Do You Have A Rat Caught In A Trap But Still Alive?

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.

No matter where you live, there is a good chance that you’ve had to contend with rats in your living space.

In the process of getting rid of them, you may discover a rat caught in your trap while it is still alive.

It’s a distressing thing to witness, and you have no choice but to do something about it. But… don’t panic, because there are several easy steps you can take to resolve this situation.

Rats are dangerous and can chew through a whole host of items! Rats can also climb quite a few items. It is like to be these reasons why you are trying to catch them in the first place. Let’s take a look at ways you can deal with a rat caught in a trap that is still alive.

Why Is the Rat Still Alive in the Trap?

The first thing you should do when you find a live rat in one of your traps is to figure out what is keeping it there.

Here are some common reasons:

The Rat Is Trapped

The rat is stuck where it is, usually because it is enclosed in some non-lethal trap like a cage.

This is probably the most common reason why you might end up with a live rat on your hands.

The Rat Is Hurt

The rat is too severely injured to escape the trap and cannot leave.

This can happen when a lethal trap doesn’t quite do its job or when an accident or malfunction happens.

It Has Broken or Missing Limbs

The rat cannot leave because it cannot walk on one or more of its limbs. This can happen if something like a classic snap trap closes on the limb but not the rest of the rat.

The Rat is Caught on Something

The rat is stuck because part of it (tail, claws, etc.) has snagged on the trap part.

This is uncommon with newer traps but still possible.

The Rat Has Not Been There Long

Even if you’ve used a trap that would normally be lethal, like a rolling log trap with water beneath it, you may come across the rat quickly enough to catch it while it’s still alive.

Similarly, if a snap trap hasn’t killed the rat instantly, you may get to it before the rat eventually dies.

What Do You Do? Kill Humanely, or Release?

Now that you have a better idea of what happened to the rat, you need to ask one fundamental question:

Is the rat trapped because it is sick or injured, or because it simply cannot escape?

The answer will inform how you should proceed from here. If the rat looks like it is in pain, is bleeding, has limbs twisted the wrong way, or has any other noticeable physical problems, it is unlikely to survive in the wild in its present state.

This means that it may be kinder to kill it humanely rather than force it to take its chances out in the world. Assess the situation and try to figure out what is most appropriate in your rat’s case.

What Can I Do About a Rat That Is Still Alive in a Trap?

Rat Caught Alive In A Trap_ 5 Things You Can Do Infographic

At this point, it’s finally time to decide what to do with the rat.

Depending on the situation, you’ll have several options available to you. You could:

Take It To a Vet

The kindest thing you can do for an injured rat you have trapped is to take it to the vet and have its wounds looked at by a professional.

If the rat does look like it needs help and you don’t want to have to kill it, a vet may restore it to health and make releasing it a viable option. However, this is likely to be at least somewhat expensive, and some vets will not treat wild rats anyway.

Be prepared to pay the ensuing bills and consider calling around your local vet offices in advance to make sure they are willing to take on your unconventional patient.

Release It

If the rat is already in good shape or the vet is not an option, you can think about releasing the animal back into the wild.

You’ll want to do this a reasonable distance from your home and take reasonable precautions beforehand, such as getting an up-to-date rabies vaccine and using gloves and other tools that will allow you to keep your distance from the rat.

Once you have freed it in a place where it has an obvious path to escape, it will almost certainly run off and give you no further trouble.

Find a Humane Way to Kill It

When releasing the rat is not possible, it’s up to you to make sure it does not suffer unnecessarily. You want to do the job as quickly and painlessly as possible, so avoid methods like poisoning and drowning that often cause the animal to die slowly and painfully.

Chloroforming or carbon dioxide asphyxiation are commonly regarded as good methods as long as you take care to perform them properly; make sure you do your research before you attempt it.

Call a Pest Control Service

Not everyone is comfortable handling a scared wild rat that may carry disease or be prone to biting. In these cases, you may be better off calling a pest control service to help you out.

Handling rodents is no problem for a pest control expert. They are rarely afraid of the creatures and will have all the vaccinations needed to handle them safely.

Be sure to specify that you want to use humane solutions only, though.

Take It To Your Local Humane Society

If you can capture the rat but do not know how to or cannot bring yourself to deal with it, you may be able to take it to a Humane Society clinic for help.

They can often provide you with guidance regarding what is best for the rat and how you ought to deal with it. They can help you get access to the resources you need, and best of all, you can be certain that they have the animal’s best interests at heart.

How long does it take a rat to die in a trap?

A rat can take up to 3 days to die in a trap. That time is only if it is not injured. An injured rat will die quicker.

How will a rat die in a trap?

A rat will either die of starvation, lack of water, or from injuries sustained from the trap.

How far should you release a trapped rat?

I release live rats over 3 miles away. Although a rat will not travel too far (it doesn't need to), I would rather it be released fat enough away for it to now return!


No one ever wants to have to deal with a rat caught in any trap while it is still alive, but it’s a risk you accept when you set out traps in the first place.

By weighing the options above, you should have no trouble finding a viable solution to this problem; be sure always to put the animal’s welfare first.

PS there are ways you can get rid of rats without killing them, so this might be a sign!

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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