Rats in walls – what are the signs? 

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rats in walls rat coming out of a wall

What attracts rats into your home causing rats in walls?

Quite simply, rats will often come into a property because they are in need of food and shelter. When weather conditions are poor, rats would rather be inside a warm environment. Safety is essential to rats, more so when they want to give birth and produce a litter that can develop and thrive. When it comes to mating, rats are champion breeders.

If environmental conditions are right, a female rat can reproduce every six weeks with litters consisting of 6-8 offspring. Each part of the cycle takes 21 days on average. A pair of brown rats could potentially produce as many as 200 babies and 2,000 descendants in just one year, maybe more. That’s why effective rat extermination as soon as possible is always the best option.

Rats are not picky eaters, and can easily thrive in a sewer chamber, but given the option they would prefer to raid your kitchen cupboards and food storage rooms. This might be Christmas cakes, Easter eggs, dog food or that large packet of rice under the stairs.  They’ll also quite happily chew any insulation, cardboard boxes, plastic bags and paper for nesting materials. Areas of clutter, inside the loft, eaves and  garages, are ideal for hiding and creating nests.

Signs of rats in walls

It usually starts with a short and sudden noise in the wall cavities. Typically there may be tell-tale signs of rats living in your walls or elsewhere in the home. Knowing what to look for helps you identify where rats in walls are nesting exactly, or establishing their travel route inside your property. The increase in activity will become routine, likely in the early hours of the morning and in the evening. This is usually a sign of rats, and the more likely it is that you’re dealing with an infestation that needs professional intervention.

Here are some signs that you might have rats in your walls:

  • Scratching or scurrying sounds in the walls, especially at night
  • Rat droppings around your home
  • Gnaw marks on food packages, furniture, or cables
  • A strong, musky odour

If you see any of these signs, it’s important to take action to get rid of the rats as soon as possible.

  • Sounds: Rats in walls and their cavities sometimes sound like cats and dogs are inside your home because the noises are amplified when many rats are scurrying around together. These sounds quite often stop for a few moments and begin again when there’s silence.
  • Droppings: Although rat droppings are quite distinct, you may not find any around your property. Rat droppings are dark brown/black, capsule-shaped, and up to 12mm long. Rats can leave up to 40 droppings a day. These can be found:
  • Under kitchen sinks
  • Inside kitchen units
  • Behind kitchen plinths
  • Beneath the staircase space
  • Loft area/Roof spaces.
  • Beneath floorboards
  • Inside sewer chamber
  • Rat Holes: Rats can chew out holes and tunnels to travel through, in order to create a travel route from their nesting area, all the way to food sources and other nests they’ve built near warm appliances or attics. Missing food items may include bread or vegetables that may have been dragged beneath the kitchen units and stored away by rats.
  • Shredded items: As well as tearing through insulation in walls, rats will quite happily also tear through fabrics, paper, and other materials to create nests.
  • Rat Odours: Once rats establish themselves in your property, you may start to notice a musky and damp like scent from their droppings and urine. This can start to build up , sometimes in inaccessible areas, as they travel through your home. Unfortunately,  the foul odour won’t disappear until the rats are gone and you’ve put in a post treatment sanitising plan.
  • Smears: Rats running around the house may leave stained items, usually from the grease in their skin. When coming into contact with electric cables, entrance points in walls, their skin will often brush up against items and leave a build up of dark markings. If rats are actively infesting your property, put down a thin layer of  flour on those suspected areas of rat activity so you can confirm the trails they make more easily.

What kind of damage can be caused by having in the walls?

Rats in walls can cause a significant amount of damage to a home, so it’s important to put a plan in place to deal with these invading pests as quickly as possible. Some common damage that can occur includes:

  • Electrical wiring: Rats love a good chew on electrical wires and cables, as well as water pipes. This can cause electrical cut outs, potential fire hazards and serious damage through water leaks in your home.
  • Insulation: Rats will often use insulation as nesting material. They also tunnel through it when working their way through the walls and ceilings of your home.
  • Wood: Rats will chew on the wood of a home causing structural damage. Rats’ teeth never stop growing so they are constantly gnawing on these types of materials to file their teeth down.
  • Holes: Rats may create holes in walls, ceilings, floorboards, carpets etc. to gain entry into your home to access food and water, causing further structural damage.

What do rats sound like in walls?

Some of the most common sounds rats make in walls are:

  • Scratching and scrambling: This is the most common noise you’ll hear from rats in walls. It happens as they crawl around, dig in insulation, or climb.
  • Thumping: This can occur when rats bump into things as they move through the walls.
  • Rustling: This sound might come from rats pushing aside insulation or debris as they explore.
  • Scurrying: If there’s a lot of activity, you might hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet as rats run quickly.
  • Vocalizations: While rats do squeak and communicate with each other, these sounds are often at a higher frequency than humans can hear (ultrasonic). You might hear squeaks or hisses if a rat is scared and distressed.

However, these sounds are less common than the movement noises. These sounds will be the most disturbing at night when the house is quiet and rats are the most active. If you’re hearing these sounds, you most likely have an infestation and it’s time to call a professional pest control company.

Do rats spread diseases?

Yes, rats can spread a number of diseases that can be harmful to humans. They carry these diseases through their urine, faeces, saliva and body grease. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Direct contact: This can happen if you touch a rat, its droppings, or its nesting materials. In some instances rat bites. Diseases spread this way include:
  • Leptospirosis: This bacterial infection can cause flu-like symptoms, meningitis, liver and kidney failure.
  • Rat-bite fever: This bacterial infection causes fever, headache, and muscle pain.
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV): This viral infection can cause flu-like illness and meningitis.
  • Indirect contact: This occurs when you inhale dust particles containing dried rat droppings or get bitten by fleas or mites that have been feeding on infected rats. Diseases spread this way include:
  • Hantavirus: This viral infection can cause flu-like symptoms and a serious respiratory illness. expand_more
  • Plague: This bacterial infection can cause fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. While uncommon these days, it’s important to be aware of it.

The risk of contracting a disease from rats is a real risk, and it’s important to take steps to prevent them from entering your home in the first place. If you think you have a rat infestation, it’s important to get rid of them as soon as possible. You can try traps and sealing up entry points yourself, or call a professional pest control company.

How to get rid of rats in walls

Having rats in walls can be a real problem. They can cause damage to your property, spread diseases, and contaminate your food. If you think you have rats in your walls, there are a few things you can do to get rid of them.

There are two main approaches to getting rid of rats in walls: eliminating rats themselves and preventing them from returning. Here’s a breakdown of both:

Removing the rats:

  • Snap traps: These are classic traps that kill rats when triggered. Place them in areas with signs of activity (droppings, gnaw marks) with peanut butter or another strong bait. Be sure to check and empty them regularly. This sounds pretty straightforward right? 
  • Access: Right, so now you’re ready to use your trap. Only problem is you can’t get behind those wall cavities. This often requires more planning, and exploration in order to identify an access point before they get into your walls. This is always the tricky part. 
  • Baiting traps: Bait’s may consist of a number of food attractants, peanut butter, protein etc. Rats are cautions by nature, and won’t always engage with traps, despite your best efforts, the traps may remain untouched. Tip: if a rat has started eating some of those apples from your fruit basket, it’s always worth using an apple as bait for your trap.
  • Rat in a trap: In some instances, some traps bought over the counter, or online are not fit for purpose, made from cheap materials, which can lead to a rat/s getting caught, without being exterminated. We do in some instances receive calls from customers in a panic, not knowing what to do with a live and distressed rat in a trap.  Some customers can also struggle with approaching an exterminated rat in a trap to dispose of it, saying “I can’t bear to look at it..please can you get rid of it”.Professional rat catchers: We invest in robust professional rat traps ( they’re not snap traps) that are precise, and can hold some obscenely large rats.
  • Professional rat catchers: We invest in robust professional rat traps ( they’re not snap traps) that are precise, and can hold some obscenely large rats. 
  • Glue traps: Unfortunately, some people will turn to the use of glue traps to catch rats. Usually because they are cheap and easily bought at most local corner stores. From 31 July 2024 it will be against the law to use glue traps to catch rodents, unless you have a licence. You must be a professional pest controller involved in rodent control management to hold a licence for glue trapping.
  • Professional Extermination: If the infestation seems large or you’re uncomfortable dealing with traps, consider calling a professional pest control company. They have experience with safe and effective rat extermination and control.

Preventing their return:

  • Sealing Entry Points: Once the rats are gone, seal any potential entry points in your walls, foundation, or exterior. Here’s what to use for different gaps: Small holes: Steel wool/metal mesh.
  • Larger holes: Cement / metal mesh
  • Cracks around pipes or wires: Steel wool / metal mesh.
  • Eliminate Attractants: Rats are drawn to food and water sources. Here’s how to make your home less inviting:
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Clean up crumbs and spills promptly.
  • Keep waste bins sealed tightly.
  • Repair any leaky pipes or faucets.
  • Specialist drainage survey: Rats are notorious for gaining access into a property through a disused outlet/pipe in the sewer system that is connected to your waste pipes. Sometimes, where there are no clear and  obvious gaps into your property, it may be time for a drainage survey.

Remember, consistency is key. By combining these methods, you can effectively get rid of rats in your walls and prevent them from coming back.

Final thoughts

While customers can take the DIY approach to remove rats from their walls, they often find that they’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money without resolving the root cause of the issue. When treating rats, it’s not simply about removing the rat, but also exploring for the main entry point into your home. If this is overlooked, it’s likely that another rat will at some point come along again and set up in your walls. 

Rats in your walls and property can spread disease and leave your property vulnerable to fire and water damage. If you’re not comfortable dealing with rats yourself, you can always call a professional pest control company.

Sparta Pest Control will be able to safely and effectively remove the rats from your home. If you suspect rats are in your walls or elsewhere around your North London home, give us a call at Sparta pest control.

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Sparta Pest Control

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