What’s That Noise in My Attic?

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When customers call this time of year, the question we hear most often when we pick up the phone is, “What is that noise in my attic?” Chances are, if it’s winter and it’s Northern California, the answer is, “It’s a rat.”

Rats are a common problem in our Greater Sacramento region, especially during the cold, rainy months of winter. Usually it is roof rats, or rattus rattus, but occasionally we also get Norwegian rats, often in garages or basements. When the weather gets cool, rats are instinctively driven indoors for shelter, to nest and raise their young. They come into any type of home, any type of commercial building, in any neighborhood. The best way to prevent them is to keep them from coming in to begin with, and to make your home or place of business as inhospitable to them as possible. More about this here

Once in a great while, we find the problem is not a rat but another type of critter. Birds—pest pigeons, jays, crows or even mockingbirds—can make a tremendous racket. In some areas, squirrels, raccoons or opossums may try to move in for the winter. Here are a few hints to help you figure out what type of critter is making those mysterious, alarming sounds:

What Time of Day
Do you hear noises during the day or only at night? Often rats begin their evening travels right around dusk. Raccoons also are active at night. Homeowners often don’t notice any sounds until everyone is in bed for the night and the house is quiet, then they lie there sleepless wondering what is crawling around above their heads.

If you are hearing noises during the day, it’s possible your problem may be squirrels or, occasionally, birds.

What Kind of Noise?
Do you hear scratching or gnawing noises? Loud scratching and chewing sounds are typical of rats and sometimes mice, which can be surprisingly loud for such small animals. Rats are notorious for chewing through electrical, telephone and home alarm wiring, creating fire hazards and costly repair bills. Very soft scratching could be an indication of bats; although bat colonization of attics is rare, it does happen occasionally, particularly in large structures.

Rats and mice rarely squeak or chirp loudly enough for you to hear them, unless they are trapped. Squeaks and chirping sounds may point to baby raccoons (only in the spring), birds or even bats.

Flapping or rustling noises are the most common indicator of a bird infestation—again, a rare occurrence, but it can happen.

If you are hearing quick, scrambling noises accompanied by rolling sounds, you may have squirrels in your attic—the rolling sound is them rolling nuts or perhaps your dog’s kibble around the crawl space. Jays, magpies and crows also sometimes roll acorns or nuts across the roof—in that case, although the noise you’re hearing is coming from outside, it often sounds like it’s right above you.

Loud thumps are more likely to be made by raccoons than by rats or mice. However, keep in mind that animals caught in traps may make a range of loud noises that are otherwise uncharacteristic.

It can be hard to identify exactly what type of noise you’re hearing, and even harder to explain it to someone else. Our team of experienced pest control experts will be glad to help answer your questions or do a quick, preliminary inspection of your premises. Once we’ve confirmed that rats are making themselves at home in your home, we can help, with a full range of effective services to remove them, restore your space to a sanitary condition, and prevent the critters from coming back.

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