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Smart Rats

March 5, 2003

We live in a pretty suburban setting, but occasionally have rat encounters. This last one has me stumped. After finding that they had chewed a hole in the dog food bin in the garage, I mistakenly assumed they were interested in the food. However, it's the plastic! The food is probably just a fringe benefit. They've gone after a tool box, plastic tubing, plastic measuring cups, and plastic formwork in our cars.

I caught 5 in traditional traps baited with peanut butter (I hope this doesn't disqualify me from the IPM Forum), and thought we were done. However, the plastic's still getting shredded, and they apparently are either on to me or have lost their taste for peanut butter. The last trap that was even sprung at all had a small piece of rat tail in it, and the next trap to do anything disappeared completely. I'm convinced they've taken it to their lair and have dismantled it to tell all their friends how it works.

But seriously, does anyone have any advice about an alternative bait to peanut butter? I'd always heard it was the best, but am willing to try almost anything (no poisons, please).

Thanks in advance!

Comments (27)

  • dchall_san_antonio

    We had rats in our building and I got to talk to the exterminator they hired. You need to chain your traps down so they don't disappear. We had one get caught by the neck and live to tell about it. He was as big as my hand an forearm without the tail! If the trap had not been chained down, it would have disappeared. That rat had three legs. The exterminator called him "experienced" because he probably had been caught by the leg and chewed it off to get away.

    The exterminator used bacon when the peanut butter stopped working. Some rats won't touch certain baits so you have to be a little flexible. Try marshmallows next and then spray on cheese.

  • lazy_gardens

    Chocolate, bacon, ham, and gooey cheese are all attractive.

  • Arizona_Bob

    Had a one day course in vector (rats and mice) control back in the very early sixties. One point they made was that in fact rats are smart. I believe most of the poisons now used are delayed action so that the rats don't associate the dying with the poison.

    My suggestion would be to get some of the humane traps, Hav-A-Hart for instance, and then rotate the baits. They sure worked for me with mice in the garage.


  • spambdamn_rich

    Are you sure all the depredation is from rats? Raccoons and possums are common in California suburbs, even in cities. Raccoons in particular are fond of peanut butter and could have been responsible for the sprung or missing traps.

    If you have any ivy on your property, make sure it is well trimmed, as it can be a haven for rats.

  • don_b

    Thanks for all the tips. I'm pretty sure it's not raccoons, since all the damage has been in the garage, and I'm pretty sure we'd have seen something that big.

  • Aegis

    I have to laugh at being worried about qualifying to IPM...my wife makes me take the live caught rats to a canyon a couple of miles away and let them go...

    I noticed that one of my traps had all kinds of chewed up seeds in it...the rat(s) was using it as a nesting/feeding area as it refused to spring..it had a pile of shredded sunflower husks in it...I guess it is good that this rat doesn't consider traps dangerous!

  • jannie808

    In Pa. we have lots of Farms and this brings mice and rats, so the best thing I have found with mice,(which I am not on a farm but live not too far away from them, is Glue Traps, they work the best for catching mice. Now with rats you may have to get larger glues traps and large Rat trap baits, these look like small cages that trap a rat or two. but they work. I love to garden but hate when I see a mouse, so when I see one or two I put out the glue traps, the only drawback to this is be careful where you put the glue traps, as other animals can get stuck in the glue trap. But they work! I got a glue trap stuck to me and could not get it off my hand, so vegetable oil takes it off.
    I do not like any kind of rodents, since I grew up in a big city, moving to the country has been quite an experience.

    Good Luck

  • roselust

    I trap rats in traditional traps. I have baited with peanut butter, and also wired cat food (the one with holes in the center -- has corn in it that they like) to the trigger (unset of course) then smeared it with either peanut butter or forced cheese into it. I caught alot of rats outdoors.

    One of the things I like to do in order to orient the rat so it went in straight and got killed rather than maimed was to put the trap, business side facing out, into a gallon black plastic flower pot with one side cut off so it would sit flat on its side -- like a cave. Make sure you dont cut off too much of the pot so the trap will still snap freely. If you live in a windy area, you will need to lean something abit heavy on the pot to keep it in place.

    I dont like rats and want them dead, but they are living creatures and I dont want them to suffer.

  • stuschreib

    Two rat traps screwed to a 2x4 (or bigger) piece of wood with the two "death" ends touching will almost eliminate no-kills and stolen bait. My patent is pending. If you put a shoe-sized box over it with a little hole it will heep out the dogs and cats. My favorite bait is the one inch chunk of Slim Jim- snap up! Another real killer is the lemon Jolly Rancher candy- pre sucked to make it sticky.
    Happy killing.

  • merj13

    In my yard, electrical wiring works as an effective bait. Last year we had rats chew out the wiring in four prelit Christmas trees stored in the garage, as well as all of the wiring insulation on the tools in the garage. Too bad nothing was plugged in....
    (Sorry, that was kind of mean)

  • willowtrree

    I would think in your case plasic of any kind would be a good bait!

  • jusdewit

    I discovered a GREAT way to end bait-stealing from snap-traps! I've been catching rats left&right using dry dog food-Pedigree-large kibble.I use my cordless drill and drill a hole in one end of the kibble,then I just jam it on the bait holder-actually have to pry the little arm up a bit first-next check to see if it stays on if gently tugged,set trap and say "NEXT!" It is really not much effort, and ends the frustration of finding traps robbed of bait.

  • thecaretaker

    I've smeared peanut butter real thin on the wide-style triggers on my traps. Often looks like they lick about a third of it off before it goes off: yum, yum, yum, sker-whack!

  • cynthiacTX

    I've had to kill nine so far. There is a big field near by which I think isn't helping matters. :( Plus the past neighbors left an old dog house that had rats living under it. :(

    I was going to just leave them be. HOWEVER they have destroyed a WHOLE harvest of peppers and tomatoes!!!! Plus many of my flowers have been chewed to bits.

    There was one really big one that eluded all the traps for a while. He'd prance right by one, sit there and eat. I found tore of pieces of plants all around the traps. I finally targeted his "pathways" through the fence. That was that.

    Now this morning I found MORE damage. So I have to reset all the traps again. I'm getting VERY VERY SICK OF THIS!!!!
    Feels good to vent though. :)

  • cantstopgardening

    It's good to read that so many posters want a quick death for the pests. Yes, these critters do lots of damage, including chewing electrical wires (I'm sooo glad our mid-century house has all it's wiring encased in metal. I have seen chew marks on extension cords though,) but still, they are animals, and shouldn't have to suffer long if possible.

    Having said that, I agree with chaining the traps, or attaching to a board. My mom also said that to catch a particularly smart rodent, let them have three or four days worth of feeding at the trap WITHOUT setting the trap. They get accustomed to eating comfortably, and get careless, then you set the trap.

  • biz2121

    I have read all about the glue/snap traps. My question is what if you don't want to catch birds or squirrels, then what do you use? I also need something to put where I have other live critters, like ducks and dogs. Thanks

  • dmullen

    I had a rat clean the peanut butter off a wood trap that I put in my tangerine tree last night. Trap was sprung this AM but no rat in it.

    Tonight, I put out a Victor electric trap (uses 4 "C" cells) and hope that this will get him before he finishes all my tangerines.

    Used a piece of Snickers candy bar as bait on the wood trap and the electronic one. He probably won't go for the wood trap again but thought I'd try anyway since it is hung in the tree.

    He is keeping full of tangerines and has not touched any of my 5 PVC feeding stations traps with various poisons in them. They are scattered (hidden) all over the yard

    Will let you know if I finally get him.

  • dmullen

    Got one last night in the wood trap hanging on the trunk. Didn't think it would work because it had gone off the night before. Snickers did the job.

  • dmullen

    Snickers candy bars are really working. I am now up to getting four rats (one every night) in my tangerine tree and the trap is out again tonight. Going for number five.

    Don't know if it is Snickers in particular or the chocolate topping they put on it but it works well in snap traps.

  • lifestarter

    Try nailing down the traps or get a dog to piss and #2 all over your yard, territorial us mammals are.
    btw: rats and all other rodents i know of must knaw things like wood and plastic to get their rocks off, hey to each his own right?


    3 MORE WORDS...

    catch a rat-famiglia on the quick
    good luck


  • JoeMomma

    I moved into a house about 3 years ago, but hadn't had rat problems until this winter/spring. I live in Southern California where we had an unprecedented 36 inches of rain this season, so perhaps it's brought the pests inside. I've also seen more ants than usual.

    Anyway, I've found that they have a love for ketchup. I get fast food a lot, and they are all over my ketchup packets whenever I leave them out. They can even smell the ketchup through the closed packet!

    I caught the first rat in February, using Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I'm going to try both the Peanut Butter cups and a packet of ketchup in the traps for this second rat.

  • father_o_4

    There is a product called Rat Zapper that will eliminate your rats without any of the mess. If you want more information on them check out www.ratmousezapper.com

    Here is a link that might be useful: Rat Zapper 2000

  • elemental_fool

    We had problems with the neighbors (okay, part of our yard was guilty too) letting English Ivy and Japanese Honeysuckle run rampant on the chainlink fence. This created rat runs all up and down the fences. We never noticed until they started eating our tomatoes. Which definety required action. We caught a lot at first, in the large snap traps with cheese (oftentimes just starting to spoil), but then the numbers went down.
    Since we were still seeing them, we got one of those little smoke bomb things and chucked it into the pile of concrete slabs where we thought they were living. Later when we cleaed up the pile there wasn't any evidence of rats, though. Soon after, our next door neighbor had problems with them in her basement stairwell and bushes. When she used the smoke bombs, they came back over here! AAgh! The traps have stopped working, but maybe we will try different baits now that I have some ideas.
    I wanted to share our recent finding, which is that Spurge (you may have heard of "Gopher Spurge") (Euphorbia is the genus, I believe) is very repellant to rats (this info. comes after we tried Wormwood (Artemisia) for the same reason--but found that the rats ate it!) The smell of the Euphorbia is supposed to be what does it...as a matter of fact it is said to be repellant to squirrels, as well. Many of the Euphorbias are shrub-like and so should be large enough to make a difference (hopefully). I will say that although we have no evidence of whether or not it is working yet, after bringing that plant home in the car---phew! Does it smell! Good luck to you all!

  • adchon

    Try this one. Make up a mixture of plaster of paris and wholemeal flower with a small amount of caster (icing) sugar for smell and put that out for the rats. Must be enough to fill their stomachs with the plaster of paris (more for plural rats), so they block up and cannot eat or digest food.
    Here in Australia there is no problem with other animals geting at it,

    but there may be one in the USA I.E. Squirrels and Chipmonks.
    The rats do not know what is going on and eventually black your

    establishment, the older ones may work it out, not so the younger ones.
    The best part is that being non toxic animals that eat the dead rats

    don't get poisoned.

  • tommyw

    Just got a Rat Zapper Ultra. It is the latest, most heavy duty zapper. It works on four D batteries. In one week I've caught five mice and three rats! It works great!

  • tlc26163

    Hi, I have not seen any rats, I have been catching mice, but lately in my sons room where they come through his closet the trap as been tripped and no mouse. everything gone off of it. but in my kitchen cabnet under my sink I have heard something like it would sound if a cat or a small dog is under theere and I am scared to look. I put out poison but it hasnt been touched.I am sure it has to be a rat just by the way it sounds. i dont know what else to do. can someone please help me. I have never had rat before just mouse. i live in NC and in what use to be a field but more than just me here.as far as homes or trailors. What am I to do??????? they seem to love bread with sugar on it that is how i catch the mouse. but what ever else i have eats that without getting caught. one time i caught a mouse at sons closet door and said well i will wait til my sister comes over and have her take it out. well got tired of waiting and went the next morning to take it out and it and the mouse was gone i knew it was dead but it was gone. so I cleaned sons room looking for it, then i found it behind the dryer and guess what the mouse looked like something tried to eat it. like it was in half... YUCK... please someone help me

    thanks Joy

  • tclynx

    I'm dealing with rats around the gardens. I have a table full of flowers pots that I had just seeded and each one of them was dug up!!!

    I've been catching most rats using snap traps and lunch meat. I'm guessing they went after the flower pots cause there must be worms in that nice soft soil right?

    Unfortunately, the rats seem to have figured out how to steel the bate either without springing the traps or steel the bate, and escape the the trap. I even tied the bate to the trap last night and they still managed it.

    I guess I might need to try the rat zapper.

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