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Rats are a species that have adapted to survive in a range of different habitats, and while not all rats will dig holes, those that live in rural areas particularly will tend to dig holes which they can use as a nest. They do not tend to dig particularly large holes, and can usually spotted with an opening of around two or three inches, and while they can be unsightly in gardens, in many areas they are not really too noticeable.
The Ability Of Rats As Diggers
Rats are reasonably good at digging holes when they need to, but unlike other species they will not always choose to live in holes that they have dug themselves, particularly in urban areas where there are plenty of alternatives. It is difficult to identify the species from the hole itself, so you cannot assume that a hole will be a rat, as it can often be a water vole or another similarly sized animal. Read more about Are There More Rats in the Wild or Residential Areas?
Holes Where Rats Can Live
While they can dig their own nests, in many cases rats can be opportunistic and use the holes dug by other animals, or they can also use other cavities that are produced naturally, such as hollow trees. In urban areas, rats will often live in attics or other warm and dark spaces within domestic properties, or in other cases they will also live in the sewers and cavities beneath the ground that are dug by people. If you're unsure of what animal is using a hole, the feces can be a clue: rat poop photographs will help you.
Enlarging Existing Holes
Another habit that rats can also use is their digging ability to take another animal's hole and then to make it larger. This is also something that they are liable to do when they are looking for a nesting spot but need more than one access point, and they can find a weakness in a wall or panel, and can then exploit that to make it a hole large enough for rats to squeeze through.
Materials That Rats Can Dig Through
Rats are quite talented when it comes to gnawing and clawing their way through different surfaces, and when it comes to soil they can dig through the majority of soil, but as they prefer holes near to a source of water, the soil there is naturally softer too. In urban areas, they will sometimes be able to move loose or crumbling stone and concrete, along with wood and drywall surfaces, but struggle with stone and brick.
Go back to the Rat Removal page, or for more instructions read my How to get rid of rats guide, or learn specifically about How to remove rats in the attic.