Signs You Have a Rodent Problem

Rodents are characterized by a pair of constantly growing incisors on their upper and lower jaws. They make up the largest order of mammals—in terms of number of species—at 2,277 known species. Over 40 percent of mammals belong to the rodent order, and they can be found in large numbers on all continents save for Antarctica.

With such a huge population, it makes sense that a rodent or two might wander into your home or business and cause a bit of a problem, but how do you know for sure that you have a rodent problem?


Droppings are one of the easiest and most obvious signs of a rodent problem. Unlike humans, rodents don’t have a designated bathroom and will lay their droppings essentially anywhere, mainly in places providing shelter. You’ll most likely find droppings in cabinets and pantries, under the sink, and in random cracks in your flooring.

Once you’ve found the droppings, you can determine how old they are to establish how long the rodents might have been hiding in your home or if their nests are nearby. Old droppings are a dull gray and tend to crumble. Fresh droppings are darker, softer, and shinier. You can also figure out what rodent you’re dealing with based on the size of the droppings. Mouse droppings are small, about half an inch in length. Rat droppings are larger than half an inch in both length and diameter.


Rodents will build nests to have a place to wind down after long days of scurrying and scrounging. These nests are usually made from bits of fabric, shredded paper, dry grass, small twigs, and sometimes even furniture stuffing. The nests are located in quiet areas, safe from predators, and nearby food and water.

You should be able to find remnants of a rodent’s nest building, like tipped over trash bins, paper that has been bitten through, or holes in furniture. You may find the nest if you search in cabinets and dressers, inside boxes, or inside the crawlspace.

What You See, Hear and Smell

If you suspect a rodent problem, you’ve probably already seen one in your home. Most rodents are nocturnal and can be spotted with a good flashlight and a bit of hunting through cabinets and dark spaces. However, rodents aren’t fond of human attention and prefer to keep to themselves. If you’ve seen a rodent during the day, you may already have a full-on infestation on your hands.

Despite their relatively small size, rodents are not quiet housemates. You should be able to hear them scratching, gnawing, clawing, and scurrying in your walls, rafters, and vents. In the event of an infestation, you may even hear squeaking and the occasional scuffle.

During an infestation, it’s common to smell a strange musky odor in rooms with poor ventilation. This smell is the trademark of mice. Rodents in general don’t smell particularly pleasant.

Remember that rodents have a limited living space range. Some mice may only live within a 10 foot diameter, depending on the food that’s available. Rats, however, have a much larger active area of over 150 feet, which means they may be moving in and out of your home at their convenience.

Stolen Food

Rodents have powerful teeth and jaws. A rat can gnaw through glass, concrete, and even metal. They can also fit into any hole that they can fit their heads into. That means your average rodent should have no problem getting to your food, whether it’s in a cardboard cereal box or a “heavy duty” Tupperware-style container.

The good news is that rodents aren’t especially sly about the food they take. You can discern from the mess, the hole in the box, the missing food, and the nibbled bits they left behind.


As mentioned, rodents have teeth that grow continuously. They need to file their teeth down by regularly gnawing on whatever they can find, which includes wood, clothes and cloth sacks, paper board, and even bricks. You can usually hear gnawing sounds at night, but it’s not uncommon for table and chair legs to show tooth marks and gnawed spots during a rat infestation.


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