What will really work in your favor when getting rid of rats from your property is the fact that these rodents eat anything. Quite literally anything. They will eat food that you don't think is good enough to eat anymore, including leftovers, moldy and bad food, even food that dried out from the bottom of the cat/dog bowl.
They will even eat food that just so happens to be lying right there in front of them, such as roadkill. It's pretty common for wild scavengers — rats, raccoons, opossums, etc. — to become roadkill whilst trying to get to the roadkill themselves. It's a vicious cycle.
Seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables; they're all on the menu, and many of them can be found right in your back yard, too, along with a string of other edible treats. Rats will devour seeds and nuts that have fallen from bird feeders, especially if raccoons have already come along and started the job off for them.
Rats will eat feces from other animals if there are still a few traces of food left in them, making them particularly great inhabitants of the sewer systems in cities and towns. There are plenty of rats down there, swimming along. They're great swimmers.
What all of this means is that you have hundreds of choices to use as bait for your rat traps. You could use anything and still have a certain degree of success. What it is important to remember is that for every pro there will be a con, and that's definitely the case when you're talking about food and wild animals.
If you throw some cat food into the trap as bait, you run the risk of attracting cats. They can become quite injured should they get a paw or nose stuck in the trap, and they might even get bitten by a rat if they come to blows. Rats carry a threat of rabies, so, if your cat isn't vaccinated, you'll want to keep the two very much separate.
If you use dog food in the trap, you run the risk of attracting dogs. Stray dogs and household pets — they'll break out if they can smell food nearby.
Meat products such as those found in cat and dog food also have a tendency to go bad quite quickly. They'll only last for six or eight hours in the trap before they dry out and start attracting flies and other insects. You shouldn't leave any kind of food bait out for a long period of time, but meat is a big problem when neglected. It's not just insects, too; other meat-eating scavengers, including other rats, will soon come along to enjoy the feast.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are easily replaced, and they have a slightly longer shelf life than most meat products, especially raw meat products. Too much sugar and you'll attract ants, though, and perhaps even bees or wasps. These are, obviously, not ideal to have around when you have kids in the house. Even some adults are highly unnerved by the thought of facing a few angry, hungry wasps.
There are many foods that you probably shouldn't throw in a trap for rats, mostly because of practical reasons — anything dairy is likely to turn quickly and smell, especially in the midday heat; anything that can melt will melt, including chocolate; anything overly smelly will smell and you might not appreciate it much …
So what SHOULD you throw in your traps for rats, then?
Here are our top 5 baits for rat traps:
1 – Seeds and nuts.
The same stuff that you'd throw in a bird feeder is perfect for a rat trap, as long as you make sure that birds can't get to the feed. You do run the risk that raccoons join in the fun, because they like seeds and nuts too, but you will run that risk with practically any food you put in the bait. There will always be another animal it attracts.
2 – Marshmallows.
Rats seem to really enjoy a marshmallow, and the sticky nature makes it perfect to add to a spring-trigger; the rat will need to work quite hard at removing the food and will, in turn, be more likely to get snap-trapped. Marshmallows do melt with heat, though. You might not want to put these in attic-based traps.
3 – Breakfast cereals.
Rats and mice LOVE grains — it's the perfect food to add to a trap. The only downside is that pieces of cereal can be quite light, and are easily stolen without the trap going off. If you are going to use cereal, use a sticky "adhesive". This could be peanut butter, Nutella, etc., and only needs to be just a enough to make the food stick to the trigger.
4 – Peanut butter.
We briefly mentioned it already, but rats go nuts for peanut butter (in our experience), especially when added to a bit of bread. Again, it would be easy for the bread to be slid onto the trigger so that it can't be easily removed. The stick nature means that the rats are likely to stick around and lick/grab and, therefore, get snap-trapped.
5 – Cake.
We're not suggesting that you throw good cake in a trap, but if you have any leftovers — throw them in. Cake actually solves a couple of purposes; it's sweet and rats love sweet stuff, plus it's also got a bit of shelf life to it. You don't need to check it after a few hours to make sure it hasn't gone bad. Rats also don't mind a bit of slightly-hard, stale cake.
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