Are you reeling from scratching noises in your home during the day or night? You are most likely experiencing rat or squirrel activity. How do you differentiate between the two infestations affecting your home?

You may need to understand the differences between these two wild animals to know what kind of infestation is affecting you. Knowing the difference between the two is also essential in helping you eliminate the infestation.

So, what are the main differences between rats and squirrels? There are several categories of differences that you can use to distinguish between the two. They include:


When using physical appearance to distinguish between a rat and a squirrel, the main things to look at are their size, fur, head, limbs, and tails.


When it comes to size, a rat can grow up to about 16 inches right from the nose to the tail. On the other hand, a healthy squirrel can measure up to 20 inches from its nose to its tail. This characteristic indicates that a squirrel is likely longer in size than a rat.


For most rats, their tails are thin, and they stay vertical most times. The tail is also scaly.

On the other hand, a squirrel has a bushy tail which is generally covered in thick fur. The tail also tends to go up when the squirrel stands up or sits down. In addition, the tail does not stay vertical similar to that of a rat. It usually flops and curls.


When you look closely, you will find that a rat has fur that’s grey, black, or white in color. On the other hand, a squirrel’s fur includes a mix of grey and brown colors. Squirrels also have a lot of fur on their feet and tails.


One of the most distinct characteristics in rats is their long legs and narrow hind feet compared to a squirrel which has larger hind legs and tiny forepaws, which end up looking like little fingers similar to a human hand.


Rats and squirrels have opposite behaviors that can help you distinguish them. Below are some behaviors that can help you tell whether you have a rat or squirrel infestation in your home.

Eating Habits

Rats can consume almost anything that they come across. From grains, sweets, vegetables, and salty snacks, rats eat most things.

Even though squirrels are omnivores, which means they’ll eat both plant and animal matter, they are more herbivorous as compared to rats. They primarily feed on nuts, roots, mushrooms, and insects. If the need arises, squirrels are also capable of eating rats whenever there is a shortage of food.

Sleeping Patterns

Rats are primarily active at night. Anytime you hear scratching and squeaking in your house at night, you are most likely to have a rat infestation.

The main reason why rats are nocturnal creatures is that they have poor eyesight. They, therefore, rely on their senses to sense danger and navigate places.

Apart from the flying squirrels, which are nocturnal, most squirrels are diurnal. They are awake and active mainly during the day due to their excellent eyesight. Their peripheral and focal vision enables them to see upwards and also beside the head without much movement.

Noises Produced

While rats are known for producing squeaking and chattering sounds which you may hear during the night, squirrels make sharp cries, which are primarily heard during the day.

You will also discover that rats produce a hissing sound whenever they are in pain. Squirrels will often make scratching sounds whenever they are trapped indoors.

Types Of Damage That Rats And Squirrels Cause At Home

Assessing the damage is a crucial step if you want to identify the type of infestation you are dealing with.

For instance, if you notice some extensive damage on the plants in your garden that happened overnight, you can suspect rat damage.

For squirrels, you can see the kind of damage that they cause during the day since they are diurnal creatures. If you look around trees on your property, you will most likely come across a squirrel during the day.

In addition, if your backyard contains fruit trees such as oranges, you will notice that rats eat the whole fruit and leave the peel hanging on the tree. On the other hand, a squirrel partially eats the fruit and leaves the rest of the fruit lying on the ground.

Rats do not usually damage materials directly. However, they will leave their urine and droppings on them. Occasionally, teeth marks can be found in the damaged materials where the upper and lower incisors have left their imprints.

Occasionally, squirrels enter buildings where they cause damage or disturbance. They may move along power lines and short circuit transformers. They like to chew on wires, and may also gnaw directly through siding and shingles.

The Difference In The Nesting Habits Of Rats And Squirrels

In general, rats nest outdoors and you will find them nesting in underground burrows in the yard. They can also live in other places of your home, such as the basement, garage, or near cabinets and drawers.

Squirrels, on the other hand, tend to live on trees. In some cases, squirrels will build their nests on trees at about 50 feet above the ground. When in the house, you can look for squirrels in the ceilings and walls voids. They also may store food and find shelter in attics and garages.

Comparison Of Squirrel And Rat Droppings

Look at the appearance of droppings to determine whether rats or squirrels have taken over your home.

The droppings of the Norway rat (also known as the brown or the common rat) are large, usually 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. Their droppings are oval in outline with blunt or rounded ends. Fresh rat feces are black or nearly black, they may glisten and look wet. They also have the consistency of putty.

After a few days or a week, the feces become hard, dry, and appear dull. After a few weeks, they turn gray and dusty, and will easily crumble.

A single rat may produce even 50 droppings a day. The highest number of pellets will be found in places where rats feed or rest. You can usually find them in quiet, protected corners of a room.

On the other hand, the droppings of a squirrel are cylindrical in shape, have rounded edges, and are a fraction narrower and longer than rat droppings. They are typically around 3/8 of an inch in length and have a diameter of around 1/8 inch.

Their fresh pellets are dark brown but will get lighter with age and turn brown or red.

Also, the smell of squirrel waste can be extremely annoying, especially if the critters are living in your walls or ceiling.

In most cases, squirrel droppings will be randomly distributed, however, you may find clusters in some areas of the attic where these pests have been consuming their food.

If you need assistance with rat or squirrel infestation in your South Florida home, call Wildlife Troopers at 561-809-4572. Our team of experts is always ready to help you with all the questions you may have.

Call Now ButtonClick To Dial