How To Find A Lost Pet Rat: 24 Tricks That Work

There comes a time in nearly every rat owner’s life that causes their heart to leap into their throat and it’s when a rat goes missing. Now, the good news is that you can find a lost rat as long as you keep your wits about you and we’re going to show you exactly how to do so.

How To Find A Lost Pet Rat: 24 Tricks That Work includes 7 actions to take as soon as you know your rat is missing, 4 actions to take when you know roughly where the rat will be, 8 actions to take when you don’t, how to get a rat to come to you when you find it and 4 ways to trap a rat safely if these actions fail.

So, let’s start with whether rats will escape and then move on to the proven strategies for keeping them safe and getting them home unharmed.

Will Pet Rats Escape?

Yes, sadly, there comes a time in nearly every rat’s life when it gets confused, frightened or curious and it disappears because you accidentally left the cage door open, because it felt like it when you’re at play or for any other reason that makes sense to your rat.

This isn’t your fault and you shouldn’t spend any time worrying about how your rat went missing but rather focus your efforts on getting the rat back and without it coming to any harm.

Fortunately, there are plenty of techniques you can use to find a lost pet rat that should bring them home to you without any real trouble.

What To Do When You Notice Your Rat Is Missing

If you find that a pet rat has gone missing, your first actions can really help your chances of finding your rat and doing so safely. So, don’t panic – you can do your worrying once your friend is safe and sound. You need to get moving and there are 7 actions you need to take immediately:

  1. Eliminate any hazards
  2. Remove other pets
  3. Seal off windows, doors, etc.
  4. Drain or cover open water sources
  5. Remove toxic materials
  6. Remove plants
  7. Get rid of any noise distractions

So, let’s take a look at each of those in turn and see what you’ve got to do.

Eliminate Any Hazards

A hazard is anything around that might cause harm to your rat if he/she ends up getting involved with it. Firstly, you might want to move any cables that are laying around (firstly, for the risk of electrocution damage if your rat chews on them and secondly, to remove the trip hazards and chances of them getting caught up in a wire and hurting themselves).

Then it’s time to take a quick look around for things that might hurt your rat if they bumped into them or got trapped in them. Make this a quick scan – you’ve got other things to do afterward.

Remove Other Pets

Rats can get on with your other pets such as cats and dogs but it’s better to be safe than sorry – unless you are 100% certain that your pets will still be friends when your back is turned, remove any other animals from the space that you think the lost rat might be in. You don’t want them turning into a quick snack.

However, if you are positive you can trust your dog, you might want to keep them on hand – they might be able to sniff out where your rat is hiding for you. This can cut down on searching for him/her.

Seal Off The Doors, Windows, Etc.

A lost rat will be even more lost if it can get out of the space that you lost him/her in. You want to go around the room and block any possible exits particularly those to the outside world. Close the windows immediately. Shut the doors and if necessary, block the gap under the doors as rats can get through these spaces.

Also check for any holes in the skirting boards, etc. and plug them up – these can be particularly problematic as getting a rat out of the masonry in your home is going to be a lot of work if you can’t entice them back out with some food.

Drain Or Cover Open Water Sources

Possibly the worst thing that could happen to your rat is if they drowned and that means you need to either drain and remove any water sources in the space (anything from a vase full of water to a bucket needs attending to).

Alternatively, if you can’t, for whatever reason, drain and remove the source – you need to cover it up securely enough that your rat can’t get in there. They’re really not very good at dealing with water at the best of times.

Remove Toxic Materials

It’s not entirely likely that your rat is going to start munching on things that they’ve never eaten before. Mainly because rats are quite neophobic, and they don’t tend to trust new things in their environment until they’ve seen them a few times.

However, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry and it’s easy to walk around and quickly pick up any toxic materials that are in reach and just put them somewhere safe that your rat can’t find them.

Remove Plants

You should also remove any houseplants unless you’re 100% positive that they are not poisonous to your rats. The one thing that you rat might just decide to nibble on is that nice green juicy dinner in a pot in the corner of your room.

This might be a bit of effort but it’s very much worth doing. You don’t want to find your rat suffering because it ate something that wasn’t good for it.

Get Rid Of Any Noise Distractions

You should also try to remember that rats do not enjoy being around loud noises. Your rat is much more likely to return if the TV, radio, etc. are off and if you can manage it, you might want to ask your family to try and keep the noise down too (sadly, we know that this can be next to impossible with children).

You will also have a better chance of hearing your rat scampering about in your home if you’ve got the noise levels down so it’s a win-win technique for locating a lost rat.

What Do When You Know Which Room Your Rat Is In

OK, for this next section we are going to assume that you have a very good idea where your rat is, but you just can’t see them in the room. You should follow the steps above to make sure that the space is safe and then move on to these four simple steps:

  1. Don’t sit down!
  2. Make your rat a home base
  3. Add food and water
  4. Build a book staircase when using an aquarium

So, let’s examine each step, in turn.

Don’t Sit Down!

Any seats with soft cushions on them might have a rat hiding beneath the cushions – so don’t sit down. If you do, you might crush your rat and either severely injure them or kill them. You need to make sure everyone around knows not to sit down too.

Removing the cushions can help you see if the rat is on the sofas and armchairs and it will encourage others not to sit down too. The rat may still be inside the body of the sofa or chair, so it’s important not to just put the cushions back and assume it’s OK to sit until the rat is found.

Make Your Rat A Home Base

OK, your next step is to try and build a place that your rat will want to return to. You can use their cage if you don’t have any other rats in it or you can use a spare cage or even an aquarium for this.

Please note that we don’t recommend using an aquarium as a permanent home for your rats, but it will do find in this instance where you’re using it to lure your rat to come back home. The rat shouldn’t spend more than a few hours in the tank, though, so you’re going to have to keep a careful eye on it.

You want to add some bedding and ideally, a few of your rat’s droppings so that it will smell like home.

Add Food And Water

Rats are motivated by food and water, so try to make sure that you’ve left a nice bowl of its favorite treats inside in the home base and a water bottle. You really don’t want to risk your rat becoming dehydrated while it’s lost as this can become a serious health problem.

Build A Book Staircase If You Use An Aquarium

If you want the rat to get into the aquarium – then you’re going to need to help it get there. The easiest way to do this is to use some books to build a little staircase so it can get to the top and jump in.

It’s not likely to jump back out again when it finds food and comfortable bedding. So, there’s no need to build another staircase on the inside.

When You Need To Search To Find Your Rat

If luring your rat back into the open is not working, then you might need to start searching for them and that means a methodical check of the environment.

Start At The Cage

You want to start where the rat escaped which is normally around the cage and then slowly work outward from there. While rats can, of course, flee from the scene and end up almost anywhere, they don’t tend to like to leave their comfortable homes and easy food sources behind without a good reason. So, start close to home.

Check Behind Furniture

Be careful when moving furniture because you don’t want to hurt a rat that’s hiding under the furniture but you want to pull out chairs, bookcases, beds, etc. and have a look behind them – you would be amazed at the spaces a rat can fit in. So, you really do need to check everywhere.

Check Under Furniture

When we say “under” furniture there are two places to check. The floor underneath of the furniture and also, the actual underneath of the furniture. There may be holes in the base of beds, chairs, etc. that rats can climb up into and make a home in.

Check Boxes And Bags

Then it’s time to check any storage boxes or open boxes of anything plus any bags that you have laying around the place. It’s very easy for rats to head into little dark alcoves and then hunker down waiting for nightfall.

Check Shoes & Boots

The same is true of shoes and boots and you really don’t want to put your foot into a shoe to find a frightened rat inside, the rat will not be kind to your toes, and it won’t be its fault. So, if there are any laying around the place just upend them and make sure ratty isn’t sleeping inside.

Check Behind Appliances

The other place to check is behind any white goods and any other appliances like TVs, record players (are we showing are age?), games consoles, etc. rats aren’t going to be able to tell the difference between these (potentially very expensive) hiding spots and anywhere else.

Put Down Foil/Crinkly Plastic

If you’ve hunted high and low and still had no luck, it can help to put some tinfoil on the floor or some crinkly plastic. That way if your rat scampers over them, you’ll be able to hear them.

Sprinkle Some Flour

You could also try dusting the floor in areas where you think the rat might be. There’s nothing like a set of floury footprints to help you find your rat. However, please make sure that it’s ordinary baking flour with no additives, you don’t want to harm your rat in the search.

What To Do If You Find The Rat But It Won’t Come To You?

Sometimes, you’ll find your rat and it will eagerly race into your outstretched palm but many other times, it won’t.

That’s OK, don’t worry – you can try bribing them using a treat to get them to come forward and that will often do the trick.

If that’s not working. Get a paper towel tube (or some other tunnel like object) and hold the opening near them – bait the tube with a treat if you want. Rats love tunnels and they may well scamper straight inside.

When they do, pick the tube up but carefully (you don’t want them to flee) – you might want to cover both ends with your hands to prevent another escape.

When All Else Fails: Option 1 Get A Store Bought Trap (400)

If you can’t find your rat using all the tricks and tips above, then it’s time to consider a trap. Don’t worry, we’re only talking about traps that won’t harm your rat. You can either use a store bought trap or you can make your own. Let’s start with store bought traps.

Buy The Right Trap

You need to make sure that the trap you buy is designed to capture the rat and not kill it. You must make certain that the trap is labelled as “humane” or a “live trap” – if you’re in any doubt, don’t buy it.

Watch out for the label “humane killing” which is used when the trap kills the animal instantly without pain. You don’t want one of those.

The Havahart Mouse Trap

The “have a heart” trap is a great trap because it has two open sides and that means the rat can wander in easily. They are a little more expensive than some of the other traps but it may be worth it to you in order to increase your chances of catching your rat.

They are made from wire mesh and are completely safe for both you as a user and the rat.

You place a treat (“the bait”) in the center of the trap. This forces the rat to enter the trap to claim the treat rather than being able to steal it from a side without going inside.

You should use a very small amount of peanut butter to stick the treat to the center of the cage (don’t use a lot – rats can choke on peanut butter).

When the rat is trapped – there is a lot of room inside for it to move around safely.

The Smart Mouse Trap

The prettiest of the mouse traps is the smart mouse trap and it’s a big favorite of animal charities globally.

You need to choose a bait with a very strong odor in order for the rat to detect it because in this trap – the rat doesn’t actually get to eat the bait. We’d recommend a strong cheese or some fried bacon.

When the rat enters the trap, the door drops down behind it and it can’t leave.

Because the rat can’t eat the bait, you might want to leave some treats in the housing for it to eat until you get back to it.

Use Treats As Bait

You can use a line of treats leading up to the trap to entice your rat to go near it if you want. Try to pick whatever it is that you rat really loves but don’t leave out so many treats that the rat is too full to care about the treat in the trap.

Make Sure To Check The Trap Everyday

You should try to check the trap every 2 hours because a rat shouldn’t be left without water for much longer than this.

If you’re not getting a result, check the bait – is it gone? If so, the rat has probably got it and not set off the trap.

If the bait is still there. Give it a day and then move the location of the trap or alternatively, change the bait that you are using.

When All Else Fails: Option 2 Make A Trash Can Trap

If you can’t find a trap locally or you don’t want to pay for one – you can always make one and the first homemade trap is the trash can trap.

The Ingredients

You don’t need much for this trap:

  • A trash can (which is deep enough that the rat can’t leap out of it)
  • An empty toilet roll tube
  • Some bait (that’s a treat your rat loves)
  • Some scotch tape
  • Two quarters (or other small weights)

How To Place The Trap

OK, you need the rat to fall into the trash can, so you need to position this trap next to a counter or table. You line the trash can with some bedding (to help break the rats fall) but don’t put in so much that it provides a platform for your rat to leap out of the trash can from.

Get The Toilet Paper Tube Ready

You place the toilet paper tube on the edge of the table or counter and in a way that slightly more than half is hanging over the edge. If you’re using a longer tube – it’s better to cut it short rather than leave it long. Flatten the side of the tube slightly so it won’t roll down the counter. Tape the quarters to the tube to counterbalance the tube so it stays on the table.

Bait The Trap

Use a tiny bit of peanut butter to stick a piece of bait right at the far end of the roll (so that when your rat reaches it, the tube will tip over into the garbage) and also place a little bit of bait in the entrance of the toilet roll to encourage the rat to enter.

Removing The Rat From The Trap

Check the trap every 2 hours and make sure to pick the rat out of the trap with 2 hands to ensure that it doesn’t wriggle free and end up missing all over again.

We don’t recommend leaving this trap out overnight as if your rat has to go for more than 2 hours without water it will become dangerously dehydrated.

When All Else Fails: Option 3 Make A Bucket Trap

If you don’t have a high surface for your rat to fall off of – then you will want to use this trap. It’s a little harder to make than the trash can trap but it’s still not very difficult. The bucket trap is very effective in recapturing lost rats.

The Ingredients

You’re going to need a little more in the way of materials but not much more:

  • A bucket
  • A metal wire
  • A soda can (empty)
  • A wooden plank
  • Duct tape
  • Peanut butter

Preparing The Soda Can

You’re going to hang your soda can on a wire over the top of your bucket and when it’s there it needs to be able to spin. Basically, the rat heads for the can to eat the bait and then the can spins and drops it into the bucket.

So, drill a hole (or stab one) in the base of the can. Then run the wire through the hole and through the open lid of the soda can.

Fixing The Soda Can Onto The Bucket

You want the wire to stretch across the center of the bucket so that the rat can’t grab onto the sides of your bucket and stop itself from falling.

Put the metal wire through the handle holes on your bucket or duct tape the wire to the side if there are no holes.

Just give the can a little nudge to make sure that it can spin when you’re done.

Baiting The Trap

You want to put some peanut butter on the can (as any other kind of bait will fall off) but try to keep it to a thin layer as peanut butter can be dangerous and present a choking hazard. Fortunately, the rat won’t eat much before it’s dumped into the bucket.

Place The Plank

You use the plank to give the rat an easy walkway to the top  of the bucket – just far enough from the can that the rat can reach it but will have to step off the plan in order to eat the peanut butter.

Removing The Rat From The Trap

Check the trap every 2 hours and make sure to pick the rat out of the trap with 2 hands to ensure that it doesn’t wriggle free and end up missing all over again.

We don’t recommend leaving this trap out overnight as if your rat has to go for more than 2 hours without water it will become dangerously dehydrated.


We hope that now you’ve read our guide “How To Find A Lost Pet Rat: 24 Tricks That Work” that you feel confident that you can help your rat if they escape in your home. The most important thing to do is not to panic – take action after action until your rat is home, instead.

It’s normal and natural for rats to get lost but it’s also fairly easy to find your rat again and you should soon have your furry friend home and safe, if you follow these steps.

Darren Black

I'm Darren Black, the owner, and author of I am from Scotland, United Kingdom and passionate about sharing useful information and tips about properly caring for an animal's wellbeing.

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