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Roof rats, which are sometimes referred to as black rats or ship rats, are a smaller commensal variety of rat that get their name from the tendency for making homes in the upper layers of buildings. Roof rats can cause a considerable amount of damage to your home or property, as well as the food and materials inside, by gnawing right through them. Not only can these rodents contaminate your food, but they can also spread dangerous diseases to humans. Roof rats can manage to get through half-inch openings, and have been known to climb power lines and tree branches to make it onto a roof.

Common Entry Points

Due to their size and dexterity, these rats can easily reach just about any area of a home or building, and it can be a struggle for many homeowners to try to keep them out. Here are some common ways roof rats have been known to enter homes:

  • Chewing holes through material to gain entry
  • Squeezing through old or broken vent covers
  • Getting in through gaps between roof shingles
  • Squeezing themselves through various other cracks around the building

What Do Roof Rats Eat?

Like many rats, roof rats are omnivores, which means they’ll eat basically anything that is made available to them. They are food hoarders and will collect and stash away food supplies. Although they generally prefer to eat grains such as seeds and nuts, they also can also consume slugs, cockroaches and even shellfish if they’re living by the water. Roof Rats diet can include any of the following:

  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fruits
  • Meats (such as slugs, insects or shellfish)
  • Tree bark

Though they forage multiple times throughout the day and night, roof rats will usually feed at dusk and again just before dawn. These rodents prefer to eat in a hidden and sheltered environment.

Where Do They Live?

Roof rats are thought to have originated in Southeast Asia, but today they can be found worldwide. They specifically prefer the tropical regions and are common among coastal states. In the United States, they’re especially common in the southern part of the country.

Roof rats are incredibly adaptable and can conform to many living conditions. They are naturally nocturnal creatures and are extremely good climbers. As such, they tend to live in places high off of the ground, but may also be found in any of the following areas of the home:

  • Attics
  • Garages
  • Storage spaces
  • Discarded wood
  • Piles of accumulated waste
  • Rafters
  • Roofs
  • Trees
  • Voids within the wall


Roof rats usually prefer living in colonies, which set up their nests in attics, rafters or other upper parts of a building. However, these rodents can also be found below and around structures, such as garages or stacks of wood piled next to a house. They generally gravitate towards homes and areas with plenty of lush vegetation and available fruit tress; therefore, properties with lots of shrubbery, wood or debris piles are at a higher risk of a roof rat infestation.

Roof rats are creatures of habit. They tend to forage for their food in small groups of up to ten rats. They prefer to return to the same source of food day after day, and even follow the same pathway each time.

Roof rats value security and shelter and like to build their nests away from predators. They may enter any part of a building through a hole no bigger than an nickel and build gnaw their way through most building material. They’ve even been known to chew through aluminum siding.

Though roof rats’ lifespan is only one year, they have the impressive ability to produce as many as 40 offspring within that short time. This can obviously cause risks of very large infestations.

Signs of an Infestation

There are a number of signs that could point toward a roof rat infestation in your home. The most obvious one is actually seeing the rodents around the home, dead or alive. Other signs can include seeing fresh or dry droppings around the home. These tend to have pointed ends and measure roughly a half of an inch. If you notice gnaw marks on your belongings or materials or chewed up wiring, this is also a sign of a roof rat infestation. Even in case you do not see any visible signs of roof rats, you may still notice noises in the attic or damaged electrical wires.

If you notice any of these signs of infestation in your home or business, it’s important to get them removed by an experienced professional as soon as possible, as they may be causing damage or exposing you and your family to diseases. Be sure to call Foundation Pest Control to have roof rats removed safely and efficiently from your home or commercial property.

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