What to do About Scratching Noises From The Ceiling?



I have scratching noises,  low squeaks, and loud thumps coming from my ceiling. It is mainly active during the day. it has been about a week or just over over since we first heard something. My dogs can sense something also. Yesterday we lowered the light fittings and put some bait in the ceiling. After about an hour there was a lot of activity going on.,Very quiet again last night, now again today a lot of activity. We live in Spain and all our houses are joined together, the majority of them are empty. We cannot see a point of entry anywhere. There has been no sightings of droppings or food stolen.

Please can you advise us what to do. Thank you.


First of all, please be careful about putting out poison bait to kill rats or mice that may be in the crawl space above your ceiling or in your attic. If the poison works, you will have a dead rat rotting away over your head. While you may or may not be able to find it, you will definitely smell it.

A lot of the ex-pat forums for Britons in Spain advise throwing rat poison into trees. This is also an awful idea.  Rats and mice are unlikely to find the poison, but birds, pets, and people can. The poisons you can get without a license over the counter in Spain won’t kill people, but they can make you sick. Please don’t use poisons!

Spain has a lot more Norway rats, the climbing kind, than northern Europe. The rats in coastal Spain are especially fond of palm trees. If you or your neighbors have palms or fruit trees in the neighborhood, the rats may be jumping from the trees to your roof, or your neighbor’s roof, and scurrying along until they find a nice place to nest.

While I really don’t know how these things are regulated in Spain, let’s suppose that there is not a lot you can do about how your neighbors trim their trees. What you can do is to make absolutely sure there is no way for mice, rats, or squirrels to get into the space over your head. That means that you need to remove any places rats can build exterior nests or interior nests.

To get rid of exterior nesting spots:

  • Make sure that any dead palm fronds are removed from palms on your property.
  • Trim any dense bushes, especially dense bushes that are off the ground.
  • Clean up wood piles, trash, or lumber stacks.
  • If you have an outdoor horno (oven) make sure it’s used occasionally, or make sure that the door is tightly closed with no cracks greater than 6 mm (¼ inch) wide.

To get rid of interior nesting spots:

  • Keep cockroaches under control. The rats most common in your area like to feed on roaches.
  • Don’t leave pet food or food scraps uncovered at night. You may hear rats above your ceiling but that doesn’t mean they stay there.
  • Turn off taps completely. Roof rats need 30 to 60 ml (1/8 to ¼ cup) of water every 24 hours. They will congregate where water is available.

If you simply plug any holes in your attic or under your roof, you may get may get rid of rats easily. Roof rats travel as much as 100 meters (300 feet) away from their nests around dawn and dusk to forage for food and water. That is the time to block their return. And that’s also the best time to turn on an ultrasonic pest control device to encourage rodents to visit your neighbors rather than you. To read more about ultrasonic devices click here.

It can also help to make sure rats, which drink more water than other rodents, have a water source far removed from your house and no water source in your house.

I don’t recommend any method of killing rats in enclosed spaces. You are either wasting your time, or you are setting yourself up for days or weeks or unremitting odor. Exclusion is best for roof rats.


Mark has a strong background in Engineering and a huge interest in Pest Control as a way of getting rid of rodents and other unwanted pests who can cause a nuisance in your home and garden. You can subscribe to his free daily paper on Pest Control Solutions and follow him on Facebook or Twitter

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