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If you know you live in an area where the likelihood of a rat or mouse infestation is high, then it’s worth regularly checking your home for signs of rodent activity. Perhaps you’ve spotted something unusual and you’re unsure whether this could be a sign you’ve had rats or mice move in. Using a torch, check dark places where rats or mice may hide. Look behind pipes and appliances and inside cupboards and closets; ideal places where rodents may eat or nest. There are several key indicators to look out for that show you’ve got a rodent problem.

Spotting rats or mice

As both rats and mice are nocturnal creatures, they only come out at night to feed. While it’s unlikely that you’ll spot live rodents running around your home, it’s not impossible. You may also find dead bodies which could indicate you’ve either had an infestation in the past or currently have one.

Rodent droppings

Finding droppings will help you control the infestation. These will show whether the infestation is old or current. Old droppings will be dried out and will crumble whereas fresh droppings will be dark and moist. Droppings also help indicate the size of the infestation- more droppings mean more rodents. Knowing whether the droppings are from rats or mice will help you decide which control method you want to pick for the infestation. Droppings will show you where the rodents are active so it’s best to place traps where there are higher concentrations of droppings. The greatest number of droppings will often be present where the rodents are feeding or nesting. Both are places where the rodents are likely to return to.


Using a UV light will help spot urine trails where rodents run, highlighting the starch and vitamin B found in urine. Following the trails can help you find access points where the rodents are gaining entry. In the case of large infestations, the strong, musky smell of urine can sometimes be the first giveaway that rodents are present.

Gnaw marks and scratches

Both rats and mice love to chew whatever they can sink their teeth into to help keep them filed down. As the teeth of mice are smaller, the holes they chew will be smaller and more clean-cut. Those created by rats are larger and will be rough around the edges. Mice are also more likely to leave small, thin scratch marks behind, whereas rats will leave teeth marks around corners and edges.

Rub marks

Often more noticeable with rats due to their size, rodents will leave greasy stains of sebum along walls and surfaces as they rub past. These help rodents communicate with each other, signalling the direction to food. If you find rub marks, wearing rubber gloves to smear them will indicate how old they are- fresh rub marks will smear easily while older marks will be dry. Again, as these are tell-tale signs of where rodents have been active, they’re key pointers to where traps should be positioned.


These may be harder to spot, unless the rodents have been travelling through a dusty space. The footprints of mice are smaller with short pads and long toes, having the same type of feet at the front and back. Comparatively, rats have elongated hind feet and smaller front feet.


Mice build nests out of scavenged material such as paper, card, and string. Roof rats will live high up in tree or attic spaces. Norway rats tend to live outdoors in burrows that they’ve dug or found deep in the ground.


You may hear squeaking, scratching or scuttling sounds as rats and mice come out to feed at night-time.

Pet behaviour

If you have pets, dogs in particular, they can be particularly sensitive to noises that rodents make. Look out for unusual scratching, pawing or barking at areas where rats or mice might be hiding.

Next steps

If you’ve spotted some of the signs above, your next step is to decide whether you’ve got a rat or mouse infestation. Then decide what type of trap is right for you.

Remember that once you’ve been successful in trapping the mice or rats, you need to thoroughly clean your home of any traces of the infestation to avoid the spread of disease and stop re-infestations.

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