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Rat Droppings

Summary: The discovery of rat droppings can be upsetting, at the very least. But, knowing what you are looking at can tell so much about your rat infestation.

Your first reaction to finding rat droppings is shock. This occurs when you had no idea your home or business was being invaded by rodents. Instinctively, you look to the left and right to see if little, beady rodent eyes are watching your every move. You back out of the room hoping you won’t be ambushed by hungry, flesh-eating rats. Get a grip! You’ve been watching too many Hollywood horror flicks.

Rodents, even hungry ones, are more scared of you than you of them. I know it does not compute that way in your brain, but it is true. The biggest, baddest rat on the block weighs just over a pound, regardless of all those stories of people seeing rats as big as cats. It just ain’t so! Maybe when they jump out


from a dark corner with their backs humped up and their hair standing on end it makes them look a lot larger. But, fact is, they average about a pound and can reach about 18”, nose to tail. It was reported that someone in England once found a 2.5 pound monster rat, but I’ve never seen a picture of it.

Once your nerves have settled back down, you need to screw up some courage and reenter the room where you found the rodent evidence. There are some simple rules of detection I am going to teach you that will tell you if your rodent activity is current or history. First, the size of the rodent dropping will tell you if your visitor is a mouse or a rat. Mouse droppings are very thin and tapered on the ends. Rat droppings are considerably larger and are blunt on the ends. These droppings measure from about ½” to ¾” in length and about ¼” in diameter. Mouse droppings only measure about ¼” in length.

If you find droppings all of similar size you are probably dealing with a single rat. Droppings of varying size could mean an infestation of several rats. The color of the droppings is also important. Fresh droppings will glisten due to the moisture in the droppings. They are also soft and will smear if you mash them with a stick or your shoe. After only a few days the droppings dry out and become dull. They will break apart if stepped on.

Rat droppings

To make sure you are not looking at the same droppings next time you check, be sure to sweep up and discard the droppings you find. Small amounts can be discarded without worry about environmental issues. Large accumulations may need to be treated with a disinfectant before removal, plus you may need to wear a proper respirator, goggles, gloves and disposable coveralls.

If you find a large amount of accumulated rodent droppings you are most likely very near to where the rodent is nesting. If the droppings are fresh you may want to do that back step move out of the room because your little friend is likely to be close by. It’s at this point that you have completed the discovery stage of your investigation and it’s time to either call in the troops or start thinking about a plan of action to catch and remove your unwanted guest.


01 Dec 2010, 05:14
I have what I think is a rat for the last 3 weeks and cant catch it. I have 3 traps and a cage. The other day it came into my 2 year olds bedroom and ate an advent calender that had chocolate in it so I have now moved out a night time. It seems to be so smart it hid the chocolate which we found and put a trap there but no luck. It eats food off the traps we have blocked up all holes except one and don't know what to do. Please help
08 Dec 2010, 15:02
I pre-baited a couple of snap mouse traps for several days (they would be spotless clean the next day), and when I finally set them I found one of them the next day closed (the entire trap was upside down) with the bait still in it, and no trace of the rodent. Do I have a Speedy Gonzalez who can withdraw before it gets hurt, or is it a rat and the trap did not hurt it enough? Droppings are light gray, 1/2 in long x 3/8 in wide, but rather tapered than blunt. That spot has now been compromised: I tried re-pre-baiting and the thing won't even lick it. Found another spot and have been successfully pre-baiting there for more than a week, but it's too tight for a rat trap (I am using an open mouse snap trap). I'm afraid to set it only to have the rodent escape unharmed like the first time and compromise this new spot. Any help and advice you can provide would help!
08 Dec 2010, 16:22
After four weeks of trying to catch my rat we finally got him. I opened the hot press earlier and he was just sitting there my husband and brother in law came in a hit him with a shovel and he is now dead. after weeks of hid and seek and four traps and a cage later we got him by hitting him over the head.
Ask the Exterminator
08 Dec 2010, 16:38
It sounds like you are doing the right thing, but from the size of the dropping you may be dealing with something larger than a mouse. I'd move up to a rat trap.
08 Dec 2010, 21:16
Bummer, there is no way I will be able to stick a rat trap to my current working pre-bait spot. It is above the kitchen cabinets, right above the range hood: the hood's exhaust pipe goes up through the cabinet's wooden top and then through the sheetrock before bending and running horizontally to the outside wall; the rat feeds on my pre-bait right on top of the sheetrock, beneath the horizontal portion of the exhaust; I can barely sneak my hand in there with an open (and pre-baited) mouse snap trap.

There is more space within the cabinets, right on top of the range hood, I could comfortably set up to two large rat traps there, but how to attract the rat to get down there? I have put a 1 1/2 foot long wooden plank (about 1/2 x 1 1/2 in section) from the cut in the sheetrock to where I could set my traps, but it's steep and the rat started licking off the peanut butter on the upper couple of inches but has never ventured even half way down. Is he capable of going down, but too scared (in which case I can only keep luring him), or is my ladder too big of a physical challenge (in which case I'll have to improve its rodent ergonomics)?
Ask the Exterminator
09 Dec 2010, 10:01
Rats are excellent climbers. Rats are also very cautious about approaching new things in their environment. The wooden plank is a new object. Keep baiting the plank and the rat will eventually get use to its presence and start to use it.
06 Jan 2011, 11:13
Ok wev'e been trying to catch a mouse for 3 weeks now . I set up some mouse/rat poison in the house because the mouse traps arent working and this morning my husband walked into our 3 year olds room and their was a rat just sitting in the middle of the floor by his toys should I be concerned about the rat harming my son while he sleeps and should i throw those toys away?
Ask the Exterminator
06 Jan 2011, 13:06
Just wash the toys. Did you read my comment above about the blacklight flashlight? You need to be more concerned about where the rodent has urinated. Mouse traps won't catch a rat and rat traps must be placed in a locked rodent station to protect children and pets. I would never put out rodent poison inside a house.
08 Jan 2011, 20:00
I live in a condo complex and have rats in the space above my ceiling and the roof. There is no assesible way to physically get up there to clean up the droppings, without tearing down my entire ceiling. Should I be worried about any health concerns since my air exchanger for A/C and heat is located where the rats are? I have an exterminator coming to place traps but he tells me there is no health concern. I ask because i have heard dust from roach droppings can be hazardous.
09 Jan 2011, 21:46
I have found droppings that are about 1cm long (or between 1/4 and 1/2 an inch) for over a week now. I put down the plastic traps that end up containing the mouse when effective, and put peanut butter in the bait area... but no dice. I have neither seen nor heard any mice, but the droppings are found consistently near the wall furnace upstairs, as well as a few times in the kitchen and once in my bedroom. I put cheese in the trap mostly just to determine if the rodents were gone, and they're not - they take the cheese and run. I don't know what to do - get a professional exterminator? I'm in a rental and the landlord dropped a couple of the same traps without bait after i'd used them without success with bait for a week already. Also, do 1-3 droppings/day mean only one creature? Please advise. Many thanks.
Ask the Exterminator
09 Jan 2011, 22:23
Mike: An accumulation of a few rodent droppings are unlikely to harm you. However, if you have a dozens of rats in the ceiling you may want to consider opening the ceiling to clean it out. More than anything, how about discovering where the rats are getting into the building and fixing that hole?
Ask the Exterminator
09 Jan 2011, 22:25
M: It requires a lot more skill to catch rats than simply putting down a few rat traps. They must be pre-baited so the rats become use to their presence. They also have to be positioned properly. I've got lots of articles on how to do this. Just click on "Rodents" in the category list on the left side of the page.
21 Feb 2011, 11:46
we have had issue's with field rats coming in under our house, I think they dig they're way in. So in turn they come into the garage, they're is a hold behind our furnace. I was wondering what to use to fill the hole. My husband was going to use a spray foam, but I would think they would eat through it. Any suggestions? I also poison bait holes outside when I see them and recover the holes as to not kill our cats or other animals. We also have rat traps that work well with a small amount of peanut butter. Just not sure how to keep them from coming in since they burrow.
Ask the Exterminator
21 Feb 2011, 22:14
There is a great product called Xcluder. You can buy it on this website. Watch the short video about it:
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