I think you’ll agree with me, no child ever said “I want to be an expert rat trapper when I grow up”.

How to trap rats depends on what kind of problem you are having and how far you are willing to go to trap your rats. With over 30 years of experience, I have learned there are countless ways to trap rats; however, if you want to catch all of your rats, catch them efficiently and prevent more rats, then there are some secrets of the professionals that you need to know. Warning, trapping rats is not for the squeamish but if you are willing to do the work, trapping and preventing rats can be done by just about anyone.

Should you hire an expert rat trapper (exterminator) or should you attempt to trap your rats yourself?  After reading this, you will have your answer!

To effectively trap rats, you will need to know just 3 things:  

1. What trap to use

2. How the rats are getting in

3. Where the rats are going.

Once you know that, all you will do is set the traps, check the traps and all of the openings and you may discover that you are an expert rat trapper!

Some rat situations are simple, and some make you want to pull your hair out (which is in part why I am bald). I have learned to work the process. When things do not seem to be going as they should, I keep in mind the basics, if we know where the rats are getting in any situation can be resolved. Knowing a few of the secrets of the pros will give you the confidence to take on almost any rat job.

Some rat situations are simple, and some make you want to pull your hair out (which is in part why I am bald). I have learned to work the process. When things do not seem to be going as they should, I keep in mind the basics, if we know where the rats are getting in any situation can be resolved. Knowing a few of the secrets of the pros will give you the confidence to take on almost any rat job.

Rats go by many names. There are black rats, fruit rats, citrus rats, wharf rats, palm rats, attic rats and more. Most of these rats are either roof rats (Rattus rattus) or Norway rats (Rattus Norgevicus). What kind of rats you have is rarely an issue; however, it is essential to know that in general, roof rats are excellent climbers and Norway rats are excellent diggers.

An essential fact about rats is that they drag there underside everywhere they go. Dragging their underside means rats leave their scent everywhere. Leaving their scent everywhere serves two purposes. The first it allows rats to find their way in the dark quickly.  Second, leaving a scent alerts other rats of their presence, or at least that rats had lived there at some point.

Every rat trapping professional knows that because of the scent trails, just getting rid of the current population is not enough. If all of the openings are not sealed up, it is just a matter of time before more rats pick up the smell and move into the area. Guaranteed. I cannot emphasize this point enough if you do not effectively seal up every opening; your rats will return…every time.  

Every rat elimination job starts with a thorough inspection. Just setting rat traps and not sealing the openings will only result in you trapping rats for the rest of eternity; a fate far worse than that of Sisyphus.  

Many people fail at eliminating rats because of an incomplete inspection. It is critical to inspect everything from the ground to the roof very carefully. Yes, you must inspect the roof.

Stuff every possible entrance with a plastic grocery bag. Stuffing the opening acts as your “mark.” Mark the holes to indicate whether or not there is activity. If 3-5 days pass and the plastic stuffed in the hole (the “mark”), we know that is not an active opening, and it needs to be sealed.

With only a few exceptions, the best trap for trapping rats will be the old-fashioned good ol’ snap trap. Victor makes my favorite rat trap. There are exceptions, and certain situations will require different traps. However, the staple tool in your toolbox is going to the Victor snap trap made for rats.

For the more squeamish, there is also the Victor “Power Kill” snap trap that makes it easier to remove the dead rat without having to touch it. These are very effective trap and recommended for the homeowner. Power Kill traps are high quality but not as cost effective as the Victor wooden snap traps for professional use. Part of the reason for this is that many times, traps are quickly discarded or never retrieved.


People love to share their  “Secret bait” for catching rats. While most, if not all will work, it is best to keep it simple.  Many rat pros set and re-bait many traps per day. There is no need to complicate things or add extra expenses by using Aunt Sally’s secret rat trapping bait or for that matter, spending money on beef jerky or candy bars. There are exceptions to this. Save your secret, expensive, complicated baits for the rare, finicky rat. If you want to keep it simple, stick with peanut butter. It does not take much peanut butter, just a finger nail’s bit.

To up your game, I recommend Provoke Rodent Bait by Bell Labs. No only is it an excellent bait, it is also convenient. When professional rat trappers have to bait so many traps each day and many of these are in attics, it can be tough to carry around a jar of peanut butter and a knife. For this reason alone, I go with Provoke.

Trap Placement

Snap traps can be dangerous if they close on your fingers, use extreme caution. ++This video shows how to handle a rat trap properly to minimize the risk of injury.++

In some cases, you can get away with just placing traps just inside the attic access. I use a method I call “Logical trapping.” Just placing traps right inside the attic access often relies on the rats going out of their way to find the trap. Rats are neophobic; they do not like new things in their environment. Moreso, they are creatures of habit and often run the same paths day in and day out.

Logical trapping is placing traps where the rats are going. Find their path or find the exit/entrance holes and place the traps as close as possible to those areas.

All great rat experts know that rats prefer to run along walls. A major mistake made my amatures is placing traps either out in the open or against the wall the wrong way. Remember, rats run both ways on a wall; experts set the traps against the wall, perpendicular AND(CRITICAL) with the trigger facing the wall.  

Check the traps every 1-3 days. In the Summer heat, dead rats get pretty gross pretty fast. Rats do not care whether or not your traps smell like dead rats, reuse the traps until they no longer function or until they are too gross for you to stand.

When checking rat traps, bring a few plastic grocery bags with you; make sure there are no holes in them. A safer alternative is to use new, plastic kitchen garbage bags. +=This video shows how to empty a trap properly++ Drop the dead rats in the bag, tie the bag.  Then rebait and reset the traps.

Since you did a thorough inspection, you know the location of all of the openings. Check every opening to see if any of the marks in the holes have been disturbed. If any marks have been pulled out, re-mark the holes.

Once you go 5 days without any traps disturbed, rats are no longer being heard, and the marks are not being disturbed, the rats are gone.  All of the openings and potential openings need to be sealed.

It is easy to trap a few rats and get overconfident. However, any rat trapper worth his salt has a Moby Dick. If you have never had a trap-smart rat, you have not trapped enough rats.

Most trap-smart rats can be caught by changing bait selection or changing trap placement. For some occasions, it is necessary to utilize different traps. Only use glue board traps as a last resort. Glue board traps are the most inhumane and unreliable trap on the market. For whatever reason, many exterminators continue to use them; they tend to be the trap of choice for the “general pest control guy” that does not deal with rats on a regular basis.

Is rat poison safe?

Not all rat poisons are the same. While they are all intended to kill, they kill in different ways.  One must always be aware of children or non-target animals. Rodent poisons (bait) needs to be contained so children and non-target animals cannot access it.  Bait is secured inside sturdy bait boxes so that it cannot be removed.

Many people make the mistake of just throwing rat poison into an attic. Rats occasionally pick up the poison blocks and carry them outside where children and non-target animals can get to them. Even when “rat baiting an attic” it is vital to secure the poison as not to be removed.

While all rat poisons kill rats, Rampage and Terad3 are designed to reduce or eliminate secondary poisoning.

Do rats like cheese?

The simple answer is, yes. Rats like cheese; just as rats like most things. However, there are two things to consider. Cheese does not make good bait for trapping rats. Most cheeses do not have a smell that carries well. Cheese also dries out very fast, thus making it useless.

A “great rat bait” is subjective. Food availability may be a considerable factor when trapping rats. For example, a rat loose in a grocery store may be more difficult to trap than a rat trapped in a room with no food or water.

Food availablity also called “food competition” is always something to consider when trapping rats. The more food or favored food available, the more creative the trapper will need to be.  

Is it dangerous to have rats?

Does the plague ring a bell? While it is not likely that you will get the plague from having rats in your attic, rats are responsible for carrying many diseases with the plague being the most noticeable. Some other diseases include Rat-Bite Fever, Leptospirosis, Salmonellosis, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome and Tularemia.

Rats love to chew on wires and as such, they are the source for many house fires. But it is not just fire that should concern you. On more than one occasion I have been crawling in an attic only to have accidently touched an exposed wire that had been chewed by a rat and giving me a big shock!

Whether you are just interested in a few facts about trapping rats or you are looking to make a profession of it, I hope this article has provided you some insight. Rats are a formidable foe, but with the right info you will be successful in you rat trapping ventures!

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.


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