What Sounds Does a Rat Make?

2 rats

Rats, though little critters, can survive just about anywhere. Quiet as a whisper mostly, their nighttime snacks and hustle-bustle in your walls and attic are far from silent. Caught off guard and wondering what sounds a rat makes? From subtle scratching, gnawing, and squeaking to the not-so-discreet sound of them nibbling on who knows what – these distinctive noises aren’t just there to give you goosebumps in the middle of the night. 

They’re warning bells tolling loud and clear for some serious pest control action. Identifying these sounds early enough could be the secret weapon in bringing a looming rat invasion to a full stop. So, let’s decode the soundtrack of a rat’s secret life and learn some preventive measures.

What Sounds Does a Rat Make?

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Seemingly stealthy in nature, the rat’s audio diary might appear wordless at first glance. They communicate through their ultrasonic secret language, active all the time yet entirely oblivious to your ears. 

However, the silence doesn’t always hold. Nighttime comes with a different story when rats invade a place and get down to business. They’ll chew through everything that stands between them and the food or nesting sources they’re seeking. Whether it be wall insulation, wooden furniture pieces, or beloved books, they spare nothing – not even electrical wires posing a risky fire hazard.

Here are some main rat noise-makers that you might hear in your house:

  • Scratching: The rats will often scratch the surfaces for various reasons, such as trying to gain access and nest-building. If there are rats in your attic or walls, you will probably hear this noise more frequently.
  • Gnawing: Rats have strong, hard teeth that they use to chew through almost any material, including insulation, woodwork, plastic, and wiring. Usually, ‘gnaw, gnaw’ sounds are common first signs of an infestation.
  • Scurrying: In the quiet of the night, you might hear a scurrying noise as rats dash around in search of food or escape routes. This sound will be more pronounced if the critters are overhead – say, in the attic.
  • Scream: Nobody enjoys pain, right? When experiencing extreme distress or agony, a few rats may let out evident, high-pitched squeals

However, this is not the norm – most would rather bear their pain or meet their end quietly. As a result, when setting traps, favor the humane options. For instance, traditional snap traps are preferable as they minimize harm and suffering.

*Note: Remember, it’s not just rats that can cause a stir. Mice and squirrels are known culprits too, each with their own favorite time slots – squirrels being day lovers while rats and mice owning the night. 

The Secret Language of Rats: Unheard Sounds and Pitches

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A rat’s chatter goes way beyond their loud and clear munching or occasional high-pitched squeaks. They are social butterflies of the rodent world. With intelligence rivaling dogs, rats have a rich emotional life as well. They laugh, sing romantic songs when they are in love, and even send “all-clear red flag signals” to their buddies. 

Outside the range of human hearing capacity, rats emit ultrasonic vocalizations that oscillate between 20 to 50 kHz. These frequencies, perceptible exclusively to rats or through specialized recording equipment, manifest as high-pitched whistles, squeaks, and chirps.

Here’s a peek into their secretive vocal world:

  • Subtle Whistling: This is a softer, higher-pitched sound often used by rats to communicate various emotions ranging from anticipation and excitement, all could indicate their comfort level around you if you happen to have pet rats.
  • Chirping or Singing: Have you ever wondered how rodent dating works? When it’s romance time in “Ratland”, guys sing their hearts out – doing ultrasonic serenades to woo females.
  • Growls and Hisses: Just like a grumpy old man would grunt at you, rats growl and hiss when they’re stressed out or sensing danger. A threat spotted? Their warning flags shoot straight up – with hard, low growls and sharp hisses ringing the alarm loud and clear for their pals.
  • Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): While sometimes it can just be a sign of contentment, more often than not, it’s an SOS signal declaring something’s not right.
  • Chuckles: Not your regular ha-ha-ha. These are high-pitched giggles, a rat’s way of laughing when they’re tickled or when they are engaged in play.

What’s That Noise, Rats or Mice?

Telling the difference between rat and mouse noises can be somewhat of a puzzle, primarily because they tend to have quite similar sound profiles. Nevertheless, polishing your ears to detect subtle distinctions might help identify the rodent in question. Rats, being larger, tend to make louder and more low-pitched noises than mice. Some of the key differences in sounds to listen for are:

  • Squeaks: Mouse squeaks are higher; rat squeaks can range from high to deeper tones, depending on the situation.
  • Movement: Mice produce lighter, rapid scurrying sounds; rat movements sound heavier and more deliberate.
  • Gnawing: Both critters gnaw, but rats tend to take on more substantial challenges, which results in louder gnawing noises.

Rats Hideouts in Your Home: Where You Might Hear Them?

Mouse peeking out from carton box
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Home is where the heart finds peace – and that stands true for rats, too. They prefer to settle down in cozy corners of your house, particularly unwelcome territories like attics or cellars. Right under unsuspecting noses, they’ll get busy carving their own residential paradise from twilight to dawn.

Guessing where these tiny trespassers might have found heaven in your house? Here are some possible rat hotspots:

  • Attic: It’s warm, quiet, and secluded – exactly a black rat’s dream retreat. If you hear scuffling or tiny scamperings, it could be a noisy nuisance setting up a home in your attic. 
  • Basement: The brown rat, or the Norway rat, prefers to settle in the basement or lower levels of buildings, such as crawl space. An unexplained rustling sound from below could be a sign that they’ve moved into your property.
  • Walls/Ceilings/Floors: Often heard but not seen, rats have a baffling knack for stealthily navigating within the layer-cake floors and walls. Spotting them might be tough, but those scratching and gnawing sounds seeping through give away their location. 
  • Cabinets and Furniture: The wooden stuff is a rat’s chewing paradise. Gritty gnawing noises from your precious furniture or cabinets may spell doom for these prized possessions.
  • Pipes and Ducts: Unexplained gurgles, splashes, or squeaky echoes coming from your plumbing system could suggest a rat invasion. They’re expert divers and swimmers with shiny pro skills at tightrope walking.

Practical Steps to Deter Rats

Practical steps to deter rats involve a mix of cleanliness, vigilance, and sometimes a little bit of DIY ingenuity. No one likes uninvited guests, especially those of the rodent variety, so let’s dive into some strategies that can keep these critters at bay:

  • Keep It Clean: Regularly taking out the trash, wiping down surfaces, and not leaving food out are golden rules. If nothing is inviting for rats to feast on, they’re less likely to stick around.
  • Seal Entry Points: Identify and close any possible entries around your home where a rat could squeeze through. Remember, rats possess a lot of flexibility and can flatten their bodies to fit into seemingly impossible spaces.
  • Preventative Landscaping: Tidy up the yard and keep the shrubbery trimmed. A neat lawn is less inviting for rats to use as cover. 
  • Employ Traps: Getting rid of small infestations might seem like an uphill task, but setting up traps (preferably humane) and bait stations in hotspots, such as the attic or garage, can help control rising populations.
  • Contact Pest Control: If there’s just too much rodent activity going on in your property, it might be time to bring in the experts. Pest control services can provide comprehensive solutions tailored to your specific situation, thus ensuring effective elimination.
  • Stay Vigilant: Finally, the key to staying rat-free is constant vigilance. Regularly inspect your home for signs of rats and take action immediately if you spot any. A quick response can prevent a full-blown infestation.

FAQ About Rats

How can you tell if you’ve got rats in your walls? 

Spotting rats is more about playing connect the dots than witnessing a rodent parade. Listen out for those telltale sounds – scratching, squeaking, and the pitter-patter of little feet when everything else is quiet. Look out for droppings or marks where they’ve been gnawing.

You can also sprinkle some flour near the walls to see if a rodent leaves any tracks. Check out this guide on How to Identify Rat Footprints.

How do you disinfect after finding rat droppings? 

Suit up with gloves and a face mask for starters. Ventilate the area well, then spray the droppings and urine spots with a bleach solution or a disinfectant and let it soak in for a couple of minutes (one part bleach, ten parts water works well). 

Don’t vacuum or sweep dry, as it can kick up harmful particles into the air. Instead, clean it up using paper towels or rags. Scoop up the droppings and any contaminated materials into a plastic bag, seal it tightly, and dispose of it in a covered trash can. Don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly after.

What does a common rat look like? 

Common rats, whether brown (Norway) or black rats, come with a long body, a tail almost equal to body length, big ears, and a pointed snout. Brown rats are, well, brownish and bigger. Black rats are sleeker and darker, with more of a grayish-black color.

Call in the Pros for a Rat-Free Home

Getting to grips with the idea that rats might be scampering undetected within your own walls can stir a mix of denial and dread. Armed with the knowledge of their secret soundscape, however, flips the script in your favor. Recognizing the subtle hints – from soft scratching to gnawing sounds – puts you on the front foot, ready to tackle these intruders head-on. 

Once identified, swift action is necessary. Start by sealing potential entry points, keeping the surroundings clean, and setting up traps if it’s manageable. But remember, when in doubt or facing a full-blown invasion – call in the pros. A local pest control expert can swiftly return your home to its rightful state of security and tranquility.

Main Photo Credit: Life On White / Canva Pro / License

Luminita Toma

Luminita Toma, an outdoor enthusiast, channels her passion for nature into her writing. With a deep understanding of pest control, she's always on the hunt for the latest and most effective solutions. Beyond her work, she loves to spend time with her nearest and dearest, sharing stories and laughs.