Are you hallucinating, or are there actually rats living in your walls?

Illustration of a person looking very stressed in their apartment while rats crawl around in the walls
Jason Yen/Staff

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If you’re living in Berkeley, you’re probably used to seeing various critters lurking around at night, whether it’s a raccoon out on the street when it’s late at night, or an opossum that’s digging around in the dumpster next to your house. Seeing animals around outside is fine, but it crosses a line when they get into your house. If you live in constant fear of squirrels or rats breaking into your otherwise nice Berkeley apartment, it might help to remember that you’re probably just overthinking. Here are the five stages of thinking there are rats in your walls. 

Are those scratching sounds, or is it just the wind?

Those little “scritchy-scratchy” sounds might just be the tree next to your window scraping against the wall of your apartment. But they also might be rats scurrying around in the walls or the roof. It can be very hard to determine what a sound such as that is, especially when your upstairs neighbors already make a lot of noise. You’ll probably end up with your ear to the wall, trying to decide if the sounds are coming from inside or outside. You’ll feel a tiny bit crazy, but mostly validated when you decide those sounds are too rat-like to just be the wind.

Is that smell rat pee, or do I just need to wash my socks?

The next morning, you wake up and smell something kind of … funny. To be fair, you need to do laundry and you’ve been sleeping in the same T-shirt for a week. But you do that all the time, and you don’t usually notice the smell. You keep hearing the scratching sounds, and now that there’s a smell too, it feels like an overwhelming amount of evidence supports the idea that there are rats living in your walls. Frantically, you gather up all your sheets and laundry and throw them in the wash. Is the smell gone? It’s hard to tell now because you’ve been obsessively smelling things. Well, at least you finally washed your sheets.

Overhearing your neighbor talk to a pest exterminator

OK, this one is confusing. You woke up to an overheard conversation happening outside your window. Your neighbor was talking to an exterminator about the pigeons on her roof. Apparently, she can hear them flapping their wings. Is it possible that there are both rats and pigeons in your house? The sounds you heard definitely didn’t sound like flapping wings, but your neighbor seemed pretty confident. Was this whole conversation a dream?

Realizing you only notice sounds when its raining

This one is confusing. All of the sudden, it seems likely that the sounds were just from the wind and rain, and that the smell was just because you got a little lazy with your laundry. Just to double-check, you decide to Google “rats when it’s raining.” You find that it actually makes sense that you would hear more rat sounds when it’s raining because they may have been driven inside by the rain. 

Maybe you’re just sleep deprived

OK, so there’s a chance you’ve been overthinking this one. You stayed up late to work on that assignment you procrastinated on, and the rain has been making things a little creepy. It’s been sunny for a week, and you haven’t heard any sounds. So maybe you just need to forget about this one and delete all the searches for “rat extermination” and “how to know if rat in walls” from your search history. And go to sleep a little bit earlier from now on. Honestly, at this point, those rats are basically living rent free in your head — and maybe your house, too.

Hopefully you don’t actually have any rats in your walls, but don’t hold the Clog accountable if you do! We at the Clog hope that your rat hallucinations will go away soon, or at the very least you can make peace with your furry friends.

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].