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Signs of Rats and How to Identify Them

The most obvious indicator there are rats is seeing one itself, dead or alive. However, rats are very shy creatures and avoid humans and are therefore not always easy to spot. Explore our handy guide below to recognise some of the signs of rats around the home and garden.


Key characteristics

Size: 16-40cm in length

Weight: 150-300g

Eating habits: Eat 10-30g food per day in 10+ meals

Drinking habits: Rats require more water than mice, between 15-60ml per day

Behaviour: Rats are neophobic, meaning that they dislike anything new and unfamiliar. They exhibit very cautious behaviours and take their time in exploring new things.

Did you know? Rats’ teeth grow five inches a year, only maintained by continuous grinding and gnawing to keep from outgrowing the rat’s mouth!


Signs of a problem

  • Droppings – one of the key signs of rats is droppings left on their travel paths; these are banana shaped for rats (10-20mm). Rats can leave up to 40 droppings per day.
  • Rub marks – rats tend to leave greasy fur marks along their travel routes, for example along skirting boards, floorboards and walls.
  • Gnawed areas – rats incessantly gnaw to keep their incisors short. You are likely to notice damaged areas and even holes in floorboards and walls. They can even chew through soft metals, such as aluminium.

  • Nests & Burrows – Brown Rats dwell in burrows, digging their nest and forming holes in the ground and on grassy embankments. Rats will also shred materials, for example, cardboard and loft insulation to make their nests.


Where to look for rats around the home

  • Kitchens – areas that have food available, such as kitchens and pantries, provide an available source for rats. You may notice chewed food packets and cereal boxes, spilled or even missing food, where rats have snacked.
  • Loft/ Attic – look out for droppings and gnawed areas where rats are nesting. Rats will find safe spaces away from humans to nest, and dark and cluttered loft spaces provide the perfect environment for this.

  • Walls / Ceilings – cavity walls and ceilings give good travel routes for rats that are out of sight of humans. You may also notice scattering and heavy clambering noises when the rats are active, usually, and inconveniently for us, at night!


What about rats outdoors?

  • Shed – look out for entry points, such as holes where rats have burrowed around the edges of shed. Clutter that accumulates in sheds also offers attractive accommodation for rats.
  • Garage/ Outbuilding – stored goods as well as pet food and grains typically found in garages and outbuildings offer food sources to rats. Here you can find gnawed areas or spilled grain, even shredded materials that they use to line their nests.
  • Decking – check the condition of your decking. Has it been gnawed at? Are there signs of burrows along the edge? These could point to an infestation.
  • Compost bins – compost is highly attractive to rats as a source of food and shelter. Make sure that compost in bins is secured tightly with a lid and that there is no overspill.
  • Overgrown Shrubbery – vegetation such as shrubs and bushes provide a good place for rats to nest or burrow. Keep an eye out for holes and dug out areas for a sign that rats could be around.


If you think you may have signs of rats in your home, learn more about how to prevent pests in your home in our handy How to Prevent Mice & Rats guide.





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