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Easy, homemade live-rat trap

An unwelcome rat in your home can steal food, damage walls and spread disease. Some people, however, are squeamish about killing living creatures. Even if you're not, glue traps can leave you with a mangled rat and poison can cause rats to die out of sight, where they'll rot and stink. Fortunately, building a live trap is an easy, cheap and humane way to get rid of your rodent invader.

Gathering supplies

You can find the items you'll need to trap a rat around your household. Find a rubbish bin at least 60 cm (2 feet) tall. Whether it's plastic or metal, make sure the edges are smooth. Rats are expert climbers and powerful jumpers. Find a narrow piece of cardboard, at least 5 cm (2 inches) wide and long enough to lean against the top of the dustbin at a gentle slope. If you take a spare piece of cardboard from the garage, make sure it's clean and not coated with oils or chemicals that may repel the rat.

Choosing bait

Ideal rat bait is both aromatic and a bit sticky. Use peanut butter for best results. If you prefer a different bait, melt a bit of chocolate or soften a few small marshmallows in the microwave. Pungent cheese also works, but melt it as well.

Setting the trap

Find the spot in the house with the most signs of rat activity, such as abundant droppings or stored food. Set up the dustbin nearby with the lid removed. Place the cardboard to make a bridge to the bin's rim from the floor or counter surface. Cut two slits a few inches long and about 5 cm (2 inches) apart on the end of the cardboard and fold it down, making a loose tab dangling over the bin. Place the bait on the tab, and leave it out overnight. When the rat tries to eat the bait, it will fall through the loose tab and into the bin, unable to escape. Rats can fall as far as 15 m (50 feet) without serious injury.

Releasing the rat

The captured rat will be terrified, so release it as quickly as possible. Don't try to pick it up. Even small rats have sharp teeth and can give you a nasty bite. Keep the bin upright when you move it to prevent the rat from escaping. Seal the bin with sturdy cling film as a precaution, but be sure to punch a few air holes for the rat. Release the rat at least a mile away from your home to prevent it from finding its way back. If you live in a rural area, go to a spot away from any houses to release it. If you live in a city, take the rat to a secluded area in a park. Once you find a spot, tip the bin on its side and let the rat escape.

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About the Author

Michael Baker has worked as a full-time journalist since 2002 and currently serves as editor for several travel-industry trade publications in New York. He previously was a business reporter for "The Press of Atlantic City" in New Jersey and "The [Brazoria County] Facts" in Freeport, Texas. Baker holds a Master of Science in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.