How Do You Know If You Have A Rat Or A Squirrel? Squirrel Poop vs Rat Poop

rat versus squirrel 1
Squirrel poop is small, dark, tubular poop that doesn't have a strong odor. Rat poop is large dark, log-shaped and has a putrid stench.

While squirrels and rats share some similarities—both of them are in the rodent family—each has unique habits and habitats. Comparing attributes such as appearance, behavior, diet, and waste can help better identify between the two.

What Is The Difference Between A Rat And A Squirrel?

All squirrel species have thick and bushy tails, while rat tails are thin, scaly, and hairless. Their ears are also different as squirrels have longer, pointier ears than rats.

Rats have long, skinny noses, while squirrels have shorter noses that are more round in shape. Rat fur is brown or black, while squirrel fur can be a variety of colors, including brown, red, grey, and white.

Behaviorally rats are typically shyer, while squirrels are more curious and active. Moreover, rats are primarily nocturnal, so if you see an animal running around during the day, it’s likely a squirrel.

Finally, you can look at the size of the animal. Rats are typically smaller than squirrels. If you’re struggling with a rat infestation, it’s crucial to take action immediately. Rats can carry diseases and damage your property.

The last thing you want is to grapple with certain health risks because of the pest problem. Contact a pest control service or wildlife removal or expert or to get rid of the rodent infestation.

Are Squirrels In The Rat Family?

Rats and squirrels may look similar but are not in the same family. Squirrels are rodents, however five suborders in the Rodentia class exist. Rats and squirrels are in different suborders meaning that the two are loosely related but belong to other species that can’t interbreed.

Scientifically, a squirrel goes by the name “Sciurus.” There are over 200 species of Sciuridae, the family that squirrels belong to. This family also includes prairie dogs, chipmunks, and marmots.

The word “Sciurus” comes from two Greek words, “skia,” meaning “shadow,” and “oura,” meaning “tail.” Together, they form the word for shadow-tailed, referring to their pronounced tail.

Most squirrels live in trees, but not all. The main distinction between types of squirrels is their habitat. Tree squirrels include flying, red, grey, and fox squirrels. Ground squirrels comprise chipmunks, prairie dogs, and marmots.

Squirrel Biology vs Rat Biology

While squirrels and rats are small animals with tails, they live in different habitats and have different body shapes. Squirrels have long hind legs that they use for jumping and running. Their front legs are shorter, and they use them for digging, climbing, and gathering food.

Rats, on the other hand, have long front legs and short hind legs. Their bodies are elongated, and they have pointy noses. Rats prefer living on the ground and in burrows.

Squirrels eat various fruits, nuts, seeds, fungi, and insects. Some people think squirrels are rodents because they chew on things like wood and wires, meaning they’re problematic as they can damage property.

Squirrels aren’t the same as rats because they belong to different families. Rats are in the family “Muridae” while squirrels belong to the family “Sciuridae.” Although the two are related, they’re markedly different.

Rats are considered pests, while squirrels are not because rats will invade homes and businesses in search of food. Squirrels generally stay outside.

squirrel poop
Squirrel Poop and Gnaw Marks

How To Tell If You Have Squirrels Or A Rat In Your House

You can tell whether you have squirrels or a rat in your house based on their feces. You have squirrels if you see small, cone-shaped droppings around your home. You likely have a rat problem if the droppings are more elongated and contain hair.

The damage done to your home could also give you a hint. Squirrels are known for chewing on wood and electrical wires, while rats will gnaw on just about anything.

Noises in the attic or walls or even basement indicate you have one of these critters living in your home. The best way to confirm which animal you have is to set a trap and see what you catch.

As a homeowner, if you’re uncomfortable setting up a trap, you can always call a professional pest control or wildlife control company to come and take care of the problem.

Squirrel Poop Vs. Rat Poop

There are many similarities between squirrel feces and rat poop. Both are small, dark, and full of seeds. However, there are also some key differences in the rodent droppings.

Squirrel dropping is usually smaller and more tubular than rat poop. It also tends to be lighter in color and less smelly. Squirrels typically have varied food sources including nuts and fruits, so their poop often contains these items.

Rat droppings, however, generally are larger and more log-shaped. Rat feces is also darker in color and much smellier because rats eat a lot of garbage and rotting food.

rat poop
Rat Poop

Squirrel Sounds Vs. Rat Sounds

Though squirrels and rats are both rodents, their sounds are different. Squirrels are much more vocal than rats, and their vocalizations vary depending on the situation.

For example, a squirrel may chirp when it is happy or exciting, while a rat typically only makes noise when it is scared or threatened. Squirrels also have a more comprehensive range of sounds to communicate.

For instance, they may use a series of high-pitched chirps to warn other squirrels of danger or make a soft purring sound when they are content. In contrast, rats produce only one type of sound: a high-pitched squeak to signal fear or alarm.

The difference in vocalizations between rats is mainly due to their different sizes and shapes of vocal cords. Squirrels have long, thin vocal cords that are well-suited for producing high-pitched sounds, while rats have shorter, thicker vocal cords that are better suited for making lower-pitched noises.

Squirrel Tracks Vs. Rat Tracks

Are you wondering if you have rats or squirrels in your home? If you’ve found some tracks, that can be an excellent place to start making your determination.

When looking at squirrel tracks vs. rat tracks, one of the most significant differences is size. Squirrels are larger than rats, so their footprints will be correspondingly larger.

Another difference is that squirrel feet have four toes, while rat feet have five. The feature can be a helpful distinction, although it’s not always easy to see on a track.

Another good clue is in the tail. Squirrels have long, bushy tails that they use for balance when they’re climbing and jumping. On the other hand, rats have shorter tails that are usually not as hairy.


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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