Something is nesting in your house and you need to find out what, exactly, you are up against. The animal sounds smaller than something truly horrifying, like a possum, but it is also bigger than a mouse based on the noises it makes and the damage it has done. There is likely more than one of whatever it is. So like any good do-it-yourself pest fighter would do, you investigate the situation. You go into the crawlspace, attic, basement, or garage where the trouble in going down and come up with some vital evidence: a pile of poop.
The only problem is, you don’t know what kind of droppings you are looking at. You immediately thought it belonged to a rat, but after safely removing some of the feces and looking at it by the light of day you realize it could just as easily belong to a similarly sized animal, like a squirrel. Based on all the information you have gathered on the infestation, it really could be either rats or squirrels. Figuring out what you are dealing with is extremely important since rats and squirrels are expelled from a house through very different processes.
Squirrel and Rat Poop Identification
The first thing you need to do when sorting out squirrel poop vs. rat poop is pull up a droppings identification guide on the internet. The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management features a very thorough guide on pest droppings. They recommend taking a close, almost scientific look at the droppings you discover. Consider the shape, length, color, and distribution of the droppings and then see if you can answer these questions:
- Is it more pointed or rounded at the ends? Rat droppings are pointier, squirrel droppings rounder.
- What is the overall shape of the pellets? If you are dealing with a squirrel it will be shaped more like a barrel whereas what a rat leaves behind tend to be thinner and longer.
- What color is it? Rat poop tends to be blacker and darker than squirrel poop, which can be tan or red in color.
- What pattern did you find the droppings in? Rats tend to defecate everywhere they run, like a mouse does; squirrels tend to leave their feces in clusters or piles.
Another key to distinguishing the two kinds of droppings is squirrel poop tends to lighten in color with time, whereas a rat’s poop will stay dark in color. If you find older fecal matter and it is noticeably paler than what you find fresh, chances are you are dealing with a colony of squirrels.
Of course, this comes with a warning about the hazards of handling animal poop; you should always use gloves and thoroughly clean or dispose of anything that comes into contact with the feces. Both squirrel and rat droppings carry diseases. In fact, you should address any droppings in your house while figuring out how to get rid of the pests so that a bacteria like salmonella doesn’t spread through your house. Also use caution when exploring areas of your house where an animal is living– you don’t want to be bitten. When in doubt you can handle the situation safely, call a local pest control company.
Putting the Pieces Together
It is unlikely you will be able to settle the squirrel poop vs. rat poop debate without knowing more about what is living in your house. You can learn a lot from a general pest identification guide– you have to consider what you are looking at belongs to neither a squirrel nor a rat, and a guide like this will help you determine what you should be hunting for and eventually expelling from your house. Figuring out as much as you can about the poop you discovered is important, however, because it may be the clue that pulls together all the other information you’ve gathered on your pest.