How To Catch A Rat

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Do you have a rat infestation, but the traps you’ve placed seem ineffective? Rats are far more intelligent than many people realize and often have no problem stealing food from traps while remaining unharmed. Fortunately, a few simple strategies can dramatically increase the effectiveness of rat traps, helping remove these unwanted vermin from your home, office, or other location.

Here’s how to catch a rat using the most common and effective types of traps.

How to Catch a Rat

You can catch rats using snap traps, live traps, or bait stations. When setting traps, you want to carefully select foods that will attract the specific species. Also, introduce un-set traps at first, so the rats grow comfortable with their presence.

Snap Traps

Snap traps are one of the world’s oldest methods for how to catch a rat. These traps consist of a board with a weight-activated trigger, strong springs, and a kill bar. When the rat steps on the trigger, the bar arcs forward, instantly breaking the rat’s neck.

You’ll need traps specifically made for catching rats, which are much larger and stronger than mouse traps, meaning they can accidentally cause severe damage to people and pets. Place the traps in out-of-the-way areas such as basements and attics.

Make Rats Trust Your Traps

You’ll need to get creative to catch these intelligent creatures. Put each trap in a three-sided wooden box, so rats can only approach it from the front. Place the traps out, unset, for several nights, with food on and around them. The rats will quickly think of the traps as harmless objects.

Once the rats have grown comfortable around the traps, you can then arm them. For maximum effectiveness, create a row of boxed traps as described above. Placing out multiple traps in a single night allows you to catch many rats at once, taking them by surprise before they learn avoidance strategies.

Instead of building a wooden box, you can also disguise snap traps by placing them in a shallow cardboard box and then covering them with sawdust. Use a trail of food to lead the rats into the box. 

Live Traps

Live traps capture rats without killing them. The rat enters the trap through a small hole, which appeals to their instinct to explore. Once they step into the trap, they’re launched forward and contained.

When using live traps, you’ll need to check them each day. If you’ve captured a rat, you’ll need to either kill it or release it outdoors. Don’t release it too close to the structure, as it can easily just go back inside.

Bait Stations

Bait stations are small boxes filled with poison disguised as food. They’re designed with small openings that only allow access to rats and similarly sized animals, which helps prevent pets and children.

Rats explore new areas cautiously, so they won’t necessarily eat food the first time they find it. However, because the bait station poses no threat and remains in the same spot, rats will eventually start eating from it, dying a few days afterward.

The Dangers of Rat Poison

While rat poison effectively kills rats, it also poses many health risks for people, pets, and wildlife. Rat poison doesn’t have to be eaten to be dangerous. It can release toxins onto the skin when handled or even into the air.

To reduce the risks, always place rat poisons in areas inaccessible to kids and pets. Note that bait stations work best when you know where the rats live in the structure. Otherwise, they could die inside the walls or other areas which are hard to access.  

Disposing of Rats

Dispose of dead rats right away, as they can transmit a variety of different diseases. Plus, other animals can become injured or even die if they eat poisoned rats.

You’ll need the following gear to safely handle a dead rat:

  • Protective gloves
  • A respirator mask or a mask with an air filter
  • Plastic bag
  • Trash bag

Place the rat into the plastic bag, seal it, and then place it in the trash bag. Tie the trash bag tightly. Using two bags helps contain smells and germs. 

Check your local city codes regarding disposal. Some places will allow you to put the rat in your trash for regular collection, while others want pickup handled by local animal control or a pest control company. 

What’s the Best Food to Catch a Rat

Rats are surprisingly picky eaters. To lure them into traps, you’ll need to entice them with their preferred meal, which depends on whether they’re Norway rats or black rats.

Norway rats are the larger of the two. They also have wider and more peculiar food preferences. When trapping Norway rats, try the following:

  • Peanut butter, nuts, and dried fruits
  • Hot dogs, sausages, and bacon
  • Soft candies such as chocolate and gumdrops
  • Unflavored dental floss

Black rats, also known as ship rats, are the smaller species. The food they like to eat reflects their preferences for living in warm, tropical climates. The following foods work well:

  • Dried fruits, nuts, and peanut butter
  • Invertebrates such as slugs and snails
  • Dried fruits
  • Unflavored dental floss

If you’re not sure which type of rats you’re dealing with, try placing foods from each category in different areas. You can identify the species by noting which foods are most often eaten.  

How to Catch a Rat Outside

Once rats find a food source outside of a structure, it’s only a matter of time before they venture inside. Setting traps or poison outside your home or other building usually isn’t recommended, as you’ll end up targeting other animals indiscriminately, including possible household pets.

Instead, you’ll get better results focusing on prevention. Make the exterior of the structure as unappealing as possible by securing all trash cans with lids, trimming bushes, removing any standing water, and keeping the area free from birdseed, dog poop, tree fruits, and other food sources.

Contact Experts on Rat Infestations

Rat infestations are often difficult to deal with on your own. Rats breed quickly, giving birth to at least five litters annually, each containing as many as ten rats. For every rat you catch in a trap, there are likely many others you don’t see.

Hiring professional exterminators is the most effective way to remove rats for good. Rat control experts will identify the rat species and develop custom trapping solutions at the best cost. Plus, once they’ve removed the infestation, they’ll implement solutions to prevent other rats from returning.


Rats are one of the smartest types of invasive pests. To capture them effectively, you’ll need to outwit them. Fortunately, there are many different methods for how to catch a rat.  

By using the strategies outlined above and enlisting the help of rat control professionals, you can remove these clever creatures from your home or other location once and for all.

Jake Garza
Jake Garza
Jake is the founder of Hama Pest Control, the preferred choice for pest removal and extermination in the Greater Toronto Area. With over thirty years of experience, Jake prides himself in bringing quality, knowledge, and care to Hama Pest Control's customers.
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