The roof rat (Rattus rattus Linnaeus) is a very common pest in the U.S. and something millions of homeowners have to contend with each year. Fortunately, there are some effective ways to rid your home of rats without having to resort to exterminators or pesticides.
What are roof rats?
Roof rats are also known as ship rats or black rats. They are smaller than the brown (Norway) rat and are often black or dark brown in color.
They are called roof rats because they climb so well. This allows them to take up residence in lofts, attics and upper levels of properties.
This climbing skill means they often nest in trees, bushes, above false ceilings, attics, in wall gaps and on the top of tall furniture.
They measure around 5-7 inches long with a long tail and long ears. They eat seeds, fruit, leaves, insects and small mammals. They have a particular fondness for dog and cat food, which is why they are commonly found in our homes.
What are the signs of roof rats in my home?
There are several signs that roof rats have taken up residence. They include seeing rats as they travel, seeing roof rat poop, gnaw marks on furniture or within the structure of your home and damaged food packaging are all signs of rats.
You may also hear these little critters scuttling about the attic during the night, which is a sure sign of pests.
Roof rat poop is a common sign. It looks like a grain of very dark rice with pointed ends. Old poop is dry, newer poop will still be moist.
Those droppings are dangerous so you need to remove them carefully and ensure any pets or children are not exposed to them.
Safe removal of roof rat droppings
Roof rat droppings carry a range of dangerous diseases so they must be handled with care. Use gloves and a mask to protect yourself from airborne bacteria, use a dustpan and brush to clean up and seal into a doggie poop bag or plastic bag.
Seal the bag and put it straight in the trash.
If you use your household dustpan and brush, make sure to thoroughly clean it afterwards.
Preventing roof rat infestations
There are a few steps you can take to help prevent a roof rat infestation.
Remove food sources
Rats will typically move in when there’s a ready supply of food to be had. Remove the food and they will eventually move on.
That means keeping food inside containers, keeping the kitchen tidy, clearing up food spillages immediately, never leaving food out overnight, clearing up pet food at night and exercising good hygiene.
Remove entry and exit points
If you make it difficult for a rat to make its home on your property, it can go a long way to preventing an infestation.
That means maintaining your home, clearing away trees and bushes against your property, filling in gaps, large cracks or holes in walls, stucco, the roofline and the roof. A chimney cap can also be useful if you don’t use a real fire.
Use preventive measures like ultrasonic rat repellents
Even if you perform all those tasks above, roof rats may still decide your home looks good enough to live in. Using an ultrasonic rat repellent has been found to be effective at keeping them away.
Rats, like mice, small mammals and some insects don’t like the ultrasonic sound emitted by these devices, so will actively avoid them.
As roof rats can be incredibly difficult to remove yourself, using ultra-high frequency rat repellents means you don’t need an exterminator, don’t need traps or to use chemicals.
They are safe and humane. Most importantly, they work!