Need pest help? Save $50 on your first recurring service today with code GET50

How to Tell if You Have Rats or Squirrels

What’s the Difference Between Squirrels and Rats?

Sources of Food for Rats & Squirrels

Squirrels will eat nuts, grains, and plants. Rats will eat those foods and will also eat greens, grains, meat, slugs, and snails. Rats are also more likely to eat garbage and food waste than squirrels.

Appearance Differences Between Squirrels vs. Rats

  • Squirrels have large, thick, bushy tails.

  • Rats have tails that are scaly, thin, and hairless.

  • Adult rats have a relatively long shape.

  • Adult squirrels are larger than adult rats.

Differences in Daily Activity


  • Squirrels are diurnal— active during the day; however, flying squirrels are an exception since they are nocturnal in nature.

  • The gestation period of squirrels can be between 30-44 days.

  • Squirrels tend to live a lot longer than rats. The Eastern fox squirrel has a lifespan of eight years in the wild and Eastern grey squirrels live up to 12 years in the wild.


  • Rats are more likely to be nocturnal – active at night - but might be seen during the day if the area’s rat population is very large. They use their whiskers to help them move around at night.

  • If you notice chewed marks on food packaging and droppings around where food is stored, it’s likely from a rat. Squirrels aren’t as likely to chew through plastic or heavy-duty packaging as rats.

  • Rats and squirrels also differ in how they get into homes. Squirrels need a hole four inches in diameter, while a rat can enter homes through a hole that’s just 0.5 inches in diameter.

  • The gestation period of rats lasts for about 21-23 days.

  • Rats usually live about one to two years in the wild.

Squirrel Droppings vs. Rat & Mouse Droppings

Homeowners can use feces (droppings) to determine the difference between a squirrel and a rat infestation. While both types of droppings can be dark brown to black in color with blunted ends, they are found in different places around the home. People often find squirrel feces in attics if the home is surrounded by trees. Rat droppings often appear along baseboards, in cupboards, behind refrigerators and other appliances, or under cabinets. Rat feces is typically concentrated in one area since rats tend to designate a specific area for defecation. Do not get close to squirrel or rat droppings as their droppings are known to cause diseases.

Squirrel droppings and rat droppings look very similar; however, they can have different characteristics in terms of size, shape, color, and smell.

  • Size: Squirrel droppings are typically slightly larger than rat droppings. Squirrel droppings can measure up to 0.5 inches in length, while rat droppings are usually less than 0.25 inches in length.

  • Shape: Squirrel droppings have a more oblong shape, while rat droppings are more uniform in shape, typically cylindrical.

  • Color: Squirrel droppings are dark brown to black in color, while rat droppings are dark brown to black in color as well.

  • Squirrel droppings may contain undigested bits of food, such as seeds, while rat droppings are usually smooth and uniform.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between squirrel and rat droppings; your Orkin Pro can help identify whether you have squirrels or rats.

Squirrel Nest vs. Rat or Mouse Nest

Squirrels are cavity dwellers, preferring hollow trees, high tree branches, and buildings. Large leafy nests are typically constructed in the summer. Both rats and squirrels will enter homes, but squirrels are more likely to build nests outdoors in trees. Squirrels will occasionally take an opportunity to build a nest inside, especially during the winter or breeding season. Squirrels may build nests in garages, attics, inside walls, in the chimney, and in crawl spaces.

Rats also nest outdoors, but they prefer to raise young in wall voids or basements, especially in areas close to food sources and warmth. Norway rats will dig burrows in the ground to protect their subterranean nests.

A squirrel nest is typically much larger than a rat nest and is composed of a clumped-together collection of leaves, twigs, bark, and moss. Rats will use anything available for nest material, including cloth, insulation, cardboard, and plant material. Rat nests are well-hidden, often in walls, crawlspaces, or in insulation.

Squirrel Damage vs. Damage Caused by Rodents

Rats do most of their damage inside. Rat waste can contaminate pantries, ruin personal property, and carry diseases, including rat-bite fever, plague, and food poisoning.

Squirrels do most of their structural damage outside. While capable of causing damage to home and business interiors, squirrels are more likely to dig holes in yards, strip bark from trees, and steal from gardens. They may also chew through roof shingles and house siding to create entry points. Squirrels also can spread disease to people and pets, including serious illnesses like tularemia, typhus, plague, and ringworm. These diseases can be transmitted through bites or other forms of direct contact with infected squirrels.

How to Clean Squirrel and Rodent Droppings

To clean up squirrel and rat droppings, take the following steps:

  • Wear gloves: Squirrel and rat droppings may contain harmful bacteria and parasites, so it's important to protect your hands.

  • Remove any visible droppings: Use a scoop or shovel to carefully pick up and remove any droppings.

  • Disinfect the area: Once you have removed the droppings, clean the area thoroughly with a disinfectant solution. You can make a solution using a cup of bleach mixed with a gallon of water or use a commercial disinfectant.

  • Let the area dry: Allow the disinfected area to dry completely before using it again.

  • Wash your hands: Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling the droppings and cleaning the area.

If you find any droppings or if you suspect a squirrel has taken up residence in your home, call an Orkin Pro for wildlife removal and rodent pest control.

Connect with Us

Our customer care team is available for you 24 hours a day.


Find a Branch

Our local Pros are the pest experts in your area.

Get a Personalized Quote

We will help you find the right treatment plan for your home.



Pest ControlTermite ControlPrevent and Protect


Browse All Pests

© 2024 Orkin LLC

Terms of UsePrivacyAccessibility StatementCareers

Your Branch  

Call Now