February 28, 2022

How to Get Rid of Roof Rats: A Quick Guide

Roof rats, also known as black rats or ship rats, are known for their propensity for living in the upper part of buildings. They are identifiable by their long, thin bodies, large eyes and ears, pointed nose, and scaly tail. They have soft brown fur and usually measure between six and eight inches in length, not including the tail. Like most other rodents, roof rats are highly destructive pests, gnawing through building materials and causing serious structural damage. Though they have poor eyesight, they are extremely agile climbers, and prefer to build their nests in high places, frequenting locations such as attics, roofs, rafters, and trees. 

Roof rats are omnivores and will eat pretty much anything they can get their hands on, although they tend to prefer fruits, nuts, and berries. They are known to hoard their food, stashing supplies of seeds and nuts around their environment. When foraging for food, they go out in small groups of five to ten, and establish familiar pathways between their nest and food source. Roof rats have relatively short life spans of about a year, but in that time, they can produce up to forty children, making them a serious problem. 

Why are roof rats a problem?

Roof rats are perhaps most infamous for being the primary transmitters of the bubonic plague. Although the plague is rare nowadays, there are still plenty of risks associated with roof rats. They can carry fleas, ticks, and mites, and spread dangerous diseases such as typhus, jaundice, rat-bite fever, trichinosis, and salmonellosis. Roof rats can also be dangerous to the ecosystem, as their presence has been known to lead to a decline in the population of native wildlife. 

Like many other rodents, roof rats also pose a major threat to the structural integrity of your home. They chew on wires, insulation, wood, and pretty much any other material they can get, leading to structural damage and potential collapse, frayed wires that may cause a fire, and several other safety hazards. Roof rats are also especially fond of burrowing underneath structures, which can weaken your home’s foundation. Since they prefer to live in higher areas, they also have easy access to your attic insulation, which will result in a much higher electrical bill. 

How do I prevent a roof rat infestation?

As is the case with any animal, roof rats need food, water, and shelter to survive. Cutting off their access to these three vital things will go a long way towards minimizing the risk of a potential roof rat infestation. Keep stacks of wood and garden tools away from your house or shed, as these are ideal nesting places for roof rats. Clean up any potential food sources they may find in your backyard, such as fallen fruit and vegetables, birdseed, and pet food. Keep garbage cans closed with a tightly secured lid, and make sure not to allow trash to accumulate. 

Inside your house, ensure that there is no loose food lying around. Clean up crumbs and spills, and always seal food in airtight containers. Check your home regularly for leaks or sources of water that the rats can access, and be sure to fix any leaky pipes or faucets. Make sure that there are no entry points through which roof rats can gain access to your home—you may have to look closely! Roof rats are small enough to squeeze through ½ inch gaps, so be sure that the exterior of your house is sealed securely. 


How do I know if I have roof rats? 

If you find yourself suspecting that these sneaky pests may have made their way into your home, there are several ways to tell if you have a roof rat problem. Roof rats are also known as fruit rats because of their affinity for fruits and berries. If you have fruit trees in your backyard, check the fruits that have fallen to the ground. If you spot half-eaten fruit with little rodent teeth-marks in them, you may have roof rats. Roof rats are also not particularly quiet creatures—scratching, squeaking, and scuffling sounds coming from your roof or inside your walls are a strong sign of a roof rat infestation. Since they are nocturnal animals, listen particularly carefully at night, as this is when they will be most active. 

Like most other members of the rodent family, roof rats are not very picky about where they leave their droppings. Although it may seem like an unpleasant task, do regular checks of attics, rafters, cabinets, and other dark corners to see if you can find any rat droppings or urine stains. Pay attention to your pet’ behavior as well—if you notice that your pet is barking at or pawing at a certain area of the house, check it out. Our pets have sharper sense than we do, and will often catch on to the presence of pests long before we do. 

How do I get rid of roof rats?

If you want to remove the rats by yourself, the two most common methods are traps and poison. There’s a wide range of traps you can use, from the classic wooden snap trap, to the humane electric traps, and the easy-to-set glue traps. However, traps can be expensive and unwieldy, and roof rats are some of the most difficult rodents to trap. If you are inexperienced, handling traps can be dangerous, and using poison can be potentially lethal for any pets or children in your house. Even if the traps or bait do work, the rats may die inside the walls or in inaccessible crevices of your home, leaving you with a pungent, decaying rat carcass in your house. 

Ultimately, if you find yourself with a roof rat infestation, the best option is to call a pest control company. They will be able to safely and effectively remove the entire population from your house, and can walk you through safety tips and preventative measures you can take to ensure that the rats do not come back. 

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