Are you waking up to strange sounds in the middle of the night? Are your pets acting odd? Perhaps you’re finding strange droppings or gnaw marks beneath cabinets or along your wall sidings?
If so, you might have roof rats. These rats, smaller than their Norway rat counterparts and much more adaptable, are some of the most formidable pests in the Southern United States.
So, how do you get rid of a roof rat colony and keep one from returning to your property? It’s a little more involved compared to how to get rid of rats. Let’s dig in.
What Is A Roof Rat?
Roof rats are small rats common in the Southern United States.
Also known as black rats or ship rats, the roof rat is one of the most notorious. Smaller than the Norway rat and much more adaptable, roof rats are noisy, messy, and sometimes even dangerous.
This invasive species of rat is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia. Today, it is found throughout the world and is most common in the Southern United States as well as in coastal regions and seaports.
Roof rats tend to live in colonies, and they eat almost anything they can get their furry mouths on. Though they prefer tropical climates, roof rats are able to adapt to many different types of habitats.
Due to the lifestyle and habits of most humans, roof rats are a common pest in urban and suburban environments. They can live both outdoors and indoors, and prefer invading homes in colonies and building nests in walls, attics, roofs, rafters, garages, cupboards and cabinets.
They have also been known to build nests in piles of wood, yard debris, sheds, trees, and even gardens.
Identifying A Roof Rat Problem
Roof rats have smooth fur, pointy noses and large, dark eyes.
Most species of rat look similar, and it can be difficult to tell between a roof rat and the common Norway rat, but there are some telltale ways to distinguish between the two.
The roof rat is smaller than a Norway rat, growing to be between 6 and 8 inches in body length with an additional 6 to 8 inches in the tail. Roof rats generally have tails that are longer than their bodies, smooth fur, and are often brown or black with grey, white or black bellies. Roof rat rodents are social animals and will often forage for food and nest in colonies of up to ten rats at a time.
The below video talks more about roof rats and how to identify them.
One of the most obvious signs of a roof rat infestation is going to be the physical sighting of a roof rat, but there are some other ways you can identify a roof rat problem early if you are vigilnet and know what to look for.
Dogs and Cats Behaving In An Odd Way
Pets are often the first to alert us when something is amiss inside our homes. They have much stronger senses than you or I, and will typically hear and smell the presence of a roof rat before we do.
If your pets are behaving oddly, staring at the walls or ceiling, scratching at particular areas of the home, or whining, pay attention. They may be trying to warn you of a sneaky little invader.
Chewing, Scampering, Or Other Strange Noises In Your Walls At Night
Roof rats are not particularly quiet house guests, and they often alert you of their presence just by the strange sounds they make. These nocturnal rodents spend their evenings foraging for food, building nests, and going to and from their home (aka YOUR home) through “rat runways”.
Finding Roof Rat Droppings
Roof rat droppings can be found most anywhere a roof rat has been, and they are easy to identify by their shape and size. These droppings are around 12 to 13 mm in length and have points on both ends.
If you find droppings that are large, measuring about ¾ of an inch with blunt ends, you likely have Norway rats instead.
The Smell Of Urine Or Feces
Because roof rat infestations usually consist of several rats at once, you’ll likely begin to smell a buildup of urine and feces. This smell is unmistakable and foul, and is generally strongest in the area of your home where the rats are nesting.
Discovering Oily Residue And Chew Marks (Rat Runways)
Roof rats are oily by nature and often leave behind oily residue when they travel to and from their nest. They also usually use the same route when coming and going, leaving behind a trail of chew marks and oil that is called a “rat runway”.
Why Are Roof Rats Attracted To Your Property?
Roof rats are attracted to areas with lots of vegetation.
Like all pests, the roof rat is attracted to spaces that provide an ideal source of food, water and shelter. As their name implies, roof rats prefer higher locations for nesting like trees, roofs, attics and rafters, but they have also been known to make do with lower nesting spots as well like inside garages.
Roof rats are also attracted to areas with thick vegetation. Vegetation offers them plenty of places to hide from predators and foliage gives them an abundant source of nesting material. A good source of food is another attractant to roof rats, which is problematic as they have such a diverse diet.
As opportunistic omnivores, roof rats are attracted to a variety of food sources, including:
- And Even Candle Wax
Roof rats may also be attracted to exposed garbage, food waste, pet food, fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and bird seed.
How To Get Rid Of A Roof Rat Using Repellents
Roof rats are highly sensitive to certain sounds and smells, making rat repellent highly effective.
A roof rat infestation is certainly stressful, but the good news is that there are plenty of methods and remedies you can use to repel and get rid of them.
If you would prefer to use humane or natural methods to get rid of your roof rat infestation, then this is the section for you. We have listed some of our favorite roof rat repellents you can use to safely and effectively get rid of a roof rat problem.
T5-S Triple Ultrasonic Rodent Repeller
The above ultrasonic rodent repeller is specifically designed to repel not only roof rats, but also mice, Norway rats, squirrels and chipmunks. It works by emitting ultrasonic sounds and vibrations that irritate rodents inside walls and attics but that are harmless to people and pets.
What makes this ultrasonic pest repellent unique is that it also can be plugged in or battery run, making it ideal for attics, garages, homes, awnings, warehouses and more.
Mighty Mint Concentrated Peppermint Rodent Repellent
Rodents are naturally repelled by the smell of peppermint oil, which makes the Mighty Mint Peppermint Repellent a wonderful and natural alternative to poisons and chemical roof rat repellents.
It can help repel current roof rat infestations in conjunction with other methods and also work as a roof rat prevention in the future.
This product is non toxic and safe to use in homes while people and pets are present. It also works for Norway rats, mice, and other rodents. However, keep in mind this is a concentrated repellent that should be diluted with water before use.
Natural Armor Rodent Defense
Last on our list of natural rodent repellents for a roof rat problem is another peppermint repellent by Natural Armor. This product uses essential oils like peppermint to repel mice and rats and is ready to use. It includes a spray nozzle for easy application and can be used both indoor and outdoors.
It is safe for people, pets and the environment but it should be used only as directed. Keep it out of reach of children and make sure to read the instructions carefully, especially when using this spray inside your home.
How To Get Rid Of A Roof Rat Using Poisons
While effective, rat poisons are generally very dangerous so use them with caution.
Very large roof rat infestations may call for more intensive treatments. While poisons may not always work completely on their own to eliminate a roof rat problem, they can be effective in reducing a rat population on your property.
However, you should keep in mind that rat poison is usually very dangerous and can be toxic and deadly to people and pets. Rat poison should be used only as directed and kept out of reach of children and pets at all times.
Rat X Non-Toxic Rat Poison Pellets
The words “rat poison” can be scary for many, especially those with pets and kids. Luckily, there are some humane and non-toxic rat poison options you can use, including the above rat poison pellets by Rat X.
These pellets are biodegradable and safe for people, pets and the environment. They are also safe for other wildlife, including birds, gophers, voles, and more. The poison works specifically for mice and rats, quickly killing them after just one dose.
Neogen Ramik Rodenticide Nuggets
The above poison nuggets are also highly effective against roof rats, specifically because they target a roof rat’s diet. The green nuggets are fish flavored and highly palatable to rats while also being deadly.
This rodenticide is also weatherproof, so you can use it outdoors. That said, because of the fishy flavor and smell, these rodenticide poison nuggets could also be enticing to other wildlife and even dogs and cats. Use this rodenticide with extreme caution and keep it out of reach of children and pets.
If you are worried about non-targeted animals getting into the poison, you can always invest in a child and pet-proof rodent bait station that only allows for rodents to get in and out, which we highly recommend.
How To Get Rid Of A Roof Rat Using Traps
Humane catch and release rat traps are an option for catching roof rats.
Rat traps often work best for a roof rat problem when used in conjunction with bait and repellents. Whether you are looking for a humane catch and release rat trap or a baited poison rat trap we have you covered.
Take a look at some of the most popular and effective roof rat traps available below.
Tomcat Rat And Mouse Poison Bait Station
The above bait station does contain toxic rat poison bait for roof rat problems, but the station itself is child-safe and pet safe. The order is available in one and two different stations and each bait pack can kill 3 roof rats at a time.
The station is also weatherproof, so it works outside or on roofs where many roof rats congregate. There is also a window on the station so you can see when you need to refill the station with the poison.
That said, while the station does state it is child and pet proof, we still recommend using it with caution as the rat poison that is inside is highly toxic.
Kensizer Small Animal Live Trap
If you’re looking for a humane catch and release trap to relocate the roof rats causing you trouble, you can try the above trap by Kensizer. This trap is made for indoor and outdoor use and simply must be bated to lure the pests inside.
Once you do catch the roof rat in question, make sure you relocate it at least three to five miles away from your home so it cannot find its way back.
How To Get Rid Of A Roof Rat Using Home Remedies
Peppermint oil is one of the most effective home remedies you can use to repel roof rats.
If you’re looking for the best way to get rid of a roof rat using a do it yourself pest control method, then why not try some home remedies? Like most pests, roof rats are very sensitive to certain smells, sounds and tastes, and chances are you already have some roof rat repellent ingredients in your medicine cabinet or pantry.
Take a look.
Essential Oils That Repel Roof Rats
One of the most common and popular ways to naturally repel pests is the use of essential oils. Some of the best essential oils you can use during a roof rat infestation include:
- Peppermint Oil
- Eucalyptus Oil
- Lemon Oil
- Tea Tree Oil
- Clove Oil
- And Cedarwood Oil
You can make your own essential oil roof rat repellent spray by combining 10 to 20 drops of the above essential oil of your choice with two cups of water in a spray bottle. Then spray any areas around your home you wish to repel or prevent roof rats. Repeat this process every other day.
You can also saturate cotton balls with the above essential oils and leave them in areas where roof rats are known to invade like attics, roofs, rafters, etc. However, you must replace these saturated cotton balls every three days in order for them to be effective.
Using essential oils will not only prevent and repel roof rats, but they can also help reduce your chances of dealing with other pests like spiders, roaches, mice, squirrels, and bed bugs.
Instant Potato Roof Rat Killer
Instant potatoes are an alternative to using dangerous rat poison in your home and are a safe way to bait and kill rats without putting your pets or children in danger. Instant potatoes typically smell and taste good to rats, and they will consume as much of it as they can.
Then, when they go to take a drink, the instant potatoes will expand in their stomachs and kill them.
However, use this method with caution as you could wind up killing roof rats inside your walls and then you will be dealing with a whole new set of issues.
Mothballs are an excellent repellent for roof rat pests as well as other pests like insects, mice, squirrels, bats and spiders. The strong smell of mothballs is what makes them so effective. However, mothballs do contain a chemical called naphthalene which can be toxic and dangerous to people or pets, so be cautious when deciding where to place mothballs.
Cayenne Pepper Or Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Most animals are going to stay away from things that irritate their nose and eyes, and roof rats are no exception. Cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper is a humane way to repel rodents without killing or harming them, as the spices will only irritate them without causing permanent damage.
To use this method, simply sprinkle the spice of your choice around areas where you want to keep roof rats away. This would include in your attic, along your roof siding, and around rafters.
Of course, keep in mind that cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper can also cause irritation to pets and people, so use this method carefully.
Onions and Garlic
You can also use onions and garlic to repel annoying roof rat invaders, though this is a smelly alternative to commercial products that some home owners may not like. Still, freshly sliced onions and garlic can work when used correctly.
To use this method, just place freshly sliced garlic or onions at potential entry and exit points to keep roof rats and other pests like spiders, roaches, Norway rats, mice, and even squirrels from becoming a problem.
However, keep in mind that onions and garlic are toxic to dogs, so we don’t recommend using this method if you have pets in the home.
Ammonia and Laundry Detergent Roof Rat Repellent Recipe
Ammonia is not only an excellent repellent for roof rats, it can also help deter other pests including raccoons, possums, squirrels and chipmunks when it is used and applied correctly.
To make your own roof rat repellent spray using ammonia and laundry detergent, you will need:
- One bowl
- 1 quarter of water
- Two tsps of laundry detergent
- 2 cups of ammonia
Mix the above ingredients into a bowl and leave it out in the open in areas you wish to keep roof rats and other pests at bay. You can also pour the above ingredients into a spray bottle and spray it over outside trash cans to help disguise the smell of garbage and repel pests until trash day arrives.
Are Roof Rats Dangerous To People, Pets or Structures?
Rats have been known to carry some serious diseases so it’s important to take care of a root rat infestation quickly to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Rats are often synonymous with filth and unsanitary conditions. While rats are typically cleaner than we think, they can be vectors of serious disease and lead to food contamination and illness.
Roof rats in particular are known to spread diseases like bubonic plague, rat bite fever, typhus, trichinosis, toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis and salmonellosis.
Their feces and presence in homes and walls can also lead to respiratory issues, especially in children and those with chronic illness like asthma.
For this reason, it’s very important to take a roof rat infestation seriously and work quickly to find a solution.
How To Get Rid Of A Roof Rat For Good- When To Call A Professional
If you find you cannot manage a roof rato problem on your own, it may be time to contact a professional.
Roof rats can reproduce rapidly and can be difficult to get rid of. Worse, they can sometimes build nests deep inside our walls or high up on our roofs where it is difficult to access them. While traps, poisons and repellents may help, they also may not be enough to eradicate a roof rat problem entirely.
Some roof rats may even die in walls or roofs, causing a horrible stench and leading to other pest problems in the home.
If you’re dealing with a roof rat problem and can’t seem to get it under control, it may be time to contact a professional. Most professional pest control experts charge between $100 to $500, with the average cost being about $300.
Pest control experts will also be able to help you identify the cause of your roof rat problem so you can successfully work to prevent these pests in the future.
How To Prevent A Future Roof Rat Infestation
Stay vigilant and remember that roof rats can get into homes through holes as small as a nickel.
There are several steps you can take to repel roof rats and keep them from becoming a problem in your home again, which we have listed below.
Caulk And Seal Any Potential Entry Points
Roof rats can get into your home through openings as small as a nickel, so it’s important to be vigilant and repair any potential entry points. Remember, while roof rats do prefer higher locations like roofs and attics to build their nests, they have been known to invade ground-floor areas as well, so don’t count any opening out.
Repair Vulnerabilities In Your Attic or On Your Roof
Make sure you pay special attention to higher points of your property like roofs, rafters, attics, and second floor windows. Repair any vulnerabilities like cracks in siding, broken shingles, rips in screens, loose vents, etc.
Keep Vegetation and Trees At Least 6 Feet From Your Property
This might mean you’ll have to do some pruning to keep tree branches from touching your siding, but it’s worth it to keep roof rats from having easy access to your home. The less vegetation you have touching your home, the better off you’ll be when it comes to pest problems in general.
Store Food Properly
Keeping food stored properly can help prevent a number of pests, not just roof rats. Keep pantry food stored in airtight plastic or glass jars and keep perishable foods in the refrigerator when not in use.
It’s also best not to allow fruits and veggies to get too overripe on the counter in fruit bowls, as the smell can attract pests.
Protect Vegetable Gardens and Pick Up Fallen Fruit From Fruit Trees
Use garden protection nets and rodent barriers to keep edible gardens pest-free and safe. We also recommend picking up fallen fruits and veggies as soon as they are ready to be harvested.
Clean and Vacuum Often
Keeping your home nice and tidy will not only prevent a roof rat problem, but also other pests like roaches, ants, mice and more.
Invite the Natural Predators
Roof rats have plenty of natural predators, and you can help reduce their presence in your yard and subsequently in your home by inviting these predators to your property. Some of the best natural predators to help repel roof rats include:
- And Even Coyotes
We hope this has been a helpful guide on how to get rid of a roof rat infestation in your home. Thanks for reading!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.