What are the Signs of a Rat Infestation?

Lainie Petersen

A rat infestation can be identified by examining areas within and outside of a home or building for rat droppings, nests, and tracks. In addition to these signs, the very appearance of a live or dead rat is often an indication that a home or building is already infested. Rats are frequently destructive and may gnaw on floorboards, leaving rough holes in their wake. Rats are also known to be active in the early evening and can sometimes be heard scurrying about in attics and other spaces.

Bite marks on food containers may be a sign of a rat infestation.
Bite marks on food containers may be a sign of a rat infestation.

While unpleasant, actually seeing a rat in or around a premises is the best way of confirming that a rat infestation exists. Dead rats may be found in toilets, basements, and attics, or a household pet may bring one home. Particularly brazen live rats may also risk being seen while inside a home or building.

Some exterminators use rat poison to eliminate rodents.
Some exterminators use rat poison to eliminate rodents.

In cases of a suspected rat infestation, it is a good idea to confirm or alleviate suspicions by examining the areas of a home or building where food is served or stored. A person can start by looking in pantries or cabinets for rat droppings. Rats have also been known to leave behind dirt or grease marks on walls after rubbing against them. Rats may also attempt to chew their way into food containers, so examining them for bite marks or holes is probably a good idea. Rats are also attracted to pet food and may leave evidence of their visit around food and water dishes for domestic pets.

Brown rats are a common rodent pest.
Brown rats are a common rodent pest.

Rats may also be foraging for food outside a home or building. If edibles are grown on the property, signs that they are being consumed by a small animal may indicate a rat infestation. Woodpiles may hide rat carcasses and nests, and their tracks and burrows may be evident in gardens or near outside walls. Other places where rats may visit include dog houses as well as recycling bins, compost piles, and garbage containers.

A rat infestation can present a danger to both humans and domestic animals. Some extermination experts believe that even the sighting of one rat should cause a home or building owner to take immediate action, as there may be a rat colony already established in the premises. While steps to seal up and eliminate items that may attract rats is a good step, professional extermination may be necessary to kill off the colony and prevent future infestations.

A build-up of trash may cause a rat infestation.
A build-up of trash may cause a rat infestation.

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Discussion Comments


@Grivusangel -- Shudder. Usually, you never see the rats -- you just see the results. But I'm glad the guy was able to help your mom. Too bad he had to put down poison, though. I wish that weren't always the go-to remedy for pest control. I guess that's what they have to do, but it's a shame that's the way it is.


My mom was in rehab five weeks for a broken hip, so my husband and I were in and out of the house. We started seeing chewed places in the carpet and droppings far too large for a mouse. We suspected rats and I finally saw one in the kitchen. Eeeeww.

I just called a guy who bills himself as the critter catcher and he came out, fixed a couple of holes around the house, put down some poison and, thank goodness, that was the end of the rat problem.

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