How To Identify A Nest of Rats In Attic Areas Or Outside Your House

rats in attic
You can identify rats in attic areas by looking for rat droppings around your home, gnaw marks on wood or insulation, and accumulation of shredded paper or fabric. Other signs include a strong urine odor, scratching and scurrying noises in the attic, or changes to pet behavior.

Rats are attracted to dark places like attics. Signs of a rat infestation include gnawing marks on wood or plastic, greasy rub marks along walls and baseboards, and damaged food packaging or containers.

Because rats are nocturnal, there’ll likely be noises in the attic at night when they’re active. Since they’re very fast, you’ll hear them quickly scurrying across the attic.

Are you hearing scratching noises at night? Or are small, dark, brown droppings common in your house, garage, or car?

You could be dealing with a potential rat infestation. If you notice these, it’s crucial to take action immediately to get rid of the rats before they further damage your home.

Is It Normal To Have Any Rats In The Attic?

Though common sense might suggest that rats prefer living on the ground level, they’re adept at climbing into the attic and making it their habitat. So yes, it’s normal but not desirable to have rats in the attic!

Once there, they’re not only a threat to the attic but also pose a significant risk to your home’s overall structure. They gnaw their teeth on insulation, piping, and electrical cords, which might expose wires, creating a fire hazard.

Rats can also construct burrow systems on the ground, which might cause structural damage in the long term. Often, the burrows are under sheds, decks, or houses.

rats sitting in an empty pan with forks in a kitchen next to blue tile

6 Signs You Have Rats In Your Attic

Rats in the attic can be a severe problem. Some of the issues the crafty rodents cause include leaving an unpleasant odor, creating nests, and leaving grease marks and tiny footprints.

Here are a few signs of rats in the attic:


You may experience scratching noises coming from the attic. Rats run all over the attic, producing scratching or scurrying noises that can be irritating, especially if there are many.


Urine odor is common in rat infested attics. If the rat infestation is severe, their urine will have a scent akin to ammonia.

Over time, it becomes more unpleasant and staler. Urine pillars, mounds of dirt and urine, stacked up indicate severe infestations.


You may find rat droppings around your home, in the basement, garage, shed and attic. Gray and crumble droppings point to an old infestation, while brown and moist ones point to a fresh infestation.

Gnaw Marks

Rats leave gnaw marks on wood or insulation. They will also rip holes in insulation and try to munch wood. Typically, they’ll chew holes in drawers or other wooden furniture.


You may notice shredded paper or fabric nests. Rats tear and shred scrap paper and clothes to build their nests. If you notice some holes in your favorite sweater, it could be a sign of severe infestation.

Pet Behavior

The presence of rodents can cause change in your pets’ behavior. Pets sense and act differently at the slightest hint of rat intrusion. Your dog or cat will become more alert and look for rats actively.

mouse going into a mouse hole on marble

How Do You Get Rid Of Rats Out Of Your Attic?

Scampering rats in the attic makes such an annoying sound when you try to sleep. On top of that, they can spread contagious diseases and spoil food in the home.

Think you have some rats in the attic? It’s prudent to act immediately before the rat infestation gets severe. If left unattended, they can multiply as they breed and reproduce at will, further threatening your safety and those around you.

The very first step in the process toward getting rid of rats out of the attic is determining what brought them there in the first place. The type that scurries around the attic, roof rats are natural climbers and prefer nesting in attics and trees.

In the attic, they get warmth and protection from predators. Since they’re safe in the attic, they not only grow and mate but also poop up to 40 – 50 tiny, round pellets daily. You don’t want to put up with foul smells throughout the home over time.

Here’s how to get rid of rats out of your attic:

  • Seal any cracks or holes they could be using to get into the attic
  • Consistently maintain and trim any ivy trees around the home
  • Keep piles of debris and firewood far from the house
  • Seal garbage and store food in a tightly closed container
  • Have a rodent control professional for a free inspection of the attic

Will Rats Leave On Their Own?

No, in most cases, rats won’t leave on their own! They’re always in need of a consistent source of food. They’ll move on if there isn’t any food in the house.

So, if you want rats to leave on their own, ensure there is no food source in your home. Always cover food containers and garbage bins. Another way of making rats leave is by disturbing their nests.

Rats leave immediately once they notice their nest is disturbed either by an animal or a person. The best way to guarantee that rats will leave your home is to trap them and remove them yourself.

rat infestation

What Is The Best Way To Repel Rats?

Rats boast a highly acute sense of smell, meaning strong odors like peppermint, cinnamon oil, and pine oil are offensive to them. Ammonia, cloves, and cayenne pepper are also magical at repelling rats.

Scent-based repellents with natural ingredients—usually aromatic essential oils are efficient at driving off rodents. Pellets and packets utilize dry forms of these oils. Sprays, on the other hand, usually dilute liquid forms.

Unlike mothballs or rat killers, scent-based repellents do not contain poisons or harsh chemicals. Thus, this makes them ideal for use around pets, humans, and the environment.

Should I Be Using Poison?

Using poison is not recommended. Although rat poison is effective at killing rats, the smell of dead rats all over the house could be a nuisance. Finding dead rats around the house can be a tall order.

Moreover, poison is dangerous to furry friends, small children, and adults. Babies and crawling toddlers put foreign objects and items into their mouths.

Children may be unaware they’re ingesting something toxic. There were more than 2.1 million human-prison exposures, according to 2020 Annual NPDS Data.

Using poison for rat control can also be dangerous to wildlife. If the rodent escapes the home after taking poison, it could harm other animals outside, such as foxes or hawks.

What About Traps?

Yes, traps are also handy at getting rid of rats in the house. Use the right kind of trap, baited with cheese or peanut butter, to be effective. Peanut butter or cheese is attractive to rats.

Spring or snap traps are fast at killing rats instantly. To prevent other animals/pets from getting into the trap, put them under a milk crate or inside a box. Other types of traps for rats are automatic and live traps.

Live traps are cages with a single-way entry system to trap a rat inside. Once it gets past a particular point, the trigger closes the door behind the rat. Automatic traps, a newer style, use non-toxic lures and carbon dioxide to prevent rats from strolling around the house.

rat on carpet munching

What Attracts Rats In The First Place?

Like many other rodents, rats get into your home for shelter, water, and food. Even dripping pipes attract busy, thirsty rats. Once they’re in, they will start to breed. Before you know it, you may have a full-blown rodent infestation on your hands.

Rats are not picky eaters, so fur, leather, soap, veggies, meat, and milk are all good. They’ll sniff unsecured bags in the house. Compost or even a yard littered with dog waste can attract rats.

Therefore, in addition to covering your garbage bins properly, you also need to secure bags of grass seed, bird seed, or pet food. Lastly, some nut trees or indoor fruity plants are attractive to rats, particularly the roof rats.

How To Keep Those Rats Away In The First Place?

You can keep rats away in the first place by doing the following:

  • Remove any potential food sources
  • Sealing trash cans
  • Keep food stored in airtight containers
  • Fix any leaks
  • Seal any holes in your walls or foundation
  • Block any entry points in roofing or siding
  • Set traps baited with cheese or peanut butter in rat activity areas

If you have a rat problem, taking care of it as soon as possible is essential. While you may be able to get rid of rats on your own, if the infestation is severe, you may need professional help.

A professional pest control company can assess the situation. They are experts that can advise the best course of action for getting rid of problematic rats in your home or attic.


Erika is a Denver, CO native. She graduated top of her class with a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Bioscience. She’s passionate about the protection of wildlife and humane management of varmints. On this blog, Erika shares in-depth tips on everything varmints from guides, and removal, to detection and prevention.

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