The Art of Trapping Rats

Ah, glorious Spring! A time for shaking off the winter doldrums, planning and completing those outdoor home improvement projects before the summer heat arrives, enjoying the emerging flowers, and...rats.

For some reason, the rats seem to suddenly be out in force and in greater numbers than last year. Brown rats are omnivores, so maybe it's due to the explosion of wild plant growth triggered by all of the rain. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that they are here and having a party.

I'm finding fresh droppings in every home inspection lately, friends and neighbors are complaining about them, and the rats are frolicking in my own yard at night - I can see them on my security cameras. So it's time to bust-out the traps and fight back.

It's become a springtime ritual for me, trapping rats, and over the years I have developed a technique for prepping and baiting conventional traps that never fails. Every friend that I have shown this technique has been successful in getting rid of their rat problem, so I thought that I would share it here. Let's get to it.

Rule #1: Buy traps that are packaged in plastic, and never touch a trap with bare hands. Rule # 2: See Rule #1. Rats are extremely leery of anything new in their environment, and will avoid a trap like the plague (pun intended) if you get any your human smell on it. Always wear disposable rubber gloves when handling a trap - always. For the trap itself, I use the standard 'Victor Original' brand rat traps.

The disposable nitrile gloves that I use are obtained online (cheap gloves from the Big Box Store rip too easily), and since I use them for home inspections, wood finishing, working on cars, and a myriad of other things I get them in a bag of 500 from Gempler's. OK, on to getting the trap ready.

Besides the trap and gloves, you will need a length of mason's line, peanut butter (smooth, chunky...whatever you like), a spoon, and something to apply the peanut butter to the bait pedal of the trap (I use a small, disposable wooden craft stick).

Rat trap baiting supplies

The mason's line is used to create a peanut butter-infused knot on the trap bait pedal. Without the knot, the rat will just gently lick the peanut butter of off the pedal without tripping it. The presence of the knot causes the rat to start chewing and tugging to get more peanut butter goodness, and that aggressive action is what ultimately brings down the hammer of doom. I specifically use mason's line as it is a strong multi-filament twine that can be tied very tightly, will be harder to snap (relative to plain string) as a rat tugs on it, and the knot won't come loose.


Begin the baiting process by donning the gloves (remember Rule #1!) first, and then extracting the trap from its package. Cut a piece of mason's line about 3"-4" long and feed it through the hole in the bait pedal.


Tie a square knot, then tie it one more time - a full knot plus a half. Tie each throw tight; use a pair of pliers to pull on each end of the line if you need. Cut off the excess line, but leave about 1/4"-3/8" on each end; if you cut too close to the knot, it can become untied.

Now take the spoon and scoop a little peanut butter out of the jar, and then use the craft stick to smear peanut butter onto the bait pedal, and work it into the knot. Also put a little on the wood platform of the trap. The spoon is used so that I don't contaminate the jar of peanut butter with the stick; any peanut butter left on the spoon after the baiting is done gets tossed.

There you have it. Make sure you bait multiple traps - I never use less than four. Set them out in sheltered areas (rats don't like to be exposed) against walls with the trap placed perpendicular and the bait pedal closest to the wall. There's lots of info on the internet with more details as to the best ways/places to set the traps.

To increase your chances, consider locating them without setting the kill bar at first. Rats will get used to feeding on the trap without danger. Replenish the peanut butter every day as needed. After a few days, set the trap.

Happy hunting!