Are Norway Rats Smart Enough To Avoid Poison Baits?

It is well known that rats are relatively smart, at least when it comes to filthy sewer-dwelling animals, but are the rodents smart enough to discern between sound food sources and poison baits? Surprisingly, it is not uncommon for pest control professionals to encounter Norway rats that consistently avoid poison baits. For example, it took one pest control professional three weeks to exterminate one single rat that had consistently avoided multiple baits within an infested structure. In another example of bait-avoidance, a rat infestation on a jetliner had to be fumigated after millions of dollars were spent on multiple failed baiting system strategies. In order to successfully survive, all animals, including humans, instinctively avoid or exercise caution around new and unrecognizable items and organisms found in their usual environment. The common fear of new and unrecognizable oddities in an environment is termed “neophobia,” and Norway rats owe their success as a species to their neophobic behaviors.

Norway rats dwell in ground burrows that keep them well protected from predators, and when leaving their burrows, they avoid danger by traveling along familiar foraging pathways. Rats rely on their superior memory to rapidly navigate the shortest possible routes to food sources. Considering their cautious behavior, rats regard unrecognizable food sources found on their pathways with suspicion. After a strange food source is encountered repeatedly, rats generally learn to accept the food source as a fixture in their environment. This is why rats usually consume baits after avoiding them for a period of time, but they often avoid baits indefinitely as long as additional food sources can be found in their environment. Rats tend to avoid baits in structures where sound food sources are abundant, such as granaries, food storage warehouses, and zoos. Luckily, in homes, Norway rats overcome their neophobic reaction to baits within 24 hours.

Have you ever struggled to eliminate a rat infestation with baits?