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What does a rat’s nest look like?

If you suspect you have some unwelcome visitors in your home or business, it is best to establish whether they have moved in. Rats are one of the most unwanted pests because of the damage they do and the diseases they carry.

You will know that you have a rat infestation if you can find a rat’s nest either inside or outside your property. But how can you distinguish a rat’s nest from other animal habitats?

Here, we will examine the features of a rat’s nest that make it stand out and discuss where you are more likely to find one.

How can I recognise a rat’s nest?

In the UK, rats look for places to nest that are warm and safe. Significantly they require easy access to food and water as they don’t like to travel further than 500 feet from their nest.

Unlike other rodents, such as mice, rats require a separate water source to survive.

Rat nests can often be mistaken for a bird’s nest, especially if they are built up in a roof’s eaves. However, the materials the rats use differs from bird nests, which are usually made solely from leaves and twigs.

Rather than just natural materials, rats like any soft things they can find around your premises. This means their nest can also be made of paper, fabric, card or insulation.

They are excellent scavengers and can shred materials with their incredibly sharp teeth. They aim to provide a soft, warm space for their young.

Where might I find a rat’s nest?

Rats can build a nest either inside or outside your property. They may even make a burrow to go in and out freely.

In the UK, you will find two main species of rat.

Black rats nest in lofts and cavity walls thanks to their superior climbing abilities.

Brown rats (also called Norway rats) often choose burrows outside or drainpipes or gaps to enter a building at ground level.

What do rats look for to build a nest?


In winter, rats are drawn inside to look for warmth. They value both heat and dry conditions and will venture inside if outdoor conditions are too cold or wet.


Rats like to hide away to avoid being discovered. They want undergrowth or dark corners to protect their young.


Rats value being close to a food source, so they don’t have to travel too far from their nest. This cautious behaviour is known as neophobic and is one of the reasons that rats can evade capture.

They can eat up to 30g of food every day, and they also need up to 60ml of water a day. Food sources such as storage, waste and natural vegetation are a draw for rats.

Where do rats build their nests?

Indoor Rat’s Nests

Indoor rat nests can be hard to find even if you have identified their presence from droppings or damage to property. They choose quiet areas that are well hidden.


Rats are often drawn into lofts that humans rarely visit, making them a perfect hidey hole. They are usually warm and filled with potential nesting material such as insulation. Storage containers make great hiding places for a rat’s nest.

Cavity Walls

What better way to hide from humans than to build your nest inside a wall. You may only know they are there if you hear them scurrying about at night.

Cavity walls provide the perfect space for rats to roam around the building, and they can gain access to other areas like a kitchen by gnawing through the wall and making a hole.

One problem with this is that they can cause damage to pipes and electrical cables as they chew through them, which can cause a fire.


Warehouses provide the ideal environment for rats to build a nest. Usually spacious and filled with containers, there are plenty of dark corners for rats to hide.

If the warehouse is used to store food, it will be even more likely to draw rats in as they will have easy access to food. Dripping pipes or leaks will also attract rats as they are a potential water source.


Not many houses in the UK have basements, but drain rats love to enter through pipework and build a nest between boxes or crates. Where basements are used in commercial buildings as storage, rats can easily find resources to build a nest.

Outdoor Rat Nests

Outdoor nests are common due to rats being able to forage for food. There are many areas, and buildings outside that will attract rats.


Garages provide some warmth and security while often storing excess food as an overspill from the kitchen. Many garages are connected to the house by an internal door which may have gaps that will provide access for rats.

Sheds or Outbuildings

Sheds provide some warmth and security and are less exposed to humans. There are usually many hiding places amongst the tools and lawnmowers for rats to build a nest.

Beware opened bags of compost that provide a soft, warm nesting place. If you keep pet food in a shed, ensure it is in a secure metal container.

Outbuildings for storage in commercial premises often have food and water sources with many dark corners.


Many gardens are very attractive to rats. There are plenty of spaces for them to hide in and build a nest.

Rats often build under sheds or decking, behind compost heaps or in overgrown areas. Brown rats often dig rat holes and create burrows where they make a nest and store food.

The garden is also an excellent food source for rats. The compost heap, vegetable patch, bird table, berries and rubbish bins make perfect food supplies.

There are also plenty of water sources such as ponds, water features, fountains, bird baths and drips from hosepipes.

If you think you have rats, it is vital to act fast by calling a registered pest controller to avoid damage to your property and the spread of disease. They will assist you in controlling a rat infestation and instigate prevention measures to ensure they do not return.