Ten Essential Rat Trapping Tips

On several pages on this site, we provide you with the three essentials for successful use of rat traps. Place any rat trap against a wall. That is because rats don’t like to scamper across open spaces. Place rat traps parallel to the wall. When a rat approaches a trap from the side, it is not likely to be caught. And don’t handle rat traps with bare fingers or with gloves. Both fingers and gloves carry human scent. It’s necessary to pick up rat traps with several thicknesses of paper to avoid transferring your odor to the trap and alerting the rats to your presence. You can read more by visiting How to get Rid of Rats.

RatsBut if you really want to be successful using a large number of traps to clear out an abandoned house, a storage room, or a garage, there are a few more things you can do to hasten the day you make the space rat-free. Here are ten essential rat trapping tips.

1. Use rat traps in enclosed spaces.

It doesn’t do any good to use rat traps if all you are doing is to clear space for new arrivals. Following the suggestions in our article Rat Control Tips to ensure that the space you are clearing of rats will not be infested again as quickly as you trap weaker and older rats.

2. Choose the right place for your trap.

Probably the worst placement of a rat trap is under a light fixture in the middle of a room. Rats are thigmophilic, that is, they like to be touching a surface as they move. Only the hungriest and weakest rats will venture out to the examine the bait in a trap in the middle of a room. It’s essential to place the rat trap against a wall or in a corner, parallel to the direction rats travel along the wall.

This location should be underneath furniture, or in a closet you have left open. Alternatively, cut out the ends of a box to make a tunnel in which to place your trap. Start setting out traps in the corners farthest from the door to the outside and work your way toward the door with additional traps.

3. Choose the right bait for your trap.

Black rats are vegetarians. Brown rats are omnivorous, eating both plant foods and meat, the BBC describes its habitat and distribution. If you are getting rid of black rats coming in from trees and off the roof, peanut butter is a good bait. If you are getting rid of brown rats coming up from the sewer or in from the garbage, cheese is a good bait. Rats also like foods that have natural aromas, such as nuts, shrimp, stinky cheese, pieces of chocolate bars, and even beer.

4. Leave baited traps out for several days before setting them.

Rats and mice are neophobic, that is, they don’t like new things in their environments. If a pack of rats encounters baited traps that are not set to capture or kill, a taster rat will sample the bait first. If the taster rat is unharmed, then other rats will eat food put in or on traps.

5. Never add poison to “people food” used as bait.

Even the best rat traps are sometimes not sprung. Rats carry off food to eat it in safer, enclosed spaces. Dragging poisoned food across the floor makes the room hazardous for pets, children, and adults who walk around barefoot, and rats often die in inconvenient places, under stoves and refrigerators, in toy boxes and sand piles, and closets and cupboards.

6. Choose the right size trap for your rats.

Mouse traps and mouse cubes aren’t big enough for rats. A traditional spring-loaded trap for rats such as the Victor rat trap is about twice the size of a mouse trap.

7. When using a Victor rat trap, hang the cheese in the right place.

Victor makes the world’s best rat traps, but the Victor 038 is so easy to use that many people set it up in the wrong order. Pull the spring trap back. Then lay the hook so it is flat on top of the spring. Finally lift the “cheese” until it just barely catches on the hook. If you raise the yellow plastic cheese on a Victor trap higher than about 30 degrees above the surface on which you place the trap, it won’t go off.

Victor advertises that its traps never have to be baited because rats will bite the plastic “cheese” used for the tray. Sometimes they will. Sometimes they won’t. Smearing some real spreadable cheese on the plastic cheese (chunks of cheese will be thrown off the trap when it is sprung) or some peanut butter will increase the number of rats caught in the traps, but you should introduce the cheese and the traps to the room where they will be used several days before setting them, as explained above. Every time you touch the trap, however, it needs to be rinsed with hot water, and you need to spread any bait on the trap with a knife or a spoon while holding the trap with several thicknesses of paper. Human scent on a trap will scare rats away.

Is all of this a little too complicated? Then just buy the Victor 326 instead. Or try the slightly more expensive Snap-E mouse trap, which captures smaller rats without the need for handling the animal after it is killed.

8. Place cardboard tunnels over rat traps.

Rats prefer enclosed spaces. A rat trap place parallel to a wall, inside a box, cut out to make a tunnel is ideal.

9. User a “rat zapper” if you don’t like to set traps.

A rat zapper, for instance, the Agri Zap RZU001 Rat Zapper Ultra, is a metal tunnel surrounding rat bait. When a rat enters the zapper to take the bait, it is killed with a quick jolt of electricity. The unit then sends a signal to a “rat tale” pager that informs you the device needs to be emptied and reset. It’s never necessary to handle a dead rat. Just lift the back door of the device and dispose of the rat in the garbage.

It’s helpful never to touch the rat zapper with bare fingers or even with gloves. Handle it with a few thicknesses of paper to catch perspiration from your hands. The makers of the rat zapper suggest using pet food for bait, but many users find that combination of pet food and peanut butter, placed slightly to the side of the trap, works best. You might even place a little peanut butter on the grill outside the unit to entice the rodent to go inside.

10. If you have a heart to capture rats alive, use the Havahart Two-Door Squirrel Trap, which is equally useful for squirrels and large rats.

The secret to success with Havahart traps is to make sure there is bait both on and beneath the bait pan. The rat will go after the bait beneath the pan and the door will shut trapping it inside with no chance of stealing the bait and escaping. Be sure to relocate your rats at least 2 km/1 mile from your home.


  1. Christine Oosthuizen says

    PLEASE let me know where to find one, even if I have to import, can’t find in SA


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