If you can’t chase them away you have to trap them
Say rat trapping and people head for the hills because it is the job that nobody wants. Yes it would have been better if every entry to the house had been sealed, the trees trimmed that were touching the roof, and the underbrush cleared away. But now what are the best techniques for getting rid of rats. If you decided that using a repeller such as the Evictor Strobe Light will not solve the problem in you crawl space, attic, or other location, then the only workable solution is rat trapping and seal every nook and cranny If they are in the house. Bring out the rat traps!
What kind of rat trap to use?
There are several different options for rat trapping. There are electronic rat traps, the time honored wooden snap trap, and also live traps. The electronic rat traps such as the Raticator Plus Rodent Trap make the trapping job less gross and they are much easier to set (flip a switch). Also, removal of dead rodents is a breeze, just tilt the zapper over a bag. The drawback is they are also more expensive. The most common method and still most popular way of trapping rats is the good ol’ wooden snap trap. The king of the wooden snap trap is made by the Victor company. In the numerous times that I had pest control companies come to my house this was always the preferred trap. They are more humane then glue boards (personally I advise to never use them as they are inhumane and unpleasant to use), or poisons (never ever poison rats in the home, they tend to die in walls and oh the smell). There are also modern day versions of the snap traps such as the tomcat. The Tomcat is easier and safer to set but they are more expensive than a wooden snap trap. Lastly, for those who don’t want to kill anything there are the live traps such as the Havahart. Unfortunately unless the rodent is released far away, he will most likely come right back or invade someone else’s home.
For the purposes of this article we will discuss ways of getting rid of rats with either an electronic rat trap which electrocutes the rat or the snap trap. To start off you’ll want to know what is the best rat bait to use. If using an electronic rat trap, most people commonly use dry pet food or nuts. For messy baits such as bacon or peanut butter place the bait in a plastic lid of some sort and slide to the back of the trap. For snap traps everyone has a favorite bait. Some swear by bacon, hot dogs, nuts, pet food, etc. But the best rat bait I believe is peanut butter. It sticks to the bait tray on the snap trap very well, it does not really rot like bacon, or roll off the trap like nuts. And best of all, rats love peanut butter. So, I believe the winner for best rat bait goes to peanut butter.
Think like a rat before you set those rat traps
Now that you’ve decided on a trap and a bait, time to set the traps. Something to keep in mind is a rat’s habits. You have to think like a rat; where do they hang out? They tend to use “runs” where they follow the same path over and over. If the rat problem has been long term, you can generally see dark discoloration on the boards or whatever they are running across. This is discoloration caused by the oils in their fur rubbing off and also discolorations from urine and droppings. Ewwww. If in an attic, you can often see “tunnels” or worn down paths in the insulation. It is important to locate these places because this is where we are going to set our traps. Don’t just place traps out in the middle of nowhere and hope the rats find the trap. Take the trap to the rats and you will have much greater success. A word of caution: if you are setting traps outside or inside the house make sure they are not accessible by pets or children. A snap trap could potentially break a finger or seriously injure a pet. Also, if outdoors, traps will catch and kill squirrels and other animals. Usually this is not a problem in attics or crawl spaces.
Once you have found the rat “runs” it is time to set the traps. When possible, set the snap traps against and perpendicular to the wall with the trigger end towards the wall. If not near a wall, then place near or on where the rats are traveling. With an electronic zapper, make sure you place it on or near the runs.
One technique to increase your chances of killing all the rats is to put out as many traps as possible with bait but do not set the trap. Just re-bait the traps and leave them in place for several days. This serves to overcome the rat’s wariness and gets them accustomed to feeding at the traps. Then, one day set all the traps and catch rates can be much higher initially. Rats can become “trap shy” so it is best to set out more traps than you think you might need initially. Then, when you set all your traps at once, you get a larger kill that hopefully eliminates most of the rats before they become wary. I have seen animal control companies place a cluster of traps near one another like in a half circle with dog food placed on the floor in front of the traps. This is to entice the rats to the location of the traps and increase the chances of kills. Zappers seem to have a bit less problem with wariness on average and many users report catching multiple rodents in one place with the same zapper.
I caught one, now what?
When removing dead rats from snap traps, make sure it is dead first! Then, wearing rubber gloves, pull back the snap a bit and allow rodent to drop into an open trash bag or container. I prefer to use a screwdriver to pry open the snap which keeps my fingers away from the dead rodent and ensures I do not accidentally snap the closure on my finger while removing the rat. Then, you can place the contained dead rodent, in an outside trash container or bury it. To remove a dead rodent from a zapper, simply tilt the opening over a container and the dead rat just slides out. If putting a rodent in the trash, be prepared for a real stench if the trash is not picked up soon, so keep that in mind. Keep safety and sanitation in mind when handling dead rats. Rats can carry many different diseases. For a complete and scary list of those diseases click here.
You can reuse the same snap trap after making a kill. Some people advise washing the trap, but I have seen certain animal control companies just re-bait and reuse the trap immediately with positive results. Regardless, always wear rubber gloves when handling dead rodents or used traps as rats ain’t sanitary even when they are alive.
If the rats were in your home, make sure that you seal every crack and crevice around the house after you feel confident you have eliminated most of them. Continue setting traps after the home is sealed to make sure you are getting rid of rats who may have been trapped inside. Rat trapping is not a pleasant job, but if you have to do it, it’s best to acquire the knowledge to do it right and solve the problem once and for all.