Where Do Roof Rats Live?

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Roof rats are among the most dangerous pests that can thrive on a property. They bring destruction and diseases wherever they go. Even after they are gone, these pests can still cause health hazards if their nests and remains are not cleaned and sanitized properly.

But where do roof rats live and build their nests? Roof rats spend most of their lives living at least four feet off the ground. Thanks to their excellent climbing abilities, they can build nests in attics and ceiling spaces. They can also travel to the roofs through nearby trees and utility lines.

Roof Rats: The Unwanted Guests in Your Attic

Roof rats are one of the most common rodents that can infest a Californian home. In 2017, four cities in California were included in the top 15 cities for roof rat infestations in the country with Sacramento placing fourth.

But unlike other rodent species that thrive on burrows and ground nests, roof rats prefer to live on higher ground. They travel through trees and utility lines to find a good spot for their colony. And if you’re unlucky they might deem your attic a suitable place for a nest, leaving different hazards in their wake.

The first step to effectively eliminate these unwanted guests is to learn more about them. Here are a few important facts about roof rats you must know:


Compared to Norway rats, roof rats have slender bodies and long tails. They can grow up to 20 cm in length and weigh around 5 to 12 ounces. Their scaly tails are also longer than their bodies, growing up to 19-25 cm.

Roof rats have black smooth fur with a white or gray-colored belly. They also have large ears and pointy faces.

Nesting Areas

Roof rats are also known to be excellent climbers, which is why they prefer to build their nests above ground, unlike other rat species who are burrowers. Black rats who live outdoors build their nests in trees, shrubs, and other dense vegetation. But indoors, they prefer higher places because these areas are usually kept warm by the rising heat.


Roof rats are omnivores and will consume anything available to them. But these pests prefer nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fresh fruits. They can also consume grain, meat, insects, slugs, and snails.

These pests will eat during dusk and before dawn. If you hear scurrying in the kitchen at night, it might be due to their foraging activities. They also like to hoard their food, so there’s a chance you will find a stash of nuts and seeds in their nests.


Roof rats are directly responsible for spreading the bubonic plague which caused millions of deaths in the 1300s. Although there’s very little threat of the plague resurfacing in the present, these furry pests can still carry different pathogens and parasites with them. Some of the common diseases caused by roof rats are rat-bite fever, leptospirosis, and murine typhus.

Like other rat species, roof rats will also become aggressive once they are cornered. To defend themselves, they might scratch or bite a person. This encounter may cause rat-bite fever – a bacterial disease with symptoms including rashes, muscle pain, headache, vomiting, and fever.

Another bacterial disease caused by roof rats is leptospirosis, which occurs when the Leptospira bacteria is transmitted through exposure to bodily fluids of the infected roof rat. The bacteria can enter through the person’s mouth, nose, eyes, broken skin, and open wounds.

Murine typhus is another disease caused by roof rats. It occurs when a rat ectoparasite bites a person and transmits the typhus-causing pathogen. Patients who have murine typhus may experience stomach pain, rashes, cough, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, fever, chills, and appetite loss.

Why You Have Roof Rats at Home

Roof rats are also called different names such as ship rats, black rats, and Alexandrine rats. These pests originated from the forests of Southeast Asia, but they are also found in the coastal areas of the country. They are known for being excellent climbers, traveling through vines, trees, wires, and narrow ledges with ease.

There are several reasons why roof rats invade the home, such as free shelter and available food. If there are indications of these rodents inside the property, it’s important to call a professional exterminator immediately to prevent the roof rats from causing more trouble than they already have.

Since these rodents are excellent climbers, they will utilize all entry points they can find near the roof and around utility lines. Once they find a way inside the property, they will start building a nest in the attic, false ceilings, or other high places that are at least four feet above the ground.

Roof rats are also attracted to open food sources. Although their diet consists mostly of fruits, nuts, and other plant materials, roof rats will consume anything they can find once they settle indoors. That’s why all food and leftovers should be disposed of properly or kept in airtight containers.

One effective way to keep roof rats away from a property is by depriving them of entry points, shelter, and food. You can do this by conducting a thorough inspection of the building and sealing all possible wall gaps and roof holes. Keeping the property clean at all times can also help limit the risk of a roof rat infestation.

4 Ways to Spot a Roof Rat Infestation

Roof rats thrive in coastal areas because they are not used to living in places with cooler temperatures. If you live along the coastline or near the area, it’s important to follow rat prevention tips that will keep these pests away from the home.

You should also be keen on looking out for early signs of roof rat presence to keep them from causing further structural damage and health hazards. Here are some tell-tale signs to check if rats have reached the home:

1) Gnaw and Scratch Marks Around the Home

Since roof rats’ teeth are constantly growing, they will need to gnaw through hard materials to trim them. One of their favorite things to chew is wood but they can also damage electrical wiring and food packages. If you find a hole that has rough edges and measures at least 2 inches in diameter, there’s a good chance that it was created by a roof rat in the house.

2) Squeaking and Scratching Noises

Roof rats are nocturnal animals that perform the majority of their activities such as building nests and gathering food at night. If you’re suspecting a roof rat infestation at home, try to listen closely at night for squeaking and scratching noises. These sounds may be caused by rodents scurrying around in the attic or between walls.

3) Pets Acting Strange

Pets, whether they are cats or dogs, have better senses than humans. They can detect the presence of roof rats in the attic before the residents can notice them. If your pets constantly stare upwards, hiss or bark at nothing, or try to get to higher ground to smell something, it might be time to check the attic for rodent infestation.

4) Rat Droppings

Another helpful way to detect the presence of roof rats at home is if you find a trail of their droppings. Their droppings are usually small but are larger than mice droppings. These roof rat wastes are usually half an inch in length and shaped like a banana.

Eliminate Roof Rats in Your Attic with Pinnacle Pest Control

Here at Pinnacle Pest Control, we offer a complete rodent control plan that starts with the removal of the rat colony and ends with the restoration and decontamination of the infested area.

We also value the safety of our customers from roof rat infestations. That's why we do our best to eliminate these pests and keep them from coming back. We also offer a 2-year rodent-free guarantee for our customers. Call us now to help you eliminate roof rat problems at home.

Learn more: Are Roof Rats Dangerous?

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