As a homeowner, most likely there are few sounds you dread more than the scratching of a rodent in your walls or attic. It’s an all-too-common—and chill-inducing—sign that your home may have a roof rat problem.
If they aren’t taken care of quickly, roof rats can cause serious damage to your home. Homeowners across the country have experienced water damage from a chewed-up pipe or—worse still—suffered an electrical fire after roof rats have destroyed wiring.
Luckily, it’s often easy to distinguish a roof rat from other rodents. Once you know what type of rat you’re dealing with, you can establish an effective plan for getting rid of them.
These are four of the top ways to identify these kinds of rats:
1. Unique Physical Features
At first, you might think all rats look the same. But when you start looking for a few distinguishing characteristics, you’ll quickly learn how to spot a roof rat from across the yard or attic.
These are a few features to watch for:
- Black-ish fur
- Size of about 13 to 15 inches long, including the tail
- Pointed nose and long, nearly hairless ears
- Sleek body and smooth fur
A good point of comparison is the larger, furrier Norway rat, also known as a sewer rat. These big rodents are typically brown or grey, can reach 18 inches in length, and can weigh a full pound or more. Compared to a roof rat, these rodents seem like small cats.
2. Gnawing Habits
You may have already noticed evidence of the rats chewing away on wood or wiring in your attic or garage. Now, take a closer look. Roof rats typically chew holes that are fairly large—sometimes bigger than two inches in diameter—and rough around the edges.
These types of rats are also notorious for gnawing on homes’ eaves and roofs (hence the name). For homeowners with fruit trees, additional evidence of these rodents is hollowed-out fruit husks in your trees or on the ground.
3. Nesting Areas
Another name for these rats are 'palm rats', a nickname that hints at their reputation for being great climbers. They like to nest above ground, compared to other types of rats that nest underground in burrows.
If you suspect that you might have a roof rat, take a tour around your property and look for potential nesting spots. Look closely in areas such as your attic, garage, and patio. If they have made it into your home, you should also check cabinets and your laundry room. Listen for scratching or gnawing noises inside your walls, sheetrock, and ceilings; these are also favorite spots for roof rats.
4. Review the Dropping
Finally, keep an eye out for rat droppings in your attic, garage, or cabinets, or near your patio and pool area. Examining their size and shape (from a distance, of course) will help you to determine which type of rat you’re dealing with. Roof rat droppings are smaller and more cylindrical than that of other species of rat—typically, the droppings are about half an inch long, with pointed ends.
5. Eliminating Roof Rats
Now that you know what to look for, it should be relatively simple to determine whether you’re dealing with a roof rat. Now you can use that knowledge to target them with an effective rat trap, such as the A24, a humane, self-resetting mouse and rat trap.
If you’ve spotted a roof rat outside your home, your best bet is to install A24 traps near exterior vegetation, on a fence or under palm trees. If the rats are inside your home, the traps will work best in the attic or garage.
These kinds of rats are nocturnal, so it’s best to use a trap like the A24, which automatically resets and can kill up to 24 rats with a single CO2 canister. That way, the trap will be hard at work during the night, without you needing to worry about resetting it.
Although these rats can be a stressful, downright dangerous pest, arming yourself with a little knowledge about their appearance and habits—and making sure you use the right rat trap—will allow you to take care of them quickly and decisively.