This is quite common, don’t be disheartened. There are several reasons why this can happen, and some things you can do about it.
It may be that it’s not rats taking your bait at all – it’s something else.
Rat traps may not be sensitive enough to trigger when mice – which are a lot smaller and lighter – step on their trigger plate. You might want to try setting mice traps as well or instead, and putting out the rat traps when you’ve got rid of any mice.
Snails and slugs
If snails or slugs are eating your bait, you’ll probably see their silvery trails in and around the trap and trigger plate. You could relocate the trap – but controlling your slugs and snails is also a possibility.
Insects such as ants certainly won’t trigger a rat trap. If ants are found in your garden, they’ll find your trap and may eat the bait before any rats find it. You can buy rat and mouse lures which aren’t attractive for ants.
Rats are dexterous
Rats can sometimes manage to get bait out without triggering a trap – see this video for example.
To reduce the chances of this happening:
- use a good amount of paste baits (such as peanut butter) so the rats will spend longer getting it off and be more likely to get trapped; and
- squash bait well into the cup or trigger plate so the rats have to lick it off vigourously.
However, assuming your trap is actually working (test it with a stick), rats eating your bait are likely to eventually trigger the trap.
Due to variations in manufacture – and traps are mass produced very cheaply to meet a low price point – some individual traps even of the same type might be less sensitive (harder to trigger) than others. This is particularly the case with traps having a lot of plastic parts, such as the T-Rex (see our tips).
You may finding triggering your trap a few times will loosen it up – but obviously do it carefully, using a stick for example!