How to Identify Rat Footprints

Rat footprints

Identifying rat tracks can be the key to uncovering a potential rat infestation before it scurries out of control. But how to identify rat footprints? Fortunately, it’s not rocket science: have you seen a parallel pattern of tracks measuring about an inch? Well, that’s the telltale sign. 

So, while you may be tempted to hit the snooze button on this, the reality is that ignoring those minuscule marks could allow the problem to grow. Being mindful of these subtle indicators will help you evict rats from your home faster.

Read our article to learn more about rats’ footprints.

What Do Rats Tracks Look Like?

Rat footprints in the riverside mud
Photo Credit: imv / Canva Pro / License

Identifying rat footprints is easier than you might think, and understanding a few key details can help. Keep an eye out for these characteristics:

  • Size: Rat tracks vary depending on the rat’s age and size. Typically, the hind foot track measures between one-half to 1 inch in length and width. 

Baby rats, however, don’t walk initially; instead, they wiggle within the nest. Around 3 to 4 weeks old, they venture outside the nest, leaving footprints similar in shape and characteristics to older rats but smaller, presumably around half an inch. These footprints gradually grow until reaching the full inch size of older rats.

  • Shape: Rat footprints commonly have an elongated shape.
  • Characteristics: Rats have four-toed front feet and five-toed hind feet. They are plantigrade, meaning the entire foot touches the ground during movement. The hind feet leave larger footprints than the front feet. While the toes on their back paws are closely aligned, the front paw toes are widely spaced in a circular pattern. 

Keep an eye out for their long claws, which may be visible.

  • Tail: Rats have a thick and long tail that they drag around as they move, often leaving a trace in their tracks.
  • Pattern: Rat footprints typically appear as two parallel lines, providing a distinctive pattern to look for. 

By paying attention to these details, you can easily spot and identify rat footprints around your home.

Rat Tracks in Different Terrains

Rat trail on the snow
Photo Credit: Nevit Dilmen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Rats tracks are more than just a nuisance; they’re a map to their world. Rats, by nature, follow the same paths, establishing well-trodden trails between their nests and food sources. As they scamper along, they leave behind dirt and oils from their fur, smudging surfaces and leaving a trail of evidence.

The presence of rat tracks not only signals a rodent problem but also reveals information about the severity of the infestation and the rodents’ hideouts. These tracks act as breadcrumbs, leading you either to a potential food source or to their secretive nests.

  • Roof Rats: For roof rats, their nests perch in high places like trees, attics, and rooftops. Their tracks might wind their way up to these elevated sanctuaries, providing a clue of where they are hidden.
  • Norway Rats: Norway rats opt for burrows as their homes. Their tracks often lead to these hidden tunnels in the ground. Beware, as these rats aren’t afraid to venture indoors, chewing through wood and softer foundations to find shelter away from potential predators.

Rats might not be aquatic experts, lacking fins or webbed feet, but they do navigate various terrains with ease. Here are some terrains where you might spot rat tracks:

  • Fresh snowfall can unveil a rat’s nocturnal adventures.
  • Beaches or sandy areas might preserve their prints.
  • Mud can capture rat footprints.
  • Dusty surfaces can showcase the smudges left by rats.

ProTip: Using talcum, flour, or china clay can be a clever trick. Sprinkle it where you suspect rats, and the next day, check for fresh tracks. This DIY detective work can unveil their presence and help you take timely action.

Where to Look For Rat Tracks

If you suspect rats in your home, finding their tracks can be a vital step in addressing the issue. Here’s an easy-to-follow list of places to check both inside and outside your home:

Outside Your Home:

  • Foundations and walls
  • Windows and doors
  • Roofs and gutters
  • Kitchen cabinets, refrigerators, and stoves
  • Pipes
  • Vents and air conditioning
  • Garage door seals
  • Around holes for electrical, gas, and cable lines
  • Around the car

Inside Your Home:

  • Attics
  • Fireplaces
  • Closets
  • Walls
  • Floor vents and dryer vents
  • Crawl spaces

By paying close attention to these spaces, you have more chances of finding rat tracks and pinpointing potential hiding spots for these intruders. Stay ahead of any potential rat problems in your home.

FAQ About Rats

Mouse vs. rat footprints: What’s the difference?

Even though they may look alike, mice and rat tracks are different in size. Look closely, and you’ll notice that mouse tracks have smaller hind footprints, measuring no more than half an inch. On the other hand, rats leave bigger hind footprints, measuring around 1 inch or even more. A rat’s tail impression is also much larger than a mouse’s. 

Are rats or mice invading your kitchen? Find out in our guide Rat vs Mouse: Which One Is in Your Home?

What are some common signs of rat infestation?

Detecting a rat infestation involves keeping a keen eye out for subtle but telling signs:

  • Rodent droppings
  • Rats’ nesting materials like shredded paper and fabric 
  • Chewing on food packaging 
  • Holes chewed through walls and floors 
  • Stale smells emanating from hidden corners

Rats vs. squirrels footprint: What’s the difference?

Rat prints and squirrel prints might look similar in size, but there’s a trick to tell them apart. Imagine drawing a line between the first and last toes. If that line goes through the central pad in the footprint, it’s a rat. Squirrels, on the other hand, won’t have the line passing through their central pad.

Not sure if rats or squirrels are invading your attic? Check out our guide How to Tell If You Have Squirrels or Rats.

Hire a Pro to Get Rid of Rats in Your Home

Being the detective of your home comes with its rewards. By identifying rat footprints, you can protect your space from unwelcome rodent guests. 
However, if the task seems very difficult or overwhelming, the footprints become too puzzling, and everything seems too complex, consider calling in the experts. Pest control professionals are just a call away, ready to give you all the help you need!

Main Photo Credit: imv / Canva Pro / License

Cecilia Acevedo

Cecilia is a writer focused on keeping homes clean and healthy. When not exposing the secrets of home invaders, she digs into the latest pest news, offering practical tips to kick them out. Join Cecilia for straightforward information and advice on dealing with pesky intruders.