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What Do Rat Droppings Look Like?

Rowan Burgess |

If you’ve heard telltale scratching or squeaking coming from a roof space or area in an outbuilding, chances are you have rodents in your residence. 

Mice or rats are not welcome guests, but rats, in particular, carry some seriously nasty diseases and will only multiply after they’ve moved in. It won’t take long for an infestation to develop.

You can identify which rodents you have by their droppings, noises, and other activity – you may even see some! You’ll need to know which rodents you have before taking action to get rid of them.

Find out how to tell rodent faeces apart before you give them notice to quit.

How Do You Identify Rat Droppings?

Rodent manure is easy to spot, but the big question is, have you got rats or mice?

In reality, mouse and rat droppings are pretty easy to tell apart. 

Rat waste consists of large, dark pellets around ½”- ¾” long (up to 2cm) and cylindrical. They are brown/black and often have one smooth and one textured side.

Rat faeces are bigger than the mouse equivalent and can be confused with raisins, coffee beans, or large rice grains. What a mistake to make!

Rats also leave small piles of what looks like sawdust, called frass, more usually associated with wood-boring insects. They produce this by ingesting nesting material and gnawing on wood, another telltale indicator of their presence.

Rats' teeth grow continuously, so chewing and gnawing are key behavioural characteristics.

Rats are large rodents, and their manure near their nest or run as they use the process of defecation to mark out territory. In outbuildings, you’ll also tend to see areas of excavation or disturbance that are far too large to have been made by mice.

Fresh rat droppings have a shiny coating and are a rich, dark colour. If you find grey, dried-out, and dusty waste material, then your rats have probably moved on.

Mouse faces are smaller, more elongated than rat droppings, and have a sharp end. Put the two side by side, and you’ll see a big difference. Online pictures make the distinction clear.

Do Rat Droppings Smell?

Rat droppings don’t smell as much as their urine, which is harder to spot. If you have rats outside in a shed or barn that is well-ventilated, then you may not notice any smell at all.

However, open up wall insulation or an enclosed area to access a rat run or nest for rodent control, and there’ll probably be quite a pungent stench.

Do Rats Leave a Lot of Droppings?

The answer to this depends on how many rats you have! 

Rats are large rodents, so they do produce a lot of droppings. Because they're usually scattered, it’s sometimes easy to underestimate just how many rats you have.

Without proper rodent control, the rat population will multiply quickly, and areas can become covered in droppings.

How Do Rat Droppings Differ From Those of Other Pests?

It’s easy to confuse rat droppings with mice faeces or waste material from other species like squirrels. One of the most significant differences that can help you with identification is their location and presentation.

Rats defecate to mark their territory, so the droppings tend to be scattered rather than in a neat pile.

Another critical difference between rats and other species is the diseases they carry, transmitted via their droppings and urine.

Do Rat Droppings Pose Health Risks?

Rats carry some serious diseases which they can transmit via their droppings and urine. These include Leptospirosis or Weil’s Disease, Salmonellosis, a type of food poisoning, and Hantavirus.

Rat droppings are also dangerous to other species, like dogs.

If you’re cleaning up rat waste, take care when you remove them and any nesting material and other objects. Wear gloves and a mask, and ventilate the area thoroughly.

You should also be careful when setting rat or bait traps as part of a rodent control programme. Your health protection is paramount, but it’s worth knowing that human smell can also put rats off traps.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Big Are Rat Droppings?

Rat droppings are around ½”- ¾” long (up to 2cm) and are easy to tell apart from mouse faeces, not just by their size but their shape  - cylindrical with rounded ends - and distribution.

There will usually be other evidence that you have rats besides the droppings.

Looking for Rodent Control? Shop Dalton Engineering!

No one wants to find rodent droppings in their home or outbuildings. Prompt action is essential to eliminate the problem and protect property and human health.

Shop Dalton Engineering for a wide range of tried and tested rodent control products to control rodents in the home and on farms and livestock units.