If you see tiny droppings in your cupboard and hear scratching noises in the walls, you most likely have a rodent problem. Mice and rats invade some 21 million U.S. homes each winter. Rats infiltrate food supplies, make nests in closets, and open the home up to a host of health risks.
With more than a third of American homes reporting having seen a rodent in their residence at some point, there are plenty of options for combating this invasion. Manufacturers offer many effective solutions—both lethal and nonlethal—to solve your rodent infestation problem.
Read on to learn more about rodent control methods, and don’t miss our list to find the best rat trap on the market for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Authenzo Mouse Rats Trap 6 Pack
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Tomcat Rat Snap Trap
- BEST ELECTRONIC: Rat Zapper Classic RZ001-4 Indoor Electronic Rat Trap
- BEST LIVE ANIMAL: Gingbau Humane Rat Trap
- BEST FOR MULTIPLE RATS: RUGGED RANCH RATTR The Ratinator
- BEST NONTOXIC BAIT: EcoClear Products 620102, RatX All-Natural
Types of Rat Traps
Below, learn about the four basic varieties of rat traps—snap, glue, live animal, and electronic—to determine which type will work best for your rodent problem.
This is the old-school rat trap that consists of a thick metal wire attached to a small piece of wood. A spring and catch allow you to set the trap. A bit of bait is placed on a small portion of metal attached to the catch. When the rat takes the bait, the catch is released, causing the metal part to snap shut on the rat’s head, breaking its neck and killing it instantly. While these traps are cheap and effective, they are also potentially dangerous. Depending on the trap’s size, a snap trap can hurt or even break fingers, making them unsuitable for use in homes with young children.
Safer plastic snap traps work by suffocating their furry victims. This type of trap uses a mechanism that resembles the open mouth of a snake. When a rat wanders into these plastic jaws and takes the bait, the mouth clamps shut, applying pressure on the rat and suffocating it. This type of trap is better for homes with children, as the closing mechanism isn’t forceful enough to injure fingers or toes like a traditional wire mousetrap. These traps are reusable but do cost more than standard snap traps.
Glue traps are one of the most effective and controversial ways of catching a rat. A glue trap consists of a flat plastic board covered in extremely sticky glue on one side. You place the board in an area with rat activity. When the rat scampers over the board, it becomes stuck in the adhesive, which immobilizes the animal. The more it struggles, the more trapped it becomes.
This type of trap is not the recommended solution, since most people consider them to be inhumane. The trap does not kill the animal, resulting in a slow death from dehydration or starvation. Glue traps also collect dust, dirt, and even insects, eventually rendering them ineffective. They also cannot be reused.
This nonlethal type of trap is the most humane way of dealing with your rat problem. Live-animal traps consist of a small cage. When the rat is lured into the cage by bait, it steps on a pressure-sensitive trip plate, triggering a spring mechanism that causes the cage’s door to snap closed, trapping the rat. You’ll then need to relocate the animal to an area far enough away that it won’t return, which typically involves a car trip. Live animal traps are larger and more expensive than other trap types. You may also inadvertently trap other small animals.
This more humane form of lethal rat trap involves a high-voltage shock. This tunnel-shaped trap includes a baited area along its back wall that lures the rat inside. The interior of the tunnel consists of a metal plate on the floor. Once the plate senses pressure, it delivers a charge of 7,000 volts, killing the rat instantly. The trap uses four C batteries, about the same amount of power you would find in many battery-powered children’s toys. The shock isn’t strong enough to harm children or larger pets such as dogs and cats.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Rat Trap
Before purchasing the best rat trap for you, it’s crucial to consider a few factors, including where you intend to use it, the size of the rodent population you’re dealing with, and whether you wish to catch or kill these four-legged intruders.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
Some glue traps are designed for only indoor or outdoor use. Traditional snap traps do not fare well outside because of their wood construction. The wood can warp, ruining the trap’s trigger sensitivity. Due to their propensity to collect dirt and debris, glue traps are only suitable for indoor use. Electronic traps are not weather-resistant. Exposure to rain could cause them to short out or malfunction.
Cage traps, which typically feature galvanized steel, are suitable for outdoor use. Just keep in mind that you may inadvertently affect wildlife and neighborhood pets with outdoor traps. Newer plastic snap traps can withstand outdoor weathering, making them good options for use outside the home.
Kill vs. Catch-and-Release
The decision to use a kill or catch-and-release trap comes down to how you feel about rats. Do you see these creatures as misguided furry critters or as disease-carrying menaces?
If you believe killing these rodents is inhumane, you may want to choose a catch-and-release option. Just keep in mind that catch-and-release traps require the extra step of transporting the animal to another location so it does not return to your property. You may inadvertently release that rat on someone else’s home, which presents a whole other ethical dilemma. If you’re conflicted, keep in mind that some traps offer a more humane way of killing than others.
Number of Traps
Ridding your home of its rat or mouse population can be a frustrating process. Although many of these traps have been around for decades, they don’t always work. One problem may be the number of traps you’re using. Pest companies recommend three traps for every rodent you have. If you have five mice inhabiting your home, that means you’ll need to put out 15 traps to put an end to your infestation.
Single vs. Multi-Rat Trap
Multi-rat traps, such as the famous Kness Ketch rat trap invented 100 years ago, can catch up to 15 mice in one setting—meaning you need to set this trap only once to catch multiple mice. You’ll find these traps mainly in commercial locations that have more significant mice and rat problems. These nonlethal traps work well if you have a large number of rodents inhabiting your home. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to dispose of these live animals once trapped. For larger infestations, you might also consider calling in the pros.
Single traps work well for handling smaller problems of fewer than 10 mice. Just remember that most experts recommend three traps per rodent to eliminate your rodent population.
Disposing of rat corpses can be understandably unpleasant. For example, the classic snap trap requires you to manually remove the corpse with your hands if you wish to reuse the trap. Glue traps make disposal easier—simply, pick up the whole trap and throw it away. However, this disposable design requires you to replace the trap with a new one after every kill, which can get costly if you have a large rat population.
Some newer designs allow the user to dispose of the rat without having to touch the dead rodent or even look at the corpse. These traps kill the rat in an enclosed space and use an external indicator to let you know when it’s full. To dispose of the body, simply tip the trap over the garbage. If you’re squeamish, you can even avert your eyes as you lay the rodent to rest. This is a more attractive option for the faint of heart and still allows you to recycle the trap.
Safe operation is a key concern when it comes to rat traps. The classic snap-style traps are dangerous if used improperly. Smaller ones can painfully snap the fingers, while larger ones can break bones. Some use poison bait to kill rats, which is toxic to humans and pets. Glue traps, electric shock traps, and nontoxic bait offer safer alternatives. If you have children or pets in the home, safety is especially important when shopping for a rat trap.
Ease of Use
Some traps are easier to set and use than others. The classic snap trap requires some skill to set properly and to ensure you don’t snap yourself. Plastic snap traps and electric traps feature designs that make them much easier to set, while glue traps simply require you to remove a protective cover for use.
Our Top Picks
Our list of top-performing products addresses your rodent problems using both lethal and nonlethal methods, including traps from some of the best-known names in the pest control industry.
Avoid the painful finger snaps that come with the classic wood base mousetrap, and upgrade to these durable plastic traps from Authenzo. This reusable trap features a unique design: simply place bait in the built-in cup and press the end of the mouse trap while keeping your fingers out of harm’s way. The trap activates with 15 grams of pressure for a powerful kill that does not cause pain to the rat.
Unlike wood-based snap traps, which can absorb odors and stains, this trap uses a hygienic and easy-to-clean polystyrene base. It’s designed so that you don’t have to touch the rodent while removing it from the trap. The Authenzo Mouse Trap comes in packs of six, allowing you to maximize coverage in your home. Each trap measures about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide.
If you’re setting up traps outdoors, you’re likely after something bigger than a mouse. You need to bring in the big guns. This snap trap from rat-catching specialists Tomcat features an easy-to-set and safe indoor/outdoor trap capable of taking down rats. At 4.25 inches wide, 6 inches long, and 2 inches high, this Tomcat snap trap is big enough to handle larger rodents. This trap uses a new snap style that has the appearance of an open set of jaws. Once the rat begins eating bait from the pressure plate, the jaws snap shut and suffocate the rat using a powerful spring.
Unlike traditional traps, the Tomcat Rat Snap Trap can be safely set by hand or foot without the need to put your fingers in harm’s way. The trap uses plastic and rust-resistant metal, making it easier to clean than traditional wood versions.
The rat won’t know what hit it with the Rat Zapper Classic. This tunnel-shaped trap is 4.3 inches high by 3.5 inches wide and 12 inches long—roomy for larger rodents. When the offending rodent enters the tunnel and steps on the metal plates inside this trap, it completes an electric circuit that sends a high-voltage shock through its body for a quick and humane end.
This trap requires four AA batteries, which supply enough power to kill 20 rats. A convenient LED light flashes red to let you know when it has claimed a victim and a kill chamber that allows you to dump the rat without having to touch or even look at it makes disposal less cringeworthy. This trap is suitable for indoor use only.
Catch live rats and mice and humanely relocate them with this trap from Gingbau. This model features a sturdy galvanized steel construction, making it ideal for outdoor use. Setup is easy with detailed instructions included for setting the trap. At 10.5 inches deep by 5.5 inches wide and 4.5 inches high, this trap is perfect for catching smaller animals such as mice and rats and ensures you won’t catch larger creatures, such as the neighbor’s cat, by mistake.
This cage includes a bait hook at the rear of the cage with a pressure-sensitive pedal under it. When the rodent applies weight to the pedal, it activates an arm bar, which causes the door to close and lock, trapping the animal. This reusable trap weighs less than a pound, making transporting the rodent easy.
When you have a rat infestation, standard rat traps that only catch one rodent at a time just won’t do. A bigger trap like the Ratinator may be better equipped for multiple pests. This cage-style trap measures 15 inches wide, 27 inches long, and 7 inches high, making it spacious enough to catch up to 21 rats in a single setting.
This non-lethal animal trap allows you to relocate beady-eyed captives to a location far from your home. Alternatively, for those less sympathetic to the plight of rats, the Ratinator comes with an air-tight plastic container that perfectly fits the entire cage. The Ratinator weighs just over 9 pounds not including prisoners.
If you have young children or pets, using poison bait isn’t a safe option for solving your mouse or rat problem. This nontoxic bait from EcoClear offers a safe choice. Although it’s safe for people, pets, and wildlife, it takes advantage of rats’ unique digestive systems.
Once they eat the bait, they lose the instinct to drink water, causing them to die of dehydration in two to four days. This rat bait comes in pellet form, allowing you to add it to bait trays. A 3-pound bag is enough bait to handle a moderate mouse or rat problem. Because this bait is nontoxic to all but rats and mice, it is safe to use indoors.
FAQs About Rat Traps
If you still have gnawing questions about rodents, read below to get answers to the most common concerns about rats.
Q. How do you know you have a rodent infestation?
Since rats and mice are not particularly hygienic creatures, there are many signs that you have an infestation:
- Droppings and urine are present. This is the most telltale sign. Mice and rats aren’t the cleanest of houseguests. Rat droppings and urine stains are sure signs that rodents have taken up residence in your home. The more droppings you see, the more mice or rats you have living in your home.
- You see gnawed holes on things like baseboards, wood trim, cabinet doors, and packaged foods. Rats and mice will chew through all kinds of materials to get to food. If you find gnawed holes in areas throughout your home, you likely have a rodent problem.
- You hear sounds in the walls and ceilings. If you hear scampering noises in your walls or ceiling, your house isn’t haunted. You have mice.
- Your pet is displaying odd behavior. Your pets and their heightened sense of hearing and smell will pick up on these rodent visitors before you do. If Fido or Fluffy seems to be hearing or seeing things you don’t, it could be mice or rats in your home.
Q. What attracts rats to your house?
Rats spend most of their lives hunting down the next meal, and humans are a great source of food. The first thing they’ll detect is your garbage. From there, they’ll move to other food smells coming from inside your home. Nip things in the bud by preventing rats from getting into your garbage. Make sure your garbage cans have tight lids.
Q. Do rats learn to avoid traps?
Rats are inherently suspicious creatures. It’s a survival mechanism that has evolved in rodents. They will avoid objects new to their environment until enough time has passed that these items become familiar. This is why it may take some time before the traps you just put out begin to bear fruit.
Q. What kills rats instantly?
Many people think poison will kill rodents quickly. Poison is one of the slowest methods for killing rats, as it takes at least three days for it to kill the rodent once ingested. Snap traps will break a rat’s neck, and electric traps, which deal a lethal shock to rodents, will instantly kill rats.