The Roof Rat

The Roof Rat (Rattus rattus Linnaeus is smaller in size than the Norway Rat. Another difference is that the Roof rat is more slender with a longer tail than the Norway rat.

The Roof rat also called gray-bellied rat, white-bellied rat, Alexandrine rat, black rat and ship rat. Its origins go to the tree forests of Southeast Asia and are adept for climbing vines, wires, and narrow ledges. They are common rodents in attics if found inside. They are located in the coastal areas of the USA since they do not adapt well to cooler temperatures. It is a more skittish rat than the Norway rat, being sensitive to any new change in the environment.


Roof Rats

Roof rats have pointed noses and large ears and are often mistaken for House Mice. The head and feet of adult house mice are proportionally smaller than their bodies, while young rats have larger heads and feet in comparison to their bodies. Their fur of Roof rat is smooth, while the fur of the Norway rat is rough and shaggy.

The adult Roof rat is about 7-10 inches long and weighs about 5-9 ounces. The Roof Rat has a long tail which is longer than the combined length of the head and body. If you pull the tail back over the body, it will reach over its head.

Inspecting Roof Rat Infestation

  • The Roof Rat droppings are spindle shaped and reach about 1/2 inch in size.The Norway Rat’s droppings have a capsule shape.
  • The tail markings and hind feet markings of the Norway Rat and of the Roof Rat are hard to differentiate between each other.
  • Runways for Roof Rats are difficult to determine.
  • Refer to the section on Rodent inspection.

Roof Rats Diet

Roof rats will eat meat and grain, but their preference is fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. They will eat snails, slugs, and insects as well. Roof rats will eat smaller portions of food compared to Norway rats. Naturally, they will eat in several different places, which will be an important strategy when you bait and trap. It is more important to place more traps and bait placements in several locations. They prefer to feed under cover and seek shelter when feeding.Bait stations will provide a shelter that they prefer.

Roof Rats Habits and Biology

  • The Roof Rats become sexually mature in just a couple months. Females become sexually mature in 68-90 days with 5-8 pups per litter. They have 4-6 litters per year.
  • Because the Roof Rats climb well, common nesting sites are above the ground. They will nest in trees, attics, voids along the roof line, and in ceilings. Like squirrels, they enter homes and are found in attics. In the absence of Norway rats or if their population grows, they can be found in burrows or piles of rocks.
  • Dense vegetation, lush landscapes, fruit trees, dog areas will attract Roof rats. They seek cover. They will also construct globular leafy nests in trees and enter buildings by tree branches, utility lines.
  • Roof Rats are suspicious like Norway Rats. Be patient in trapping and baiting. It may take a few days for them to adjust to a new change in the environment and take the bait or get trapped.
  • Peak times for Roof Rat activity is at dawn or dusk; they are nocturnal. If they are heard during the day, the population is large.


Roof rats secured their place in history by spreading the highly dangerous bubonic plague. Though transmission is rare today, there are still a handful of cases in the U.S. each year. Roof rats can also carry fleas and spread diseases such as typhus, jaundice, rat-bite fever, trichinosis and salmonellosis.

Roof Rat Prevention

To get rid of roof rats and prevent them from entering a home, seal up any holes or cracks larger than a quarter with silicone caulk. Keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from the building and cut back limbs overhanging the roof. Roof rats are drawn to any accessible food sources, so clean up fruit that may fall from trees in the yard and keep garbage in tightly covered receptacles. It’s also important to regularly inspect the home and property for signs of a roof rat infestation, including rodent droppings, gnaw marks, damaged goods and greasy rub marks from their oily fur.

Related Articles:

Types Of Mouse Traps
Norway Rat: Facts & Control

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