Whether you found rodent droppings in your attic or want to identify potential wildlife in your area based on scats, you might wonder how to tell squirrel and rat poop apart.
These two small mammals are about the same size, and both have pellet-like droppings. Identifying them could be a challenge, but there are ways to tell which rodents they belong to.
Both squirrels and rats have cylindrical droppings of around 3/8 of an inch in size. However, squirrel poop has round edges, whereas rat poop has tapered edges. Squirrel droppings are also lighter in color and are often thicker compared to rat droppings. Rat poop is usually shiny and smooth, whereas squirrel scat can appear more rugged.
The table below shows a quick comparison between rat vs. squirrel poop*:
|Characteristics||Squirrel Scat||Rat Scat|
|Appearance||Irregular pellets that are typically dark reddish-brown in color||Smooth, shiny pellets that are typically black or dark brown in color|
|Shape||Cylindrical in shape with round edges||Sausage-shaped pellets with tapered edges|
|Color||Reddish brown to dark brown. Lightens with age||Dark brown to black. Lightens with age|
|Consistency||Less uniform||More uniform|
|Content||Traces of seeds and nuts||Typically homogenous appearance|
*Data in the table was sourced from research papers, governmental agencies, educational websites, and pest control specialists that are cited throughout this article.
6 Differences Between Squirrel Poop And Rat Poop
At first glance, all rodent droppings seem to look alike. However, there are slight differences that can help you tell between the two species.
Squirrels, including tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and chipmunks, have pellet-type scat, but the appearance of pellets isn’t as regular as that of rats or mice.
Typical pellets have a cylindrical shape with round edges, but raisin-shaped pellets are also common.
Rat poop looks like mouse poop but larger. Fresh pellets are typically smooth and shiny, and the color is almost always dark.
Comparatively, squirrel scat has a rougher appearance, the surface looking less smooth.
As already mentioned, both rodents have pellet droppings that are usually cylindrical in shape.
The main difference is that squirrel droppings have rounded edges, whereas rat droppings are tapered.
This isn’t an exact science, though, and incorrectly labeling squirrel poop as rat poop (or vice versa) based on shape alone is possible.
A way to identify between the two rodents is by looking at the dropping clusters.
Squirrel droppings are randomly distributed with barrel-shaped, raisin-shaped, or jelly bean-shaped pellets. More often, a cluster includes pellets of all shapes.
Rat droppings are also randomly distributed, but the shape of all pellets is more sausage-like.
Rat and squirrel droppings are not only similar in shape and looks, but they are also similar in size.
Typically, squirrel poop is around 3/8 of an inch long and about 1/8 of an inch thick. Rat scat is about the same size, even though it is often thinner than squirrel scat.
A thing to keep in mind is that rat droppings can be larger, though, depending on the rat size. In fact, they can be up to half an inch long and sometimes up to an inch.
Another telltale between squirrel and rat droppings is the color of the scat.
Both rodents’ droppings are various shades of brown.
However, due to different diets, squirrel droppings are often reddish or light brown in color – even though some squirrels can have grey or black poop with a sweeter smell, depending on the rodent’s diet.
Rat poop is typically dark brown or black. The black color is often the result of moisture content – fresh droppings are darker than dry or old ones.
In both squirrels and rats, the feces become lighter and brittle as they dry out.
Fresh droppings of both squirrels and rats have a firm consistency, but rat poop is usually smoother and shinier than squirrel poop.
Squirrel droppings often have a “raisin” like appearance and less homogeneous consistency. Traces of nuts and seeds may be visible, and because of this, the color could also be inconsistent within the same pellet.
In both species, the feces turn brittle, and the consistency becomes earthy or sandy as they dry out.
Figuring out a rat’s diet by simply looking at its feces is near impossible; however, traces of seeds and nuts can be observed in squirrel scat frequently.
Rats generally feed on grains, cereals, fruits, and other vegetation, but they are omnivores and also eat insects and other non-plant materials.
Inside homes, rats take advantage of food scraps and pantries, consuming whatever they find available. This omnivorous diet is most likely the reason their feces are smoother and more homogenous than squirrel poop.
Squirrel and rat feces are similar, and identifying the rodent based on scat alone can be challenging.
As a general rule, the squirrel scat is larger and lighter in color. It is also less smooth than rat poop, with easy-to-identify traces of food.
Rat droppings are thinner and tapered, whereas squirrels have barrel-shaped droppings with round edges. Fresh rat droppings also tend to be dark, the color ranging from dark brown to black.