Rat Droppings: How to Identify and Clean Safely
Rat droppings are a telltale sign of an infestation. And you may see them more often as Australia is amidst a literal rodent plague.
A billion rats roam the streets of Sydney alone.
This means your home might as well be a rats' home, too, without you even knowing. So, if you've seen suspicious poop that looks like a rounded olive pit, sorry to break it for you, you may have a rat infestation on your property.
Keep reading to learn how and where to look for more rat poop, and by the end, you'll be able to tell the rats' age just by their droppings. Just remember, rats carry a nasty infection called Leptospirosis that can be deadly to humans and pets. So, keep your distance and be extra vigilant while inspecting.
How to identify rat faeces
If you've found suspicious droppings around your house, we'll help you easily identify whether they have come from rats or from another animal. Discerning rat faeces from those of other rodents is important in terms of knowing how to proceed with the situation.
What does rats’ poop look like?
What you will notice is dark poop pellets scattered around the rooms, grouped in certain areas. Rats, and other rodents in general, prefer to defecate in the same spot.
Rat droppings are about the same shape and size as an olive pit but with rounded ends. Usually, they average about 12-18mm long. Younger rats leave smaller droppings, which is an easy way to determine which ones are left by older or younger rats.
Fresh rat faeces are black shiny, and moist, while older ones dry out, harden and turn grey. So, if you find rat droppings that are whitish in colour, chances are they have been there for a while. Usually, there is also a musky, pungent smell accompanying the droppings. The more noticeable odour is that of rat urine.
What can be mistaken for rat poop?
While both mice and rat droppings look like dark pellets, the former are much smaller, about the size of a grain of rice. This is, of course, self-explanatory since mice are smaller in size compared to rats. Mice droppings have elongated, sharp ends as opposed to the rounder ends of rat faeces.
Get more info on: How to Tell the Difference Between Mice and Rats
Possum poo can vary in size and appearance depending on the animal's most recent meals. Most commonly, the droppings are about 10mm long and dark brown or black in colour.
Health risks of rat droppings
Rats can cause serious health issues to you, your family and pets, alongside the up to thousands of dollars in property damage. It's no surprise that when people think about rats, what automatically comes to mind are various infectious diseases, such as the Black Death. While the plague is no longer the threat it once was, there are, however, plenty of other diseases that rats can and do spread. Rat poop can not only spread bacteria and viruses, but also trigger allergic reactions and contaminate food and water sources. Once the droppings have dried out, they easily turn to small dust particles which can be inhaled.
What diseases can rats carry?
Let's take a look at the most common diseases carried by rats:
Probably the most significant microorganism rats can spread, Hantavirus is an airborne virus that, when inhaled causes a variety of symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fever, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, abdominal pains, muscle aches, and vomiting. When rat droppings, urine or saliva are stirred up, tiny droplets, which contain the Hantavirus, are airborne. People become infected by inhaling these virus-loaded droplets. Hantavirus can be potentially lethal.
- Bubonic plague
Some might think that the bubonic plague belongs only in the history books, but in reality, the Black Death resurfaces periodically. Thankfully, nowadays we can manage it much faster and better with antibiotics. Rodents, such as rats and mice, usually are infested with fleas, through whose bite the bubonic plague is transmitted to humans.
Caused by bacteria from the Salmonella type, which live in the intestinal tracts of animals, Salmonellosis is a symptomatic infection that causes diarrhoea, fever, and stomach cramps. Humans usually become infected by eating foods contaminated with animal feces.
- Rat-bite fever (RBF)
RBF is an infectious disease caused by bacteria found in the urine and saliva of rodents. As the name suggests, the transmission to humans usually happens by being bitten by a rodent but can also transmit through a scratch wound or contact with a dead rodent. The symptoms include vomiting, fever, headache, rash, and muscle and joint pain.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease that occurs more commonly in temperate and tropical climates. The bacteria that causes Leptospirosis can be found in some wild and domestic animals, including rats, and is secreted in their urine. People usually get infected by coming into contact with infected urine or consuming food or water contaminated by it.
Check the full list of diseases caused by rats in Australia.
Are rat faeces dangerous to clean if you're pregnant?
Pregnant women should avoid cleaning up rat droppings since it poses significant risks for mother and child. They are at risk of contracting Lymphocytic choriomeningitis and, in rare cases, Toxoplasmosis.
The hosts of the Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus are wild rodents. The virus is found in their urine and faeces, among other bodily secretions. The way it spreads is through contact with broken skin, eyes, nose, or ingestion. Some people have no symptoms, while others may develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. In some cases, people develop meningitis, encephalitis or both. Pregnant women should be especially careful because the virus can cause birth defects.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite, which is usually found in cat feces, but also in rats, mice, cows, chicken, and other warm-blooded animals. The transmission happens when a person ingests faecal particles or contaminated food, water, or dust. Toxoplasmosis is an extremely serious disease of the unborn.
What do you do if you find rat poop?
Should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, what you have to do is:
- Clean the rat droppings
- Call an exterminator
How to safely clean rat droppings
- Open the doors and windows for at least half an hour before you begin cleaning.
- Make sure to wear rubber gloves in order to avoid direct contact with the rat droppings and a face mask to protect yourself from inhaling dust particles, which, as mentioned, can be contaminated by microorganisms). If you have protective goggles, it is advisable to use them as well, since dust can get into your eyes.
- Spray the droppings with 10% bleach solution.
- Avoid sweeping or vacuuming the rat droppings because that will not only spread tiny dust particles in the air but also trap them in your vacuum cleaner.
- Use a paper towel to pick up the droppings and then place them in a plastic bag with a seal. Dispose of all the materials you have used, as well.
- Wipe all the floors and surfaces with a disinfectant. You can use the same 10% chlorine bleach solution.
- Once you are done, wash your hands the right way, including underneath your nails and around your wrists.
Call a rat exterminator
If a rat has entered your property, you have no other option but to deal with the issue immediately because it is only a matter of time that you have a serious problem on your hands. The best way to go about a pest infestation is to hire professional rodent exterminators. Our qualified and experienced rat control specialists will carefully inspect your property, locate the rat entry points and use products of the highest quality to make sure you and your family are protected.