Roof Rats: A Complete Guide

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Roof rats are the smaller of two commensal rats, meaning they live in close association with humans. They get their name from their climbing abilities to find shelter in the upper parts of buildings. Roof rats are typically black or brown and have long tails.

They are omnivorous and eat both plant and animal material. They nest around the base of trees and love to climb. 

Roof rats are found worldwide, but they are especially common in tropical regions. They are thought to be of Southeast Asian origin, but now they can be found living in every continent (including the United States) except Antarctica. They are also known to build leaf and twig nests in citrus trees.

Continue reading to find out more about roof rats. 

What do roof rats look like?

roof rats

Roof rats are distinguishable by their large eyes and ears, long, thin bodies, and pointed noses. They can be in various colors, but typically are black or brown. Roof rats, also known as black rats, are rodent pests that can cause a lot of destruction.

They are typically brown with intermixed spots of black and can grow up to 12 ounces (340g). They often invade homes through the roof or attic.

Adult roof rats measure 6-8 inches (16-20 cm) when combining their head and body length. They are smaller and sleeker than the more common Norway Rats. Roof rats have a slender body, large ears, and a tail as long as their heads and body together. 

Roof rat lifespan (Reproduction Roof Rats)

repellent rodent rats

Roof rats reach maturity between two and five months of age. After reaching maturity, they can live up to a year in the wild or three years in captivity. They produce 4-6 litters per year and can have up to 12 offspring.

Roof rats are a common type of rat found in many different parts of the world. They often reside in colonies and live close to each other. It creates a social hierarchy, with dominant rats occupying the best living spaces while subordinate rats are left to fend for themselves. 

Roof rat habits

traps fast close

Rats are primarily nocturnal, which means they are most active at night. They can survive in various environments, including both rural and urban areas.

Roof rats prefer to nest in the upper parts of buildings. They are very resourceful and have been known to live in attics, garages, sewers, and other places where they can find food and shelter.

Roof rats usually live in colonies and prefer to inhabit areas like dense vegetation, fruit trees, and other lush landscapes. They are also great swimmers and can enter structures through any larger opening than a nickel.

Once they’re inside, they will look for food and water sources while also trying to stay hidden from humans. Roof rats enter homes through small openings like pipes and gnaw on wires and woodwork. 

The roof rat is infamous for its destructive behavior and ability to produce offspring quickly. What many people don’t know, however, is that the roof rat’s reproductive habits are unique in the rodent world.

Female roof rats have up to six litters per year. With each litter containing up to eight young. This high reproductive rate allows the population of roof rats to grow rapidly, making them a major pest problem.

What do roof rats eat? (Feeding Behavior in Rats)

A Cute Brown Rat Enjoying Food

Roof rats, also known as black rats, are a type of rat that is common in North America. Like other rats, Roof rats are omnivorous creatures that feed on various food items. They eat both plant and animal-based materials. Their diet includes:

  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Small animals
  • Snails and slugs
  • Fish, shellfish, and aquatic organisms if they live near bodies of water.

Roof rats are known to be food hoarders, meaning they will store food away for later. They also prefer to be in a sheltered or hidden environment, such as in the attic or roof of a building.

It’s important to check these areas for rat droppings or nests if you think you may have a rat problem.

What attracts roof rats?

repellents trash widget

Roof rats are attracted to homes that offer them easy access to sources of food, water, and shelter. They will often be found near buildings, in crawlspaces and attics, and around dumpsters and trash cans. They are also known to travel along power lines and fences.

In addition, there are some things that we may do unwittingly that can attract roof rats to our properties.

For example, having bird or wild animal feeders, leaving unsecured trash cans out, having gardens, pet food accessible, compost piles, woodpiles, dense vegetation near the house, and areas of standing water.

You can find non-burrower rats in the presence of food, like pantry foods.

Roof rat entry points

stacked roof rat

Roof rats enter homes through any opening larger than a nickel. They are particularly adept at finding small openings. It can often enter a home through cracks in the roof, eaves, or attic vents.

Rats also follow pipes down from the attic and enter kitchens, bathrooms, or base sink cabinets. It is important to seal up all potential entry points to keep rats out of your home.

Rodents, such as roof rats, are known for their gnawing habits. They will chew through drywall, wood, and even plastic to get into a structure. Roof Rats are especially fond of attics because they provide a refuge from predators and a place to nest for their young.

Roof rat damage and problems

near roof rat

Roof rats are known to cause a lot of damage to your home. One of the main ways they do this is by chewing holes in soffit and eaves.

It allows them access to the inside of your home, where they can cause extensive damage. They are also known to carry diseases, putting you and your family at risk.

Roof rats can cause extensive damage to a property as they chew through wires, insulation, and other materials. They can also contaminate food with their droppings and urine, leading to health problems for people and pets.

Signs of roof rats’ infestation in home

Three dirty mice eat debris next to each other. Rubbish bag On the wet floor and very foul smell. Selective focus.

Several signs may indicate you have a roof rat infestation. The most obvious sign is seeing the rodent itself. However, you may also find droppings (either fresh or old), property damage, and chewed wires/cables.

The size of the droppings can be another indicator, as roof rat droppings are typically larger than those of other rodents. The next sign is rat activity, including damaging goods, making nests, and leaving greasy rub marks.

Another sign of an infestation is noises in the walls or ceilings and damaged wires.

Though the two rat species are often mistaken, there are a few key ways to tell them apart. Norway rats have droppings that are larger and end in sharp points.

In contrast, roof rat droppings are about half the size and typically pointed. Roof rats are also generally smaller than Norway rats, with a body length of about 6-8 inches.

How to Get Rid of Roof Rats?

You can do a few things to help prevent roof rats from infesting your home or property.

  • The most important is to seal off any holes or cracks in the building larger than a quarter. 
  • Remove any fruit that may fall from trees in the yard as they may be a food source for the rats.
  • Keeping garbage in tightly covered receptacles can help keep the rats away. So they will not be able to scavenge through the trash for food.
  • Keep pet food and other food items in sealed containers so the rats can’t access them. 
  • Rats can also climb up walls and vines, so trim any vegetation (like trees and shrubs) that’s close to your home.
  • Rats, mice, and other rodents need food and water to survive. If you can eliminate their access to food and water, you can reduce the rodent population.
  • Do not permit landscapers to arrive at their property with cuttings/clippings from other customers, as this can also bring rats onto the premises.
  • Rats are notorious for migrating from area to area, and homeowners need to be proactive to get rid of them. 
  • Homeowners can seal any openings where rats may enter and put down rat poison or traps.

How to prevent roof rats? (Roof rat control)

There are ways to prevent roof rats from entering your home or business. 

  • Use large spring-loaded bait stations to catch the rats when they try to take the bait. 
  • Before trapping the rats, you can also eliminate other food sources, such as pet food and birdseed.
  • Place traps in known rat activity areas. It includes droppings, gnaws marks, or any other sign that you have seen the rats recently. 
  • Poison baits should only be used for rats and never placed where children or pets can access them.
  • Keeping your yard clean is one of them – a cluttered yard provides easy cover for rats. They will be less likely to venture into a well-maintained area. 
  • Prune fruit trees, so the ground under them is open and visible. 
  • Remove woodpiles and brush piles from your yard, as they provide ideal habitats for roof rats. 
  • Ensure to seal any openings into your house that could serve as entrances for rats, such as cracks in the foundation, gaps around pipes or wires, and holes in the roof or walls.
  • Store lumber piles at least 18 inches above the ground, so the rats cannot climb them. 

Are roof rats dangerous?

Roof rats are a type of rat known to infest homes and other buildings. They can also spread diseases and contaminate food. In addition, roof rats can be dangerous as they often gnaw on electric wires and damage the insulation.

It can cause a fire inside the infested structure. Moreover, roof rats contaminate food sources with their droppings and urine, leading to illnesses in humans.

In short, roof rats can transmit various harmful diseases to both humans and pets. They also contaminate food sources with their urine and feces, making them a potential health hazard.

Where do roof rats live during the day?

Roof rats are typically active during the night but can be seen during the day if they live close to where people are.

Roof rats generally live near humans and often have little problems living in places off the ground. They can be found nesting in trees, vines, bushes, and other landscaping features near homes and businesses.

Are roof rats nocturnal?

Roof rats are typically considered nocturnal creatures. It means they are more active at night and prefer to remain hidden during the day. They prey on many predators and need to be careful when venturing out.

As daylight begins to fade, they will return to their daytime habitat. However, competition for preferred habitat and food sources may cause them to be seen during the day.

What does a roof rats nest look like?

Roof rats like to build their nests and live in the dense cover of thick shrubbery, vine-covered trees, and power lines. They are also known to inhabit attics, crawl spaces, and garages.

Roof rats are commonly found in elevated areas, like trees and roofs. They also like to nest in locations that offer them cover and protection. Such as dead fronds of palm trees, thick vegetation that grows over fences and utility lines, piles of trash, woodpiles.

Do roof rats carry disease?

Yes, roof rats can carry several diseases that are harmful to humans. After all, you must hear about the bubonic plague in past. Some of the most common symptoms of rat-bite fever include rash, vomiting, headache, and muscle pain.

It is important to protect yourself from these rodents if you live in an area where they are common. 

Rats are known to carry a variety of diseases, both through their bites and contact with their feces. Rat-bite fever, leptospirosis, and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome are diseases that rats may transmit.

It is important to be aware of these risks and take the necessary precautions to encounter rats on your property.

Do attic rats burrow?

Roof rats are good climbers and often build their nests in trees or other places. Other rat species, such as the Norway rat, are more likely to build their nests in burrows underground.

What color are roof rats?

Roof rats are typically black or brown. They often live in and around the roof of buildings. Roof rats, also known as black rats, are a common species of rats.

They have long tails, large ears, eyes, and a pointed nose. Their fur is smooth with hairless scaly tails that are longer than their head.

How many roof rats live together?

Roof rats live in colonies of 5-10 individuals. However, sometimes a single nest will have fewer rats due to death or dispersal. It is rare but does happen from time to time.

Rats are social creatures and might establish multiple nests, forming a colony. It can be especially the case when food is in short supply.

How to kill roof rats?

There are various ways to kill rats, but the most common is using snap traps. These traps use a spring-loaded mechanism to kill the rat when it takes the bait. Another method is to use traps that kill the rats to get rid of them.

Make sure to place the traps in an area with signs of rat activity and put some bait inside to lure them in. It’s also important not to set traps where other animals can get into them, such as dogs or cats. To protect them, you can put the traps inside a box or under a milk crate.

What is the size of roof rat teeth marks?

Roof rats have no canine teeth. It means their teeth marks are typically smaller than those of other rodents. Their marks on surfaces are about halfway back on each bottom jaw.

They have three molars- one at the top and one at the bottom. Mark size would be around 2mm wide.

Are roof rats aggressive?

Like most other rodents, Roof rats can be skittish and may show aggression when threatened. Typically, roof rats are timid creatures and will only bite or attack if they feel threatened. In most cases, the rats will run away when they see a human.

However, there have been cases where roof rats have chased people down. If you encounter a rat acting aggressively, it is best to leave the area and contact pest control.

Though roof rats are not typically aggressive, they can carry rat-bite fever. If bitten by a roof rat, it is important to clean the wound and see a doctor. Rat-bite fever can be transmitted through the bite and can cause serious illness.


Rats are a common sight during the winter and early spring. In the winter, rats like to be indoors where it is warm. They are also very active in the early spring when many fruits are ripening.

In conclusion, roof rats are black rats with distinguishing features like a large ear and a scaly tail. They can be identified by their size and the noise they make.

Roof rats are aptly named because they are typically four feet away. They live in trees, shrubs, and house attics, making them hard to spot and even harder to get rid of.

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.