Do Rats Learn To Avoid Traps? What Can You Do?

Rodent Guide
Written By Rodent Guide

I believe in treating all creatures with respect. My mission is to ensure everyone understands how to protect their home from rodents without using cruel methods.

Worldwide there are some 64 species of rat (Rattus). Of those, the 2 most common are the brown rat, also known as the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), and the black rat (Rattus rattus).

The black rat is relatively rare, preferring to live in grain silos and warehouses around port areas. The brown rat is the one that lives in sewers, gardens, derelict buildings, and your home if it gets the chance.

There is also a rumor that the brown rat is developing some super-intellect, prompting the question, ‘do rats learn to avoid traps?

In this post, we look at the question and what you can do about it. As a pre-warning, it will take time and patience! But you will get there.

rat questions Do Rats Learn To Avoid Traps

Do rats learn to avoid traps?

The short answer is, and you are not going to like this, yes. Rats do learn to avoid traps. But not because they have developed some super trap-avoiding sixth sense. In fact, in all these attention-grabbing headlines about the rat population ‘booming,’ there is an element of truth.

All animals, including humans, live with the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. As a human, our most acute sense is sight. We can see colors and shapes. In animals, other senses have been highly developed to ensure their survival.

Many animals have an acute sense of hearing, far greater than ours. Others have a sense of smell that can pick up the scent of food or foe often miles away.

Rats are generally considered nocturnal but can often be seen in derelict, run-down areas, scavenging for food amongst uncollected waste during daylight.

Like the fox, the rat’s fear of humans has diminished.

However, like most animals (and many humans), rats suffer neophobia (a fear of new). They follow the same path from a nest to a food source and back again. And when moving on to unexplored territory, they try to avoid anything out of the ordinary and are wary. In combination with its high level of intelligence, it is this wariness that makes the rat a lot more challenging to trap when compared to mice.

The sheer fact that the trap is new, and smells of you means the rat will try to avoid it as best as it can.

When successfully trapping ratty, patience and sneakiness will win the day.

How To Catch A Rat That Avoids Traps

Do Rats Learn To Avoid Traps

Often, the first you know you might have a non-paying rat lodger is the sound of scratching in the attic or cavity walls as you lay in bed at night counting sheep.

Of course, unless you’ve seen your visitor, it could be a rat or a mouse. The second and biggest giveaway to tell if you are being invaded by one or the other is the size of the droppings. Rat droppings are much larger than mouse dropping, around the size of a rice grain.

Before we get started, this process may take a few days. It would help if you used this time to order some rubber gloves because you will need them when handling the trap.

1. Find the location

You don’t have to find exactly where the rat is living. But the runs it uses going back and forth for food.

Rats will normally run close to solid structures. You should always set your rat traps against a solid structure, like a wall. The rat will likely smell the bait and investigate further as it is on the way!

They also poo around 40 times each night and leave grease marks from their fur and tail on walls, solid fixtures, and furniture. Careful inspection of these areas in kitchens, laundry rooms, outhouses, and sheds should reveal the rat’s regular route.

Stalk the rat!

2. The sneaky bit – give a false sense of security

As previously mentioned, rats are extremely wary of anything new in their territory or along with their runs, so patience is the name of the game. Several rat traps are available, from the spring trap (for quick execution) to humane traps to release the animal back into the wild.

Whatever type of trap or poison you intend to use, ensure children or family pets can’t reach it.

Brown rats eat pretty much everything from raw meats, to chocolate, to cereals and nuts, to fruit and veg.

Give it a few days before checking to see if the rat bait has been taken. If not, remove the old and add fresh, or you may need to try different food as rat bait. If it has gone, don’t set the trap; add more food.

The idea is to provide ratty with a false sense of security.

3. Spring the trap

With the rat taking the bait on a nightly basis, the next step is for you to set the trap. Don’t forget to add the bait BEFORE setting the rat trap.

Wear rubber gloves when setting the trap! The last thing you want is your scent all over the trap that the rat is now very familiar with.

Provided everything appears normal to the rat, you should have a cadaver to get rid of in the morning.

4. What happens if nothing happens?

If, after a week, your rat trap food remains untouched, you could be up against an Alpha rat. One that has seen it (and avoided it) all before. Here are some steps you can take if you actively engage in warfare with a clever rat!

  1. Scout the rat runs for more places to put a rat trap
  2. Add more rat traps
  3. Change the trap type
  4. Leave the traps alone for longer periods to reduce your scent
  5. Scatter more food around the trap to build confidence

It is also worth disguising the trap! You can place it inside a cardboard, or a wooden box painted the same color as the surroundings. Cut out an entrance and exit at each end. With the unset trap in the box, start the baiting process again.

Patience, as they say, is a virtue, especially when dealing with a rat avoiding your traps!

Do Rats Remember Traps?

Do rats learn to avoid traps? Yes – Do rats remember traps; let’s take a look!

There is no clear evidence that rats remember where traps are. The most important thing is that the trap doesn’t smell like you and has some tempting rat bait.

As long as I follow this advice on this page, I’ve never failed to catch a rat!

Frequently Asked Questions

frequently asked questions

Are rats smart enough to avoid traps

No, not really. They are not smart enough, but they have a natural fear of anything new, or that doesn’t smell right. For this reason, you should always wear gloves so you do not get your scent on the rat traps!

Rats will not go near my traps, what do I do?

First, you must learn how the rat operates. Where does it go? How does it travel? You should use this knowledge to trap the rat. Also, make sure you wear gloves when handling the traps! Oh, and make sure that you scatter some rat bait around the trap area, too, that has worked for me in the past.


Do rats learn to avoid traps? Yes, there is no doubt about that. It is not because the rat recognizes it as a ‘trap.’ The rat is likely voiding your trap because it is new or smells of you.

I always keep rat traps in my attic all year. I use bait that has a long shelf life, such as nuts. That way, I do not have to go and check the traps very often, and because they have been in place for months/years, they smell the same as their surroundings.

Catching a rat that avoids your trap is frustrating, but you can beat it! You have a brain much bigger than theirs, remember that. It would help if you learned the rat’s behavior and movement. Only then will you catch the rat!

Good luck.


About the Rodent Guide

I’m an expert in do-it-yourself rodent control. For more than 20 years, I’ve dedicated my life to helping people live harmoniously alongside these critters by sharing rodent control solutions that are effective and kind.

I believe in treating all creatures with respect. My mission is to ensure everyone understands how to protect their home from rodents without using cruel methods.

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