Overview of Common Rat Habitats

There are two rat species that are the most commonplace in the United States. These are:

  • Norway rat (also known as a brown rat or sewer rat)
  • Roof rat (also known as a black rat)

Each of these rats has different habitat preferences. A home or business owner intent on protecting against a rat infestation are well served in understanding their living or habitat preferences. Common rat habitats are discussed here for your consideration.

Terrestrial Versus Arboreal Rat Habitats

Rat habitats are classified into two distinct categories by biologists. These are:

  • Terrestrial
  • Arboreal

Terrestrial rat habitats are those found on the ground or underneath it. On the other hand, arboreal rat habitats are those found above ground level, typically in trees.

If a rat species infest a residence or business, the animal will mimic its natural habitat preference within a building. Terrestrial rats will nest on the ground floor of a building or in the basement. Arboreal rats will nest in the attic of a structure or a similar upper level.

Norway Rat Habitat Specifics

In a truly natural setting, Norway rats build their nests on the ground or underneath it. These rats tend to be attracted to some sort of natural or manmade structure next to which they construct nests. For example, Norway rats will construct nests next to structures, sidewalks, patios, trees, bushes, and similar objects.

In addition to nesting at the surface of the ground or directly under it, Norway rats are also known as sewer rats for a reason. These rodents will migrate into sewers and find places in these systems to nest.

Norway rats do live in groups or colonies. Thus, when they nest, the likelihood is that other Norway rats will be found in the same location.

Roof Rat Habitat Specifics

As discussed, roof rats are arboreal creatures. Thus, they nest in different types of trees and at other elevated locations. Roof rats will nest in a wide range of different types of trees, depending on the geographic location at which they are found. These rats will nest in trees that include palm, cypress, oak, and even different types of fruit trees.

Being able to climb trees, roof rats will also access the tops of manmade structures to find places to nest. As is the case with Norway rats, roof rats group in colonies. Therefore, if a roof rat stakes out a nesting location, others virtually always will follow.

Alternating Habitats

While each of the most common rats found in the United States has definite habitat preferences as outlined a moment ago, there is some flexibility in the manner in which the elect to nest. In other words, a roof rat is capable of living at a lower elevation, rather like Norway rats. In addition, Norway rats are capable of nesting at higher levels if the situation warrants or demands. They are not as adept at climbing as are roof rats, however. Thus, there are some limitations in this regard.

Signs of a Rat Infestation

Now that you’ve been presented with information about habitations of the most common types of rats in the United States, you are well served understanding the common signs that rats may have taken up occupancy in your home or business. The same types of signs exist with either of these two types of rats and with other species of rats and mice as well.

One of the most common signs of a rat infestation is the presence of droppings. Droppings will be found in the general area in which rats elect to nest. However, they are not only limited to nesting areas.

Rats forage in order to find food, shelter, and nesting supplies. As a consequence, rats will venture about the area in which they have nested. In a house, rats will venture from their nesting areas to different locations in a building in search of food and other items. Because rats forage, they will leave droppings in different locations around a home or business.

Common places in which droppings will be found include along the bottom of walls. Rats travel next to walls as a means of providing a sense of security and protection.

Another sign of a rat infestation is the presence of gnaw marks in and around a home or business. Rats gnaw on the physical structure of a building as well as objects in it. They gnaw because their incisors continue to grow throughout their lives. In addition, they gnaw on things to open up a passageway and to access food and other items.

Other signs of the presence of the Norway rat or the roof rat include:

  • Scratching sounds
  • Scurrying sounds
  • Squeals
  • Urine odor

Because rats are generally nocturnal animals, you’re more apt to hear sounds associated with their presence in the evening or at night. The ultimate indicator of a rat infestation is actually seeing one (or more than one) on the premises. This is also most likely to occur in the evening or at night.