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Do Rats Learn To Avoid Traps?

(Last Updated On: June 4, 2022)

It can be frustrating to discover that the traps you’ve laid out to capture the rats aren’t working.

Rats can learn to avoid traps over time as they have good memories and can recall past events. Not only that, but their brains can form neural connections with objects in their environment.

When a rat survives getting caught in a trap or sees another rat in the same situation, it’ll recall the experience when it encounters a similar trap in the future.

Set traps along the paths that rats take and provide enticing bait, such as cheese or bacon. You can lay unarmed traps around your home for several days and arm them to trick the rats into feeling safe.

Do Rats Know When There is a Trap?

Rats have neophobia (fear of something new), so they’re suspicious of new objects in their environment.

Normally, rats follow the same path to and from their nests when foraging for food and other supplies. So, when they encounter anything unfamiliar in their path, they react cautiously.

So, a trap may be avoided entirely because rats suspect it might pose a threat. This, combined with their high intelligence, stealth, and cautiousness, makes trapping rats a genuine challenge.

Why Won’t Rats Go Near My Traps?

If you have an infestation, you need to understand the common mistakes of setting rat traps, so you can avoid them:

do rats know when there is a trap?

Absence of Baits

Rats have a strong sense of smell due to their high number of olfactory receptors. This allows them to trail the odor of food and follow it to the source. Failing to put food bait in a rat trap means there is no scent to lure rats to the trap.

With that said, glue traps don’t require bait as long as they are positioned correctly. Nevertheless, you should always endeavor to put bait in your rat traps to entice rats and prevent them from avoiding the traps.

Poor Placement

Many people mistakenly position their traps incorrectly when trying to catch or kill rats. This leads to dismal results and little success in catching these stealthy rodents.

Rats prefer certain paths when foraging for food. They’ll avoid open spaces and instead crawl in the corners and edges of walls.

Therefore, if you’ve been trying to catch rats using traps without much success, consider changing the location of your traps. Setting your traps near the wall throws off the rat’s perception and makes them think the trap is part of the wall. This makes them trust the trap and reduces the chances of them avoiding it.

New Trap

As mentioned, rats are neophobic by nature. This means they are cautious about engaging with new or unfamiliar objects in their environment.

If you set a new trap, it might take several hours or days before the rats are comfortable enough to approach it.

Holding the Trap With Bare Hands

Rats can pick up on the scent of possible threats in their environment, including humans.

If you set up a rat trap with your bare hands, rats will be able to detect your lingering scent when they come near the trap. This raises their threat awareness and prompts them to stay away from the trap.

Furthermore, young rats can develop this way of evading traps when foraging with their much older and experienced counterparts. As such, you should refrain from making direct contact with rat traps. 

Poor Bait Choice

The type of bait you select for your trap may also determine whether or not rats avoid your trap.

Rats won’t go near a trap if they don’t find the bait appealing. Therefore, when setting rat traps, you need to pick bait that’s irresistible to rats to entice them.

How to Prevent Rats From Avoiding Traps

It’s a tricky process to stop rats from avoiding traps. It requires patience, time, and knowledge of how the rats in your home operate. Here are some tips:

Locate the Food Source

When attempting to catch smart rats, you need to locate the food source where the rodents are foraging.

Locations that serve as food hotspots for rats include the kitchen and dining area. If you tend to carry food into your bedroom, this may also draw in rats looking for treats.

Bait The Trap

Once you’ve identified the location where rats are foraging for food, choose good bait and set it on your trap according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Select a treat that rats find irresistible. The best foods include:

  • Cheese
  • Dried fruit
  • Bacon
  • Sausages
  • Peanut butter

Place your bait strategically by dropping one piece inside the trap and another near the trap. Also, remember not to touch the trap with your bare hands. Otherwise, you may leave your scent on it, and this may cause rats to avoid it.

Regularly Inspect The Trap

Once you set your trap, don’t expect it to catch rats immediately. If you find that no rats have been captured after 2 days, change the positions of the bait, but do not replace or change the location of the trap.

Doing so will make any returning rats suspicious, and they’ll be more cautious about approaching the trap.

Why Is My Rat Bait Missing But There is No Rat?

It’s disheartening to find your rat bait missing without any rats captured.

Here are the reasons this happens:

Bait Being Eaten By Other Animals

When you find your bait has been eaten but no rat captured, it is likely that other animals are eating your bait.

Mice, for instance, can easily step on rat traps and consume the bait without setting them off. That’s because their small body weight may not apply enough pressure to trigger the trap. If this is the case, you should establish mice traps first to get rid of rats before dealing with the rat problem.

Slugs and snails can also consume the bait in your rat traps without setting them off. You can determine this by checking for silvery trails in and around the trigger plate of your rat trap.

Rats’ Stealthy Behavior

Smart rats are often capable of getting the bait without setting off the trap. To reduce the chances of this happening, use a good amount of bait so that rats will struggle to remove it from the trap.

The struggle alone may set off the trap while the rat is trying to steal its prize.  

Will a Rat Go Back to The Same Trap?

If a rat has survived getting caught by a trap, chances are, it won’t come near that trap in the future. Rats have good memories of past events and can recall any threats they have experienced in the past.

The British Journal of Animal Behaviour found that this results in bait shyness. Rats are intelligent enough to learn from their mistakes if they encounter poisoned bait or saw other rats die from poisoned bait. This can extend to bad experiences with traps as well.

As such, if a rat narrowly misses getting caught by a trap, it’ll learn to avoid it in the future. For this reason, you should replace your traps regularly when attempting to catch several rats in your home.

Rats are suspicious of any new objects in their environment. So, don’t expect your new traps to work immediately. It can take some time before the rats become familiar enough with the trap to lower their guard.

How to Catch A Smart Rat

Catching a smart rat can be a challenge since they have mastered the art of stealthily avoiding traps.

The Journal Of The Experimental Analysis Of Behavior found that intelligent rats free their counterparts if they’ve been caught in traps. However, because they’re harder to catch than ordinary ones, this doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Below are strategies you can use to capture a stealthier and more experienced rat:

will a rat go back to the same trap?

Study the Rat’s Behavioral Patterns

The first step involves determining the species of rat.

Norway rats prefer to live and move in subterranean areas, such as burrows, sewers, and basements. They’re larger in size and brown in color, with short stubby noses and small ears. These rats are not fussy eaters, meaning they’ll eat anything they can find.

As such, you have various bait choices to work with if you’re attempting to capture this type of rat. According to the New Zealand Journal of Ecology, these rats prefer chocolate and cheese baits.

Roof rats live in above-ground locations such as treetops, roof heaves, ceilings, and attics. They’re much smaller than Norway rats and dark brown or black, with large ears and sharp noses. These rats are picky eaters, preferring to subsist on dried fruits, nuts, and grains.

Understand How Rats Get Into Your Home

The entry point is an ideal location for setting your trap, even if it means strapping it to a tree or wall. Rats are creatures of habit, which means they prefer using the same paths in their foraging excursions. Therefore, positioning your trap near an entrance point significantly raises your chances of catching the rats.

Likewise, you can seal the entry points to prevent more rats from coming in. Don’t worry too much about trapping them inside your house. It’s easier to shut them out from a food source when they can’t get in and out.

Consequently, they will become more desperate to find food and are likely to take more risks, thus increasing your chances of catching them.

Make The Trap a Familiar Place for the Rats

When dealing with smart rats, you have to be smarter if you hope to catch them. Make your trap feel like a safe place for the rats. To do this, you can keep several unarmed traps with food baits in your home so that they become familiar places for the rats to go and eat.

You are trying to condition the rats to not fear the traps. Once they become comfortable hanging around the traps, you can start setting armed ones to catch the rodents. They’ll be more likely to approach and step on armed traps since they have learned to view them as harmless.