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Cotton Rat Facts & Information

Protect your home or business from cotton rats by learning techniques for identification and control.

Image coming soon
Sigmodon hispidus
Gray with course hair
Nearly hidden ears
Furless tails


How do I get rid of cotton rats?

What You Can Do

To discourage cotton rats, keep grass and weeds near all buildings mowed as short as possible. Seal up openings that might allow rats to enter. Since these rats can carry the virus for HPS, be very cautious when handling contaminated articles, dead rodents, and droppings.

What Orkin Does

Your local Orkin Pro is trained to help manage cotton rats and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin Pro will design a unique rodent treatment program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep cotton rats in their place and out of your home or business.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Understanding Cotton Rats


  • Size: The head and body of these pests range in length from 13.3 to 21.3 cm. Their tails are 7.6 to 16.5 cm in length.

  • Color: Cotton rats are usually gray on their back with black hairs mixed in. Their undersides are light in color.

  • Characteristics: Their bodies are covered with coarse hair. Their ears are almost hidden by the hair and their tails are bare with no fur.


These nocturnal rats are active year-round, building nests both underground and above the surface. They move readily from fields into lawns and gardens, especially in suburban and rural areas. If the cotton rat population is very large and their nesting sites are located near a homeowner’s lawn, their movements can form runways in lawns that extend from nests to food sources.


Cotton rats live in a wide variety of areas with heavy vegetative cover and where these areas are rarely, if ever flooded. They may at times inhabit overgrown ground cover around sidewalks or roadsides. These rodents are often found living in:

  • Barns

  • Brush along fence lines

  • Ditches

  • Gardens

  • Grassy fields

  • Hunting cabins

  • Lake homes

  • Storage sheds

  • Uncut grass

Geographical Range

Cotton rats are widespread across most of the country. Their range is from Florida to California and north to Virginia and Kansas. There have been reports of these rats as far north as Illinois.


Cotton rat pests eat:

  • Eggs from ground-nesting birds

  • Grasses

  • Plants


Cotton rat infestations grow quickly due to the pests’ prolific rate of reproduction and begin breeding two or three months after being born. Populations can swell to over 140 rodents per acre. Females can produce as many as nine litters per year, with six young per litter. The young mature in about a month.

When there is plenty of food, these rats can reproduce at an amazing rate. But when food is scarce, their reproductive rate falls significantly.

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