How To Get Rid of Roof Rats

Follow these guidelines to learn how to get rid of rats, roof rats, as well as rats in the attic.

The roof and attic is vulnerable point in any house. Roof rats love living on top of homes and attics and will chew through anything they find up there, such as wiring and shingles. Since rats can eat through electrical wires, it is important to get rid of rats in your attic. It is also essential to ensure that any holes or gaps in your house have been sealed off so the rats can't get into your home. Start your rat control treatment plan with an inspection, then get rid of their food sources. After that, follow these guidelines for rat bait and rat trap placements.

Roof Rat
Roof Rat

The Roof Rat (Rattus rattus Linnaeus) is smaller in size than the Norway Rat. Another difference is that the Roof rat is more slender with a longer tail than the Norway rat.

The Roof rat is also called gray-bellied rat, white-bellied rat, Alexandrine rat, black rat, and ship rat. Its origins go to Southeast Asia's tree forests and are adept at climbing vines, wires, and narrow ledges. They are located in the USA's coastal areas since they do not adapt well to cooler temperatures. It is a more skittish rat than the Norway rat, being sensitive to any new environment change.

They are common rodents in attics if found inside. Many times, you may hear them in the walls or attic area. When inspecting for roof rats, look for their droppings.

Roof Rat Norway Rat

Roof Rat Identification

rats mice comp 2

Roof rats have pointed noses and large ears and are often mistaken for House Mice. The head and feet of adult house mice are proportionally smaller than their bodies, while young rats have larger heads and feet than their bodies.

The Roof rat's fur is smooth, while the Norway rat's fur is rough and shaggy. The adult Roof rat is about 7-10 inches long and weighs about 5-9 ounces. The Roof Rat has a long tail, which is longer than the head and body's combined length. If you pull the tail back over the body, it will reach over its head.

Commensal Rodent Identification

Roof Rat Inspection

Roof rat feces
Roof rat feces
Rodent droppings
Rodent droppings
  • The Roof Rat Feces (droppings) are spindle-shaped and reach about 1/2 inch in size. The Norway Rat's droppings have a capsule shape.
  • Roof rats will also make tunnels through insulation and will leave chew marks (wood, pipes).
  • The tail markings and hind feet markings of the Norway Rat and the Roof Rat are hard to differentiate between each other.
  • Runways for Roof Rats may be difficult to determine; look for their feces.

Refer to the section on Rodent inspection.

How To Get Rid of Roof Rats

While having rats is never a good thing, eliminating them doesn’t need to be a huge ordeal. With the right supplies and guidance this is a job you can do.

The most common rats in the USA are Norway‌ ‌Rats‌‌ and Roof Rats. A quick look at the habits of both will help you understand how to inspect and control the rat population.

Follow these rat control guidelines: How To Get Rid Of Roof Rats

Roof Rat Diet and Biology

Roof Rat Diet

Roof rats will eat meat and grain, but their preferences are fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. They will eat snails, slugs, and insects as well. Roof rats will eat smaller portions of food compared to Norway rats.

They will naturally eat in several different places, which will be an important strategy when you bait and trap. It is more important to place more traps and bait placements in several locations.

They prefer to feed undercover and seek shelter when feeding. Bait stations will provide a shelter that they prefer.

Roof Rats Habits and Biology

  • The Roof Rats become sexually mature in just a couple of months. Females become sexually mature in 68-90 days with 5-8 pups per litter. They have 4-6 litters per year.
  • Because the Roof Rats climb well, common nesting sites are above the ground. They will nest in trees, attics, voids along the roofline, and in ceilings. Like squirrels, they enter homes and are found in attics. In the absence of Norway rats, or if their population grows, they can be found in burrows or piles of rocks.
  • Dense vegetation, lush landscapes, fruit trees, dog areas will attract Roof rats. They seek cover. They will also construct globular leafy nests in trees and enter buildings by tree branches, utility lines.
  • Roof Rats are suspicious like Norway Rats. Be patient in trapping and baiting. It may take a few days for them to adjust to a new change in the environment and take the bait or get trapped.
  • Peak times for Roof Rat activity is at dawn or dusk; they are nocturnal. If they are heard during the day, the population is large.

Refer to the section on Rodent inspection.

roof rat on beam

* By Kilessan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Key Takeaway

Roof rats are good climbers and are more likely to enter the home around the gutters or attic vents.

Written by our resident pest control expert Ken Martin.

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