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The most humane method of killing a rat is by trapping it with a lethal snap trap. A classic Victor wooden trap will do the job just fine – in fact, it’s the only type of trap I use, and it has never disappointed. A deadly snap trap will kill the rat instantly without putting the animal through any suffering.
There are other types of traps you could use to kill a rat, but I don’t know how humane they really are. What I do know is that they usually don’t work. I’m talking about electric traps or water traps where the rat is supposed to get electrocuted or to drown. Like I said, they don’t usually work, and if some do work in trapping a couple of rats, that’s where they’ll stop. You won’t be able to solve a rat infestation situation solely with these sorts of traps – they’re just not efficient enough.
If you have one or more rats in your actual living space, like in your kitchen, pantry, bedroom, bathroom or living room, it’s a little bit more complicated than with rats in the attic, for example. Ideally, you would use the same lethal snap trap approach, but if you don’t have the time and patience to do your research on correct use of these types of traps, you can try using a BB gun. It could get a bit messy, but if you have a rat that’s hiding under furniture or in cupboards, somewhere where you can aim at it, I guess an air gun would be humane if it would accomplish instant death. To be clear, shooting rats for sport is not something I would ever endorse.
Poisons or glue board traps are simply the worst. They’re actually extremely inhumane, on top of their other multiple cons which I have already discussed at length on this website. Rats are horrible pests, I agree, but they are intelligent and capable of emotions; they should never be tortured. Show them mercy by killing them quickly with a wooden snap trap – it’s your best option.
If you’re hiring a wildlife removal specialist, make sure you also discuss what killing method they will use for dealing with the rats on your property, and don’t engage in further collaboration if they don’t dispose of rats humanly. Your local exterminator or pest control company are pretty sure to use poisons and never actually solve your problem, so I don’t suggest employing them for rat control. You want wildlife removal experienced professionals when fighting rat invasion, and pest control companies or exterminators who usually deal with insects and bugs don’t do a good job with mammals. For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does rat removal cost? - get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of rats - my main rat removal info guide.
Example rat trapping photographs - get do-it-yourself ideas.
Rat job blog - learn from great examples of rat jobs I've done.