What are Roof Rats?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 15 January 2019
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Known scientifically as Rattus rattus, the black rat, or roof rat, is a type of rat that is commonly thought of as a pest. It can usually be found near the roof of a building, giving this rodent its nickname. Because of the extensive damage and sheer annoyance they can cause, most individuals try to get rid of, or exterminate, roof rats.

A roof rat has a long slender body that is usually between 6 and 8 inches (15.2 - 20.3 centimeters) long. Its tail will usually be longer than its body, around 6 to 10 inches (15.2 to 25.4 centimeters). Its smooth fur can be either black or brown, and it also has a pointy nose and large ears.

Originally native to parts of Asia, roof rats can now be found around the globe. They do, however, seem to prefer warmer regions. The rats were most likely distributed across the world by travelers who unknowingly brought these animals from Asia back to their regions, especially on ships.

Since these creatures tend to be natural climbers, they are often found in the upper levels of buildings. Finding roof rats in the attic of a building is not uncommon. They will also inhabit other parts of buildings, though, and can be found between walls and in the lower levels of a building like basements.


One of the biggest problems with rats of any kind is their need to chew, which keeps their teeth short and in good condition. Roof rats can cause damage to plastic, fabric, and wood. Electrical cords also seem to hold a certain fascination for some rats, and they will chew through these as well, which can cause an electrical fire. Rats will often chew through plastic containers to get to food stored inside. Fabric, such as stored clothes or bedding, will also often be shredded and used to make a nest.

Another common problem associated with rats is sanitation. Roof rats will urinate and defecate in areas that they have infested, and males will mark their territory with small drops of urine. A rat infestation can also lead to infestations of other types of pests, including fleas and mites, which often hitch a ride on the rats.

Along with urine and feces, there are a few other ways to tell if a building has a rat problem. Foot and tail prints will be present in the dust on the floor. There may also be oily smudges on the walls where the rats rubbed against them as they traveled.

There are a few different ways to get rid of roof rats. Poison is one solution, but this may not be an option if there are small children or pets in the immediate area. Baited rat traps are another option, and there are a few types of these traps on the market. The most common type is a large spring-loaded trap that snaps onto the animal, often killing it. There are also rat traps that cause death by electrocution, as well as live rat traps.



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