If you have been hearing scurrying noises in your ceiling, attics, or walls, you may have a roof rat infestation. This variety of rat nests above ground, rather than in a burrow. The peak activity time for roof rats is at dawn and dusk. When you hear roof rats moving around in your walls or ceiling during the day, you probably have a large infestation.

This guide looks at what characteristics roof rats possess, how they behave, signs of a roof rat infestation, and how to get rid of these rodents.

Eradicating a roof rat colonization once and for all can best be performed by a professional rodent extermination company. The vermin exterminator can perform an inspection of your roof and attic and carry out an effective rat removal plan.

What Types of Damage Do Roof Rats Do to Your Home?

Rats can cause property damage by chewing, burrowing, or gnawing through small openings in the outer perimeter of your home. They can also gnaw through wiring, wood, and particle board.

A second way roof rats cause damage is through contamination through urine and rat droppings.

Are Roof Rats Dangerous?

The urine and droppings from roof rats can pass diseases. Saliva from roof rats can also pass bacteria via touching places where they have gnawed. Fleas that bite rats can also transmit diseases like bubonic plague.

Roof rats can also chew electrical wire in your home or in your car, which can cause fires or short circuits.

What Attracts Roof Rats to Your Home?

Rats are attracted to homes and properties with poor sanitation and reliable food sources. If you have accessible food sources outside (pet food, open garbage) or inside (unsealed food in cupboards, dirty kitchen) the rats will be attracted to your home. They also look for safe places to nest and build a colony. Roof rats look for access to a dark hidden area, like an attic, to build a nest.

Traits and Characteristics of Roof Rats

Size: Roof rats are smaller than Norway rats, about 13 – 18 inches long as an adult (including their tail). Their tail is usually as long or longer than the rest of their body.

Appearance: Roof rats have either black or brown fur, long tails, large ears and eyes, and a pointed nose.

Breeding Cycle: Roof rats have a quick breeding cycle, having between five to eight pups per litter and four to six litters per year.

Behavior: Most active around dawn and dusk, roof rats like to inhabit elevated spaces that are hidden from open view, like attics, ceilings, and inside walls. These rats like to eat meat, fruit, nuts, and grain, but will also eat pet food, bird seed, vegetables, plants, and building materials.

What’s the Difference Between Roof Rats and Norway Rats?

Roof rats, also known as black rats, are smaller in size than Norway rats, and like to nest more than four feet above ground. The droppings from roof rats have blunt ends and reach about ¼ to ½ inch in size. These droppings are larger than mouse droppings.

Norway rats, also known as brown rats or sewer rats, are larger in size than roof rats, and leave capsule-shaped droppings about ¾ inch in size. This type of rat can reach up to 15 ½ inches in length, with tails up to 8 inches long. Norway rats will burrow to create a colony or nest near the ground.

Signs You Have a Roof Rat Infestation

Look for droppings about ¼ to ½-inch in length, gnaw marks in or around your home, or fallen fruit from trees that appears to be eaten by a small animal.

Your pets may also hear the rats in the walls or ceilings and focus on those noises. If you hear scurrying in the walls, attic, or garage at night, that is also a sure sign you have a rat infestation.

Roof rats may leave grease marks on walls, cupboards or baseboards as they move along the perimeter of your home. Be sure to look for urine stains or smells.

Exposed wiring, torn insulation, or gnawed sheetrock can also be signs of a roof rat colony.

Lastly, if you see a rat, there are undoubtedly more hiding in your home.

How Do Roof Rats Get Inside Your Home?

Roof rats can climb on tree branches, drain pipes, or utility wires to get access to your roof. From there, they can enter through any cracks or crevices a half-inch or larger. They can also gnaw to enlarge small holes in the attic or roof line.

How to Get Rid of Roof Rats

Here are nine steps you can take to get rid of roof rats in your home.

1. Block Entryways to Your Home

Roof rats can get through openings as small as a half-inch. Seal up any cracks around windows with caulk. Check for gaps in paneling, uncovered electrical outlets outside the house, drain pipe openings, cracks in stucco, or any other small places a rat can enter. Seal these up with steel mesh or other materials that will keep roof rats out.

2. Have Good Sanitation Inside Your Home

Sanitation is all about taking away the food sources and nesting material from roof rat colonies. Seal up cereal, pasta, grains, dry beans, rice, chips, and other food sources in airtight plastic containers. Remove any cardboard and paper garbage regularly, as rats will use these for nesting material. Clean up any dirty dishes in the sink, and take garbage out regularly. Clean and organize any clutter in your home to remove hiding spot. Keep any pet food sealed up tight in containers, instead of loose in open bags. By restricting nutrition sources, you will make it more difficult for roof rats to grow their colony.

3. Baiting and Trapping

The most effective way to get a rat infestation under control is to set traps baited with food like jerky, dried fruit or nuts. Roof rats are more cautious than Norway rats, so it may take several days for them to approach food left in traps. Roof rats prefer to feed in an area that is enclosed and hidden, rather than out in the open.

4. Eliminate Outdoor Rodent Food Sources

Rats will eat anything they can get nutrition from. If you have a garden, a compost pile can be a food source for rats. Keep garbage bins sealed tightly as rats will eat garbage. For pet owners, keep your pet’s droppings picked up, as rodents can eat pet feces for nutrition. Any fallen vegetation, such as from fruit trees or a garden, must be picked up daily to make sure a growing rat colony cannot find a food source.

5. Remove All Standing Water on Your Property

All rat colonies need water to stay alive. When they find standing water, like puddles, ornamental ponds, birdbaths, leaky faucets and air conditioner drains can all be viable water sources for rats. Fix all outside water leaks, monitor pet water dishes, and eliminate any sources of water for rodents. Roof rats need to drink about 15 milliliters of water per day.

6. Keep Pet Food Sealed Up

Roof rats will gladly eat your pet food if they have access to it. Keep all dog food and pet food sealed in airtight storage bins with tight-fitting lids. When you feed your outdoor pets and animals, give them enough to eat, but no more, and be sure to pick up their food bowls afterwards. If you have a bird feeder, make sure the bird food is kept put up in an inaccessible storage spot.

7. Clean Up Outdoor Buildings and Landscaping

Rats can hide in firewood piles, cluttered sheds, or in overgrown foliage. By keeping your garage and sheds picked up and clean, it removes hiding places for rat’s nests. If you have a garden, store seeds and fertilized in a sealable plastic or metal container. These can be food sources for a hungry roof rat colony. During the fall, keep leaf piles picked up and disposed of in a “green” waste management bin. Good outdoor sanitation is key to keeping roof rats away.

8. Trim Trees on Your Property

Roof rats can climb tree branches and enter your home through opening in the attic or roof line. Keeping trees trimmed away from your home will help keep roof rats from finding entry into your home.

9. Get an Inspection From a Professional Rat Exterminator

Roof rats are known to damage your property and spread disease. If left unchecked, a rat infestation can become a huge problem for your family. If you suspect you have roof rats, and you need expert help, contact American Rat Control today. One of our pest control specialists will be right over to assess the level of infestation and provide you with a no-obligation free quote for the complete elimination of the rodents.

Get Professional Help For Your Rat Problem

If you need expert rodent control help in the Los Angeles County or Ventura County area, call American Rat Control at (866) 728-2878. Our team of professional rat exterminators can help you eliminate rats, gophers, and mice on your residential or commercial properties.