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The 3 Best Types of Rat Traps to Get Rid of Rats


If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely discovered that you have a rat (or possibly a colony of rats) in your home that you’d like to get rid of. You’re probably also wondering how to remove these unwanted guests in the easiest way possible.

The best types of rat traps are those that eliminate rats in the quickest and most humane way possible or allow for the safe transfer of the rat. Traps using spring traps, live traps, or automatic traps are the best types of rat traps to get the job done efficently and humanely.

The rest of this article outlines why you do not want rats in your home, how to tell if you have a rat problem, what traps and tools you can use to remove them safely and humanely, and a few tips on preventative measures you can take to keep them out. 

The Best Types of Traps to Eliminate Rats

If you’ve confirmed you have a potential rat issue in your home, it’s time to understand how to remove them in the most humane way possible. Your goal should be to humanely eliminate the rat or allow it to be captured alive so that it can be removed and rehomed to a new area outside of your house or yard as quickly as possible. 

There are three types of traps that are preferred over others when attempting to humanely remove rats from your home: a spring trap (sometimes referred to as a snap trap), live trap, and an automatic trap. All 3 are great options, but each has different characteristics that will need to be reviewed before choosing the best trap for you. 

Any of these traps are considered more humane than the use of poisons, toxins, or glue traps, which can take days or weeks and pose other risks.

Now, if you have a MASSIVE rat infestation, or want to leave it to a professional to handle the issue, you may be interested in using our nationwide pest control finder service. Check out this page here to get connected with an exterminator near you in seconds for free.

Spring/Snap Traps

Spring traps work by using a lever system to instantly trap whatever activates the load end of the trap. In the instance of spring traps, the arm of the trap (used to actually catch the rat) is loosely secured by a small hook and is connected to the bait platform.

When pressure is applied to the bait platform, it loosens the hook that holds the arm of the trap, allowing it to swing forward and onto the platform, trapping whatever activated the reaction. 

There are a number of reasons why spring traps are one of the most popular ways to eliminate or reduce a rat infestation in your home, but the main reasons are their efficiency, cost, and ease of use for deployment of said traps. 

Efficiency

Spring traps are efficient because of the physics employed by the device. As long as enough pressure is exerted onto the front end of the lever, the arm of the trap will swing into action. These types of traps are actually so efficient that the design has changed very little over the past 100 years, making them a reliable option for you. 

The standard spring trap now comes in a variety of materials, but the most popular are metal, wood, or heavy-duty plastic. You’ll want to be sure to choose a material that can be easily cleaned and reused, yet durable and long-lasting enough to maximize the benefits of the trap.

Cost

Spring traps are also one of the most popular methods of getting rid of rats because they are relatively inexpensive and can be placed in tighter spaces than live or automatic traps. They can be easily hidden, making them less noticeable to rats. 

Couple that with the fact that you can reuse these traps multiple times and you’ve got a cost-effective and efficient way of controlling your rat problem. They can be purchased online, at most super-centers, or even at your local hardware store. 

Ease of Use

Another benefit of spring traps is that they are less conspicuous and can fit into smaller areas than some of the alternative traps mentioned in this article. The goal of placing a trap is to catch the rat, and having a large, bulky trap is only going to hinder that.

Rats also avoid larger, open areas, so having a trap that can fit in a corner or other small space is going to give you a huge advantage. 

Below are a few of the highest-rated spring traps available on Amazon: 

  • Made2Catch Classic Metal Rat Traps (4-pack): These heavy-duty, durable metal traps have a powerful spring action on them, increasing their success rate. The metal also makes it easy to clean and store. They are larger than other spring traps, making them great for catching larger rats. 
  • Victor Metal Pedal Rat Trap (12-pack): These wood-based spring traps are made from eco-friendly wood, but still pack the same punch as the metal traps. This design has been in use for over a century – if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! Also, $26 for a 12-pack is a great deal. 
  • Tomcat Rat Snap Trap: These high impact, heavy-duty plastic traps are made with rats in mind, with a bigger surface area on the trigger pad and a set of interlocking teeth that will completely encompass the rat. These can be cleaned and reused, much like the metal traps. These come in packs of 1 and are approximately $7 each. 

Live Traps

Live traps are cages designed with a one-way entry system that traps the rat inside the cage once it gets past a certain point, at which the trigger closes the trap door. Much like spring traps, live traps use bait to lure the animal to the bait trigger and into the cage. Live traps are considered the most humane way to catch a rat and get it out of your home because the animal remains alive until you can check the trap. 

In order to increase the humaneness of the trap, you’ll need to ensure that there is at least some form of food, water, and sheltering materials inside the cage to prevent extra stress on the rat once it has been caught. This will allow the animal to exist in the trap until you can check it. 

You’ll want to be sure that you check the traps on a regular basis to ensure that no rats accidentally die in the cage once they’ve been caught. These traps typically come in different sizes and have a no-contact handle that will allow you to release the rat once outside your home if you wish. 

However, it is always recommended that you contact a pest control professional to come and retrieve the live rodent, rather than trying to dispose of it on your own.

You can use our free pest control finder service to get connected with a local exterminator near you in seconds.

Also, like spring traps, these traps can be cleaned and reused, making them another cost-effective way to remove rats from your home or property. These types of traps are generally more expensive, so the up-front costs will be greater than if you were to buy a spring trap.

However, the benefit of keeping the animals alive far outweighs the cost. Costs will range from low to high double digits, depending on the size of the cage. Here are a few of the highest regarded traps available online:

  • Wanku Large Humane Mouse and Rat Traps: These humane traps come fully assembled and ready for use in homes, gardens, and more. The pedal design is sensitive and designed for higher catch and lower escape rates. They also come with a 1-year warranty! 
  • Kensizer Small Animal Humane Live Cage: This lightweight aluminum structure features high-grade metal mesh, which prevents animals caught in the trap from biting their way through. It also features a high-powered trigger, and once activated will automatically trap the animal from the inside, preventing escape. 

Automatic Traps

Automatic traps are a newer style of rat trap that also allows for humane elimination of rats around your home and garden, making it another great option to harmful poisons or toxins. These traps utilize carbon dioxide (CO2) and non-toxic lures to stop rats from ambling around your home and are certified as humane. 

The most popular automatic rat trap, manufactured by New Zealand based company Goodnature, uses self-refilling lures to attract rats to the trap. Once the rat is near the base of the trap, it will trigger a sensitive leaf-trigger, releasing a burst of condensed air, quickly eliminating the rat.

Here is a link to the Goodnature A24 Rat & Mouse Trap Kit with Digital Strike Counter if you’d like to learn more. 

The CO2 cartridge and lures are self-resetting, meaning that you won’t need to check these traps as often as you would with other traps. With that being said, these traps are better suited for outdoor use, as you will need to have the rats removed from your home as the trap continues to do its job. If used outdoors, this type of trap will allow nature to do its course, removing the rats naturally. 

How Can You Tell if You Have a Rat Problem?

There are many tell-tale signs that will indicate you may have a few unwanted rat guests in your home. Some are more obvious than others, but the following guide will help you identify them quickly. One or more of these signs can mean you have a rat problem on your hands that needs to be addressed.

If you do have a very serious rat problem or don’t feel confident addressing the issue yourself, we recommend utilizing a local exterminator to help deal with the issue.

Check out our free nationwide pest control finder service to connect to a local exterminator in your zip code, in seconds.

Droppings

This is perhaps the most obvious clue that you may have rats in your home. Rat droppings will be found along the pathways rats travel, near areas where they feed, and where they have built their shelter. You’ll know these are rodent droppings if they are in a cylinder type shape, dark brown in color, and .5 – 2 cm in length

Tracks

Small, five-fingered tracks in groups of 4, or tail draggings are a good indication of rats in your area. These tracks will be more apparent in dusty areas or those with mud or dirt present. A great way to confirm rats in your home is to lay out a thin layer of flour or powder in the areas where you suspect the rats are living because it will make the tracks more obvious to spot. 

Urine

This may be less obvious than droppings or tiny tracks; however, the presence of rat urine when observed under ultraviolet light will glow. If you’ve already observed droppings and tracks, you may have all the proof you need to move forward with buying humane traps, instead of obtaining a black light in order to verify the presence of rat urine. 

Gnaw Marks

Teeth marks on doors, walls, trim, and railways are a good indicator of rats. Rats use their teeth to nibble through hard surfaces that stand in the way of them and their nesting area. Rats also use hard surfaces to wear down their two front teeth, which grow at a rate of 5 inches (13 cm) annually. Fresh wood shavings in front of an opening, under a piece of furniture, or by a door frame are also great indicators of the presence of rats. 

Runs or Burrows

Once rats establish a nesting area and a food and water source, they will continuously traverse the same path back and forth between each location. Over time, this can cause the area to wear down slightly. You’ll likely find these runs along walls, outside of your foundation or underneath cabinets and appliances in your kitchen.

Sounds

Scratching, chewing, and squeaking are all good indicators there are mice somewhere in your home. Rats are nocturnal creatures, so you’re more apt to hear them at night than during the day. Listening to these sounds can also help you to pinpoint where they may be living inside your home. 

The What, Where and How of Humane Rat Traps

With each of the above traps, you’ll need to have an understanding of the whats, wheres, and hows of setting traps: what to use for bait, where to set the traps, and how to set them. 

What to Use for Bait

Rats are vegetarians by nature, and in the wild, their diets consist mainly of fruits, nuts, and seeds. However, in more metropolitan areas where the variety of food available to rats is more diverse, they have been known to snack on almost anything. 

The key to choosing a bait for your rat trap is going to be something you know they’ve already eaten in your home or something that will easily stick to the trigger board. If you’ve noticed rats in your pantry, what are they eating? Rolled oats, bread, and crackers are all good choices when setting up the bait for your trap. 

Rats do tend to choose fresher foods over stale ones, so if you’re going to set out something carbohydrate-based, don’t use something that’s hard and stale. Some great options are: 

  • Peanut butter
  • Frosting
  • Bacon grease
  • Fresh cheese

You may need to use trial and error to determine what is going to work best for the rats in your home. You can set out certain foods near the area where the traps will be in the days before you are planning to put them out in an effort to establish the area as a new food source. 

Once you have identified the ideal bait food, set multiple traps around your home with the same type of food in order to provide consistency. 

Where to Set Rat Traps

Rats tend to avoid open spaces, preferring to travel along walls, under furniture, and in enclosed areas like pantries or cabinets. In order to increase your chances of catching rats in your home via humane traps, you will need to understand some of their basic characteristics so that you can pick the perfect place. 

Like most animals, rats have three main priorities: 

  • A warm, safe place to shelter and reproduce
  • A stable food source
  • A stable water source

Rats will establish a shelter in your home first, burrowing inside a warm wall, inside a dark cabinet or underneath a low piece of furniture. From there, rats will attempt to locate a promising food and water source – whether it be crackers in your cabinet or crumbs under your sofa. 

You’ll be able to gain an idea of where the rats are congregating in your home based upon the signs listed at the beginning of this article – droppings, gnaw marks and footprints, among other things. Once you know where they go, you’ll be able to deduce their travel patterns. Placing traps along these travel routes will help ensure your success. 

Once you’ve got the travel routes down – place traps 10 to 20 feet apart – along walls and behind appliances typically works best. 

How to Set Rat Traps

Once you’ve identified the areas you’ll be setting your traps, it’s time to set them! Rats are characteristically suspicious of new things, so try baiting the traps without actually setting them at first. This will allow the rats to become comfortable with the new additions to their environment, enhancing the chance you’ll actually catch one once they are set. 

Once you are ready to set them, ensure that the bait is tied to the trigger so that it can’t be easily snagged without setting off the trap. You could also use sticky substances like peanut butter or cake frosting on the trigger, which will take time to consume. 

If you’re using snap traps or live traps, you’ll want to be sure that the spring is set very lightly so that it does not stick once triggered. The quicker the spring snaps into action, the quicker and more humane your catch will be. 

Try camouflaging your traps to make them less obvious. To do this, you can try burying them slightly in a bed of sawdust, making them appear more level to the surface.

You can also cover them with a piece of cloth or paper, but be sure to place it in a way that does not block the trap completely. Placing traps behind larger objects like stoves, couches, or refrigerators will also help to hide them.

Just make sure that if you have a pet, you of course keep the traps out of reach of any one or thing that could mistakenly interact with it.

Preventative Measures

The best trap you can set to eliminate rats from your home is the one you set before you even see your first rat. Rat proofing your home is an easy, inexpensive way to ensure you don’t run into problems with rats in the future. To do this, first, you’ll need to reduce their shelter space and make it more difficult to enter your home. The second thing you’ll need to do is eliminate their food sources. 

Reducing Shelter Space

As mentioned earlier in this article, rats have three main goals when they enter into your home – the primary of which is finding stable shelter. In order to make your home less appealing to rats looking for shelter, you’ll need to make it more difficult for them to enter in the first place. 

Closing up holes in your foundations, crawl spaces and walls is the first step. Check behind furniture and appliances for areas where there may be a hole down to your basement or crawl space. Look for areas where rats can get in near doors and windows, and seal those up as well. Remember, rats are burrowing animals by nature, so they’ll take any opportunity to get in if they can and no space is too small. 

Eliminate Food Availability 

The second biggest concern and deciding factor for rats when selecting a place to live is food source availability. You need to cut off all potential food sources for them so that your home is less desirable. 

Make sure you dispose of trash frequently and conduct thorough cleanings at regular intervals to ensure there are no crumbs that may draw rats in. Storing food in rodent-proof containers will also prevent them from accessing your food. If rodent-proof containers aren’t an option for you, be sure to seal off all food with clips or tape to reduce a rat’s ability to access the food. 

Why You Don’t Want Rats in Your Home

Through no fault of their own, rats contaminate your home via their feet and hands, feces and urine, as well as their mouths. Contaminated materials in your home are sometimes obvious, allowing you to clean the affected areas or items quickly and thoroughly, but there may be spots you’re sure to miss.

Rats can also cause damage to the structure and systems in your home because of their nesting and eating characteristics.

By nature, rats are burrowing animals and will often dig underground to create their nests. Rats can bury themselves under foundations, in walls, and even under roads to set up camp for them and their babies.

They also use their teeth to gnaw through things that may be in the way of their desired nesting location. 

This burrowing and gnawing through your basement, crawl spaces and walls can cause damage over time if left alone. Rats have even been known to chew through electrical wires and insulation, which can be costly to repair and open up your home to potential accidents like house fires.

Overall, the best thing to do when you find evidence of a rat in your home is to remove it as quickly as possible and assess the damage that may have been done. 

There is no way to tell how many rats are in your home once you find one, but they are very rarely alone. Rats live in colonies, and females can have up to 12 babies per litter.

Furthermore, female rats can have up to 6 litters of babies per year, which can add up to a staggering amount rather quickly, creating a huge problem. If left unchecked, you could be looking at a serious infestation in a short amount of time. 

Summary

Let’s review the three types of rat traps covered in this article:  

Spring traps are quick, efficient, and can be deployed in a matter of minutes. They are the most cost-effective traps you can buy and often come in multipacks for added savings. 

Live traps are the most humane way to get rid of rats in your house. They are designed to catch the animal inside the trap alive and set it free. 

Automatic traps are best suited for outdoor use and will auto-reset in order to maximize the number of rats it impacts, and you won’t have to check these traps as frequently.

Finally, the best thing you can do to stop rats is to preemptively stop them from entering your home by sealing off points of entry, reducing food supply, and conducting thorough cleanings around your home. 

References

Silver, J. (1923). How to get rid of rats (No. 1302). US Government Printing Office.

Timm, R. M. (1994). Norway rats. The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, 5.

Wiener, J. G., & Smith, M. H. (1972). Relative efficiencies of four small mammal traps. Journal of Mammalogy, 53(4), 868-873.

Theuerkauf, J., Rouys, S., Jourdan, H., & Gula, R. (2011, October). Efficiency of a new reverse-bait trigger snap trap for invasive rats and a new standardised abundance index. In Annales Zoologici Fennici (Vol. 48, No. 5, pp. 308-318). Finnish Zoological and Botanical Publishing Board.

Perry, R. W., Tappe, P. A., Peitz, D. G., Thill, R. E., Melchoirs, M. A., & Wigley, T. B. (1996). A comparison of snap traps for evaluating small mammal populations. In Proceedings of the annual conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 50: 280-286.

Gurnell, J. (1980). The effects of prebaiting live traps on catching woodland rodents. Acta theriologica, 25(20), 255-264.

Montgomery, W. I. (1980). Mortality of small rodents captured in live-traps. Acta Theriol (Warsz), 25, 277-294.

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