How to Trap a Rat


Rats have invaded our compost bin. They have chewed holes through the plastic and have a network of tunnels that now spread beyond the compost. I don’t really mind much. It seems that the Squirrel likes the rat hole, because while it can’t fit through it entirely, it can pull out scraps or eat the bugs attracted to the pile. The cat used to catch lots of mice before the rats moved in, and rats have a strength too great for most domestic cats. At times the rat, the squirrel and the cat have all hung out in the backyard together like they all decided to have an accord of neutrality. It looks so cute to see them all sitting there curiously looking at each other!

But alas, while I love rats, in the city they carry disease. Plus, they can get in your house and tear apart your shit and blah blah blah. I don’t really mind the rats living here, but my household and neighbors put me to the task of trapping this rat. And I understand their concerns. When I say trapping, I mean killing, not the catch and release in someone else’s neighborhood kind of trapping. So how does one trap a rat? First, buy or make the trap. Second, you must track the rats and learn their habits. Left me take you on a tour…

The front door:

As you can see here, the rats have pulled a lot of the compost out through this hole, which attracts all kinds of other mammals and insects. The squirrel enjoys reaching in and pulling out more food from time to time. He especially like the rotten hazelnuts my roommates left in there! I don’t want to put the trap too close to the door because I think that they act more timid in this kind of a location. Plus, I want it to sit flat, and putting on this mound would cause it to slide around.

The dining room:

My other roommate tried to trap the rat by putting the trap right in the compost, right on top. This didn’t work out so well either. You really need to make it cross one of their trail systems so that the have to pass over it. He found the trap triggered and the bait missing!

The old hole:

Originally I thought about putting the trap near their other holes thinking that maybe I could indirectly draw them there and make them curious in a newer/older setting but once I took a look at these holes and saw the spider webs in them I knew that the rats haven’t used them in quite some time. That felt like good news, since it may mean that less rats live here than I thought.

Out side trail system:

The rats have an extensive trail system through the grasses of our yard. I took a picture of this one because I plan to set the trap here. When placing the trap, I put it perpendicular to the rat trail and with the bait end up against the wall. This way the rat will follow its trail (which as you can see here, goes right up against the concrete base of the house) and has no choice but to walk over the trigger or even eat a little of the bait. I also know that this place would work well at keeping a distance from other animals and would put the bait out of context for the animal.

A sign for safety:

To protect our neighbors cat and our friend, Mr. Sweetie, from getting himself caught in the trap I made a sign to hang on our neighbors back door. Even smaller traps like this one can really hurt other animals. The key to successful trapping in the city involves understanding the animals habits, as well as protecting the ones you do not want to trap. I knew that putting the trap out of the way of most animals that come through our yard at night (possum, raccoon, feral cats) I would lower my chances of snapping one of them. Ideally, I could have used a cage trap and if I caught the wrong animal, I could have released them. However, because of Mr. Sweetie’s patrolling, I’ve never seen another animal in the yard and I even if a raccoon triggered this trap they are burly and would have probably shaken it off.

After acquiring a trap, learning the rats habits, picking a spot to trap, warning the neighbors that your plan to trap, you can now set the trap. I put it out at dusk and came to look at it in the morning.

A successful kill:

I came out this morning not sure of what I would find. I found this.  The way the trap sits across the nape of the rats neck means the trap work very well and killed this animal very quickly by both breaking its neck and cutting off the blood to its brain, which kills an animal within 15-30 seconds usually. I have to admit when I woke up this morning and ran downstairs, I felt as I did as a child running downstairs to see what gifts Santa had left under the tree. Some people might think that means I hate animals or something but I don’t. I just really enjoy the process of learning to trap and hunt (even the smallest little guys). In a rather twisted coincidence, as a child I received a rat for Christmas one year. When I saw this dead rat, it reminded me of when I found his dead body in his cage. I think this feral rat actually looked cuter.

Thanks rat for teaching me some valuable lessons about trapping.

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10 Comments on “How to Trap a Rat”

  1. fascinating.
    i love how you cover all the bases. be prepared! safety first!
    what did u do with the deceased?

    also, just a quick look at your composter and i thought: that looks a little nitrogen heavy. it >>may? attract less animals if you add more carbon material to the compost, especially after each addition of kitchen scraps, to cover it up.
    also, if you start a thermophilic compost, it can get hot enough to compost the rats!

  2. Hey Christine… Yeah, I know. I hope more don’t show up anytime soon!

    And Thanks for the tips lala. We’ve got lots of grass this time of year if my roommates would actually mow it! hahaha. That makes good carbon, right?

  3. 🙂 love to help!
    soil building is truly heroic work these days; we’ve much destruction to make up for.

    you have to make sure the grass is dried up, otherwise it is considered ‘nitrogen’ -as the nitrogen has not yet escaped into the atmosphere. ideally in a compost you want an approx. 1 part nitrogen to 20-30 parts carbon ratio.

    compost = oxidized carbon = humus
    you need nitrogen to feed the carbon-oxidizing microbes.

    >>nitrogen: kitchen scraps, green leaves, green grass, manures.
    if your compost has a strong/putrid rotten smell, you have too much ‘nitrogen’, add carbon
    >>carbon: dried out grass, straw/hay, wood (chips), saw dust, dried up leaves in the fall.
    if your compost seems to be doing nothing at all/not forming into nice, forest-floor-smelling, earth like substance, add more nitrogen.

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  5. Hey lala, thanks. I’ll definitely add more carbon. The problem is that we don’t really have enough. We have tons of kitchen scraps going in but no carbon source in our yard. Ideas?

    Martha, Hahaha I’ll try that. 🙂

  6. if you have access to lead-free newspaper (most are, nowadays), crumpled up newspaper makes a good carbon addition to compost piles

    also, small twigs, dried corn husks make good carbon additions to compost piles

  7. hey scout!
    thought i was going to be blacklisted for talking something as sedentary as composting on ur site! am glad im not 😛
    anyhoo, carbon is def harder to come by in urban centres during the summer, but in the fall, ur neighbours will be packaging it up nicely for you and leaving it on the curb (fallen leaves).
    ur best bet is to scavenge! any local arborists should have lots full of woodchips (mulch), or if you see arborists in the nieghbourhood pruning trees and using chippers, ask them if you can have some or if they can drop it by your yard and store it near the compost. neighbours probably have piles lying around they never cleaned up. also, any carpentry shops should have sawdust in ample supply. or find some leaves\fresh cut grass and leave it flat somewhere to dry out, toss it, but this takes time.
    keep it wild, warrior. peace

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