June 6, 2024

Norway Rat Vs. Roof Rat: Rodent Infestations

Whenever the weather cools down during wintertime, residents across the country notice the emergence of rats.

No one enjoys finding rodents indoors! These little critters spread disease and waste while eating you out of your house and home! 

Check out our article, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about a Norway rat vs. roof rat infestation! 

Norway Rat vs. Roof Rat Characteristics 

While both rodents are common household pests during colder temperatures, there are notable differences between Norway rats and roof rats. 

Norway rats are traditionally larger, measuring around 11 inches or longer, tail included! These pests are one of the biggest rat species in the United States. Roof rats, on the other hand, are only around 8 inches in total. 

Beyond their size, you can easily distinguish these pests by the size of their ears. Norway rats have smaller ears that sit close to their heads, while roof rats have longer ears that protrude from their heads. 

Both rat species share similar colorations, so you may need help distinguishing between the two if you catch a glance. Also called brown rats, Norway rats primarily have light to dark brown coats. Black rats, or roof rats, have darker fur with light-colored underbellies. 

While not a physical characteristic, rat droppings are another way to tell the two rodents apart. Rats and mice defecate as they walk, spreading their bacteria-filled waste from their hiding spots to your kitchen. 

Roof rats produce smaller droppings than Norway rats. While the waste differs depending on their diet, the droppings may look dark brown to black and taper off into a point at one or both ends. Norway rat droppings instead resemble large pellets. 

Mice produce waste similar to roof rats but significantly smaller in size. Cockroach feces similarly mimics a mouse’s byproducts but isn’t large either. You may have a different rodent or pest problem indoors if you see droppings smaller than a penny or grain of rice. 

Nesting Locations

A Norway rat vs. roof rat infestation may occur in different areas of your home. While rats will nest in any location in your home, the two pests tend to stick to other sites. 

If you find signs of rat activity in the lower portions of your house, like your basement, garage, or downstairs bedrooms, you may have a Norway rat problem indoors. They prefer to hide outdoors in rock piles, garbage, and other debris. 

As their name suggests, roof rats enjoy climbing up to higher locations. Here are some places where you may find signs of roof rats:

  • Roof eaves
  • Ceilings
  • Upstairs rooms
  • Attics
  • Rafters
  • Cabinets

Outside, roof rats may build burrows in fence posts, trees, or tall shrubs. Instead of finding shelter near the ground, roof rats find refuge away from predators and the elements. 

Roof rats are very adept climbers and can build nests in tough-to-reach locations. You may not even realize you have a roof rat problem until you see feces or hear the little pests roaming around over your head!

You may notice a rat infestation after finding holes in your food packaging or find damage to items in your home. Rats chew through many materials with their long, sharp teeth and can chew through wiring. 

Norway Rat vs. Roof Rat Disease Spread

So, is one rat more responsible for the spread of disease? 

Traditionally, both species of rats have long been associated with the spread of diseases. During the Middle Ages, rats were major disease vectors along with fleas. These pests were primarily responsible for the spread of the Bubonic Plague that devastated Europe. 

While the plague isn’t as severe anymore, rats still spread diseases whenever they infest your home. Rats can transmit hantavirus, rat-bite fever, and salmonella through their urine, salvia, waste, and infected bites! 

Hantavirus is a severe disease found in Washington state. Commonly found in deer mice, hantavirus can spread between mice without any noticeable symptoms. Homeowners typically contract hantavirus-related illnesses from cleaning contaminated droppings. 

There aren’t many cases reported each year, but you could still become seriously ill. Initial symptoms may mimic other ailments as you’ll experience:

  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Fatigue 
  • Chills 
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting 

As the disease progresses, infected individuals experience breathing difficulties. According to the CDC, many report a heavy cough, shortness of breath, and a suffocating sensation as the lungs fill with fluid. 

Always exercise caution when cleaning rat droppings to protect yourself against this rare disease. Improper cleaning methods could result in accidental contamination with hantavirus and other rat-borne diseases. 

Never touch rodent droppings with your hands or disturb feces piles without proper breathing protection. When cleaning rat waste, saturate the droppings with a bleach cleaning solution and wipe everything away.

Dispose of the droppings immediately, and reclean the affected areas with the same cleaning solution. Avoid using a broom or vacuum cleaner to pick up the mess, as you could distribute pathogens into the air. 

Eliminating Rat Infestations

Rodents aren’t welcome guests whether you have a Norway rat vs. a roof rat infestation. You’ll want to act quickly to remove these pests before they make you ill or cause further damage to your home. 

Removing their available food sources should help remedy challenging rodent infestations. These pests typically invade homes in search of food, and a lack of suitable nutrition should send them packing. 

Clean up any stray crumbs or messes in your kitchen, pantry, dining area, or cabinets. Rodents are agile pests and adept climbers, so always secure your food items and never leave anything out that these pests can reach. 

You can repair exterior cracks that these pests use to climb inside, but you should consider other pest control options whenever a rodent infestation gets out of hand.

Rodent traps and baits can quickly remedy a tricky pest problem, but you’ll have to be careful about your chosen method. Some poisons are dangerous for pets and children, while traps may leave you with a deceased rodent left behind. 

Whenever you have Norway rats or roof rats in your home, contact Zunex to remedy the problem!

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