Roof rats, scientifically known as Rattus rattus (or ship rats), are agile and adaptable rodents that have become a common nuisance in many urban and suburban areas. Roof rats, distinguished by their large ears and slender bodies, are skilled climbers adept at scaling walls, trees, and electrical wires.
While they are primarily nocturnal, roof rats can also be active during the day, especially if they face competition or limited food sources. When daylight breaks, roof rats often retreat to secluded locations, including attics, storage boxes, and the hidden crevices of walls where they have their roof rat nest.
These spaces offer them protection from predators, humans, and unfavorable weather. Roof rats prefer elevated areas, making attics and upper levels of buildings ideal hideouts. They exploit cracks in walls, gnaw marks, and small holes to enter structures, seek refuge, and feed.
In our guide, you can learn how to spot these rats, if you have a roof rat problem, and how to get rid of roof rats or black rats. By the end, you’ll better understand why you have a rodent infestation and what you need to do to get rid of these before they overrun and damage your home. (Learn How To Get Rid Of Salamanders)
What Do Roof Rats Eat?
Roof rats are opportunistic eaters who consume almost anything they can get their paws on. As the name suggests, roof rats often live in attics, crawl spaces, and rooftops of homes and buildings.
During the day, they feed and rest in their nests built from shredded paper, cloth, and other fibrous materials. At night, they emerge to forage for food.
- Roof rats prefer to eat fruits, nuts, and grains. Some of their favorites are citrus avocados, palm fruits, and figs. They also love pet food, bird seed, and trash.
- Roof rats need access to food sources and water daily. They will eat insects, snails, and even smaller rodents if food is scarce.
- Roof rats can climb and are agile jumpers, allowing them to access fruit trees, vines, and gardens. They can also chew through plastic or wood to get into garbage, compost, and food storage.
How to Identify a Roof Rat Infestation
Have you noticed small, dark droppings around your home recently? Roof rats leave behind pellet-shaped droppings about 1/2 inch. Check attics, basements, garages, and crawl spaces for signs of droppings. If you see a large amount clustered together, that’s a sure sign you have an active infestation.
Roof rats can cause damage to your home as they gnaw on wood, plastic, and electrical wiring. Inspect the attic and basement for chewed holes leading into the living space. Look for shredded insulation, chewed wood beams, and damaged electrical wires. Roof rats may also chew on PVC or rubber pipes, creating leaks.
Noises in the Attic or Walls
Listen for the sounds of scurrying feet, scratching, and squeaking in the attic, walls, basement, or crawl space. Roof rats are nocturnal, so you’ll likely hear them at night. As they travel between their nest and food sources, they make a lot of noise climbing and crawling.
Besides damage, look for signs that roof rats can access food sources in and around your home. They prefer nuts, fruits, pet food, and garbage. Inspect fruit trees, palm trees, and vegetation touching the house for signs of feeding.
Ensure compost bins, pet food bowls, and trash cans have secure lids—clear wood piles, lumber, and debris away from the home’s foundation. Eliminating access to your pets’ food or shelter around the house makes the environment less habitable for roof rats. (Read Problems With Dahlias)
What Should I Look For To Find A Rat During The Day?
When trying to locate a roof rat during the day, it is helpful to know their common hiding places and signs of their presence. Here are some areas to inspect and signs to look for:
Walls And Structures
Check the walls and other structures’ top, sides, corners, and base. Unlike Norway rats, a roof rat is adept at Rats often run, jump, and climb along these surfaces, including walls, fences, playhouses, doghouses, and chicken coops.
They have tails longer than Norway rats, although they are a cousin of the Norway Rat. Rats are skilled climbers and may use trees as nests or hiding spots. Look for signs of bundled-up twigs and other materials in trees, as they often show rat nests.
If you see just one rat running back and forth across your yard, it could be a sign you have an infestation of rodents in your home.
Garden And Crops
Inspect the soil for holes beneath compost piles and piles of leaves, grass, or weeds. Check your fruit and vegetable crops for bite marks or rodent tracks, as rats may target these areas.
Bushes And Flower Beds
Consider bushes and flower beds, as rats may create nests or burrows.
Look for holes, nests, droppings, and signs of materials being moved. Rats often seek refuge in bushes touching the ground, providing them an easy area to hide and play.
Search for holes near walls, concrete, or brick foundations and any piles of wood or materials inside or around your property. Rats may use these openings to gain access or establish their nests.
Look for missing or damaged small objects around your home, office, or farm.
Rats have gnawed on and whittled away at various materials like aluminum siding. If you find cat food and objects scattered, follow the trail.
Roof Rat Prevention: How to Rat-Proof Your Home
To prevent roof rats from infesting your home, you need to eliminate access points and food sources that attract the rats to hide in them.
Seal Any Cracks Or Holes Leading Inside
Roof rats can enter through openings and seal holes or cracks larger than a quarter.
Remove Food Sources And Shelter
Clear debris like wood piles, dense vegetation, and palm fronds away from the house since they provide shelter and nesting spots for roof rats. Pick fallen fruit from fruit trees and never leave pet food bowls and compost bins accessible at night.
Store bulk food, pet food, garbage cans, and trash in sealed containers with tight-fitting lids. Fix any leaky faucets or pipes and repair damage to electrical wiring, as roof rats are attracted to water and may gnaw on wires. (Learn How Does Sevin Dust Work)
Use Traps Or Baits
If you have an active infestation, you’ll need to get rid of the rats already inside. Snap traps, electronic traps, and baits containing poison or contraceptives can all be effective.
Place multiple traps or bait stations along walls where you see droppings, damage, or other signs of roof rat activity. Secure traps to the floor or wall to prevent rats from dragging them away.
Do Rats Live in Trees?
Roof rats are excellent climbers and often live in trees, especially palm trees. Roof rats are opportunistic and will move into locations that provide easy access to food and shelter.
While trees, attics, and dense vegetation are common places for roof rats to build nests and live during warmer months. They may abandon these spots in the winter to seek somewhere more sheltered.
- During winter, roof rats seek attics, basements, crawl spaces, and spaces under decks or porches that are better insulated.
- They prefer areas that provide cover and protection from predators and weather.
- Roof rats are also more likely to infest homes and buildings in the winter to gain access to a ready food source, like pet food, trash, or compost.
How Many Roof Rats Live Together?
Roof rats are social animals and live in colonies. A single colony may comprise up to a dozen individuals.
- Female roof rats, called does, give birth to litters of 3-8 young, called kittens or pups, up to 5 times per year.
- The young rats reach maturity quickly and also reproduce rapidly, so a roof rat infestation can grow exponentially in a short period if left uncontrolled.
- Roof rat colonies work together to find food sources, build nests, and care for the young. They are most active at night when they forage and socialize.
To get rid of a roof rat infestation in trees or elsewhere, it’s best to hire a professional pest control expert. (Read Do Groundhogs Eat Hostas)