Curious but cautious
Rats are a mix of curiosity and caution, which makes them well adapted for survival. Anything you can do which makes them more curious and less cautious will help you catch them.
- Try smearing peanut butter on the mesh at the front of the safety box and place a blob just inside the entrance. A taster of free bait with no associated negative consequences will make them much less cautious about entering the box and engaging with the bait in your trap.
- Try disturbing the ground in front of the box, as this can arouse curiosity.
Your lure will dry out after a few days and the aroma of peanut oil will diminish so don’t assume that just because it is set it is doing its job. You will only catch a rat if your trap has been freshly baited to ensure it is more alluring to passing predators than other foods available in their environment.
Limit alternative food sources
If rats aren’t hungry they won’t risk entering the box and trap. Make your trap the most appealing thing around by minimising other free food:
- Shut rubbish bins lids securely.
- Remove fruit, nuts, avocadoes etc from trees as soon as they are ripe enough to harvest
- Stop composting for 2 or 3 nights (e.g. keep your compost in a sealed bucket in the kitchen temporarily) so rats get hungry and take more risks.
- Avoid leaving cat or dog food outside.
- Avoid feeding bread etc to birds (use sugar water instead).
Boost your trap appeal
- Make a lure trail leading to your trap. You could use blobs of peanut butter, or whatever you have baited your trap with. You could also use small pieces of any fruit, nuts, avocados you’ve taken indoors. Rats will be looking for them and if you make it easy for them by removing skin or shells they’ll really lock onto the trail you’ve created.
- Place the lure trail and the trap along a known rat run (usually along a wall or fenceline).
While rats are intelligent, they aren’t put off by the sight or smell of a deceased compadre. In fact, because they are social animals, they may actually be attracted to a trap that has recently had a dead beast in it…so while a well used trap can admittedly become a bit gross to us humans, it’s more likely to be enticing for the predators you are targeting.
Know your rats
Norway rats tend to live at ground level. The smaller ship rats are good climbers and can sometimes spend their whole lives off the ground in trees, ceilings etc. If you think this might be the type you have, then put the box containing your trap in an elevated location e.g. the top of a flat wall. Make sure it is totally stable though.
Think like a predator hunter
In summary, if you approach the exercise by thinking like an active predator hunter (rather than a trap checker) you are likely to have vastly improved results. You can outsmart them!
Enlist your neighbours
One household trapping rats is good, but a whole network is much more effective. Why not ask your neighbours to start trapping and following the same practices so you’re working with each other not against each other?