Mice and rats can become a massive problem on your property in a very short timeframe. Although these rodents can survive perfectly well in the wild, a human home offers an environment where they can thrive with enticing benefits: easy access to food, plenty of hiding places, and few natural predators.
Knowing the signs of a rodent problem is essential to preventing a rampant rat and mouse infestation. If you notice any of the signs below, it’s time to call a pest control expert.
1. Droppings Littered Around Your Home and Outdoor Areas
Unlike some animals, rats and mice don’t have a designated “bathroom” area, so you may see their droppings in any number of places around your home. You’ll have the best chance of finding them in areas where rodents travel, hide, and forage for food, such as pantries, cupboards, cabinets, drawers, closets, attics, garages, and below sinks.
2. Sweaty, Bitter, Ammonia-like Odors
You may smell the presence of rats or mice in your home before you see them. These rodents dribble almost constantly as they scurry along. Because mice and rats tend to travel the same routes through a house or yard, the smell of what they leave behind will accumulate over time.
Rats, in particular, “mark” with their urine as a way of communicating with other rats, displaying traits such as sex, social status, and reproductive status. To a rat, the scent of their own urine is comforting, so they will often mark all kinds of new objects in their habitat to make the environment feel more safe and familiar. As if that were not unpleasant enough from a human perspective, rats will even urinate on and around food to mark it as safe to eat now and later.
3. Rodent Runways, Trails, and Smear Marks
Mice and rats tend to be creatures of habit. As such, they’ll often take the same routes to and from a reliable food source. Over time, you can start to see the clues that give away a rodent trail or “runway”:
- Rodent runways are typically on the floor or ground and run alongside something vertical, like a wall, fence, or pipe.
- Outdoors, the mulch, grass, and other growth will be pushed down or cleared away so that a dirt path becomes visible.
- Indoors, you can see smear marks left behind by the dirt and oils on the rodent’s underside.
- Droppings may be littered along the runway.
4. Skittering, Scratching Noises in the Walls
If you notice sounds that resemble scratching inside your walls between dusk and dawn, there’s a good chance there are either mice or rats inside your home. Rodents can enter these hidden spaces by chewing holes through your roof, crawl space, drywall, plaster, and baseboards. Once inside, rats and mice will use the areas behind your walls to nest and travel to food.
5. Signs of Gnawing
Rats and mice don’t just chew when they’re eating. Rodents need to gnaw almost constantly to keep their incisors filed down. Rats and mice have incredibly strong teeth, so you may see their teeth marks on plastic, wood, sheet metal, rubber, and fiberglass. Rodents are also infamous for gnawing on cables and electrical wires, which can damage your electronics and disrupt your home’s wiring.