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What do Rats Eat

August 23, 2022

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Found across the world, rats—like all animals—have their place in the ecosystem. However, issues tend to arise when wild rats find their way into our homes and yards. Learning about foods that rats like to eat and what attracts them to residential spaces are the first steps in keeping them out of places they’re not wanted.

What do rats eat in nature?

Similar to most animals in the natural kingdom, rats have evolved and adapted to survive off of food sources that are plentiful in locations where they live. Rats are omnivorous and will eat basically anything. 

The brown rat, aka the Norway rat, prefers a variety of prey, including crustaceans, birds, rabbits, and carrion. Roof rats (also called house rats or ship rats), eat a similar diet to brown rats but areLet’s discuss

An interesting effect of urbanization (which has been happening essentially since ancient Greece) is that rats have evolved to live comfortably in a city. Rats are accustomed to eating food sources that are more commonly found in cities rather than wilderness environments. The most popular food source for city rats is garbage, pet feces, and fruit trees. 

What garden plants do rats eat?

If you have any edible plants in your yard or garden, it may become dinner for rats. In gardens specifically, rats seek out nutrient-rich veggies and berries to eat, but they may also look for protein, especially snails. One of the best ways you can deter rats that are seeking snails for dinner is to make sure your outdoor compost pile or bin has no meat, grains, or fats, which attracts snails and rats. Snail control is a big part of rat control. (If you have a snail problem, Hawx offers a Snail and Slug Service. Contact us to have a technician come address your problem.) 

The presence of excrement, whether from cats, dogs, or wild animals like birds, foxes, or coyotes, can be another attractor for rats. They love the undigested food in excrement and view it as a welcome food source. Make sure that any droppings in your yard are cleaned up right away. 

What do rats eat in houses?

Since rats are omnivorous, many things found in and around your home can be potential food for them. 

Here are a few of their favorite foods:

  • Garbage that is left out and not secured in an airtight container
  • Food, especially dry grains like rice or flour, that are open to the air and accessible
  • Droppings from pets in your yard that aren’t cleaned up right away
  • Fruit trees like apple, peach, and cherry, or berry bushes 

Another reason that rats may enter your home is to find a spot to nest. Enclosed places that are dark and warm are especially attractive for rats. If you’ve taken all the steps to secure your food and trash, yet you’re still finding evidence of rats in your home, they may be nesting there and finding food elsewhere. 

Common places to check for rat nests include old couches and mattresses that aren’t used often, storage boxes, or the insulation in your walls or attics.

What food is best for trapping rats?

Rats tend to prefer foods that are high in nutrients, like fat and protein. Some of the most common foods used to bait rat traps are peanut butter, bacon, dried fruit, or meat (like hot dogs) that won’t make a mess of your trap but have enough protein and fat to attract them.

When is it time to use a professional rat control service?

If you haven’t been able to or don’t want to get rid of these furry critters on your own, don’t worry. Professional pest services like Hawx can help address your rat problem and free you from both the nuisance and health risks of having a rodent infestation. With varying and customizable levels of service, you can tailor your pest management plan to suit your current and future needs.

As we’ve learned, rats eat a multitude of food, and some are omnivorous, which means they’ll eat pretty much anything they can get their paws on. The good news is that you have many proactive steps you can take to avoid unwanted guests as well as professional solutions for handling an infestation if one should occur.

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