Do Rats Learn to Avoid Traps? [An Experimental Review]

Do rats learn to avoid traps? Is it a coincidence that your mouse traps no longer get a kill despite having rats around the house? In this article, we will figure out if rats learn to avoid traps or are you just simply doing something wrong with the mousetrap to begin with.

Rats are quite smart, although not as intelligent as most professionals exaggerate. However, you can outplay their intelligence if you understand their mode of operation

They can avoid traps due to their neophobic nature which is also prevalent in humans. Nonetheless, rats do not remember threats for long. For instance, when a rat notices a new trap, it will flee for a couple of days but will return unconscious of the trap.

There are natural ways to get rid of rats, but this article won’t focus on that. This article informs you about how rats learn to avoid the trap. It also tips you on how to prevent rats from avoiding your traps.

So do Rats Learn to Avoid Traps?

do rats learn to avoid traps?

Yes, rats learn to avoid traps over time. Rats are adventurous creatures that memorize every step they make. They go rampaging for food with every resource including their five senses, their brain, rapidity, and hiding skills. Rats embody smart sensory body systems; they are almost as reactive as the speed of light. While their feet move them about, their snouts, coupled with acute sensing nostrils, help to detect dangers up-front.

Rats do not possess any unique sixth sense as the media hypes. It is just a simple knowledgeability of their environment that makes them appear super-smart, though they are smart.

Rats have poor visions; how come they learn to avoid traps? Moreover, they are nocturnal animals with their poor visions, which should reduce their abilities to avoid traps. How then do rats learn to avoid traps!?

Well, do not rule out the relevance of their snouts and intelligence. Rats rarely run through the center of the house; they prefer to move body-on-wall which supports their movement. Guess what? They stealthily move which means they survey every area before they make a step. Assuming there is a trap a few steps away, cautiousness will save the rat from ending up in that trap.

do rats learn to avoid traps?
A rat getting close to a mousetrap

How Do Rats Avoid Traps?

There are several ways rat avoid traps. For instance, if a rat sights another rat stuck in a trap – dead or alive, it will thread cautiously or retreat. Moreover, it will avoid the spot for a couple of days. Since threats do not settle in their thoughtfulness for long, rats tend to return to the place they abandoned. It is especially the case when there is starvation, and they feel the need to revisit the old place with abundant treats.

Secondly, when a rat notices changes in its feeding spot, it becomes even challenging to trap. Consider an instance in the kitchen where a rat survives on crumbs for two months. Prior to when you bait and place a trap, the rat is comfortable and will nuzzle around comfortably without fear. However, when you introduce a trap, the rat becomes suspicious of changes.

Rats are neophobic rodents; their perception of changes is almost like those of humans, although theirs is short-lived. Rats snuck around with care until they can establish the safeness of the spot.

Do Rat Traps Work?

Yes, rat traps work, but it depends on various factors to be effective. Three such factors are the type of trap, the number of treats, and how smart the strategic placement of traps. For strategic placement, you’d have to know where mice are hiding in your house

In August 1974, the British Ecological Society published a journal article of 9 pages, The Reactions of Common Rats to Four Types of Live-Capture Trap. The study reveals the reactions of wild rats to a pitfall, repeater, welded wire mesh cage, and wonder traps. We will quickly assess the response of the wild rats to each trap and then conclude whether rat traps work.

Pitfall Trap

Three rats approached the pitfall trap; one enters the trap and is trapped. After over five hours, the pitfall trap records no visiting rat. However, more rats approach the trap prior to the baiting hours and move inside the trap several times, thus getting stuck inside.

While they go in, the pitfall trap clicks and produces a sound which forces other rats to keep off, soon after the room becomes quieter, another rat wobbles towards the pitfall trap and is caught. It means that although rats sense a threat, they tend to forget about the risk afterward.

Repeater trap

The mechanism of the repeater trap produced a sound after catching a rat. This sound, alongside the squeak from a timid trapped rat, in turn, scare off other rats. Moreover, keeping off is a typical reaction from rats when they sense danger. After a while, two more rats ended in the net. However, this occurred after a hard time with rats wondering whether to approach the trap since it cages baiting treats.

Cage Trap

Before the baiting of the cage trap, several rats went in and out. However, after placing the baits and closing the cage door, rats became suspicious. Most would run towards the door, sniff the pathway to the trap and quickly race back to safety.

Eventually, rats approached the cage trap again, this time with more consciousness, but were caught. After over 6 hours, two rats escape the trap after pulling down the door using their forepaws. At some time during the night, three more rats escape the trap with the same technique. It thus suffices to conclude that rats are smart enough to figure a way to safety while in traps.

Wonder Trap

The result from the wonder trap is similar to that of the cage trap. However, rats found it easier to escape the wonder trap. Therefore, a rat trap will not work; the design is not thoughtful. It will only serve as a food-holder for rats who step in, feed, and escape. It is on occasions such as this that rat trap springs but no rat.

What You Should Know About Rats and Traps

Rats do not immediately step into the traps as a result of an inherent consciousness. They spend time surveying the traps simply because of the treats they are sighting. Practically, if there are no treats in traps, rats would likely pay little or no attention to the traps.

The reaction study also highlights that the type of trap and how it traps set up matters. For example, in the cage and wonder traps, rats discovered a way to escape. Now, this is evidence of rats’ intellect and their ability to iron out solutions while in a trap. So, if the trap in question has an escape loophole, expect rats to hustle their way out in a matter of time.

Quick Trapping Tip

You do not have to litter the trap with treats. A couple of treats is enough to lure and trap rats. Also, you must be mindful of the baits because rats are choosy.

Why Rats Avoid Traps?

Rats avoid traps for several reasons. Here are some of the poor trapping strategies or common mistakes that aid rats to avoid traps.

No Bait in Traps

There may be no bait in the trap. Since there is no, there is no scent luring rat to the trap. Thus, it is impossible, but possible that it will move stealthily into the trap. It is possible in the sense that glue traps practically require no bait so long the positioning is proper. Since glue traps are often at surface level, rats almost do not realize when they arrive in the glue. Nevertheless, endeavor to bait the trap(s), especially a snap trap, to prevent rats from avoiding the trap.

Poorly Positioning Traps

a poorly positioned mouse trap
An evident proof that some mousetraps are poorly positioned.

The common mistake people make is placing their traps improperly. Rats have preferable tracks for movements. You have to beat their intelligence by setting traps where rats can’t afford to miss running through. Consider the fact that rats prefer to move with their body touching the wall. Now, set the trap just by the wall so that while the rat moves stealthily closer, it will trust the trap to be part of the wall. The rat will then attach its body to the trap in a bid to proceed. If there is a bait in the trap – snap trap, glue trap, etc. it becomes the end of discussion.

New Trap

Rats are neophobic and will react to the presence of an unusual trap. Do not expect the trap you just set up to be instantly productive. If perhaps the kitchen was the food resort for rats, when you place a new trap, rats will use one or more nights to study the behavior trap. Even though there is a bait in the trap, they will still take time to go closer. When they eventually approach the trap closer, it will take hours if not days to decide whether it is safe to avoid the trap.

Holding Trap with Bare Hands

A rat can detect the human scent on traps moments after you set the trap. If rats eventually come nearer to the trap, your human scent will make them feel you are nearby. Therefore, they will abscond from the spot. Moreover, young rats learn to avoid traps with this technique when they go hunting with adults.

Using Resistible Baits

The baits you use plays a role in trapping or causing rats to avoid your trap. Rats won’t go near the traps if they do not find the baits as appealing treats. So, you require the kind of food that is irresistible to trap them. Also, never mix baits with repellents if you must lure the rats to the trap. If you don’t want to kill rats, avoid using poisonous substances, it may be too late for the vet to revive the rodent.

Bad Traps

Ask questions about the traps you purchase. Some traps are too weak to cage rats, thus making it easy for rats to escape. When you then wake to find no rat, you will think rats avoided the trap, whereas they did not.

If you are getting a glue trap, ensure that the glue is still very active. Some glue traps become too weak for rats making it reasonably easy for big rats to escape.

How to Stop Rats from Avoiding Traps

To prevent a rat from avoiding your traps is no rocket science. Nonetheless, it is a tricky affair that requires everything, including patience and a well-formulated strategy.

Step 1: Locate the Food Resort

Target areas with most foods and food crumbs, such as the kitchen. The dining is also an excellent place to target. If you are fond of disposing bits in your bedroom, rats may check-in for some treats.

Step 2: Bait the Trap

Get a good bait and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set up. It is preferable to place a trap close to the wall. As you read a few lines down, you will find some of the foods that rats can’t resist. Place the food strategically by dropping one in the trap and another closer to the trap. Make sure that the food you still have their scents. Meanwhile, use hand gloves while handling the trap unless you want the rats to avoid the trap.

Step 3: inspect the Trap

Do not expect the trap to trap or cage rats overnight magically. If after two days, you find no rat, rearrange the baits, but do not replace the trap. When you replace the trap or change its position, the returning rats will become more suspicious of the changes. Thus, they may likely avoid the trap once again.


What Food is Irresistible to Rats

Foods that are irresistible to rats include the following:

  • Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Chocolate
  • Dried fruits and vegetables
  • Sausage
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Gumdrops

Use either of the foods above to thwart rats’ knowledge of avoiding traps. Make sure to place the bait as recommended by your trap manufacturer. No matter how tempting it may seem, flooding a trap with food does not guarantee that rats will not avoid the trap.

Other than the food, rats find nesting materials such as dental floss to be irresistible. They require these materials for making their nest and would love to pick them up and furnish their nests.

Rats Won’t Go Near Traps

The reason why rats won’t go near traps is that the traps may not have baits, baits contain repellents, etc. Another reason is that you made direct contact with the trap. Make sure to wear hand gloves while handling rat traps to prevent your scent from sticking on the trap. Also, do not use just any bait you come across. You do not eat all the foods in the world because some are irritating to you. It is also possible that the bait irritates the rat, and its rat won’t go near the trap.

Rat Trap Sprung but No Rat

Adult rats can cause traps to spring using their forepaw. More giant rats even cause traps to spring using their tails. Most of all, they have fast reflexes, which help them escape traps with ease. When this happens, the chances that the rat will return to the spot become slim unless the rat lurks around.

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