Roof Rats Guide: Everything You Need To Know

Most rats stay on the ground level when selecting an area for nesting, roof rats however tend to seek out higher grounds.

Identifying and learning how to get rid of roof rats properly is crucial if these little rodents have found their way into your home.

That’s why, to help best inform you, we’ve thoroughly researched everything there is to know about roof rats and presented in an easy to follow structure.

What Are Roof Rats

Roof Rats are also known as common black rats, ship rats, and house rats. They belong to the subfamily Murinae of the Rattus genus. For the most part, they’re omnivores, which is why they pose such a serious issue to farmers and gardeners. 

Roof rats have long tails, whiskers, and typically range from black to dark brown in color. Additionally, in comparison to the larger and more common Norway rat, roof rats are not afraid to nest high in the second or third stories of structures as well as addicts and crawl spaces.

Size

In comparison to the Norway rat, which is one of the most commonly found rodents in homes, the roof rat are smaller in size. Roof rats have a tail that measures slightly longer than bodies, for a total length of around 18-inches. Weight-wise, roof rats measure up to about five ounces.

Appearance

In the looks department, roof rats are much darker than the Norway rat. Normally, they’re black whereas Norway rats are gray and brown for the most part.

Also, roof rats have sligher and sleeker body shape than other common rats and larger ears with hardly any hair. Their faces are also more pointy than other rats. Plus, the fur of roof rats is smooth in comparison to the greasy or coarse coats of other typical rodents.

Nesting Areas

Perhaps the most defining feature of roof rats is in their behavior. Unlike most types of rats, roof rats, as the name suggests, have no qualms with climbing and nesting up high.

That means, instead of underground, in walls, and basements, roof rats are found in the upper areas of your home such as attics, ceilings, and inside sheetrock and walls. Furthermore, they may be found nesting in the top of your garage or in the trees or wood piles surrounding your home.

Signs You Have a Roof Rat Infestation

Roof rats can be a bit harder to detect than more common rats such as Norway rats. This is mainly due to their nocturnal lifestyle and extra-cautious behavior. However, there are several signs that indicate their presence in your home. If caught in time, these signs allow you to take the right steps to control the situation.

Of course, the first and foremost sign that you may have a roof rat infestation is the presence of rat droppings. Extremely similar to Norway rat droppings, roof rat poop are approximately half an inch long (slightly smaller than the Norway rat) and more capsule shaped than simply pointed on both ends.

Other significant signs you have a roof rat infestation include:

  • Torn insulation and chew marks on wood or metal
  • Scratching noises coming from walls and ceilings
  • Sighting rats moving around on tree Limbs, roofs, and powerlines
  • Family pets acting agitated and stressed
  • Greasy or dirty trails marking regular rat routes in your home

How Do Roof Rats Survive?

Just like the majority of rodents on Earth, roof rats require food, water, and shelter to survive. If you can find and isolate the easily accessible sources of food, water, and shelter from the rats, it goes a long way in remedying the overall situation. If there is no access to water and food, rats will likely abandon their lairs and head out in search of a more suitable nesting area. 

Diet

The diet of roof rats is pretty basic; nuts and fruits. Truthfully, their diet is more similar to squirrels than most rats (who prefer meat and high-protein and fatty foods). However, make no mistake, roof rats will eat just about anything other rats will eat if they get hungry enough.

Here a few of the main staples of the roof rat’s diet:

  • Vegetables from the garden
  • House plants
  • Pet food
  • Livestock feed
  • Seeds, nuts, and tree bark (including stashing them like squirrels)
  • Insects
  • Lizards and small rodents
  • Paper, cardboard, wax, and more

Water Sources

The main water sources of roof rats, depending on the layout of your home and property may be more or less complicated. Once water supplies have been isolated, the rats will have no choice but to relocate to more habitable quarters. However, keep in mind that roof rats will sometimes chew through plastic or metal pipes in order to secure water supplies.

A few of the most common water sources of roof rats:

  • Water dishes for family pets
  • Air conditioner and fridge drip lines
  • Leaking pipes under sinks and in crawl spaces
  • Bird baths and fountains
  • Potted plants with water catching saucers
  • Irrigation lines to gardens

How Do You Get Rid of Roof Rats?

Getting rid of roof rats isn’t much different than with most rats. The main exception being that you’ll more than likely need to place traps up higher than you would otherwise with common rats. That said, trapping, poisoning, repelling, and preventing rats can be done in a number of fashions.

Baiting

Rats are one of the more cautious variety of rodents you’re likely to find in your home. That said, baiting them requires a bit more patience.

For example, when a new source of food (your bait) shows up in their environment, they need a few days to trust it and start eating it regularly. So, when you set out your traps with bait, don’t engage the killing mechanism for a couple of days in order to make the rats comfortable first.

A few of the best types of bait for rats (not including poison bait) are: 

  • Nuts (including peanut butter)
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Insects 
  • Crushed snail shells
  • Nesting materials (dental floss and shredded paper)

Classic Traps

The old-fashioned mouse and rat traps are probably the most popular method for catching and killing rodents in and around your home.

The traps are baited, set in a place the rat is most likely to encounter it, and then snaps down on the rodent killing it when it goes for the bait. These traps are reusable, or disposable, non-toxic, and can be used just about anywhere. The downside is that you may snap your fingers shut in them a time or two.

Electronic Traps

A slightly more modern solution for getting rid of rats is using electronic traps. As with classic rat traps, electronic traps are non-toxic and reusable as well. On the flipside, they are designed for indoor use only.

And, you won’t be able to find the dead rodents every time. When the rodent is visible, however, they are super easy to dispose of. In the long run, these traps have a higher kill-per-trap ratio than classic traps.

Rat Poison

The use of rat poison should always be employed. Or at the very least, in addition to another method of pest control such as traps or electronic and ultrasonic devices. The reason rat poison should be used last is that it can be pretty dangerous, even fatal, to humans, pets, and non-target wildlife in the area.

Among the most common forms of rat poison are anticoagulants and acute toxins. Most of the time these poisons are available in bait form and meant for use with bait stations. 

Final Thoughts

Roof rats, though not as common as the ground-loving Norway rat, are just as much of a nuisance. If you’ve noticed the signs of roof rats in or around your home, taking action immediately is your best method of protection.

Remembers, isolating food and water sources, as well as closing them out of easily accessible shelter, and employing traps are the first steps to take against roof rats. 

Jordan Quinn Farkas
Jordan Quinn Farkas
Jordan is a full-time writer from his home in Southeast Europe. An avid outdoors-man and backpacker, he has gathered a plethora of tips and tricks for dealing with all sorts of pests.

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