Rat traps are commonly baited with cheese, peanut butter, or bacon. The best choice of rat bait, however, depends on the type of rat you are trying to catch. Here are ten easy tips for choosing the best bait for trapping and removing rats. You can find more information here How to Get Rid of Rats or if you discover you have rats in your attic then read this article: Rats in the Attic: What Do You Do?
#1 Tip – Know Your Rat
Different kinds of rats chow down on different kinds of bait. To choose the right bait, you have to know your rat.
The Norway rat, also known as the barn rat, brown rat, common rat, gray rat, house rat, water rat, wharf rat, sewer rat, and super rat, originated in northern China. It now is found over most of the USA and some of the warmer regions of Canada. It’s also the most common rat in Europe, including, as you might expect, Norway, and it is found in temperate climates on every continent except Antarctica. Norway rats are relatively large, up to about 16 inches (40 cm) tip of the nose to tip of the tail in length. They have brown or grayish-brown fur. They have small ears and a blunt nose. Their tail is shorter than the rest of their body. Their droppings are about ¾ inch (16-20 mm) long, and have blunt ends. Norway rats prefer lower locations. Soil, sewers, basements, and the ground floors of home are their preferred habitat. They aren’t picky eaters, and they survive weather extremes.
The black rat, also known as, confusingly, a house rat, or as a roof rat or ship rat, originated in tropical Asia. It now ranges along the Gulf Coast of the United States, up to about 300 miles (500 km) inland. It is found all over the North Island of New Zealand, and in coastal Australia. Black rats are also common in India. Black rats are smaller than Norway rats, just up to 12 inches (30 cm) tip of the nose to tip of the tail in length, their tails longer than their bodies. They have black fur. Their ears are large and their noses are pointy. Their droppings are about ½ inch (12 mm) long and have pointed ends. In the wild, black rats live in trees, favoring dead palm fronds and dead vegetation. They get into attics and roofs in houses, or they might come down a chimney or a rooftop sewer vent. They are picky eaters, and don’t handle cold weather very well.
#2 Tip – Know Your Bait
Once you know your rat, whether you are trapping a brown rat (Norway rat) or a black rat, then you can choose the right bait. Black rats are vegetarians. Brown rats eat both plant foods and meat. If you have more than one kind of rat to catch, it is best to use a plant food such as peanut butter as bait.
For a brown rat, the most effective baits include:
- Dried fruit,
- Peanut butter,
- Thin slices of hot dog or sausage, and
- Nesting materials such as dental floss.
For a black rat, best baits include the foods black rats eat in the wild, such as:
- Dried fruit,
- Insects such as slugs,
- Snails or snail shells, and also
- Peanut butter, and
- Nesting materials such as dental floss.
It’s best to use the same bait over and over again. Rats and mice cannot vomit, so they avoid potential poisoning by eating only tiny amounts of new foods. They are more likely to take a bait they have eaten before.
#3 Tip – Let Rat’s eat the Bait before Setting the Traps
If a rat smells a food on another rat’s breath, it will eat that food. Actually, rats need to smell a combination of carbon disulphide (or “rat breath”) and a food odor to feel comfortable eating a new food. Once one rat takes a bait, others will compete for it. The best way to make sure this happens is to put out a bait food on traps you have not set for several days before you set the traps.
#4 Tip – Use Smelly Bait
Stinky, sulfurous smells attract rats. In fact, an extract of sulfur odor all by itself will encourage rats to eat wood, cardboard, and other non-nutritive materials. The stinkier the cheese, the more attractive it is to brown rats.
#5 Tip – Rats Prefer Longer and Thinner Foods
Rats hold food in the paws and eat the middle, allowing the two ends to fall to the floor. Longer, thinner foods are preferred to nuggets or pellets.
#6 Tip – Don’t Make the Bait to Big
Large pieces of food used as rat bait can be dragged off or out of a trap and consumed elsewhere. Make sure the bait fits on the platform provided with the trap.
#7 Tip – Using Rat Attractants
Using rat attractants or lures in small amounts attract rats, but in large amounts they repel rats. Most rat attractants are synthetic versions of “rat breath odor” that rats use to signal the safety of a food supply. Using too much of the rat attractant—or using commercial rat bait that has been allowed to dry out—will chase rats away from traps. You can learn more about rat poisons by reading this article The Top 3 Rat and Mouse Poison Baits.
#8 Tip – Enticing a Rat into a Snap Trap
To entice a rat to enter a rat snap trap, place bait underneath the bait platform as well as on it. It’s also useful to place bait just outside the trap, enticing the rat to step on the trap or go inside the trap to get more.
Snap or spring traps are your best option when you have identified a “runway” for rat traffic. Usually rats run along walls and under furniture or household junk to cross large open spaces. Two or three traps together will catch more than two or three times as many rats as long as they are placed in the rat runway. The kill bar kills the rat swiftly and with a minimum of pain. The advantage of these traps are that they are easy to set, there are no chemicals, they are inexpensive, and they are reusable, but you still need to make sure you don’t put them out where they can be tripped by children or pets.
When using a snap type trap, you will need to outsmart your rodent by tying the bait to the trap so it cannot nibble the edges and escape.
#9 Tip – Enticing a Rat into a Rat Zapper
To entice a rat to enter a “rat zapper,” place the bait to one side of the trap. Because of the placement of their eyes, rats have better vision of the bait when it is placed to the side of the trap than when it is put in the middle of the trap. Whether you use a traditional trap or a rat zapper, if you use peanut butter, use a very small amount, less than a teaspoon (5 g).
Rat zappers consist of an electrified tunnel that electrocutes the rat when it takes the bait. You don’t have to see the dead rat, and you don’t have to touch the dead rat. Just empty the rat zapper into the garbage when the catch light is blinking. (Don’t throw the zapper away.) There are no chemicals, no poisons, and the electric trap can catch several dozen rats before it needs new batteries or a fresh charge. You place rat zappers in the same places you place spring traps, but out of reach of children or pets who might want to see what is inside.
#10 Tip – Glue Traps
Glue traps don’t require any bait at all, and they are safe for children and pets (at least pets larger than a hamster). However, either the rat dies of starvation or thirst, or you have to take appropriate precautions to avoid getting bitten when you remove the angry trapped rat still alive on the glue trap.
A Final Piece of Advice
Be patient because rats are neophobic. They steer clear of new items in their environments. If you are going to use a snap type trap or a rat zapper, put out the bait without the trap for a day or two. Let the rats get used to the presence of the bait. Then use the same reward to bait the trap.
Keep baiting and trapping until you find uneaten baits in your traps for seven days in a row. Then seal your home and take appropriate precautions to make sure no rat ever wants to enter your home again.