roof rat

Roof Rats

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What do roof rats look like?

A roof rat is usually black with a body that ranges from 6 to 8 inches. Its thick tail adds another 5 to 7 inches to its length. It shares all of the attributes of a rat: small ears on the sides of its head, blunt nose, long body, pale feet, and a visibly hairless tail.  

rattus rattus

Pest Facts

Did you know?

  • Roof rats are more likely to nest in the upper parts of homes and buildings.
  • Roof rats have poor vision, but their senses of hearing, smell, touch, and taste are well-developed.
  • Black rats and ship rats are aliases of the roof rat.

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What do roof rats eat?

These rats are omnivorous and opportunistic in their eating habits. They'll dine on a wide variety of foods. In nature, they primarily eat seeds, nuts, fruit, dead animals, and bugs. Inside man-made structures, they typically target dog food and human food. Basically, they'll eat whatever is available, including garbage. 

Do roof rats carry disease?

There are many ways roof rats spread diseases. 

  • They pick up germs from trash, sewers, and other unsanitary environments and spread them.
  • They leave their droppings and urine as they explore, and these are a source of disease contamination.
  • They shed their hairs, which have tiny organisms and allergens. 

Along with the direct spread of diseases, roof rats also carry ticks and fleas, which can spread several diseases. 

Will roof rats cause damage?

Yes. Roof rats can't help but cause damage when they invade structures. Like mice and other rats, they chew holes to gain access—and more holes as they create routes within. They damage stored items and insulation by contaminating them with droppings and urine, and by scratching and gnawing.

The greatest threat roof rats present is that they're known to chew on wires. If a live wire is severed, it can lead to a structural fire. 

How do roof rats get inside?

These rats are expert climbers. They climb trees and run along branches to get onto roofs. They also follow power lines, and scale pipes, and climb up through the downspouts of gutter systems to access roofs. Once on a roof, these rats can chew holes in soffits, seals, and roofing materials to gain entry.

What are the common signs of roof rat activity?

Roof rats leave behind signs of their presence as they explore every level of a home. If they're getting into your kitchen, pantry, and other common areas, you may see these signs:

  • Droppings that are slightly larger than grains of rice.
  • Grease marks on baseboards and other surfaces and around access holes.
  • Gnaw marks on building materials and furniture.
  • Soft, balled-up nesting materials stuffed in small spaces.

If you don't see rats or the signs they leave behind, you may hear them bumping, scraping, and gnawing inside your walls or attic.

What are the differences between roof rats and Norway rats?

Roof rats like to climb and prefer to nest in high places. Norway rats prefer to stay on the ground and often create nests in burrows underneath the ground. While you can find either of these rats infesting your attic, you're more likely to find roof rats up there.

How do you get rid of roof rats?

Roof rats are clever, wary critters with heightened senses. It is a challenge to trap and remove them. For effective and long-lasting control, it is best to have professional rodent control. For assistance in the Phoenix metro, contact your Greenway Pest Solutions team.

How can I prevent a roof rat infestation?

There are many ways you can prevent an issue with roof rats using general home maintenance and yard work.

  • Trim branches away from your exterior.
  • Use wire mesh to protect downspouts and vents.
  • Install rodent guards on power lines and also on pipes that run up the sides of exterior walls.
  • Manage trash to keep rodent-attracting smells to a minimum.
  • Remove bird feeders or move them to the edges of your property.
  • Rake up nuts and tree-bearing fruit off the ground.
  • Pick up dog poop in the yard.

For more control, speak with your pest professional about establishing a control plan for your property. 

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