You’re pretty sure you’ve discovered some new houseguests, but you haven’t been able to pin down what kind of animal it is. They don’t sound big, but they’re definitely roaming throughout the house.
It might be a rat or a squirrel. If you’re debating whether you have squirrels or rats in walls, let the five differences below help you figure it out.
Unfortunately, squirrel and rat droppings look pretty similar, but there are a few key differences to help you determine whether you’re dealing with squirrels or rats in walls. Squirrel poop is larger than rat poop, and you’ll find their droppings scattered about the home.
Both are semi-long and narrow, but rat pellets are usually pointed and tapered at the end, resembling olive pits. Squirrel droppings tend to have rounded ends.
Whether you have squirrels or rats in the walls, you’ll hear scurrying. When it comes to vocal ability, squirrels are pretty quiet. Squirrels’ teeth chatter—a sign of aggression—but other than that, these animals are practically noiseless. Rats, on the other hand, are quite vocal, using a combination of hissing and squeaking to communicate emotion. Scratching, gnawing, and rustling are also sounds you’ll hear from rats, along with chomping and grinding of teeth.
Rats are nocturnal, so pay attention to when you hear these noises. Squirrels, unlike rats, sleep at night, so if you hear sounds in the wall during this time, there’s undoubtedly a rat back there. Squirrels are likely to be heard in the morning and evening.
3. Entry Points
Squirrels need a larger hole to squeeze through, which may go unnoticed until careful inspection. You’ll find an entrance the size of a baseball with noticeable damage inside to wires and wood, along with compacted insulation. Squirrels chew holes above gutters and around corners of trim to gain access inside your home. Keep an eye on those spots, as well as shingles, eavestroughs, and outer panels.
Rat entrances aren’t quite as big in comparison, but you can still find them if you look closely. You’ll find burrowed ways in approximately eight centimetres in diameter.
Squirrels or rats in walls will both leave tracks. Each will leave a track with four fingers at the front and five fingers at the back. Their paws may look similar, but they are not alike. Squirrels bound as they move, similar to bunnies. Repetition of this incongruent paw print indicates a squirrel. Their back toes are longer and come up alongside their front paws as they bound forward.
Rats, noticeably different, leave a tail mark in addition to their footprints and rarely stray from the same path. Their poor eyesight makes it different to move without a wall as a guide, and their oily fur leaves a smudge or smear mark along walls and corners. Squirrels won’t leave this kind of rub mark while on the move.
Squirrels or rats in walls both make nests, but no two nests are the same. Squirrels are surprisingly messy, with nests made up of a variety of loosely built materials, including insulation, wood, paper, leaves, and bark.
Rats use a similar combination of insulation, leaves, and other plant material, but they make their nests hard to find. They like to keep them well-hidden. You’ll have to search deep down in insulation or in walls where you suspect there are high levels of rat activity. Rats also prefer warm hiding places that are close to food sources. Squirrel nests are rarely found in walls, preferring to nest in attics.
Squirrel removal should only be attempted by professionals.