The Two Most Common Types of Rats Infesting Homes


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Rats can be a big problem for homeowners. Rats can cause significant damage to homes, pass diseases and parasites to humans and their pets, and contaminate food, belongings, and homes. They are resilient and adaptable creatures and can be found in many varying environments. There are two primary that commonly infest homes. Understanding a little bit around them can help determine how to manage them.

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The Roof Rat

The roof rat (also called a black rat) is the smaller of the two types of rats. It is a superb climber and prefers to nest in areas above ground, like attics, rafters, and ceilings. Homes with fencing or mature trees and shrubbery close by, or with overhanging tree branches, provide easier access for rats to explore the exterior of the home and try to find a way in.

Roof rats can easily climb or jump onto the roof and then gnaw their way into homes - but even that might not be necessary, as they can enter gaps as small as 1/2" (smaller, if the rat is still young). Roof lines should be particularly carefully checked to ensure there are no easy points of entry. Thinning out dense vegetation, removing branches near the home, trimming vegetation 12" or more off the ground, and cutting back shrubbery away from the house all help to act as a deterrent to roof rats.

Roof rats have slender, long bodies and long tails that are longer than their bodies. Their eyes and ears are relatively large and they have pointed noses. They eat many types of food, preferring fruits and nuts. They often range as far as 300 feet beyond their nests in search of food and can climb down (for example, from the attic) to food sources. They can grow up to 14" long.

The Norway Rat

The Norway rat is the larger of the two types of rats. Although it is also a good climber, it prefers to burrow and tunnel especially in moist or damp areas. They are most often found near ground level, in areas like the basement, in crawl spaces, or along building foundations. They may create nests in woodpiles or garbage in the yard, or inside the home they may make nests in areas where belongings are stacked up - cardboard boxes or stacks of paper, for example.

Cracks and holes in the foundation should be sealed up to prevent entry by rodents. Stacking items off the ground by 12" to 18" can help to lessen the attractiveness of the area to Norway rats.

Norway rats have thicker, sturdy bodies and tails that are shorter than their bodies. Their eyes and ears are smaller than the roof rats and they have blunted noses rather than pointed ones. Their preferred food is cereal grains, meat and nuts. They tend not to range quite as far as roof rats in search of food, typically traveling up to 150 feet from their nests. They can grow up to 18" long.

Note that both types of rats can be present at the same time. Because rats breed so prolifically, once a problem is apparent it's important to take action quickly - figuring out how to get rid of rats in the house only becomes more difficult as rats become more numerous. A combination of pest control methods, including humane pest control options, can be used to remove them from the house. Removal should be followed up with preventive pest control measures. A big part of keeping rats away from your home is maintaining the house, yard and garden, especially taking exclusion measures to block rats from entering the home at all.