What are Roof Rats and Why are They Dangerous?

Hear that scratching in the attic? Could be a roof rat!

When we think of pest control, we often think of visible infestations. However, one of the biggest threats to your home may be happening just above your head. Don’t let your home or business fall prey—learn more about roof rats, how to prevent them, and what to do in the event of an infestation.

What are roof rats?

Roof rats are a specific type of rodent named for their common residence in roofs and attics. They are thin, long, and have black or dark brown fur. They’re known for being skilled climbers and can scale buildings, utility lines, and trees.

What do roof rats do?

Roof rats are similar to most rats in their habits—they live in colonies and forage for food by identifying a source and returning to it. They are omnivorous, eating primarily nuts and berries, but are willing to scavenge whatever is available.

Although they typically live around one year, they can produce 40 offspring during their lifetime. Because of this, early intervention in an infestation is pivotal.

How are roof rats different than Norway rats?

In most states, rat infestations are typically either roof rats or Norway rats. While sharing many similar characteristics, there are some key differences in telling the two apart.

The first way to tell these rats apart is their appearance. As previously mentioned, roof rats tend to have black or dark fur. In contrast, Norway rats have brownish-gray fur. Additionally, roof rats tend to measure slightly shorter in their body, around 8 inches, compared to Norway rats, which can be up to 10 inches long. Roof rats will also have much longer tails.

However, the easiest way to tell these rodents apart is their behavior. Whereas roof rats take shelter, hunt, and travel above ground, Norway rats are skilled diggers and prefer to be near ground level. Norway rats are also more common swimmers than roof rats.

Are roof rats dangerous?

Just like any rodent or pest, roof rats carry many diseases. They then contaminate food and surfaces through their droppings and urine. Some of these common diseases and parasites are:

  • Fleas
  • Mites
  • Salmonella
  • Murine typhus
  • Hantavirus

In an encounter with a roof rat, they can infect someone with rat-bite fever, an infection caused by bacteria streptobacillus moniliformis and spirillum minus.

With a quickly growing population and the ability to chew through many building materials, roof rats can also render widespread damage to a structure. They may even cause fires or electrical shorts by chewing through wires.

How do roof rats get inside?

Roof rats will commonly travel above structures through connecting branches or utility lines. From there, they can enter any access point bigger than a quarter. They can also gnaw through barriers, such as drywall, wood, and aluminum siding.

How do I prevent a roof rat infestation?

There are several ways you can prevent an infestation. First, look for cracks or holes and use silicon caulk to seal the potential entryway for roof rats. Then, review possible lines of travel for roof rats. To the best of your ability, keep shrubs, trees, and other landscaping trimmed away from the structure; be sure no limbs are overhanging the building’s roof.

Since roof rats often travel in search of food, you can lessen your risk by ensuring food and food waste are properly stored. In a kitchen, keep pantry items stored in sealed containers. In a garage or yard, tightly cover garbage cans and pick up dropped fruits from trees.

Additionally, be sure to cut off an available water supply—fix leaky hoses, remove bird baths, and make sure gutters are draining.

How do I know if I have a roof rat infestation?

Most people will begin investigating for an infestation after seeing or hearing them in a building. However, there may be many other visible signs before this.

A common sign is the presence of rat droppings. These droppings are typically half an inch and pointed at either end. As rats primarily travel in search of food, droppings in a kitchen or near a possible food source are a strong indicator of a colony inside the building.

Other signs require closer monitoring of your surroundings. In buildings where roof rats are present, it’s common to find fallen ceiling insulation as they chew through existing infrastructure.

Look for the following clues of a rat infestation:

  • Gnaw marks
  • Damaged goods
  • Grease spots
  • Chewed wires
  • Small footprints

Rats will also often cause irritation or stress to your home pets. If they’re behaving strangely or investigating parts of the building, they may have seen or sniffed out your potential threat before you have.

How do I treat a roof rat infestation?

Once roof rats have found their way into a building, it can be difficult to get rid of them, especially if there’s an established colony. Generally, do-it-yourself solutions can only lessen the rat population, not eradicate it.

  • Baiting—This method places poison at a designated feeding spot where the rat will eat until it passes. It is recommended to only place poison outside to prevent the poisoned rodent from passing inside the building. If this happens, you may not know until a noxious odor or insect infestation has also occurred.
  • Trapping—This method uses a glue, snap, or electronic trap to lure and trap or kill the rat. It is recommended for indoor use and allows you to take care of the carcass before it can decay. They are best placed flush to walls or near known entrances and previously unsecured food sources.

For guaranteed pest control and environmentally-conscious care, contact the pest control professionals at PURCOR.

Get Rid of Roof Rats with PURCOR

With our extensive team of licensed professionals, PURCOR works diligently to identify signs of a roof rat infestation and secure your surroundings. Get back your peace of mind today — request a free rodent control estimate today.

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