Best Animal Traps

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

22 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
133 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best animal traps

Last Updated October 2019

If you have a barn, you have rats and mice. If you have a garden, whether you live in the country or the city, you’re going to have squirrels, possums, and raccoons helping themselves to midnight snacks from it. In fact, regardless of where you live or what the climate is like, you  may very well have random pesky animals tearing up your yard, trying to get into your garbage, digging in your flowerbeds, climbing the fence, and running across your roof.

That’s where an animal trap comes in. Live-capture animal trapping is an art rather than a science. Science deals with quantifiable results and predictability, but there is very little that is predictable about an animal’s reaction to a trap suddenly appearing in their habitat, no matter how good it smells. This unpredictability is what makes it an art instead of a science.

No worries: we’re here to help. Read on for our expert information on live animal trapping and our recommendations for the best animal traps on the market today.

Live-capture traps avoid the “blood-n-guts” mess of snap traps.

Key considerations

Trap size

Getting a trap that’s the wrong size is like getting the wrong size of shoes. It’s detrimental to your goal, and you may as well have bought nothing. If the trap is too small, the animals will be afraid of trying to squeeze into it, no matter how good the bait smells. If the trap is too big, they might have enough room to turn around and launch themselves out when the door starts to shut.

Before buying a trap, make sure you know what kind of animal you’re dealing with. Then, look up the average size of that animal in your area. Animal sizes, even within the same species, can vary greatly from one region to another.

Rats and mice are the exceptions to the rule about tight spaces. They are accustomed to tight spaces, and in fact, they prefer them because their eyesight is so bad. (If rats and mice were human, they’d be declared legally blind. That’s how bad their eyesight is, hence the old nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice.”) Enclosed spaces where their whiskers, called vibrissa, can reach the walls on either side are their preferred habitat.

Rats and mice have another unique attribute. The only actual bone in their bodies is the skull. All of their other “bones” aren’t bones at all; they’re cartilage. If they can get their head through a hole, the rest of their body can squeeze through, too. Therefore, if you’re trapping rats and mice, be sure the mesh is too small for them to get their head through. Otherwise, you’ll keep finding the trap sprung, the bait gone, and nothing inside.

Hand protection

Panicked animals are unpredictable, and they are at their most panicked when they’re trapped in a cage with a human coming toward them. They will often hurl themselves at you when you’re trying to pick the trap up so you can transport them somewhere to let them go. They have no idea what you’re going to do, and they’ll fight tooth and nail to get free.

Solid metal plate guards around the top carrying handle and door latches are a must if you don’t want to be clawed or bitten.

The other side of the coin is that the animal may be paralyzed with fear, and you’ll literally have to dump it out of the trap to set it free. Be prepared to jump if you have to do that. The majority of the time, the animal will run away — but that remaining one percent of the time is when it will turn and attack. There is no way of knowing which it will be, so be on your guard.

Closure speed

Galvanized or not, metal traps eventually rust if they’re left out in the elements. The rust will affect how fast the traps close. Even if there’s no rust on the trap, metal grating on metal doesn’t allow a trap to close as fast as you might like. Occasionally, metal burrs on the metal, left over from the manufacturing process, will prevent the door from closing all the way or slow it down when it is closing.

Examine the door mechanism when you first get the trap, and grind down any burrs or protrusions that could inhibit the door’s movement. Next, apply some very light sewing machine oil to the moving parts. Don’t use too much, or the scent may frighten the animals away.

Don’t use any kind of vegetable oil. All that will do is attract the animals to the door itself, licking at it to get the oil. You want them to ignore the door and go inside the trap.

Placement

Where you put the trap is important. Since rats and mice are nearly blind, they tend to run along the walls of a new area until they have a mental map of it in their head. They’ll often leave rub marks on walls or other objects — oil from their hair that leaves a dark smudge where they’ve rubbed against something. When you’re trapping rats or mice, place the trap flush against the wall. That way, they are guaranteed to encounter it.

If you’re trapping raccoons, place the trap near trash cans — preferably behind them, between the trash can and a wall. They’ll find it.

For other animals, place the trap in an area where they’ve been foraging. Don’t put it out in the open, though. Put it in among the bushes, up next to the trees, or beside rocks and boulders.

Timer Release

This is a trap for catching larger animals such as raccoons and feral cats. What makes this trap really stand out is the timed-release door. It can be set for up to five minutes, allowing you to move safely away from the trap by the time the door automatically opens to release the animal. This is a fantastic solution to the age-old problem of panicked animals attacking you when you try to let them go.

Features

Timed release

This is a newer live trap feature. A timer, like a wind-up egg timer in the kitchen, can be set for times of up to five minutes before it automatically opens the trap. When relocating a trapped critter, this gives you time to walk away from the trap before it opens and releases the animal.

Construction

Most live-capture traps are made of galvanized steel for strength, durability, and weather resistance. The steel mesh allows for plenty of air circulation but is still small enough that the animal can’t escape once it has been caught.

However, some animal traps are made of clear plastic. This lets you see the animal trapped inside the cage but keeps the animal from escaping, as there are no holes to squeeze through. The animal can’t scratch, claw, or bite you, either.

Protective plates

Panicked animals will sometimes try to attack the person picking up the trap and opening it. As mentioned, better traps have a protective metal plate around the handle so the animal can’t reach you. Traps without protective plates require the use of heavy gloves when you’re handling the trap. The gloves can make it awkward when you’re trying to open it and release the animal.

Double doors

Some traps have multiple doors for animals to enter. This sounds better than it actually is in practice, but it does present the trap as a tunnel instead of a dead end when the animal examines it.

EXPERT TIP

Live-capture traps are safe for your hands and fingers when you’re setting them.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Snap traps, whether with teeth or a hammer mechanism, won’t always kill the animal, leaving it in agony until you show up and kill it yourself.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Live-capture traps avoid the danger of putting out poison that could end up hurting children or pets.


Staff  | BestReviews

Animal trap prices

Low-cost animal traps range from $9 to $15. Generally, these are smaller traps for rats and mice. They will have fine wire mesh or solid plastic with air holes so the animal won’t suffocate.

The mid-range encompasses traps that cost from $15 to $35. These will be metal traps for large squirrels and rats, possums, gophers, baby raccoons, and small skunks. The trap door is typically spring-loaded. None of these traps are made from plastic.

High-priced traps cost $35 and up. These are large traps for adult raccoons, feral cats, and large skunks. Some of the trap doors on larger traps will be gravity-operated. Aside from their size, they’re quite similar to mid-priced traps.

Safe Around Children

Mice are so small, they’re able to squeeze out of almost any wire mesh cage. They’re so fast, it’s difficult catching them in the first place. This trap solves both problems. The door closes up instead of down, making it nearly impossible for the mouse to escape before it is trapped. And, because the trap is solid plastic, there is no way for the critter to escape. Plus, trapped animals can’t bite or scratch you or your children when the trap is picked up.

Tips

  • Bait rat and mouse traps with peanut butter. If it’s slightly rancid, that’s even better.

  • Bait a raccoon trap with your leftovers from dinner. Raccoons are garbage guts; they’ll go for it.

  • Bait other traps with whatever nuts, fruits, or vegetables the animal has been trying to get.

  • Never touch the trap with your bare hands. It will transfer your smell to it, and the animals won’t enter it.

  • Never smoke around rat and mouse traps. They will avoid the smell and the traps.

  • Rinse the trap off after each use to wash away any blood, urine, or feces from the previous animal.

Other products we considered

A large trap for raccoons, feral cats, chickens, rabbits, and other bigger pest animals is the OxGord Live Animal Trap. This is a preassembled, heavy-duty trap that will resist an animal’s most desperate attempts to escape. We especially like the wide metal plate around the carrying handle to prevent the animal from biting or clawing you when you pick up the trap for transport.

Another large trap we liked is the Humane Live Animal Trap by Amagabeli Garden & Home. It has a solid, gravity-operated door that drops straight down when the animal steps on the trigger. It has to be assembled when it arrives, and the process is a bit tricky. Otherwise, it’s a great trap at a good price.

Always release the animals three to five miles away from where they were captured to avoid having them return.

FAQ

Q. Will the traps ever kill the animals instead of capturing them?

A. Yes. Occasionally, the animal will get halfway out the door and be caught and killed by it.

Q. Will animals kill themselves trying to get out of the trap?

A. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes, yes.

Q. How long should I keep trapping?

A. A good rule of thumb is to continue trapping until you haven’t trapped or seen any animals for a minimum of eight weeks.

Q. Will animals come back after I’ve trapped and removed them?

A. It’s possible but unlikely. Any new sightings are probably new animals moving in.

Q. How often should I change the bait?

A. There’s no hard rule on this one, but once every three days should be enough.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jacob
    Jacob
    Editorial Manager
  • Karen
    Karen
    Writer
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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