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Are There Squirrels or Rats in My House?

a squirrel on a wooden fence

Squirrels may be cute to some, but they can also cause as much damage as many other pests. Like rats, squirrels are also rodents. Both animals are clever and enjoy chewing on a variety of items. This also means both creatures can leave quite a mess if they get into your home. Nonetheless, there are some differences you can look out for to help determine whether you have a squirrel problem versus a rat problem.


While they are both small, furry, brownish or grey-colored animals that have small ears, there are a few differences. Squirrels are generally a bit larger than rats, and their eyes are usually a bit bigger. Squirrels also usually have a more distinct division between their heads and bodies than rats do.

The types of squirrels that are most often found in neighborhoods can grow to around 18 inches to over 2 feet long, on average. Meanwhile, most species of rats average about a foot to 18 inches long, including their tail. The tail itself is also a good indicator of what kind of animal you are dealing with. Rats usually have hairless, thin and scaly tails, while squirrels have thicker, fluffy tails.

If you are not able to spot the squirrel or rat itself, you can also look for some other signs that might help you tell the difference.

Activity Patterns

One sign that might help determine what kind of animal is in your home is when the critter is active and what kinds of activities are going on. This is because rats are often nocturnal or creatures of the night, while squirrels are usually diurnal or most active during the day. However, this sign on its own is not enough to figure out what kind of pest you have. This is because rats and squirrels can sometimes stray from their typical patterns and run around at different times of the night or day.

Another thing to watch out for is the season. Rats are typically active year-round and look for shelter in homes when the weather gets cold. Meanwhile, many species of squirrels hibernate or are less active during colder months when there is less food available.

Similarly, their reproductive habits are quite different. Squirrels take several months to reach sexual maturity and usually have only two litters each year—typically around the end of spring and towards the end of summer. On the other hand, rats reach sexual maturity shortly after they are born, mate often, have shorter pregnancies and can produce an average of five to ten litters each year.

rats in a nest


Where you find a nest and what it is made of can also be a good indicator of the type of pest that is on your property. Both rats and squirrels can build nests indoors or outside, but squirrels most often build their nests in trees. If they decide to build a nest inside a home, it will most likely be in the attic or roof area. On the other hand, rat nests are more likely to be in a more protected space. For example, you might find a rat’s nest in a burrow under your home’s foundation. Or, you may find a rat’s nest in a rarely used cabinet or corner of an attic.

Additionally, squirrels most often use natural materials like twigs, leaves or moss for their nests. As you can see in the image above, rats often use a range of natural and manmade materials for their nests, including shredded paper, insulation, cardboard, grass or cloth.


Another common factor that can help differentiate between rats and squirrels is the noises they make. Humans typically cannot hear many of the sounds that rats make when they communicate with each other. But, they might be able to hear the high-pitched squeals or squeaks that rats make when they are in distress. Meanwhile, squirrels communicate using a variety of sounds that humans can hear. Depending on the species, you might hear barks, chirps, chatters or moans.


Squirrels’ diets typically consist of nuts and seeds, but can include other things like fruit, bird eggs and insects. While rats also eat many of these things, rats are more likely to be opportunists when it comes to food. Signs of rats include chew marks on the side of a bag of pet food or find partially eaten food in your pantry.


If you find holes in the side of your house, along the roofline or near the attic, it is important to pay attention to their size. The entry points for squirrels are usually larger—around a few inches in diameter—than those for rats, which can fit through holes less than an inch big. Additionally, if you find holes or burrows in lower areas, such as near your foundation, deck, porch or sidewalk, then it is more likely that you have a rat problem.

Figuring out what kind of pest you have on your property is often frustrating and time-consuming for homeowners. That is why it is usually easiest and fastest to contact a professional. They can take care of all your rodent and wildlife control needs.

a rat in a garden

How to Know if There Are Rats in My Garden

Many different kinds of animals might see a garden as a free buffet. You may spend hours cultivating your prized vegetables and brightly colored herbs. Then, a rat or other kind of wildlife might end up being the one who gets to enjoy the fruits of your labor. When this infuriating situation occurs, it is important to know what kind of animal is to blame. This information can help you prevent it from happening again in the future.

Some of the pests that most commonly feast on gardens include rats, squirrels, possums, gophers, rabbits and raccoons. Many of these pests leave the same kinds of damage behind. But, there are some clues that you can look for that might help determine who is ruining your garden.

For one, it is important to pay attention to what time the damage is occurring. Squirrels are most active during the day, so you are most likely to see these critters in action. They might eat pieces of fruit or dig small holes in your garden when they are hiding food or looking for food they hid earlier.

It is also important to look for other kinds of damage around your yard. For example, if your bird feeders look damaged, then it is likely you have a squirrel problem. Squirrels are excellent climbers, and they love to feast on seeds that homeowners leave out to attract and feed birds.

On the other hand, if something is digging up your yard at night, you could be dealing with rats or some other animal, such as possums. These pests are mainly active at night and are more likely to raid your garden in the dark. They are also more likely to eat whole fruits, instead of just a portion of the fruit like squirrels. They are also more likely to munch on vegetables and leafy greens.

When you do not see what type of animal is attacking your yard, it is often hard to know how to take care of the problem. However, pest control professionals have the training to recognize the signs of various kinds of wildlife problems. They have the expert experience to help you take back your garden.

rat poop

How to Tell Squirrel Poop versus Rat Poop

Another way to differentiate between squirrels and rats is by the differences in their droppings. For one, there is a slight difference in their color and shape. Rat poop, which is pictured above, is usually almost black and oblong with points on the ends. Meanwhile, squirrel poop is much lighter and generally a smooth barrel shape. Squirrel droppings are a paler brown color and are sometimes reddish because of their diet of nuts, seeds and fruits. On the other hand, rats eat a much greater variety of things.

Additionally, you can also look at where the droppings are. Squirrels generally poop in specific spots, while rats are more likely to poop all over the place as they are traveling from one spot to another.

One thing that squirrel and rat droppings have in common is that they can both carry disease. If you get too close to their feces, you might expose yourself to salmonella, leptospirosis or a whole host of other risks. That is why it is safest to let a wildlife control specialist deal with the rodent problem instead of trying to handle it on your own. They will create a thorough treatment plan, so you don’t have to worry about repelling squirrels or rats yourself.

ABC Can Get Rodents Out of Your Home and Garden 

It can feel defeating when rodents are damaging your home, garden and yard. Instead of spending your precious time trying to identify and control rodents, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our professionals will be able to determine what rodent is on your property. Then, they will create a custom treatment plan, so you don’t have to worry about these creatures.

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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