Rats are highly intelligent creatures. They often outperform humans on cognitive tests. They like to explore new things, but at the same time have a fear of new objects. Neophobia is the fear of the new. It is a survival mechanism and a fear-based avoidance that protects rats from something unfamiliar. This often happens when rodents are offered new types of lures or food.
Rats usually react to this by ignoring the lure completely, until it feels safe that it poses no harm. This can take anywhere from a few days to a week until they decide it isn’t harmful. Neophobia is lower in areas where there are disturbances often and higher in areas where disruptions rarely occur.
One way to get rodents onto a particular lure is to close off all other food sources and introduce the new lure into areas where the rodents frequent the most. When using new lure, pre-feeding is a very important step to ensure that your trap is successful.
TESTING OUT YOUR LURE
The best way to ensure that a rodent keeps coming back to your lure is through pre-feeding. Pre-feeding is an important process to ensure that rats and mice get familiar with the lure. If this is a new food source, it is important to keep lures at the area over a few days or weeks. The acceptance of lures can depend on the diet they are on, nutritional value, and palpability. Rats have a high sensitivity to smell. If the lures have an overpowering scent, they may not be accepted by rats.
To optimize trapping success, it is important to monitor a rat’s foraging behavior. Rats typically follow the same routes, forming noticeable pathways, and leave behind fecal droppings or smear marks. They use kinesthesis (muscle memory/ muscle awareness) and touch to remember the routes they previously took (BPCA, 2019).
When beginning to apply your lure, it is important to start your lures along their foraging routes. These routes are seen as a survival mechanism for rats. They use these routes both for safety and as an escape route when in danger. However, since rats are neophobic it has been reported that they can pass different lures before trying to reach their favorite food source. Therefore, it is important to place an adequate amount of lures points for the rats to accept the lure.
Rats are also known to hoard lures in situations where several rats were working together. One study conducted by the BPCA found in one trial that lures that weren’t secured often were found to have had their lure removed and hoarded into another location. Not all the hoarded food was eaten and was likely the cause of competing with other working rats. Because of this, any lures should always be secure and not able to be carried off by the rats.
Hoarding is a behavior that is exhibited in the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), house mouse (Mus musculus) and roof rat (Rattus rattus). It can be impacted by the local environment of the rodent and the dynamics within populations. Evidence of hoarded food has been found inside walls and cabinets, as well as many other places. Hoarding has also caused the transferring of poisonous lures.
LIVING LIKE A RAT
Rats and mice typically move in a 24-hour pattern. Rats generally leave their nest for food, water, and breeding from sunrise to sunset. They are nocturnal rodents, with feeding occurring at the beginning and end of this period. Scavenging typically occurs at night as a safety measure to help protect themselves from predators.
The feeding behavior of rats depends on their social status. The more dominant rats will feed only in the darkness, whereas the subordinate rats will feed in early daylight hours to avoid competition. Typically, this results in dominant rats eating the lure first and the second round of deaths are usually from the outranked rats.
Sightings of rats in daylight hours are typically the result of a well-established rodent problem. There are a few occasions where you will see rats during the day. (1) The rat population is large, and the subordinate rodents cannot compete for food during nighttime. (2) The swarm of rats has been undisturbed and accustomed to their environment that feeding during daylight hours is no longer seen as a threat. Lastly, (3) Sources of food are available during the day only. Rats foraging during the day may not be as neophobic and may make control easier.
Rats use biochemicals or pheromones in feces and urine to communicate. They use this for recognition, reproduction, raising alarm, and social organization. One study used these scent markings to help overcome neophobia with lures by mixing grease, dust, hair and scent marks within urinary pillars. They found this to be extremely successful, considering that order signals can be passed from the mother to the young. Therefore, it is important to place feces and urine within the lures for optimal attraction.
HOW TO DEAL WITH HARD TO CATCH RATS
Rodents display a fear of the new towards the various things they encounter in their daily activities. It is essential to place a trap where the rats foraging routes can be located. These can typically be found near walls or foundations. Scent markings are also an important tool in helping to minimize rat infestations. You should check for smear marks along hallways, beams, pipes, gnawed holes, or the edges of stairs.
One way to help catch a neophobic rat is to use a non-toxic lure. Non-toxic lures help to control rat populations as rats typically smell the breath of other rats to see what they’re eating. Rats will then try to find this delicious food source. Using these lures can help to decrease your rodent problem while ensuring no secondary poisoning affects your household pets or any local wildlife in your area.