5 Sounds And Noises That Rats Make (How To Identify Them)
Squeaking, hissing, chittering to each other back and forth. You might know all these as rodent noises, but did you know when rats come inside your home, they can make many other noises as they try to break into your pantry, build their nests and run a muck of your home?
Rats will make various sounds to other rats, like squeaking and hissing. You can also hear them running along beams and floorboards, chewing tunnels in walls and ductwork, and scratching while nesting or gathering food. Rats are primarily nocturnal, so you will hear these sounds most often at night.
Interested in hearing more about what sounds rodents make? Check out our article on all their noises (and what to do when you hear them) below!
What Does A Rat Sound Like in Your House?
While you may hear squeaks or hisses, you may also hear the sounds of little feet scurrying along beams in your attic or walls, or the sounds of chewing and gnawing coming from walls, crawlspaces, and vents.
These noises occur more often at night, as rats are nocturnal creatures, and will often stop if they hear something else pass by.
Rats can be destructive as they seek food and a safe place to nest, and it’s not unusual to hear them while they are hard at work.
It’s important to deter them from coming into your house as soon as you hear them.
Why Rats Make Most their Noise At Night
Rats are nighttime creatures, so you are more likely to hear noises after the sun goes down (or early in the morning).
In addition, rats will typically steer clear of people, so they are more likely to explore when the house is quiet and everyone has settled down for the night. If you hear noises frequently during the day, investigate for another creature, like a bird, chipmunk, or squirrel.
When you have a rat living inside, you are likely to hear all sorts of noises, such as the noise of them scurrying to and from, squeaks or hisses as they communicate to one another, or the sounds of chewing and gnawing on food or building material in your home.
To learn more about the noises you might hear (and where you could hear them), check out our list below.
Wondering where you might find rats hanging out when they are not squeaking around your house at night? Check out our other article on Where Rats Really Go And Live During the Day.
What Does a Rat Sound Like in a Wall?
Walls are like rat highways! Rodents will often use them to move from room to room, to enter and exit the crawlspace, or even as an easy way to get into the house from the outside.
Rats are very mobile creatures, always on the hunt for their next meal or a safe place to hide, so they will often make noise as they squeeze through small gaps and past insulation when they move from one spot to the next.
Sometimes, however, it is difficult to tell if the noises you are hearing are coming from a rat, chipmunk, or other type of pest. Rats typically stay down low near the ground, so if you are hearing noises only coming from your attic, you may have a squirrel, raccoon, or even a bat taking up residence.
You can help distinguish one pest from another by the type of droppings, as well as by the presence of chew marks.
What Does a Rat Cry Sound Like?
Rats make several sounds when talking to one another or communicating with family members. They may squeak when happy or distressed, chitter, or even hiss in anger when they are getting ready to fight. Rats can also communicate in pitches humans cannot hear.
Rats produce three different vocalizations based on their age and how they are feeling, none of which humans can hear. So do not be surprised if you don’t hear a lot of rat chit-chat, they might just be talking in a frequency you cannot detect!
That’s why it’s more likely you will hear indirect sounds from a rat as it moves about, makes a new nest, or when it eats. If you have one rat, you are likely to have more soon.
Squeaks and other vocalizations from other rodents attract more rats, but they are almost just as interested in the sounds of another rat moving around and may seek them out to find out if the rat is a friend or foe.
Noisy Rats… Or Something Else?
The New York Department of Health recommends you check for rats by following three steps: listen, look, and watch.
By listening for noises, looking for signs of rats (such as chew marks or droppings), and watching food supplies or dusty areas for paw prints or signs of feeding, you can help determine whether your rat problem is a real problem.
Be aware, a mouse infestation can look remarkably similar to one by rats. There are a few differences, such as mice are often much smaller, and can squeeze into smaller gaps rats will need to chew to widen. They also usually have smaller droppings, and they may be hard to hear unless they are actively chewing or squeaking.
Whether you have mice or rats, it’s important to take steps to pest-proof your home. By familiarizing yourself with the sounds rodents make and the steps to take afterward, you can take care of your rat infestation quickly and easily. Read on to learn more about what you might hear if you have a rodent inside.
If You Hear: Scratching in the Walls
What It Could Mean:
A scratching noise may be a rat building a nest, or it may be chewing noises, just a little too quiet to identify. Whatever the noise is, it’s not good, and it means you are now sharing your home with an unwanted creature!
If the noise sounds vaguely metallic, or you hear a sound like the crumpling of aluminum foil, it could also mean the rats are using your vent system to get around. Keep an eye out for holes in your ductwork, as this can make your HVAC system less effective over time.
What to Do:
Try knocking on the wall first. If the sound stops, it is likely rodent-related, as opposed to a natural house noise. It also helps you rule out if the sound is coming from a bat, which may increase its activity in response to sounds.
Next, find out where rats are getting in and out of your home. The good news is rats are much larger than bugs, mice, and even chipmunks, so they cannot fit in quite the same tiny gaps other pests can.
Still, you will want to seal up any gaps under doors, around chimneys, or piping using a pest-proof sealant like DAP Touch ‘n Foam Mouse Shield. This product is rated safe for use and does not leave any lingering odor. Also, make sure vents and crawlspace covers are securely in place to prevent more rats from getting inside.
Rats can chew through duct tape, but something like foam applied thick enough will do enough of a job to stop them as they would have to be extremely determined to get through ALL that foam.
The CDC also advises you to clean up contaminated surfaces where you have found rat urine and droppings, or where you know rats have run across. Follow their steps for clean up for some more info if you need it.
If You Hear: Chewing or Gnawing Noises at Ground Level
What It Could Mean:
Rats are terrestrial creatures, so they stick more towards the floor level. They are not shy about chewing their way to food or a good nesting location, so the rats in your house might chew on the baseboard or even the wiring in your walls.
Chewing, gnawing, or grinding noises are all common sounds, and you may even hear them before you see any evidence of their arrival.
What to Do:
Check near where you heard the sounds for any holes or gaps. If the rat has been trying to tunnel, you might catch the beginnings of their construction, and put a stop to it before they do actual damage.
If you hear chewing but can’t find the source, put out traps or deterrents in nearby crawlspaces, just to be sure you are taking care of your problem.
There are a variety of trap choices out on the market, depending on what you are looking for. If you want a quality traditional trap to take care of your problem fast, check out the Tomcat Rat Snap Trap, which is a reusable trap. For the old-school wooden traps, Victor Rat Traps is a fantastic, easy-to-set option.
Or, for a trap, you can use to relocate these pesky critters, check out RinneTraps Flip N Slide Bucket Lid Mouse Trap. This trap can catch small mice and medium-sized rats. They are also family-owned and made in the USA!
If You Hear: Scurrying in the Attic
What It Could Mean:
Noises from up above may be rats, but they could also be from a squirrel moving in. Squirrels have been known to use gaps, roof vents, and even chimneys to access the upper floors of the house to winter and build a nest.
If you are hearing noises from only the attic, keep an eye out for squirrels using nearby tree branches to get to and from your house. However, if you are hearing sounds from all over, it’s more likely to be some other type of pest.
One exception to this is the notorious roof rat, who goes against his family tree by climbing along roofs and eaves to make his home in the attic.
Roof rats are distinguishable from squirrels by their tail and their dark coloring. The good news is the approach to roof rats is the same as other rodents; seal up their entrance, and deter them from coming back.
Rats are also very likely to end up in your attic more during the winter as heat rises and they look for a warmer space.
What to Do:
Look for runways marks, paw prints, and droppings along rafter beams. The University of California suggests you check behind boxes for nests, and look for smudge marks along joists and rafters as rats rub up against them. Once you find the source of your problem, utilize traps or deterrents to keep rats out.
One option to deter rodents is by using scents they hate, such as peppermint. Harris Peppermint Oil Mice & Rodent Repellent Spray is a great option since it can be easily applied to rafters, joists, and other attic surfaces, without needing to climb back up to the attic to check traps.
For other scent options, check out all the smells rats hate in our article on the 15 Scents That Rats Hate (And How To Use Them)!
If You Hear: Squeaks, Hissing or Chittering in Crawlspaces or Vents
What It Could Mean:
Rats will vocalize to each other when they fight, mate, or meet another strange rat, so noises like this mean you now have at least two rats.
Where there are two, there will certainly be more soon! Although they do not make vocal noises all the time, you may occasionally hear a squeak or a hiss.
What to Do:
Look for holes chewed in ducting and rub marks where rats may squeeze in and out of tight spaces. You also may see evidence of nests or droppings. Keep an eye out along the foundation for where rats might enter and be sure all of your vent covers fit tightly.
If you need a pest-proof dryer cover, try this Exhaust Hood Vent with Built-In Pest Guard Screen. They come in multiple sizes and are made of paintable plastic, so you can blend them right in!
These crawlspace Stainless Steel Woven Wire Mesh cover can also keep rats from entering your home. They are made of stiff, rust-resistant steel. They are also easy to cut with tin snips to customize for your space.
If You Hear: Nothing at All!
What It Could Mean:
Rats do not always make a lot of noise. In fact, it is in their best interest to be as quiet as possible, otherwise, they risk attracting the attention of a predator (like you!).
So, if you are seeing other signs of a rat problem but you have not heard them, it may simply mean the rats are living in a hidden part of the house.
What to Do:
Check crawlspaces, closets, attics, and vents for droppings or gnaw marks. You may also see rats around your home, such as at dusk when they move (they may even use power lines to get from one place to another).
If you find your food stores are getting broken into, this may also indicate a mouse or a rat has moved in and is here to stay.
These are not the only examples of sounds rats make, but they are the most likely options. One thing is for sure, while rats can stealthily enter your home, once they take up residence they can make for some noisy neighbors!
Whatever noises you hear (and wherever you hear them!), you will want to ensure you stop your rodent problem in its tracks. This can include sealing up holes that rats may use to enter and exit your home, cleaning up spilled food, and storing it securely.
That’s A Wrap!
Rats may make a wide variety of vocalizations, but the most likely noises you will hear are the sounds of scurrying, gnawing, or scratching. You also might hear nothing at all, but find other evidence of rodents like droppings or gnaw marks.
Whenever you spot potential signs of rodents, it’s vital to plug up any holes they may use to enter your home and use a variety of traps, deterrents, and repellents to stop any infestation as soon as possible. Allowed to live unchecked, rodents can quickly nest and multiply, turning your minor problem into a huge one.
If you need more help, do not be afraid to seek a professional. With our Pest Pro search tool, you can find someone local to take care of your rat problem quickly and easily.
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Davidson, Nicola B, and Jane L Hurst. “Testing the potential of 50 kHz rat calls as a species-specific rat attractant.” PloS one vol. 14,4 e0211601. 8 Apr. 2019, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0211601
Portfors, Christine V. “Types and functions of ultrasonic vocalizations in laboratory rats and mice.” Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science 46.1 (2007): 28-34.