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Can Rats See in the Dark?

a rat in darkness

When you hear rustling around the house at night, it could be a family member going into the kitchen for a midnight snack. If you hear noises in the wall, it’s an entirely different kind of hungry critter. Rats regularly scrounge for food and water at night, which has led to the popular belief that rodents can see very well in the dark. But can they really?

It is true that rats are nocturnal animals and would much rather hide away during the daylight hours than run about your home. Rats are incredibly sensitive to bright lights. It hurts their eyes. So it would make sense for them to have night vision. However, rats actually have pretty poor vision no matter how much light there is.

Most rats have adapted to living in low light and are pretty nearsighted, with the ability to only see a couple of feet in front of them, even in the best conditions. The rodents can see in color similarly to humans, but they don’t have much clarity of vision. Everything is a bit blurry. Rats do, however, have other ways to find food and avoid danger.

Rats’ hearing is excellent. Humans’ hearing range is generally up to 20 kHz. Anything higher than that, which we cannot hear, is called “ultrasound.” Rats can hear frequencies from about 80 kHz to 90 kHz! This aural ability helps alert them to a predator that might be near and posing a threat.

Rats also use their whiskers to sense depth. This helps them navigate short distances. However, when it comes to long-range travel, rats’ hearing is what does the job. And it is also what helps rats sense when a homeowner or their pet is nearby so they can scurry away before you can see them. That makes it difficult to know for sure that you have an infestation. Luckily, there are other ways to determine that rats are likely living in your home.

Telltale Signs of Rats

If you see large groupings of dark pellets the length of a penny or a dime, then you have rats. The rodents use their feces to mark territory, so it won’t be in just one place. Homeowners will often find rat droppings around insulation or other soft material. Rats usually produce about 40 droppings a night.

If the pellets look grayish and dusty, the feces is old, and you might be fortunate enough to have had your infestation move on. If you have droppings, you also have rat urine, which has a strong and unpleasant smell. It is hard to deny there is an infestation if you notice these signs of rats in your home or garage. However, the only way to know for sure is to contact a pest control expert for a full evaluation. They will be able to tell you if you have a rat problem and can also recommend and perform services to get rid of them.

What Are Those Holes in My Yard?

Many rats love to burrow, and they will dig wherever they can. Look for burrow holes next to solid structures such as sheds, garages, porches or even around your home’s exterior. These holes serve as a place for rats to store their food, seek shelter and make a nest. Rats make nests from soft materials such as fabric, insulation or shredded cardboard.

You can tell a rat’s burrow from just a regular hole or one made by another animal in several ways. The entrance is usually 2 to 4 inches wide, and it will be clear of debris. If rats are currently using the burrows, the hole will have smooth walls with hard-packed dirt.

Look For the Trail

Believe it or not, rats will leave footprints behind in less-used areas of your home such as the garage. If you suspect an infestation, sprinkle baby powder behind appliances or around the bottom of the walls in such spaces. Check during the daytime and see if you notice little footprints or signs of a tail disturbing the powder.

Of course, the easiest way to determine if you have a rat infestation is to bring in a rodent control expert.

a rat in a garden

Why Do Rats Chew Wires?

Rats, like mice, chew on things for a reason. Rodents’ teeth continually grow, and to file them down, they chew on just about everything you can think of. That includes electrical wiring in your home and even in your vehicle. Rats like wires in part because they are round, so they can hold the wire while they gnaw away and file the teeth down to reduce the pain of the constant growth.

The rodents will get up under the hood and nestle in, keeping warm, especially if your vehicle is parked for an extended length of time. And, while they are living it up under your hood, they will use your engine’s electrical system as a file for their teeth. At one time, auto wires were coated in petroleum products. Rats were still eager to chew on them then, but many people have said there seems to be an uptick in such destruction when the car industry switched to a soy-based coating.

No matter what they are coated in, wires have long been a favorite for rats and mice. The damage rats can inflict on a vehicle’s electrical system can be extensive and expensive. Parking in the garage, if possible, will reduce the chances that rats will move under the hood. There are also many commercially available products you can spray or spread on and around the engine that contain smells that keep rats away.

a rat on a roof

Why Do Rats Squeak?

Many sounds that rats make are above human hearing range. But what do rats sound like to humans? What we can hear comes out as a squeak, or more accurately squeaks. Rats communicate using different tones and types of squeaks to indicate different states of emotion.

Short chirps indicate more of a playful mood, with young rats expressing this noise more than adults do. A prolonged squeaking sound usually indicates that the rat feels scared or is in pain. When a rat gets caught in a trap, you will likely hear this if you are nearby as it tries to escape.

You are far more likely to hear rats scurrying about than to hear them letting you know how they are feeling. Rats like places such as attics, and it isn’t uncommon to hear them rustling around in the insulation or running across the roof. This is why certain species are known as roof rats. Rats also make noticeable noises as they move inside your walls themselves. It can be unnerving to hear these things, but don’t ignore them! If you are hearing rats, you can be sure they aren’t just passing through. They are unwelcome guests in your home, and you need the help of a licensed pest control professional to send them packing.

ABC Can Remove Rodents and Prevent Their Return

Managing a pest problem can be unnerving for many reasons. If rodents, wildlife or any other variety of pest is giving you trouble, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our highly-trained specialists can remove any unwelcome visitors on your property, so you can feel comfortable at home again. For further peace of mind, we can provide you with ongoing pest management to help you avoid future problems.

Holt Myers

Holt joined ABC in 2021 as the Electrical & Appliance Operations Manager before transitioning to Division Manager for Pest Control. Before ABC, Holt worked as a Project Manager and Superintendent in Construction. Holt also served in the US Marine Corps from 2003 to 2007. Holt is a member of NPMA’s PestVets, Stewards of the Wild and Texas Wildlife Association. Holt is an avid outdoorsman, who loves to travel and spend time with his wife and daughter.

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