Roof Rats: Rattus Rattus

Photo of roof rat infested food

Do you normally hear scurrying in your walls? Maybe you’ve gone up to the attic and found a nest of rats, opened up your pantry and found droppings, or found the fruit on your trees hollowed out. You could be dealing with roof rats.

Learn More:  List Of Pest Species

What are Roof Rats?

Scientifically known as Rattus rattus, roof rats range from dark brown to black in color. Including the tail, they are 13 to 18 inches long. Also known as fruit rats, palm rats, ship rats, or Alexandrian rats, these pests weigh 5-9 ounces. Roof rats are generally slender, with large and virtually hairless ears. Outdoors, roof rats nest in trees, debris, woodpiles, as well as in dense vegetation. Indoors, they love to nest in the upper areas of a building, especially in the ceiling and attic.

Roof rats are nocturnal animals. They normally only come out at night. They love fruits. However, they can consume anything, including nuts, pet food, meat, seeds, tree bark, lizards, insects, vegetable in the garden, and even your own pantry items. These rats can reproduce once or twice a month, with each litter comprising about eight pups. Problems associated with them are numerous, and some can be dangerous to human life. For instance, their burrows can lead to structural damage by undermining the foundations of buildings and roads. They can cause damage by gnawing, destroying plastic pipes, electric wires, upholstery, and even door frames. These rats can also destroy and contaminate stored foods.

Where Are Roof Rats Found?

Roof rats can be found from the lower half of the East Coast to Arkansas and throughout the Gulf States. They can also be found on the Hawaiian Islands and along the Pacific Coast. Because the roof rat prefers warm climates and appears to be less adaptable than the Norway rat, it has not spread across the country.

Because of its global distribution, it appears to be best suited to tropical and semitropical climates. Isolated populations have been discovered in areas outside of their normal distribution range in the United States on rare occasions.

Roof Rat Behavior

Image of roof rat in basement

Rats typically start looking for food soon after sunset. They will usually carry the food to a hiding place before eating it in an exposed area and is too large to be eaten quickly but not too large to be moved. Many rats may store or hoard large amounts of solid food to consume later. Caches like these can be found in a dismantled woodpiles, attics, or behind garage boxes.

Roof rats will travel great distances for food (100 to 300 feet) if necessary. They may live in one home’s landscaping while feeding at another. They’re frequently seen running along overhead utility lines or fences at night. They may live in palm trees or attics and then climb down to a food source. Unless traps or baits are placed at the exact points where rats traverse from above to a food source, trapping or baiting on the ground or floor may only catch a few roof rats.

How To Identify Roof Rats Infestation

It is difficult to see roof rats as they usually only appear at night. Nonetheless, there are several signs of infestation, which normally indicate their presence. Roof rat droppings are one of the clearest signs of infestation. The droppings are roughly 0.5 inches long with pointed ends.

Other roof rat infestation signs include:

  1. Gnawing marks on the roof or eaves of your home
  2. Scratching noises in the walls or attic
  3. Hollowed-out fruit on your fruit trees
  4. Dogs and cats exhibiting signs of stress and agitation
  5. Gnawing damage to electrical cables
  6. Presence of pests in your home’s insulation
  7. Grease trails as they travel regular routes around the home

In addition to these signs, you can also spot roof rats running on power lines, patios, roofs, as well as in fruit trees.

Diseases Associated With Roof Rats

Photo of roof rat eating human food

Roof rats can transmit various diseases through bites, scratches, physical contact, or food contamination. Rat-bite fever is one of the most common diseases you can get from a roof rat bite or scratch. The symptoms of this disease normally occur within a few days to a couple of weeks, and they include:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Fever
  3. Rash
  4. Headaches
  5. Joint and muscle pain

The urine and droppings of rats carry disease as well. Some of the diseases transmitted by roof rats can be fatal to humans if not treated well.

How To Control Roof Rats Infestation?

There are several ways to deal with roof rats infestation, but the three most effective ways are sanitation, exclusion, and population reduction.

Sanitation To Combat Roof Rats

Roof rats normally thrive in a place where food and water are readily available. So, to get rid of roof rats from your home, consider implementing these sanitation measures:

  1. Eliminate clutter that the pests can use to create their nests, such as waste paper and cardboard pieces.
  2. Store food items in large metal containers with tight-fitting lids. The rats can easily gnaw through boxes and bags.
  3. Get rid of unnecessary vegetation around your house, such as grass and weeds.
  4. Store pet food away from the roof rats’ reach.

Roof Rat Exclusion

Exclusion simply means sealing cracks and crevices around your home through which the rats can enter. Use stucco diamond mesh to seal vents and holes. The holes are normally found in exterior walls and near water heaters, dryers, washers, and under sinks. Also, screen the sewer stacks on the roof and caulk cracks. Use copper mesh or steel wool to stuff air-conditioning lines, which run from outside into the attic. This will prevent the pests from entering.

Population Reduction Of Roof Rats

Picture of roof rat climbing tree

Sanitation and exclusion will help you to prevent roof rats infestation. However, you also need to eliminate the roof rats that are already present in your home. You can do that through trapping and baiting. With trapping, you don’t need to use harmful poisons. You’ll be able to know whether the pest was actually killed, and it eliminates odor issues by allowing you to dispose of the dead rat. When it comes to baiting, you need to use poisons to attract and kill the rats. While trapping is great for indoor control, baiting works well when you are dealing with outdoor roof rat populations. The rats will sniff out the bait, come to feed on it continuously until they die from the poison.

Bottom Line On Rats

Roof rats infestations pose health risks and also compromises your home structure. Allowing the rats to reside in your home can prove both costly and dangerous. Setting at-home traps may catch a few pests but it won’t eradicate the entire infestation. To completely remove the infestation, contact the experts at Animals Happen. Professional wildlife removal technicians can diagnose where the roof rats are and take educated measures to remove the rats.