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.

But 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.

Good locations are 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.

If you are not sure where the rats travel, you may want to spy on them first using a “camera trap”. These are modern video cameras which are very good at detecting movement and recording what rats are up to. They use infrared sensors so they can film in the dark, and they can send you alerts direct to your mobile phone everytime they detect a rodent.

3. Choose the right bait for your trap.

Black rats are vegetarians. Brown rats are omnivorous, eating both plant foods and meat, the ADW 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. Only use rat poison which is specifically made for the job and only with a rat bait station. Click the link to read about The Top 3 Rat and Mouse Poison Baits.

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 M326 Rat Trap 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.

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 the 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 the two door 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.


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

  • Will rats remove bait blocks and hide or discard the bait? I've had bait boxes out for awhile, lately they have needing to be refilled about every 3-4 days. Today I checked a bait box, 3 days after refilling, it was empty and they made what looked like a nest? I'm wondering if the bait blocks even work, are they eating them?

    • It doesn’t sound like the bait blocks are working. I would buy a fresh batch and try again.

  • I have now set a rat trap with bait also a wire trap to catch a rat both times in the morning I have found the rat traps have been moved a bit good distance from the area they were sat are the rats moving these traps out of the way

    • Yes, they are on to you. Some people try to fix them in position by nailing them to a large piece of wood. However, you could try putting down sticky rat traps either side of the trap.

    • Same way as you get rid of a rat in your house. Remove all food, water and nesting materials and set out your traps. Read all the articles under the “Rat” category on this site for more specific tips.

  • Is there a bait-style box for snap traps to limit access to roof rats? Exterminator wants to put snap traps in attic. I don't want feral cat, opossum, or squirrel caught in traps.

    • Yes, you can get bait boxes for snap traps, or you could just put a cardboard box over them, with two small holes opposite each other. The holes need to be large enough for the rats. However, you don’t want feral cats, opossums, or squirrels in your attic either so block any holes where they can enter.


  • I had problems with rats going up the corner of the vinyl of my house. I have since caught then blocked the corners. But, there is still one or two in my yard because I check for droppings almost daily. The droppings are in the open near some plants. I have set the standard style traps, humane cage traps, and buckets. I have been unable to catch it. Suggestions?

    • Robin

      Think like a rat. Why would it avoid your traps? Is it because it doesn't like the bait, are they in the wrong place or can they smell your scent on the traps? You could use a camera trap to see what they are doing.


  • Hi... I've been hearing noises at night in my bedroom for the last while and thought it was just our cat. I have boxes packed under my computer desk and finally pinned the noise to that area. Last night I noticed an awful smell coming from that same area and so I went to investigate. I heard some soft squeaking and then I knew it wasn't our cat,,, I was expecting a mouse to jump out. Instead of a mouse I heard a noise like growling and hissing and caught a quick look at a good sized rat that was really pissed off at me. She's right in the corner and has a nest, but I didn't stick around to look for the babies. I could bring my cat in and the rat would probably leave or she may kill it, but I have a problem with the babies. I don't feel right just throwing them outside. To be honest the idea of killing them makes me feel sick. Is there anyway I can get them out of here, without killing them. Ditches outside our house were taken out last year and we've had a lot of rats since then, but my cat usually deals with them. I've never even seen a baby rat... does a cat go after them too? Yikes.

    • Hi Sandra, the short answer is, if you don't want to handle the rats, then hire a local pest control company. Hopefully, they won't be too expensive as you have located the nest and all you want them to do is remove the rodents. If your cat usually catches rats, then yes, they will go after and kill the babies and you are also correct in thinking the mother rat may attack your cat. If your cat is not use to killing rats, then don't let it in the room.


  • Hi we have decking in our garden and not a problem for over 12 months until past two weeks our terrier dog is totally obsessed by something under the decking she won't stop sniffing looking listening and just watches all day. No sign of poop no sightings. Do you think it's rats ? Bought mouse and rat traps should I set both ?

    • If you want to know what's under your decking, you can get a "camera trap" which can take pictures day and night and see what's happening on your mobile. Click on "Trap & Repellent Reviews" at the top of this page and then select "Rodent Camera Traps" to read more about them.

      ...and please let us know how you get on.


  • I would suggest that if a rat is trapped and still alive the trap with rat can be submerged in water to kill the rat

  • Hi, I am not sure what I have. I have had mice in the past, and pretty successful with regular snap traps and peanut butter. I always keep them baited and always check them. I plug any spaces they might get in when I find them. Now, about 3 nights ago, I heard a trap go off, and scampering, and awhile another on the other side of the room went off followed by lots of squeaking (about 4am) Whatever it was got itself free before I could investigate. Both traps were tripped but empty. I reset them and sat for a minute deciding if I should do anything. I saw a mouse (maybe a rat) only the face, looked at me, then disappeared. It's face looked like mice caught previously, but maybe larger, also it was 4am so maybe I did not get a great look.
    I got a tin cat trap, put peanutbutter inside, and set it in the same room. Last night I heard lots of scampering and scratching, it sounded like something was trying to get in the tin cat, but maybe it was too small. I have seen absolutely no droppings of any kind, anywhere. Could this be a rat, maybe? Or a large mouse? I do live in a 100+ year old 2 story house. Should a rat trap be my next try? Thank you for any help!

    • Hi Cassie,

      From your detailed description, it could well be a rat because a rat will escape a mouse trap. So yes, certainly try rat traps and let us know how you get on.



    • Hi Karri,

      It is a possibility. To avoid poisoning other animals like rabbits, always place rat poison in a bait station.


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