What is the Best Rat Bait?


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.

If you don’t get a good look at the rodent, you may have problems identifying it or them. This is where a “rodent camera trap” can be very useful. A camera trap will capture your rats on video. They are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. Click the link above to read more about them.

According to the BBC, black rats have made a comeback  in the UK and here are some facts about brown rats as supplied by the ptes.org.

#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:

  • Bacon,
  • Chocolate,
  • Dried fruit,
  • Gumdrops,
  • 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:

  • Berries,
  • Dried fruit,
  • Insects such as slugs,
  • Nuts,
  • 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.


Mark has a strong background in Engineering and a huge interest in Pest Control as a way of getting rid of rodents and other unwanted pests who can cause a nuisance in your home and garden. You can subscribe to his free daily paper on Pest Control Solutions and follow him on Facebook or Twitter

View Comments

  • Help have seen a large brown rat outside my French doors climbing onto garden furniture and sniffing the glass just where I sit in my rocking chair. How can I get rid of it/ them? I have a bird feeder nearby is this the attraction? I have decking a few yards away and at the back of decking is a bank going down to a Brook.

    • Yes it will definitely be after the food in the bird feeder, not just that, any food and water. If you know where the rat is moving around, place some traps in its path because rats tend to stick to the same route or runway.

  • Hi

    I have rats that are eating my pumpkins. Destroying any chance of growing vegetables.

    I have live caught a few now in a cage trap. I invested in an expensive trap called A 24 where the rats have to climb up and then this triggers the co2 cartridge knocking the rat out.

    The rats don’t want a bar of this expensive trap but are willing to enter the cage. Except for one that I am dealing with now. It seems to be evading getting caught. I ham using figs at the moment. Do you have any tips I can apply and the best bait.

    Thank you

    • Hi Angela

      Sounds like you are doing a good job. I suggest you use the law of averages, the more traps you put out, the better your chance of catching the rat. With regards to bait, you might want to vary that as well. Think like a rat, if there is plenty of food around why risk eating from one of your traps. So as well as traditional bait, you could use nesting material and other materials it can use to gnaw on to wear down its front teeth. You might also want to get a rat camera trap which is triggered by movement so you can watch where the rat goes enabling you to place the traps in the best place, i.e. the rat runway.


  • Hi I noticed a hole in a sack of dog food in my shed( which is part of the house) then a day later I saw two rats I removed the dog food and any other food source, the next day one had gotten under my sink so I blocked the hole up, now I can here them in the kitchen ceiling, I can also here them scattering around, sounds like there in the walls I live in the UK help please

    • Phil it sounds like you have done the right things by removing food sources and sealing up holes. The first thing to do is double your efforts and keep looking for entry points. If it was me, I would try and get a couple of camera traps in the kitchen ceiling, this may even help you to find entry points. It will also help you to understand their behavior and the number or rats you may have. With this information you can then work out the best way to get rid of them.

  • I live in middle Florida and recently added a vegetable garden to my backyard it was shopping fantastic broccoli and cauliflower were reaching the point when it was about to produce. Then in one night my broccoli stalks and stems were devastated by rats the next night they got the cauliflower now they ate eating my beans. The rats ate coming into my yard from someplace else as i do not have any in my house i have a pest control company who comes bimonthly.
    I've been able to trap several usually only one per night with peanut butter but they agree still sometimes avoiding the traps and eating my beans. Help

    • Have you tried setting up some camera rat traps and monitoring their activity? Once you know where they travel, you can place a series bait stations on their rat runways.

  • Hello,

    We have a rat in the house, by the description above it seems to be a Norway rat, I also got a chance to see it when we pulled the fridge out and found it living back there. Also was informed that the previous tenants owned pet rats so we are assuming its one of those rats, since we live on the second floor. It has been eating the dry food in our cupboards. We put out a couple of mouse traps baited it with peanut butter and bread and so far nothing, it has in the meantime helped itself to some tomato and banana.

    I am wondering why the rat isn't being baited to the traps. What do you recommend we do to bait and trap them?


    • Hello Fatima,

      You can't trap a rat in a mouse trap because they are not strong enough to hold it. You need to use rat traps. I would suggest buying "rat traps" and a "camera trap" (look under the Trap & Repellent Reviews menu at the top of this page to see the best camera traps). Position the camera trap so that the rat traps are within the "field of view". This will allow you to monitor the rats behaviour. You can also send me your video recording and I will post it here so that other readers can offer their advice.


  • Thanks for your tips. Here is a tip from hot and dry Australia. I found the most useful rat bait is water. The traps are set in a hot and dry roof space. Modern snap traps often have a plastic cup to hold the bait. Just use a dispenser to drip water in a set trap. I used peanut butter as well and it works, but water works a bit better.

  • the rat take the food without the trap going off i use peanut butter it happen four (4) time.i use small amount i have four trap tell me what wrong,thanks

  • My neighbor refuses to clean up after her dog and there is dog feces on her patio. I saw a large dark furry creature scurry across my patio at dusk last night heading in her direction. Do dog droppings attract rats?

    • Hi Sharon,

      Dog poop is not at the top of the list of preferred foods for rats. It may eat it if there is no other food available, but I agree it will have a tendency to encourage them in contrast to repelling them. In addition, dog poop is not very hygenic to have about the place. Have you tried contacting your local authority to see if they have any policies in place relating to this issue?


  • How do you keep rats away? I started a compost pile and it attracted lots of rats so I got rid of it immediately but now the damage has been done. I had been in this apartment for over a year without a single rat but now I can't seem to completely get rid of them. I caught like 7 in 2 nights and kept the traps up for another couple weeks with nothing. Now a couple months later they're back and in full force.

    • From what you have written, I assume they are outside your apartment and not inside? The best thing to do is remove all food sources, places where they can build nests and nesting materials. Make your property an unfriendly place for rats to live.

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