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.
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.