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Did you know that rats can squeeze through openings as small as a quarter? This alarming fact highlights just how easily unwelcome guests can enter a home. Knowing what rats like to eat is a critical first step to preventing infestations and protecting your home.

In this guide, we’ll learn the dietary preferences of rats and share practical tips to keep them at bay. Whether you’re dealing with a current infestation or hoping to prevent one, knowing your opponent is the first step to banishing them for good.

What Attracts Rats?

Rats are opportunistic feeders, and your home offers a smorgasbord of potential dining spots. When you understand what will attract rats, you can prevent conditions that make them feel at home. Similarly, knowing the most common areas for rats to check for food gives you the upper hand – let’s take a look:

  • Kitchens and Pantries –Rats are drawn to kitchens and pantries where food is often stored. Improperly stored food in bags or cardboard boxes can be a feast for these pests.
  • Garbage Bins – Overflowing or uncovered garbage bins are a goldmine for rats. They can easily access scraps and leftovers, so it’s essential to use bins with tight-fitting lids and dispose of trash regularly.
  • Pet Food Bowls – Equally appealing, pet food left out overnight is an easy meal for rats. Feed your pets at specific times and remove any uneaten food promptly to avoid attracting rodents.
  • Gardens and Composts – Lastly, gardens can provide fruits and vegetables that rats love. Similarly, compost bins, if not properly managed, can become a food source. Keep your garden tidy and use rat-proof compost bins to minimize attraction.
Rats do have favorite foods to eat, but are opportunists.

What Do Rats Prefer to Eat?

While rats aren’t picky eaters and will consume almost anything available, there are certain foods they’re particularly likely to enjoy.

Nuts, Seeds, and Grains

When they’re available, rats have a strong preference for nuts, seeds, and grains. These foods provide essential nutrients and are easy for rats to store and transport. If you have these items in your pantry, ensure they are stored in airtight containers.

Fruits and Vegetables

Additionally, rats enjoy fresh produce like fruits and vegetables. They are attracted to the sweetness and moisture content. To prevent rats from accessing these foods, keep them refrigerated or in secure containers.

Meat and Dairy Products

Although less common, rats will also eat meat and dairy products. These items are rich in proteins and fats, making them appealing to rodents. When you have leftovers, make sure they are promptly discarded and stored properly.

Garbage and Leftovers

Finally, rats are scavengers and will happily consume any garbage or leftover food. Keeping your trash bins covered and disposing of food waste regularly can help reduce the attraction.

Signs of a Rat Infestation

Spotting the signs of a rat infestation early can help you take swift action. Here are the common indicators that rats might be in your home:

Droppings and Urine Stains

Rats leave behind droppings and urine stains as they move around. Look for small, dark droppings in areas where food is stored or consumed. Urine stains may also be visible under UV light, revealing their presence in less obvious places.

Bite Marks and Nesting Material

Rats have strong teeth that can chew through a variety of materials, including food packages, wooden structures, and plastic containers. If you notice gnaw marks on your belongings, it could be a sign of rat activity.

Also, rats build nests using soft materials like shredded paper, fabric, and insulation. Finding these materials in hidden areas such as behind appliances, in attics, or in basements can indicate an infestation.

Nocturnal Noises

Rats are nocturnal creatures, so you’re more likely to hear them at night. Listen for scratching, scurrying, and squeaking sounds, especially coming from walls, ceilings, or under floors.

Grease Marks and Tracks

When rats navigate your home, they often leave behind greasy smudges and footprints along walls, floors, and baseboards. These marks can help you trace their common pathways and entry points.

Strange Pet Behavior

Finally, pets like dogs and cats might become unusually alert or agitated around areas where rats are present. If your pet is fixated on a particular spot, it could be a sign of hidden rodent activity.

Leaving food and leftovers out can attract various pests including rats.

Preventative Maintenance

Luckily, a lot of the preventative measures to keep rats out of your home are probably already included in your routine upkeep.

  • Store Food Securely: Use airtight containers for all food, including pet food. Regularly clean up crumbs and spills in the kitchen and pantry.
  • Secure Garbage: Use bins with tight-fitting lids and dispose of trash regularly. Opt for sturdy, chew-proof bins.
  • Manage Pet Food: Feed pets at specific times and remove uneaten food promptly. Store pet food in sealed containers.
  • Maintain Garden and Compost: Harvest fruits and vegetables regularly, and remove fallen produce. Use rat-proof compost bins, positioned away from the house.
  • Seal Entry Points: Inspect and seal gaps, cracks, and holes in walls, floors, and foundations using steel wool, caulk, or metal mesh.

When to Call a Professional

Despite our best efforts, sometimes an infestation happens, requiring expert intervention. Here are clear signs that it’s time to call a professional:

  • Persistent Infestation: If rats keep coming back despite your preventive measures, a professional can identify and address hidden entry points and nests.
  • Extensive Damage: If you notice significant structural damage or chewed wires, it’s crucial to get expert help to prevent further harm.
  • Health Concerns: Rats can carry diseases that pose serious health risks. If you suspect contamination of food or living areas, professional exterminators can safely handle the situation.
  • Large Infestation: If you see multiple rats or numerous signs of their presence, it’s best to call in professionals who have the tools and expertise to eliminate a large infestation effectively.


In essence, rats will eat pretty much anything. Preventing a rat infestation takes a solid understanding of their habits and dietary preferences. Secure food sources, maintain cleanliness, and seal entry points to make your home less inviting to these pests.

Conduct regular inspections and take prompt action at the first sign of trouble to avoid extensive damage. For help with an existing pest population or scheduling preventative service, call Inside and Out Pest Services today in Jacksonville, FL, and surrounding areas.

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