Rats are one of the most problematic and annoying pests you can have in your home. If you’ve been dealing with a rat infestation for a while now, you may have tried several ways to get rid of them. So how do you know if your efforts have been successful?
Here are 7 signs that the rats are really gone from your home:
- There are no more rat droppings.
- The usual tracks and smudges have disappeared.
- The stink is gone.
- There are no new gnaw marks.
- You don’t hear scratching sounds at night.
- Your food doesn’t have signs of rat bites or marks.
- You can’t see any more dead or live rats.
In this article, I’ll go into greater detail about these signs that the rats are gone (for good!), as well as a few tips on how to prevent these nasties from ever coming back.
1. There Are No More Rat Droppings
Rat droppings are the most obvious sign that there are rats or mice in your home. These will usually be near trash, food, or old piles of things (like junk and furniture) that you don’t usually move or haven’t been moved for a while.
If you’ve recently called in pest control or dealt with the rats yourself, you should see no new droppings in the areas where you used to see them.
But don’t be too quick to declare your home rat-free just because you don’t see droppings in the next couple of days. Carefully survey the usual spots in your home for the next few weeks. If you don’t see any droppings at all, you can pat yourself (or pest services) on the back and rest easy.
What To Do if You Find Rat Droppings
Be careful not to ignore rat droppings, as rats are very clever creatures. If you don’t do anything about their droppings, rats will take it as a sign that you’re not paying attention. Make it a point to thoroughly clean these as soon as possible. You should also disinfect the area, especially if you prepare food anywhere near it.
Also, since rats do their “business” in those places they frequent, try to check if there are any holes or burrows nearby where they can enter or disappear into. Make sure to seal off those places to keep the rats out.
That said, you should expect the rats to find another way in, as they’ll want to go back to their source of food (and, as I said before, they’re clever creatures). So it’s best to pest-proof your house and seal off all holes or cracks you can find at the first sign that there are rats in your home.
2. The Usual Tracks and Smudges Have Disappeared
In general, rats are quite good at cleaning and grooming themselves. But since they like going to and living in dark, isolated, and (sometimes) wet places like sewers, garbage piles, and trash bins, they tend to carry bacteria and viruses. Their bodies can collect quite a bit of dirt and grease too, even though they clean themselves often.
Because of this, it’s common to find dark smudge marks on walls and tracks on the floor in places where rats live. These will be even more evident if the rats have pestered you for a while because unless they’re disturbed, rats usually go through the same paths and places. This repeated rubbing against their dirty coat is what’s causing those unsightly stains.
How To Track Rodent Paths
If you want to be sure no more rats are living in your home, try to pour powder, flour, corn starch (or any powder you have around) in places you suspect to be frequented by rats. Their ravenous appetites will make them want to return daily (and even several times a day) to places where they expect to find food.
So if the rats are still around, you’ll find tiny footprints on the powder. Don’t forget to clean up the powder residue once you’re done using it — especially if it’s the edible kind like flour and corn starch. You don’t want to have to deal with another problem on top of a rat infestation!
3. The Stink Is Gone
Another sign of a rat infestation is the stink. If you’ve ever smelled rat urine, you probably know that pungent odor all too well. If rats live in your home, not only will there be droppings around, but you’ll also smell that distinctive acidic odor as well.
If you have a large house and aren’t sure where the smell is coming from, keep in mind that rats tend to urinate in or near the areas where they hide. They like hiding in dark, isolated places in your home such as the attic, basement, behind or underneath large home appliances or cabinets, and inside undisturbed nooks.
The sooner you spot where the stink is coming from, the earlier you’ll be able to figure out where the pests are hiding, and the sooner you’ll be able to flush them out of their hiding places.
Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to detect the smell right away, but your pets will. If you notice your dog or cat aggressively pawing at a corner in the kitchen or the wall, it could be a sign they’ve smelled rat urine and know exactly where it’s coming from.
If you’ve recently done something about these pests, try to observe how your pets are behaving, particularly around the areas that you know used to be the rats’ hideout. If they’re still pawing at walls and seemingly lying in wait (in hopes of catching something), you may not have gotten rid of all the rats wreaking havoc in your home.
4. There Are No New Gnaw Marks
When searching for food, rats tend to gnaw at walls, wood, and even plastic to create holes through which they can enter and exit your home. The longer they do so, the more they will gnaw at the same spots, creating larger entryways.
Gnaw marks can also be a sign that your rats are getting bigger or that there are more of them in your home than before. These marks will darken with age, so as soon as you spot one, try to determine whether it’s a fresh hole or one that’s getting larger over time.
New gnaw marks on wood are usually lighter in color. So if you find these, that’s a sure sign rats are still hiding somewhere in your home.
Gnaw marks in plastic are harder to differentiate from old marks, though. So make sure to seal off any holes or burrows that rats have created to keep them from returning.
If they’re not munching on food or creating holes, rats will chew on whatever they can find, which is one of the reasons they can be so destructive. They can also chew on electrical wires, books, and mattresses — you name it!
The only time you’ll no longer see any gnaw marks is when the rats are completely off your property.
5. You Don’t Hear Scratching Sounds At Night
Scared of strange sounds coming from under the bed or the ceiling at night? Rats are nocturnal creatures, meaning they’re more active once the sun goes down. So when you turn off the lights for bedtime, that’s when they get busy scuttling from one dark corner to another in search of their next meal.
When you hear scratching or scurrying sounds, try to pay attention to determine whether it’s just one rat running along or several. Depending on how your house is built, you may be able to determine the size and number of the rats based on the sounds they make. (If you’re not sure how to do this, you can always check with pest control.)
If you have a heavy, large rat scuttling in the shadows, there’s a good chance there could be other rats and mice as well. Pay attention to where the sounds originate and visit those spots in the morning. Look for any holes, nests, or burrows they could enter through or hide in and find a way to block them off somehow.
Prepare to seal other potential hiding places too, because rats will work hard to find another way in. You can also set traps in places they frequent or other areas you think may be prone to infestation. However, be careful when setting traps if you have pets, as your beloved furry friends may get hurt as well!
6. Your Food Doesn’t Have Signs of Rat Bites or Marks
Rats may have poor eyesight, but their keen sense of smell makes up for it. This is why they can smell food from far away, even those inside unopened plastic packaging. It’s common to find food packaging gnawed open if you have a rat infestation in your home.
Until you’re sure the infestation has been brought under control or eliminated, do not leave any food open or in containers that aren’t safe against the sharp teeth of rats. If they smell it, they will find and chew on it.
Also, it’s dangerous to eat something that may have been touched by rats. Viruses can easily be transmitted through rat saliva, urine, or droppings.
So if you have the faintest suspicion of a rat in your home, make sure you keep your food in a secure place and out of these pests’ reach. Aside from keeping your food safe, it’s also an effective way to make your house unattractive to rats. If they can’t find anything they can eat, chances are they will eventually leave to find food elsewhere.
If you find food packaging with signs of tampering, throw it away ASAP. Don’t eat it or give it to your pets. It’s a health hazard for you and your furry friends.
7. You Can’t See Any More Dead or Live Rats
Even if rats are nocturnal, they can still move around in the daytime, although they’re not as busy then as they are at night. So if you have rats at home, don’t be surprised to find one or two running around now and then — especially if they smell food.
If you see tiny mice, it could be a sign that your rats have given birth and multiplied. They usually do so in burrows in the dirt or nests made of bits of trash. So if you have a backyard, try to check for burrows or fruits with chew marks on them. Those burrows aren’t only hideouts but potential nesting areas, so make sure to destroy those right away.
Also, you might be interested to know that it’s usually the mice that are more brazen and tend to run around in daylight. If you’re trying to get rid of a large rat, you might have to use more cunning or call pest control to get rid of it.
How To Prevent a Rat Infestation
As with any problem, prevention is better than cure. Rats are quick-witted and clever, so it can be tricky to get rid of them. But if you make your home inhospitable or unappealing to them in the first place, you may not have to deal with an infestation altogether.
Here are ways to prevent a rat infestation:
- Keep your food in airtight, gnaw-proof containers. Do not trust the plastic packaging that food usually comes with. They don’t stand a chance against rat teeth. Keep your food in airtight, secure containers or the fridge.
- Clean your home regularly. Allowing dirt, dust, and clutter to build up will invite not just rodents but all sorts of nasties. So keep a clean home so the rats don’t feel welcome inside.
- Clean the outside of your home as well. Don’t forget to clear your gardens and backyards. Sweep away any fallen fruits that rats could munch on or leaves they could use as nests.
- Seal off potential entrances. If you’re in a location that’s prone to rodents, make sure to seal off any cracks, holes, or gaps inside your house. If you’re looking for something cheap but effective to patch up holes in the wall with, try this Boncart Drywall Repair Kit (available on Amazon.com). You can use it to seal up holes like a professional, and ensure safety for all members of your family as it doesn’t contain formaldehyde.
Rats can be a major annoyance and safety hazard. They pose a serious risk, not just to your property but even to your health. At the first sign of a rat infestation, contact pest control right away and follow through by making your home inhospitable to these rodents. The last thing you want is new ones coming in after extermination.
- The Spruce: 6 Signs of a Rat or Mice Infestation in Your Home
- The Spruce: How to Identify a Rat Infestation in Your Home
- The Spruce: How to Get Rid of Rats
- Pests in the Home: How to Bug Proof Your Home
- Tufts Now: Five Things to Know About Rats
- Project Multi Pest: Hunting Rats with Terriers
- Indiana Department of Health: Rats and Mice
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Hantavirus