Using Live Catch Traps for Humane Rat and Mouse Control

Live catch rat and mouse cage traps are humane, non-lethal devices that are used to capture pest rodent. They are designed to trap the animals without harming them, so that any non-pest native rodents that are captured can be relocated or released back into the wild.

These humane traps all work by the same principle, they use a simple mechanism that allows rodents to enter the trap but prevents them from leaving.

What Are the Different Types of Rat and Mouse Cage Traps?

The basic design of a live catch trap is a cage or box made from metal or plastic with a spring-loaded door. When the rodent enters the trap to get to the bait inside, it steps on a trigger plate, or pulls on a level that has the bait attached, which releases the door that closes behind them, trapping them inside. Once the trap is tripped by a rat or mouse, no more rodents can enter.

A spring-loaded cage trap, the springs pull the door shut when the bait lever is pulled by a rat
Cage trap set with door open and ready to be baited, the door handle folds flat against the top of the cage
The door is held open by the long latch bar which goes through the door handle and inserted through the loop at the top of the bait lever. When the bait lever hook is pulled, it releases the latch bar and the door closes.
The bait is placed on the bait hook, which releases the spring-loaded door when a rat grabs the bait and pulls it back towards the door to remove it

Single catch traps may also be triggered with a sloped trigger plate that the rat or mouse steps on to close the entrance.

A single-catch rat cage trap that drops the door to close when the trigger plate is pressed
A close-up view of the trigger plate in this rat cage trap
The sloped trigger plate is connected to a L-shaped wire that holds back the latch
When a rat steps on the trigger plate, it releases the latch bar that runs up and to the left
After the trap is triggered, the latch bar is released which drops the door down
The door has a self-locking clip which locks it shut, the lever at the top needs to be pulled forwards to unlock the door to release any trapped rodents

Some live catch traps, known as multiple catch rodent traps, use a one-way door, which allows many rats or mice to keep on entering the trap in a single trapping session. These traps are more efficient when pest numbers are high, as more than one rodent can be caught at a time.

This multiple catch (continuous catch) cage trap is a simple design that uses a wire funnel that works as a one way entrance, so many rats can enter but none can escape
The wire loops hold the base against the top, and can be unfolded to release the rats inside
The base separates from the top cage section, making it easy to put the bait inside, as well as to wash and clean the trap

Some multiple-catch traps use a one-way trap door to let the rodents in but prevent them from escaping.

Rats enter the trap through the funnel on the left which leads to the trapdoor on the right
The bait sits below the trap door, so when the rat steps on it, it opens, but closes behind them

Many cage traps also include an easy-release mechanism, such as a large exit door, to make it easier to release the captured rodent.

The other end of this multiple-catch trap opens to put the bait in and let the trapped rats out

Using live catch traps is a cost-effective solution, as they are designed to be reusable, allowing multiple rodents to be caught and released (or humanely dispatched) over time.

While these traps are increasingly being used due to their humane nature, it’s important to use them correctly and check them often. Attend to any trapped rodents as quickly as possible to minimize stress and harm to the animals, especially during extremes of hot or cold weather, or if the traps are exposed to the rain.

A trapdoor style live catch mouse trap that fits onto a 20L plastic drum can capture a large number of mice, it’s important to check inside as it’s not easy to see inside like a cage trap
To use this trap, place a small amount of peanut butter on the distant tip of the trapdoor, so when mice walk towards it, they fall in. Rats are too big for this trap and can avoid falling in!

Just like any other product, there are advantages and disadvantages to using live catch rat and mouse cage traps, which we will be discussed below.

Benefits of Live Catch Rat and Mouse Cage Traps

The biggest advantages of using humane live catch traps is that they’re non-lethal, they don’t cause any harm to the rodents they capture, unlike traditional lethal traps that are designed to kill.

Once the rodents are caught, they can be safely released into the wild if that’s the appropriate thing to do, where they can continue their lives without causing any harm or damage to human property.

These traps are reusable, making them an eco-friendly option. Just clean and sanitise them or wash them down with a hose outdoors after each use, allow them to dry, then set them up again.

Since live catch traps don’t use poison baits, they’re a safer option for households with children and pets, and they also don’t pose a hazardous risk for native wildlife that might eat the toxic baits or poisoned rodents.

Limitations of Live Catch Rat and Mouse Cage Traps

With single-catch cage traps, only one rodent can be caught at a time. Since rats and mice are nocturnal, being active at night, only one animal can be caught each night, and released in the morning. This means that the trap will need to be emptied and reset multiple times over many days to capture all the rodents that may be present. A multiple-catch trap which can continuously trap rodents and trap more than one each night gets around this limitation.

Using live catch traps can also be time-consuming, as it’s necessary to check the traps regularly and release the rodents as soon as possible to avoid cruelty and prevent them from suffering.

In cases of large rodent infestations, live catch traps may not be the most efficient ways of dealing with the problem. Using several multiple-catch traps may address this issue, but in some cases, where pest numbers are very high, it may be necessary to use other pest control methods in conjunction with live catch traps.

Having rodents trapped outdoors in cages overnight can also have the downside of attracting other animals that eat rodents to your property. Depending on where you live and what wildlife are about, cats, dogs, foxes, opossums, raccoons, weasels, skunks and other predators may be drawn to what appears to be a prepackaged meal!

Can Rats and Mice Escape from Live Catch Cage Traps?

Mice can squeeze through these narrow bars of this cage that can’t even fit my fingertip!

As a general rule, rats and mice can fit through any gap or hole that is larger than their skull, which isn’t that large!

Mice are highly flexible and can squeeze through very small openings in search of food and shelter. On average, a mouse’s skull is around 9-10mm in width, so they can squeeze through gaps that are as small as 6mm in diameter depending on their age, size and agility.

If mice are raiding your live-catch rat traps, add a few smaller live-catch mouse traps which have a much finer wire mesh or transparent plastic sides, to catch them as well!

Plastic live catch mouse traps can be made of plastic which prevents small mice from escaping
The door for mice to enter is shown on the left, locked into the open position, while the rear cover is removed to allow the bait to be placed inside
When a mouse steps on the trigger plate at the back to get to the bait, it closes the entrance door, trapping the mouse inside

Mice can easily wriggle through the mesh of a rat cage trap with very closely spaced bars that are typically 10-12mm (3/8-1/2″) apart, to steal the bait and crawl back out the way they came.

The bars of this cage are 1cm (3/8″) apart, yet I’ve witnessed mice pull themselves through this gap to steal the bait from this rat trap

Rats are much larger than mice and have bigger skulls and bodies, so they can’t fit through gaps as small as mice can, but they can still squeeze through surprisingly small openings.

On average, a rat’s skull is around 15-20mm in width, so they can squeeze through any gap or hole larger than their head, around 20-25mm in diameter or wider.

How Far Away Must Rats and Mice Be Released So They Don’t Return?

When releasing captured rats or mice, it’s important to take them far enough away from your home or property that they can’t easily find their way back.

The distance required for successful relocation can vary depending on the species, as well as the specific environment and habitat in the area. As a general rule, it’s recommended to release rats and mice at least 3-5km (2-3 miles) away from a home or property. This distance should be sufficient to prevent the rodents from returning, as they are unlikely to be able to find their way back over such a great distance.

The problem with relocating rats and mice is that they’re highly adaptable and may be able to survive and even thrive in their new location, creating problems there. It’s therefore important to carefully consider the decision to relocate captured rodents. You may want to consult with a local wildlife expert or pest control professional for guidance on humane and effective relocation strategies. In some cases, it may be more appropriate to ethically euthanize captured rodents to prevent them from causing harm to people or property.

What Ecological Harm Do Rats and Mice Cause to the Environment and Native Wildlife?

Releasing introduced species of rats and mice into an area where they are not native cause significant ecological harm to the environment and native wildlife, because of their ability to outcompete and prey upon native species, as well as their general adaptability and high reproductive rates.

Some of the ways non-native rodents can cause ecological damage include:

  1. Predation on native species – rats and mice are opportunistic predators and can consume a wide variety of food, including insects, birds, small mammals, reptiles, and eggs, leading to declines or even extinctions of vulnerable species.
  2. Competition for resources – introduced rats and mice are highly efficient in exploiting available resources and can outcompete native animals for limited resources such as food, nesting sites, and shelter, affecting their survival and reproduction. Mice, for example, displace small birds from their nesting sites to occupy them.
  3. Disease transmission – rats and mice are hosts of various diseases that may be spread to local wildlife and even humans, with some via the exchange of fleas, ticks, and other parasites that they carry.
  4. Seed predation and plant impact – rodents are known for their preference of consuming seeds, which can reduce plant regeneration and alter the composition of plant communities, which in turn can impact other animals that rely on those plants for food or shelter.
  5. Ecosystem degradation – the burrowing activities of introduced rodents can destabilize soil, leading to erosion and changes in the landscape, which can affect other plant and animal species that depend on stable habitats.

These ecological impacts can have cascading effects on entire ecosystems, leading to declines in biodiversity and changes in ecosystem function. It’s therefore important to manage introduced rat and mouse species populations to help protect native wildlife and their habitats.

Here are some more rat and mouse control articles that may be of interest:

  1. How To Tell If You Have Rats and Mice in Your Home or Garden
  2. The Best Ways to Trap Rats and Mice That Really Work
  3. How To Make Safe and Effective Rat and Mouse Baits Using Baking Soda

2 thoughts on “Using Live Catch Traps for Humane Rat and Mouse Control

  1. My understanding is that true grey or brown rats are an introduced species, which is not native to Australia, therefore they should be killed & disposed of, & NEVER catched in a trap & released back into the environment

    1. Yes, the Black Rat or Roof Rat (Rattus rattus) which is charcoal grey to black or light brown above, cream or white below in colour, is believed to be native to India and has been introduced to all continents through human travel overseas.

      The Brown Rat, Ship Rat or Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus) which ranges from gray to brown, often with lighter coloring on the underside, is originally native to northern China, and spread throughout the rest of the world at the beginning in the 18th century through shipping in international trade.

      They are considered pests and do harm native wildlife.

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