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Best Rat Trap For Maintaining Rodents

The words "rat infestation" conjures up thoughts of the middle ages, the black plague, vermin and the Pied Piper. Rats are no laughing matter, spreading disease as they go, as they have colonized virtually every part of the earth by hitching a ride on the vehicles that humans have used to explore the earth, particularly seafaring vessels.

Rat traps have been around as long as there have been rats, and no trap is ever going to be 100% effective at eliminating a rat problem. Unless rats are trapped out early before they colonize an area, you'll never catch every rat because they will eventually figure out what a trap means, and they will avoid it at all costs.

You can check out the rat trap buyer's guide listed below for more information on the traps themselves to determine which type is best for you. We've compiled the best rat traps in 2021.

What about the best rat poisons? There are plenty of options out there; read on to find out what we think about using poison to kill rats.

Comparing the Best Rat Trap for 2021

Victor M201 Rat Trap - Best Rat Trap Overall

When the term "rat trap" comes up, this is most likely what you picture in your mind. There's a good reason why the classic Victor Rat Trap has stuck around more or less unchanged since the 1890s - they work just as well in 2021 as they did when Grover Cleveland was serving his second term as President. The success lies in its ingeniously simple design, with the spring and bar mechanism attached to a solid wooden base.

Once the bait is placed, the trap is set by pulling the kill bar all the way back and tucking the arm bar into a small nook on the trigger pedal. There's a hook on the trigger pedal that the bait should be tucked under, making any potential rat have to work harder for its free meal. The slight pressure applied to the trigger pedal will bump the arm bar off the nook, allowing the spring-loaded kill bar to slam shut over the hapless rodent and killing it instantly. It's grisly but extremely effective; you can then choose to dispose of the dead rat along with the trap, or you can pry the body out and rinse the trap off to reuse it.

Ironically enough, the main drawback of this trap is also by design. Because it's such a simple mechanical device, the heavy spring tension of the kill bar will slam shut on anything in the way with zero concern for what lies in its path. It's intended for rats, but the sheer power will likely kill or severely injure any other small animal that triggers the trap - squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and even birds. Make sure to exercise extreme caution when setting these traps, since the force of the kill bar can and will break your fingers just as easily. Likewise, take care to be mindful of where these traps are placed, as the trap won't distinguish between a rodent pest or a curious pet or toddler.

This trap isn't sensitive enough for mice to set it off; they're much smaller than rats, so the proportionally smaller mouse trap is a much better option to deal with problematic mice.

Havahart One Door Rat Trap - Best Humane Rat Trap

The best in humane live trapping for rats starts and ends with the Havahart X-Small One Door Trap. It's easy to bait, easy to set, and once the rat goes inside and nibbles on the bait, the gravity door falls behind the rodent and it can't get out. The solid steel top, where the handle resides, is a positive shield that keeps your hands and fingers away from the surprisingly sharp teeth of a stressed-out rat. When it's time to release the rat, simply stand behind the trap and pull up on the top of the door, and the rodent will scurry away. It's that easy. The single door design allows you to place the trap in a corner or against the wall, giving the rat a false sense of security for maximum effectiveness. Although not inexpensive, it works and it may be the only trap you'll need.

Havahart Two-Door Rat Trap - Honorable Mention

For a classic trap that has proven itself, Havahart X-Small 2-Door Trap design has been the go-to for trappers above any other. Two doors make a welcome entrance that the rat can see through, making it appear as if there is a way out. The bait tray is easily accessed in the middle, and the trap door mechanism is easy to set. The solid metal top means your hands or fingers can not be bitten or scratched, and a pull-up door bar allows quick and effortless release.

Snap E Rat Trap - Consider

For a modern iteration of an old tried and true idea, try the Snap E Rat Trap. The bowl shaped bait cup allows you to fill it once and use the same bait time and again, saving bait each instance that the trap is reset. They are relatively inexpensive, so if you choose to not use it again, just trap the rat and throw it all away, then bait a new one to put in its place. Easy to set, just pull back the arm set and you're done. There are six to a pack for an economical and terminal solution to your rat problems.

Agri Zap Rat Trap - Best Electronic Rat Trap

If you like an electronic rat zapper at an inexpensive price, then the Rat Zapper Classic RZC001 will fit your bill. It uses 4 AA batteries, which are good for 20 kills, and it has a red light on top that goes on when a rat is inside. It's a non-toxic, pet- and kid-safe way to eliminate your rat problem. Once a rat has been terminated, just empty it into a disposable medium of your choice. Thats it!

Buyer's Guide

Rats have been the bane of human civilization for as long as there have been humans. These enterprising rodents were originally forest dwellers that took their rightful place in the animal kingdom. However, as the human population grew and developed civilizations, rats adapted to a life of living off human food waste. The rats targeted by rat traps have become pests and are known specifically as black rats, taxonomically named rattus rattus.

Even though no one truly knows the origin of the black rat, the earliest traces of human co-habitation come from Southeast Asia, although there are fossils of the black rat from prehistoric times in Europe. Needless to say, this unwanted symbiotic relationship between rats and humans happened early on, and the species has become so specialized, many scientists speculate that if the human population ever died out, black rats would go extinct too.

These animals host a variety of parasites and diseases easily communicable to humans. These are the creatures that started the Black Plague in the Middle Ages, by harboring fleas that carried the bubonic plague bacteria, among other types like typhus, trichinosis, pneumonia and others. They are also very intelligent creatures, able to perceive the dangers of a trap if rats have been trapped and killed beforehand.

Rat Trap Types

Manual

The first rat traps were inevitably made by hunters that fashioned snares to catch them with, much like the snares made to catch rabbits, squirrels and other small prey. The Middle Ages brought with it the first spring loaded traps, and variations of these are still in popular use today.

The most common rat trap going is essentially a giant sized mouse trap using a spring mechanism mounted to a flat piece of wood. It has a bait cup or a bait station which when disturbed, releases a spring-loaded arm that snaps shut onto a rat's neck with sufficient force to cause instant death. These “snap traps” are available in different shapes and sizes, but all employ a spring-loaded arm that snaps shut when a rat takes the bait.

You will physically need to pull back the spring to “load” it, once you have placed the bait on the bait holder, and then carefully set it on rat-runs, or occupied areas where rats are known to travel.

Live Traps

Live traps are a variation of the common wire cage with a trap door. Most live rat traps can also be used for other small rodents and animals like weasels, chipmunks, gophers and similar-sized creatures. Once the rat is caught, you can release it into an area away from your home or business, or you can dispose of it manually in a humane way.

In either scenario, these are the most labor intensive types of traps, but they are effective. They aren’t widely employed mainly because these traps are designed for catch and release; in many communities, it’s illegal to release a wild black rat.

Electronic Traps

The newest type of rat traps are electronic. Most of these are made to use food as bait, but hormone drops or other non-food rat attractants can also be used. Simply put, they are all shaped much like a large can, with one side open and one side closed. The rat goes into this “can” to investigate, and once inside, a powerful electric current kills them.

There are both plug-in models and battery operated models, so that they can be used virtually anywhere, with or without an external power source. These traps must also be checked regularly, and many types feature a bulb that lights up on the trap exterior when the trap is occupied. When a rat is caught, you merely empty it out into the garbage or other place for waste disposal, and place the trap back where you want it.

Although silent and effective, these traps need to be emptied regularly or other rats will become “trap wary” and either avoid the area completely, urinate on them as a marker, or tip them over to render the trap ineffective.

Note: You may have noticed that we did not cover "sticky traps" or "glue traps" in our buyer's guide, and the reason for the omission is simple: we do not recommend using these traps under any circumstance.

Not only are they largely ineffective when it comes to actually trapping a rat, they're incredibly inhumane as well. Rats are surprisingly strong for their size, and they can easily free themselves after being caught in this type of trap. This creates a secondary problem: the rat will be covered in impossible-to-remove adhesive, and will inevitably die a slow, excruciating death due to starvation and lack of mobility. It won't be out in the open, either - a threatened rat will retreat to a familiar environment where it feels safe, which is usually between the walls of your home. You'll know it's dead when it starts decomposing, and trust us, you won't enjoy the smell.

What Trap System is Best for You?

The simplest and the least expensive of these traps are the snap traps. You can get dozens for the cost of a good electronic rat trap, and if you have a major rat infestation, snap traps would be the cheapest way to go. Because they are all so simple and easy to use, they are also deadly reliable, and as long as the rats do not become trap wary, they will keep catching rats every time.

Live traps, on the other hand, always mean you'll have to deal with a living rat. Many locales have passed laws that ban releasing a living rat, and if that's the case, you'll have to kill it first before disposal. If that’s an uncomfortable proposition, skip this option.

Electronic traps are quick, safe to use and are a very humane way to kill a rat. They are also highly effective but also highest-priced rat traps available. They also must be checked regularly, but the best ones have a warning light to let you know that a rat has been caught. You can check it from a distance, and if the light is on, you can empty the trap. However, like all stationary rat traps, be careful that the rats don't become trap wary. You may want to move the trap to a different location after every successful kill.

What About Rat Poisons?

Rat poison is more or less the same product as mouse poison, only scaled up to deliver a proportionally larger dose to a more sizable pest. As we've said with mouse poisons, we firmly recommend against using any of them. Many of these poisons rely on substances that have been banned for consumer use in several states, so they're not always universally available.

Rats are also much more intelligent than mice, and will generally be extremely cautious around anything unfamiliar. Even if the rat does ingest the poison, it can take days for it to take effect. There's no way to know where the rat will be once it succumbs to the poison, but they do share one behavior trait with mice: they will retreat to their nesting area when they feel threatened, and this is almost always within the walls of your home. It'll take a few more days for the dead rat to begin decomposing, and the resulting stench will have you seriously considering moving elsewhere.

The poison doesn't simply die with the rat, either. The toxic substances will remain active within the carcass, which means there's the chance that it'll cause collateral damage by working its way up the food chain. We may view rats as pests and vermin, but they're an extremely popular source of food for birds of prey (including endangered hawks and owls) as well as coyotes and mountain lions. The poison in the dead rat will sicken or kill everything else that consumes it, spreading the poison well beyond the confines of your own home. Beyond other wild animals, these poisons can also present a danger to your own pets.

Rats are much more savvy about traps compared to mice. It can be frustrating to deal with rats, but we always recommend contacting a professional exterminator instead of experimenting with rat poisons.

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