Rat Trapping Tips - How to Catch Rats


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Some forms of humane pest control can include the use of traps. When trapping rats, there are a few things that can be done to increase the chances of success. Rats are naturally cautious animals - they like familiar things and routines, and dislike anything new. Here are a few for homeowners who want to try a do-it-yourself approach first.

Figure Out Pathways

The first thing to do when figuring out how to get rid of rats in the house is to find out what paths the rats are using. Rats are creatures of habit. They like to use the same pathways over and over again. Knowing where these paths are is important, since setting a trap somewhere the rats never go isn't going to catch them.

Look for signs where the rats have traveled. These signs include dirty or greasy marks along the walls or rafters (the dirt and grease is from their fur, where they brush up against the wall), and urine or feces. You might even see foot prints in dusty areas, or tunnels through insulation. If you want to be sure, sprinkle some flour along the path you think the rats take. If they pass through it you will be able to see their foot prints.

Place Traps Strategically

Strategically place the trap so that the trigger is in the rats' path. The goal is to put the trap right in their pathway. Make it so that they are forced to cross over it (or go through it, or whatever) in order to continue along their regular path. So for example: let's say rats are traveling along a wall. A snap trap should be placed perpendicular (at a right angle) to the path, with the trigger right in the rat's path. This also allows rats traveling in either direction to come into contact with the trigger. If you're using a cage trap, position the trap so that the door to the trap is right along the rat's regular pathway. Make sure the traps are right up against the wall to try to force the rat where you want it to go, rather than have it squeeze by, around the trap.

Be especially careful where you place traps - particularly if your household includes young children or pets.

Use The Right Type of Trap (And Enough of Them)

One thing that homeowners often do is to put out too few traps. There are usually more rodents than you think there are.

Whether you're using a live cage trap or a humane lethal trap (a snap trap or a rodent zapper), make sure that it is appropriately sized for a rat. Rats tend to be a lot bigger than a mouse, and what works for a mouse may not necessarily work on a rat.

Use what will work for the severity of the infestation and the location of the infestation (easy-to-access, or difficult areas?). For instance, if rats are climbing up pipes it's pretty difficult to set a cage trap or a rodent zapper in such a way that the rats won't be able to get around them. However, a standard wooden snap trap can be screwed into the wall next to the pipes, forcing the rats to climb over them.

Never, ever use rat sticky traps (also called glue traps). They are exceedingly cruel.

Pre-Bait the Trap

This is where is all comes back to the rat's cautious nature. New stuff is scary to rats - they are suspicious of it and need time to either figure out if it's dangerous, or to get used to it. Pre-baiting the trap means putting the bait in the trap but not setting the trap. Let the rats eat from the trap for a day or two (if the bait isn't consistently being taken, either you don't have the traps in the right place or you need better rat baits). Once you can see that the bait keeps getting taken, then it's time to set the trap.

If you set the trap right away without pre-baiting it, you run the risk that a rat may have cautiously tested it and sprung the trap - without getting caught. It has then learned that the trap is dangerous and won't come near it (or anything that resembles it) again.

Follow the Instructions

This sounds like something that shouldn't need to be said, but it does have to be said: read the instructions for the trap carefully. Make sure you understand them before you set the traps. 'Instant-kill' traps like snap traps can instead cause injury if they are not set correctly. Even live traps can be lethal (or cause injury) if incorrectly set. So read the instructions first and follow them carefully.

Keep in mind that while these rat trapping tips will help improve the chances of success, there may be other challenges specific to a situation. If an infestation doesn't seem to be controlled or is getting worse, it is time to seriously consider the use of a professional pest control service. Another time to call up the pros is if you cannot do the job safely, or when you've simply had enough stress! Professionals can provide a number of services depending on your needs, from inspection to removal to cleanup/sanitation... they can seal up entry points, and can help you (or teach you) how to take preventive pest control measures. The best way to avoid an infestation is to prevent one!