How to feed Squirrels Without Attracting Rats

So, you’ve seen some squirrels that have been making regular visits to your garden and are thinking about feeding these squirrels. And why wouldn’t you? Squirrels are cute, clever, and acrobatic, and are so much fun to watch go about their business.

But before you do start feeding them, there are few things you should think about, and one of those is how to feed squirrels without attracting rats.

You see, squirrels aren’t exactly the tidiest of eaters, and they have a habit of dropping food onto the ground which then attracts other rodents like rats and mice, and this brings along a whole new batch of problems with it, so it’s a situation best to be avoided.

In this article, we will take a look at feeding squirrels, the pros and cons, and how to feed them without getting a rat infestation to go with it.

Should I feed squirrels?

This is the first thing to ask yourself, and is a hotly debated topic in some circles. There are those that see nothing wrong with feeding squirrels, and see it as simply helping out wildlife in the difficult winter months. Of course, there is also the entertainment factor that goes along with watching squirrels in your garden too, and the feeling of having done something nice for another living being.

On the other hand, some folks think you should leave nature alone and that these creatures can fend for themselves. In fact, they might argue that by feeding and taming them somewhat, you are lowering their natural and instinctive fear towards humans and this will lead to them being too placid around other predators.

They also argue that squirrels are just like rats, and they will soon be running amok around your property, causing problems, and be out of your control.

At the end of the day, it’s a personal preference, and as long as you aren’t affecting anyone else’s lives like neighbours, I don’t see anything wrong with feeding squirrels.

What should I feed squirrels?

Squirrels aren’t what you would call picky eaters. To be honest, they’ll eat just about anything. They will gladly wolf down anything from insects to vegetables, nuts to fruits, and even some types of fungi, so you won’t find it hard to get something they’ll much down.

They don’t, however, care very much for things with strong tastes and smells such as garlic and raw onion. Nor do they like anything spicy, especially any type of pepper.

You should avoid feeding squirrels anything processed or high in sugar as it can adversely affect their health and mess with their digestive systems.

How to feed squirrels without attracting rats?

This is actually a very difficult thing to do, as anyone who puts out bird feeders will tell you. The thing is, whenever you have animals like birds or squirrels feeding in your garden, they will inevitably drop some of that food on the ground, and then the opportunist rats will start to come to feed there. You could go with humane rat traps to move them but they will come back. I know from experience!

So how can you avoid this?

Well, there are a few things you can do to lower the chances of attracting rats that you can read about below. Please keep in mind though, that these aren’t guaranteed solutions, but rather some tips that should help, especially if you combine a couple of them.

Make your garden less hospitable to rats

Rats prefer to sneak around undetected around the edges of your garden or under and through things like hedges, bushes, flower beds, ornaments and garden furniture. By clearing your garden of any unnecessary things that rats could use as cover and making it harder for them to move around.

You should also seal off the base of your shed so that rats can’t nest under there and check for any entry holes around your garden perimeter.

Don’t place the feeder near your home.

by having the feeder near to your property, you are increasing the risk that rats will end up inside your home, and you certainly don’t want that to happen. If it’s possible, have the feeder in some open land away from your property.

Put the squirrel food in containers that squirrels can get into but rats can’t.

Do a bit of research and try to find something that you can store food in for squirrels that rats can’t get into but squirrels can. Obviously, this is not a guaranteed thing, and rats will no doubt find a way in the end, but every little helps.

Hang up the feeder and collect the food from the floor

By hanging the feeder up from a branch, or even better a pole, you are making it harder for the rats to get to the food.

Also, you need to stay on top of clearing up any food that falls from the feeder onto the ground as that is the biggest attraction for rats. I saw someone on a forum suggest placing a bowl underneath the feeder, but itself raised off the ground, to catch the food that the squirrels drop or knock off. They also suggested drilling some small holes in the bottom in order to let rain water drain out.

I haven’t tried this personally, but it does seem like quite a good idea if you don’t mind putting in a little bit of work to make it happen.

You can eventually hand feed them with patience and a bit of luck

After you have been feeding squirrels for a while, they will get used to your presence, and then you can start to leave food for them closer and closer to where you are standing or sitting. Eventually, and it will take quite a while, the squirrels might feel comfortable enough to feed out of your hand. When this happens, you can feed them as often as you like without attracting rats.

That brings this article to an end. I hope you found it informative and helpful, and invite you to visit our other pages on this site for more hints and tips for all things garden related.

About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message:

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