What Do Rats Like to Eat?
You can trap any pest if you have the right bait to get the job done. Ants, flies, roaches and many other insects have effective sheets, containers and other tools designed based on their eating habits. What about rats? What types of foods should you use to bait and get rid of rats successfully? Getting to know a little more...
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WHAT DO RATS LIKE TO EAT?
You can trap any pest if you have the right bait to get the job done. Ants, flies, roaches and many other insects have effective sheets, containers and other tools designed based on their eating habits. What about rats? What types of foods should you use to bait and get rid of rats successfully? Getting to know a little more about their food preferences and behavioral patterns will help you to answer these types of questions.
Keep in mind that black and brown rats, the most common types of these rodents, are omnivores. They enjoy making meals out of grains, fruits and any human garbage or food scraps they may find along the way. However, this does not mean they are vegetarians. The brown rat is typically more of a carnivore than the black rat. These little meat-eaters have even been seen fishing! Since they do not follow a specific diet, it is imperative for you to focus on how they eat more than what they eat.
Better Followers than Leaders
Rats are typically much better at following the lead of other rats with their eating habits than leading. This “follow the leader” behavior starts as they depend on their nursing mothers after their birth. Young rats follow the lead of their mothers when it comes to learning how to eat, what to eat and where to find it.
They essentially study their mother’s diet during the lactation and nursing stage of their lives, which leads to preferring the same foods their mothers ate. When the time comes for them to find their own food, they pay close attention to their parents and other adult rats. Such behaviors as foraging and hunting for certain foods are learned by these observations and “job shadowing” experiments.
Even after they become adults, rats still follow the lead of other rats in regards to tracking down their food. When interacting with rats from other foraging sites, they smell their breath, fur and whiskers. These social interactions are more business than pleasure as they study what the other rats have eaten to tailor their own preferences based on those past meals.
When Opportunity Knocks, They Eat
As humans, we typically select the food we eat based on our personal preferences. Whether we are searching through a pantry for ingredients or scanning a restaurant menu for entrees, we essentially get to choose the food we want on the plate in front of us. Rats, on the other hand, do not have that privilege. They are mostly opportunistic when it comes to their meal choices. For instance, within the same day, a rat could feast on a dead carcass from the side of a road, an apple that fell from a tree or the food scraps left behind a kitchen counter. When an opportunity to eat presents itself, they usually do not hesitate to accept it.
They Love to Feast on Fruit
It may surprise you to learn that rats love the taste of fruit. Studies have shown that these rodents prefer most citrus fruits and avocado, but they are not picky with these delicious, seeded snacks in general. Black rats (also known as “roof rats”) is an expert with eating lemons and oranges. They can eat the rind of a lemon and leave the flesh. Humans must peel or cut oranges to get to the juicy part. A roof rat can suck the inside of an orange out after making a tiny incision on its outer peel. Be mindful of this if you decide to use fruit as bait to get rid of these rodents, especially if you realize it is not as effective as you think.
An Uncanny Fear of New Foods
Considering a rat’s continuous eating habits, it is easy to assume that they are willing to eat almost anything you put in front of them. On the contrary, they are much more comfortable with what is familiar to them. Rats are instinctively afraid of and cautious near new foods. If it is not familiar to them, they are more than likely going to avoid it regardless of how hungry they are at the time.
This neophobic approach to new foods makes it extremely difficult to get rid of rodent pests with new foods and bait options, because they tend to stay as far away from them as possible. Their fear is connected to their overall concern with their health; they do not want to eat anything that makes them sick. Whenever a rat does manage to try something new, he or she will essentially conduct a “taste test” first – eating a very small amount to see how their body reacts to it. If they get sick; it fails the test; if nothing happens, the food passes the test. This type of “taste testing” allows them to identify and distinguish safe foods from poisonous foods.
Chew vs Eat: Function vs Food
Rats are known for chewing various objects seemingly at random that are not necessarily “edible.” They can gnaw on almost anything around them – from cardboard boxes and wood to brick and lead pipes. In most cases, this seemingly random chewing has more to do with their growing teeth than their growling appetites. A rat’s front teeth grow between 4 ½ and 5 ½ inches every year. To keep them at a manageable size, rats essentially sand them down by gnawing and chewing on objects continuously. When you are searching for signs of a rat infestation, this explains why you need to search for more than just edible food scraps.
Study the Pattern, Trap the Rat
Using foods to get rid of rats may seem nearly impossible considering their diverse menu options and fear of new foods. That is why you must focus on the behavior patterns and eating habits of the rat to effectively bait and trap it. It is true that rats are opportunistic with what they eat, but not so much when it comes to how and where they eat. If you pay close attention to these patterns, you can develop an effective plan to locate infestations and get rid of rats for good.
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