Rat Droppings

Rat droppings are a key sign of a rat infestation; the mess and debris they leave in their wake is unmistakable. In addition to scattered nesting materials; debris from chewing, feeding and gnawing; rodents excrete urine and feces every few steps they take along their habitual paths of travel. The size of a rat infestation can be easily determined by the amount of droppings found in the affected structure.

How to Identify Rat droppings

Rat droppings are easily differentiated from mouse droppings by their size. Mouse feces are black and small, no bigger than a grain of rice. Rat feces are much larger, depending on the species of rat involved.

Brown (or Norway) Rat

• Rate/ Quantity: 40 to 50 pellets daily

• Rat dropping size: ¾ inch long

• Shape: Larger, rectangular with blunt ends

• Found in small groups

Black (or Roof) Rats

• Rate/ Quantity: 40 to 50 pellets daily

• Rat dropping size: ½ inch long

• Shape: Larger, curved, sausage shaped with pointed ends

• Found scattered

Rat poop is pellet shaped, when fresh it is dark and soft with a glistening/wet surface appearance. Rat feces harden and lose the dark color after a couple of days, taking on a dull grey appearance and crumbly dusty texture.

An internet image search for rat droppings will yield many good images of rat feces for purposes of comparison. Using a rat droppings picture as a guide will enable homeowners to identify the species responsible for an infestation. It can also be useful when contracting with a rodent control service. Identifying the species involved will also help with post extermination rat proofing of the structure involved. Brown rats are terrestrial, preferring low, damp areas; black rats are expert climbers and often invade the roofs, rafters and attics of structures.

The Realities of Disease transmission

By now everyone on the internet has seen or heard of the email recounting the sad tragedy of a “friend of a friend” who died after being exposed to 1) Rat urine or 2) rat droppings that were somehow contaminating the tops of soda pop cans. The victims were reported to have contracted their fatal illness by drinking soda straight from the can without thoroughly cleaning the can tops.

This hysteria inducing electronic transmission relates a cautionary tale that almost seems reasonable. Most sodas and other packaged food and drink items are stored in warehouses the email contends; and rat urine is deposited by the resident creatures as they scamper along the exposed tops of cans. Rat excrement, the email went on, is often reduced to dust particles in such environments, and disease bacteria in the feces also settles on the cans.

The tragic result? Death of either a male warehouse worker in Maui Hawaii or a female attending a party in Texas with as virus similar to the dreaded Hantavirus.

The email went on to suggest that everyone wash the top of their soda cans with soap and water before opening them to drink; and to be equally as cautious of cereals and other packaged foods that have been stored in warehouses.

According to Snopes.com, the famed internet site where urban legends and e-mail myths are debunked (or in some rare cases, proved); there is no record of any such deaths in either state (or any other for that matter). Further there are no documented cases of rat or mice feces found on soda cans being associated with any illness let alone a fatality or two.

To be sure, rats (and mice) can carry the organism which causes Hantavirus (a deadly respiratory syndrome that can be fatal), and inhalation of the virus from the dust of rodent droppings is considered to be a prime disease vector. However, the rat or mouse in question must first be diseased itself; there is nothing inherently toxic or harmful to a healthy animal’s waste of either sort under normal circumstances.

Aside from other errors in the narrative, in the US soda cans are not stacked with their tops exposed in warehouses. Flats of (four) six packs are usually individually shrink wrapped in plastic (to stabilize handling) and bound to their transport pallets with plastic sheeting. Multi-can packs of 12 or 24 cans are contained within cardboard boxes and secured by plastic sheeting for shipment. The greatest risk of contamination by bacteria or viruses actually comes from human stockers who fill grocery store shelves or soda vending machines and who never wash their hands.

Almost any product shipped in the U.S must be secured against shifting in transit (hence the plastic binding) so cereal boxes and other packaged foods are equally as safe from contamination. Also of note, most food items aren’t warehoused for very long (overnight to a few days is common), the idea being to get the product to market as quick (and as fresh) as possible.

Urban legends are meant to cause fear and panic; their originators find it amusing to track the panicked propagation of their handiwork across the internet. Unfortunately the World Wide Web has turned into as large a source of misinformation as it is for reliable information.

Exposure to Rat Droppings: How Much Risk Is There?

Rats, mice and other rodents (in fact other invertebrate animals) can and do carry disease, that is an incontrovertible fact. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. has identified a dozen or more illnesses and diseases in which the rat droppings, urine or direct contact (i.e. bites) with the rat itself figure. Most (including the oft-cited and greatly feared bubonic plague) are treatable with modern antibiotics provided they have not been allowed to progress too far before medical intervention is sought.

The Hanta virus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) has a respectable death rate among those infected, with 30 percent mortality officially documented by the CDC in 2012. It must be noted however that since 1993 only 21 people in the United States have been documented as dying from the virus. The CDC does not consider the disease a widespread public safety hazard, a pandemic is unlikely due to the North American variant of HPS not being transmitted by person to person contact.

Of course all of this does not mean that precautions should not be taken against exposure during rat droppings clean-up, Short of laboratory testing of rat feces, the rat may be long gone by the time droppings removal takes place with no way to visually assess the state of its health.

Hantavirus disease clusters tend to follow certain weather patterns which cause overpopulation of rodents in an affected area; most often field or deer mice. Overcrowding and its inherent conditions cause the rates of disease development and transmission to rise—in any animal or human population.

Virtually all the deaths attributed to Hanta virus involved unprotected activity (cleaning up or clearing out debris) in dusty rural structures or low traffic attic spaces in more urban settings. A simple surgical face mask and a few precautions might well have spared the documented victims their fate.

How to safely remove rat droppings

Implementing a few common sense steps in rat droppings removal will more than adequately protect consumers from risk of infection.

How to clean rat droppings:

• Ventilate enclosed, dusty places for at least a half hour before attempting to clear or clean.

• Thoroughly wet down the area to be cleaned with a liquid disinfectant before beginning rat dropping clean-up by pouring (not spraying) the liquid onto affected surfaces. A solution of one part bleach to ten parts water is as an effective a disinfectant as prepackaged solutions.

• Do not sweep or use a vacuum as both stir up dust. Instead wipe up rat poop, nesting materials and other related debris with a paper towel and place it immediately inside a plastic bag.

• Wear breathing protection in the form of a filter mask and be sure to use rubber gloves. Disinfect the rubber gloves before removing them after finishing clean up.

• Double bag any rodent waste, bury or burn it if at all possible; follow procedures set by the public health district in your area.

• Thoroughly disinfect all surfaces in an affected room, not just where droppings and urine stains have been found. Include countertops, tables, floors, carpeting, cabinets and drawers.

• Launder bedding and clothing in hot water and detergent. Use chlorine bleach or the color safe equivalent in the load.

No one is arguing that rats are benevolent creatures we should welcome into our homes, but widespread instinctive panic about their presence in our general environment should be tempered with the realities of the dangers that rat droppings present to public health. Good sanitation, adequately rat proofing the home and exercising caution in droppings removal when found will protect most of us from any risks to our health.

50 thoughts on “Rat Droppings”

  1. Hey Jeff,

    Thanks for offering this great opportunity.

    As of this morning I’ve noticed rat droppings in my living room.

    Should I be worried? What’s the next obvious step?


  2. Hi, Jeff,

    Yesterday when I arrived home around 4 pm, I noticed what I assumed was a rat dropping in front of my stove and a few dust bunnies nearby. I cleaned it up, and inspected the area for droppings when I woke up this morning. Nothing.

    When I arrived home this afternoon, it looked a big scuffle had occured under my stove because dust bunnies and fragments of dirt and debris were all over in front of the stove, but no droppings.

    Is it possible I have a rat, or could this be something else? I find it odd that I saw signs of activity during the day, but absolutely no signs of activity last night.

  3. Hi Debbie, sounds like you have a problem, sorry to say. I had two rats move into my house unbeknownst to me (I have cats, too), and that was when I first started noticing them was during the day in a box in my bedroom. I heard strange noises behind the fridge at night, so I put out glue traps and caught one immediately the same day, thought I had solved the problem. Then, about a week later heard more noises (day and night), heard it raiding the cat food bowl, and knew I had another one. Caught it with a glue trap that night, too, but, since then, with the awful smell coming from my pot and pan cupboard, I took the toekicks off the cupboards and discovered a giant rat nest underneath the cupboards that had been there some time, and they made it out of my dishwasher lining/insulation! So, my advice, if you start thinking you have a problem, don’t go into denial like I did, investigate immediately! Two rats have caused endless grief for me here, I am so grateful they did not get the chance to breed in my house.

  4. I just pulled out all my furnishings from a well know storage unit after 2 years. There is was, all my furniture, clothes, mattress were covered with rat droppings and urine. They chewed into a goose down love seat, mattress, box with pillows. The stain and smell is crazy. I moved all my goods into my new home and now have to bring someone into clean and check every item that I had in storage. We are talking 10 x 30 unit. 2400 cubic feet of stored goods. I don’t know where to begin. I want to throw away items, but I can’t until the Storage Unit Insurance Company pays me for the damages. They will only pay for $2,000 worth of damages. Any suggestions?

  5. I have a similar problem with Uhaul storage repwest insurance company. May 22, 2015 I went to the unit and discovered rat feces and urine on my clothes. The insurance company has suggested that I get a professional dry cleaner to clean my clothes. I have reservations about wearing those damaged items. I am still paying for the unit and awaiting a counter offer. I simply want compensation for those damaged items. Oh by the way I was told to take pictures and I did that not knowing of the hazards that rat infestation contained and the potential health risk. I am not satisfied with those items being cleaned and wearable and am concerned for my health if I do so.

  6. Wanting to know if this was a Rat or a mouse; ans if they could have made it up the stairs or not.

    I initially found a olive pip like dropping on the carpet near one of our ground floor patio entrances. I searched the main floor for more and found another dropping behind the couch same size and shape and then in the main floor bathroom found what looked like a worm-like string (still unbroken) of poop on the white tile, and then a series of 5-6 other single droppings on the carpet, again all like skinny Kalamata olive pips. I found one last one on the carpet which leads up stairs when I was cleaning the floor — when I picked up the rug to shake it it rolled off.

    I couldn’t find anything up stairs, but when I went back down stairs to check the kitchen, I found a dry urine puddle outside one of our cupboards.

    I have not been able to find the little bugger, we have never had this type of problem in the past and have been here almost a year. I want to know if this is a Rat or a Mouse or if its possible its more than one.

    The droppings are about 1cm long except the string which was about 4cm long.

    Any help you could provide would be great, thanks.


    1. Believe we a rat or big mouse in our walls.
      How do i get rid of it or them. Saw what i thought was a black mouse in kitchen, then small droppings in one bedroom. Been seein bigger dropping and hear it running in the wall.please help?

  7. Hey Jeff,

    My husband and I moved into a new home in CA about 2 months ago and I was doing some landscaping on the side of the house this morning and noticed two areas of rat droppings. Both single layer of droppings about 1foot by 1foot wide. It rained here all day yesterday so the droppings looked fresh to me. However, until today there has been no signs of rats and no plantings or food for them to feed on. Not having read this, my landscaper planted a peach tree in the area of the droppings without clearing them out first. I’m sure now the scat is deep in the ground or possibly under the tree. So I have many questions; 1.) If the tree ever grows peaches will the peaches be safe to eat? 2.) I had leather gardening gloves on but they were wet from dirt and it is possible that wet soil that the rat feces was on may have penetrated my gloves. I have washed my hands thoroughly several times with anti-bacterial soap, Is there anything more I should do? 3.) What other precautions should I take to prevent the rats from returning?

    I believe they are/were brown rats based on the description of the scat posted here. Also, there are no signs of rats in the house and we also have three indoor cats.

    Thanks so much,


  8. Hi, Today we cleaned out a shelving unit in a tractor shed. After I graduated from college two years ago, I had no place to store a few garbage bags of clothing and a box or two of odds and ends. We have decided to have a yard sale and wanted to put a few pieces in the sale. While cleaning today, we found a lot of feces (looked like a rat convention had taken place). The building was pretty well ventilated and is usually wide open weekly because we use tractor for mowing. we did not use gloves, but tried not to touch feces and washed with antibacterial when finished. stuff is also being bleached. as far as breathing in stuff (it was in a corner) how high are we at risk to get sick?

  9. Hi

    I teach pre-schoolers in a primary school and the classroom is infested with rat droppings. The school has a huge rat problem and the rats are coming into the classes. I’ve been getting ill every year with chest and lung related illnesses like pneumonia, bronchitis and asthmatic chest.

    This is an ongoing issue and has not been resolved in the meantime my general health and well-being is taking the brunt of this problem.

  10. I live in private let flat which has Shed in back garden covered in rat droppings I go in Shed for some tools nearly every day just in and out. I’m scared to stay in longer through thinking I will get a disease also I’m terrified of cleaning it incase I get disease . What should I do please help, thank u

  11. Hi I wanted to know if a cup that was there for a month and was half washed and someone drunk from it can the person get sick.cause I have a mice problem

  12. We have a rat in our perishable warehouse, its been there since Sept 2015.
    It has been noticed eating the produce we send to stores and from what I hear this guy or gal is getting pretty fat.

    From what I have been reading this sounds bad if its been urinating or its droppings landing on the product being sent to stores.

    Our safety personnel is asking us to keep a lid on this but until we catch this rat I will not be shopping for produce in these stores for sometime. What would you do?

  13. Hello I think a rat has been living in my stove haven’t used it in a while opened the storgw drawer below and there was evidence there is something in there I went to use the oven and it smells like a petting zoo do I need to throw it away and replace it or can it be cleaned Dont want it contaminating food cooked in there

  14. I have some sort of rodent rat or squirrel nesting in the engine bay of my car. I found a nest made of palm fronds and twigs above the AC cabin filter. I’ve screened off that entrance but now I find scat and remains of Palm seeds that it/they are eating. Any advice
    On eliminating my problem. No room in garage to put this car inside

    1. If you have rats in your garage or close to house you need to get rid of them quickly. I have a Prius hybred car with alot of expensive computers and gadgets. Rats had built a nest under the inverter (expensive piece of car) on top of main wire harness for car. Some chewed wire but at least I don’t have to replace any componets

  15. I had some rats get into my loft two years ago, they got cleared by pest control company but at the time we couldn’t reach all of the are to clean away the droppings
    I now need to clear some of my loft space and I’m a little afraid of the consequences of both breathing in any fumes and accidentally touching some droppings, I’m looking for best course of action to take

  16. Thanks for this informative link, much appreciated for your time to explain. I live in the basement since a year and a half and found a lot of rats’ poos/feces. Confirmed it is black/roof rats – I had already seen one. I already mentioned several times to my landlord. From time to time, the basement soft ceiling tiles fell down that caused rats’ feces all over my living room in the basement. Frustrated. Two weeks ago, water from upstairs’ 25 years old dishwasher poured down through to my living room. Mess was included rats’ feces all over my couch, carpet, etc. I was so upset of course. I told my landlord I got enough and fed up. It seems they are going to do something about it, hopefully! Now the feces on my couch, carpet and others are clear. I already asked my landlord for professional cleaning to be covered at their expense and am still waiting for their reply. My question, is it safe to keep the couch and carpet? Concerned about virus, air and health. Please advise.

  17. My attic is heavily contaminated with rat droppings. We have been advised to initiate a cleanup process that involves removal of all of the fiberglass batt insulation. Is it absolutely necessary to remove the insulation? The entire cleanup job was quoted at $3500 for a 1500 square foot attic, including insulation removal, but not the cost of insulation replacement. Is this a reasonable price?

    We will appreciate a rapid response. Thank you.

  18. Hi Jeff-just discovered a rat’s nest the size of a beaver dam made during the winter under some building materials-no rats present but looks like a rat’s toilet-lots of scat. We have doused the area in disinfectant so far-but what about possibly infected garden soil that has been part of the nest? Also not sure how to proceed at this point generally-already had a baited rat trap and two apparently retired cats!

  19. I have a storage shed that has been closed up for over a year..I looked in the window and there are rat droppings from pack rats..probably mice too…all over the place..should I post a sign on the door as ”bio hazzard’ material in order to keep people out…
    I will clean it out sometime this year,but need to post something to let people know its a hazzard to go in there with all the dust and droppings…cardboard boxes are all stowed in there as well as stuff just stacked in ramden order…

  20. Found rat droppings in the loft of a bungalow. Have removed all the insulation, now need to remove the droppings. Please advise. Thank you.

  21. How do I repell the rats and discourage reinfestatation? This has become a major problem in my home. Considering relocating.

  22. I have just cleared out my garage, having found rat droppings!
    Most are normal, but a few of the older ones seem to have grown tiny white spikes on, others have bright orange dots on!!
    I guess these are a fungus? Have you come across this, an do you know if it is more dangerous to handle?

  23. Syndia

    Hi, I live in a 64 unit apartment complex and just about everyone are experiencing small to really large rats. I didn’t believe that i had any until today when I started pulling things out. I didn’t see any sign in the kitchen and was unsure of what i saw under my sofa and chairs in my livingroom it looked black and ashy. But as I stepped on something in my room and went back and pickednit up(bare-handed). It looked like a small piece of besalt rock. Also, my puppy seems to be frightened about something. Should I be concerned and am I in danger by touching it? Please help!!

  24. I live in a 64 unit complex and almost everyone here are affected by rats and mice. I pulled everything out in my kitchen and saw nothing. In my livingroom under my couch i observed what appears to be chalky rock. In my bedroom I stepped on what looks like a small besalr mineral rock. I picked it up bare-handed. Also, my pet seems to be frightened by something. Should i be concerned about my handling of this and how can I keep my pet safe?? Please help me!!

  25. During our escrow inspection the inpector found holes in the heater ducts and rat dropping in the attic. I know that the heater ducts with holes have to be replaced, what else has to be done to the heater system to clean it out? Do all the ducts need to be replaced? Can I have the dropping tested for diseases? Thank you for your help

  26. Hi jeff i found this giant raisin in my kitchen next to the cooker i thought it might be a rats poop but my fruits in the basket on the floor are untouched.i was wondering if you could identify it for me if i send you a picture of it?

  27. We have a major rat problem in one of the work sheds at a camp I am at. We brought in a person to trap and now we need to clean up the mess. I am also going to place predator urine, recommended by a fish & gun shop near our area.
    I am wondering if I should throw out all of the pens, pencils, markers etc. that the rats have been in contact with. They even decided to move insulation into a helmet for a nest? Do I throw out the helmet too? I would send you a pic but don’t see how I could attach it here. I will be picking up masks, gloves, tyveck? suits etc. tomorrow in town (100 kms. away). Please advise a.s.a.p.

  28. Is Rat feces toxic to skin? Will the skin experience something if exposed or have been in contact with the rat droppings?

  29. found rat damage and poops in garage. set out stiky things one spring trap and an electrical plug that’s suppose to keep them away. Didn’t catch anything but the spring trap was sprung but not rat. I think that its a rat cause the poops are big and its been eating through several plastic containers. Need them gone asap as my little one is gonna raise chickens in a few weeks in the garage. HELP!

  30. I found what I thought to be rat droppings in a chip bag I was eating. Is it any way to test and confirm these are rat droppings?

  31. I have a small brown mouse with a long tail living inside my stove I put poison yesterday but I was able to hear it again today a loud noise like if it was still alive, what should I do? My name is Jeanette Zamora my# is (832) 853-8615 address is: 5427 De Soto St. Houston TX 77091

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.