingly next to walls to maximize the chance of rats crossing over them. The traps should be placed perpendicular to the walls with the trigger end right next to the wall. Alternately, you can also place the traps in pairs, both positioned such that the trigger ends are on opposite ends. Space the traps approximately 15 feet apart.

On the other hand, for trapping Roof Rats, target tree limbs, vegetation next to boundary walls and fences or overhead beams, pipes and rafters. Fasten rat traps to such places using wires.

Choose the Right Bait

As mentioned before, rats are generally cautious and shy creatures. They tend to avoid any new or foreign objects in their surroundings. So, rat traps alone won’t do much good regardless of how many you set up or how well they are positioned. To get around this problem, it is important to attach some bait to the trap to lure the rats.

While it is a common practice to simply use a bit of cheese as bait, it is wiser to take into consideration the type of rat breed you are dealing with and to choose the right bait accordingly.

Different species of rats eat have different diets and food preferences. Roof rats or black rats usually prefer plant-based food. This preference stems from the fact that roof rats are generally found among treetops, roofs of buildings and rafters, etc. So, plant-based foods are most commonly available. Brown rats, on the other hand, are more omnivorous in nature. The problem though is that since rats are such stealthy creatures, it can be tough for you to identify the particular species of rats that you are dealing with. However, a quick research should help you with this by analyzing behaviors such as their movement patterns, droppings, and location, etc.

Finally, when choosing the right bait for the rat traps, it is important to avoid any baits that include chemicals or poison. While these might sound like a more effective way to get rid of rats, however, it is rarely a good idea. Poisons are slow acting and would rarely kill the rat on the site. Instead, the rat would end dying in some other secluded part of the house leaving you with the task of locating the body in order to get rid of the foul smell that a rat carcass emits. Moreover, the use of poisons is ill-advised as they may end up harming non-targeted individuals such as children or pets.

Gain Their Trust

Unlike cats and dogs etc., rats are generally wary of new objects or changes in their environment. So, be prepared for your new traps to remain untriggered for a few days or maybe even a week or two.

This is why it is important to gain the rats’ trust and to make them comfortable around the rat traps. For this, place unset traps in high-activity areas till the rats get used to its presence. Attach bait to the traps, but don’t set the trigger. This will increase the likelihood of the rats coming in contact with the traps without fear.  Once the rats are comfortable with the idea of the traps being present, set them up and wait for them to be triggered.

Alternately, you can also place several inset traps in a box of sawdust or other forms of bait. Setting them up simultaneously eventually will help you make a significant in the rat population. This is called mass trapping. It is basically the act of trapping more rats simultaneously and also at a faster rate than they can reproduce.

Trapped-What Next?

Once you have successfully trapped the rats, the next step is to dispose them properly. There are certain precautionary measures that need to be taken in order to avoid health complications and infections that diseased animals might be carrying.

Make sure that you don’t handle the dead rats with your bare hands. Avoid direct contact at all costs. Rats are notorious for carrying a plethora of pathogens that can severely impact your health. To avoid this, ensure the use of gloves. Both plastic and rubber gloves can be equally effective in this situation.

Remove the dead rodents from the traps and place them in a plastic bag and seal it tightly. As an extra precaution, put this plastic bag in another plastic bag before disposing it. For disposal, make use of covered trash cans.

Once you have removed all the dead rodents from the premises, use a disinfectant or bleach to remove any risk of health complications. Make sure to also clean any traps before resetting them. Lastly, dispose the gloves and thoroughly wash your hands.

Related Questions

What are the different types of rat traps? There are several types of rat traps such as glue traps, rat snap traps, and live animal traps.

Are rodenticides a better option than rat traps? Rodenticides make use of chemicals and poison that can harm others in the building too besides rats. However, in case of a large infestation, rodenticides might be the better option.

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.