Ever heard of ‘neophobia’? This is the term used to describe a fear of anything new and is something seen regularly in rats. Here we explore this further and how this behaviour can affect rat treatments and controlling these pests.

What is Neophobia?

Neophobia, as mentioned above, is a fear of new objects and is a common behaviour rats display. Whilst rats will happily explore different environments they are also highly attuned to what is usually in that environment. As a result of this their survival instincts cause them to avoid and fear anything that is new.

How does Neophobia affect rat control?

Fear of new objects in their environment means rats are hesitant to approach new objects, such as bait stations or traps. It is only when they are used to those objects being in their environment and they do not see them as a threat that they will begin to explore them. Before then they may avoid the bait, traps or boxes completely or will take a very small amount of bait to see if anything happens before they return to eat more freely.

Rats who are used to areas which frequently change have a lessened neophobic response to sites which are rarely disturbed. You may therefore see a quicker acceptance to new objects in an area where there is regular human presence as opposed to a derelict property.

How can Neophobia be overcome when treating rat infestations?

Unfortunately there is no hard set way of reducing neophobic responses in rats, here at ACD Pest Control we utilise various methods and practices to reduce this response. For example we look at reducing the ‘smell’ of humans on the boxes using an attractant spray applied to the boxes.

When dealing with rats patience is key to eradicate the infestation, once rats no longer see a threat from the objects they will approach them and this marks a turning point in tackling the problem. Although this neophobic response cannot be prevented completely, there are other things we look at when rat infestations are treated, including the placement of the equipment used to tackle the infestation and the type of bait used.

When your site or property is initially inspected a full site survey is completed, which will note any food sources currently available to the rats and any visible rat runs (pathways rats have made when travelling along their preferred route). Gathering this information is crucial to ensure the site is set up correctly and will successfully eradicate the rat infestation.

Neophobia in Action

Click on the link below to watch a video showing two rats, who despite being inquisitive, ultimately avoid entering the bait station and make a joint dash for freedom…

Video: Rat Control in Gloucestershire