A Close Look at the Roof Rat

The roof rat is a rodent of many names and an extraordinary talent. The other monikers of the roof rat include:

  • Ship rat
  • Black rat
  • House rat

The roof rat has an outstanding ability to climb, an inherent talent akin to that of a squirrel

Roof rats target homes, businesses, and other human-built structures. Thus, it is important for you to have a basic understanding of essential facts associated with the roof rat.

Physical Characteristics of a Roof Rat

An adult roof rat has a body with a length of between 5 inches and just over 7 inches. The tail of a roof rat is between 6 inches to about 9 inches, the tail nearly always being longer than the roof rat’s body.

The roof rat has a fairly streamlined body. An adult weighs between just under a quarter pound to just over a half pound.

The roof rat alternately is called the black rat for a reason. The fur on this rodent is nearly always black. However, the fur color of the roof rat can also run the range from a dark to a lighter brown. The roof rat typically has an underbelly that is a bit lighter in color than the animal’s upper body.

Roof rats earned the name because of their ability to climb trees and other structures. They nest in trees and in other locations off the ground.

Roof rats will climb humanmade structures themselves, or nearby trees, in an effort to get to the top of these buildings. Once on the roof or an upper level, roof rats will take advantage of possible nesting opportunities.

Roof rats find ways to enter into a home or business through even rather small holes in the structure. For example, they are capable of entering a residential attic through a hole or crack no bigger than a U.S. quarter in diameter.

Diet of a Roof Rat

Roof rats are omnivores. Although they prefer fruits and berries, there actually is very little that they will not consume. As a consequence, these rats will eagerly invade a human habitat in which they can access food items. Thus, roof rats target homes, businesses, barns, and an array of different types of human-built structures.

Signs of Roof Rats in a Home or Business

Signs of roof rats in a home, business, or other location include:

Gnaw marks: Roof rats have incisors that continue to grow throughout their lives. Thus, they gnaw on objects. In addition, they chew through the item to gain access to a space or to a food.

Droppings: Roof rats will leave droppings in different locations, including when they are moving through a home or business foraging for food and water.

Noises: Roof rats may be heard scratching and scurrying. In addition, they may squeal from time to time. These noises typically occur after sunset and before done because roof rats are essentially nocturnal animals.

Disease, Death and the History of the Roof Rat

Perhaps no mammal in the history of humankind’s presence on the planet has been more responsible for transmitting disease causing death to humans. The roof rat was and remains a particularly hazardous creature because of the animal’s ability to serve as a host for a myriad of infectious bacteria in its blood. The roof rat is classified as a resilient vector, which means it is the host of so many bacteria and doesn’t become ill or diseases in the process.

Major plagues that have devastated civilizations are attributed to pathogens carried by roof rats. These include the Plague of Justinian that decimated the Byzantine Empire and the Black Death that killed upwards to 60 percent of the population of Europe.

Medical care has advanced exponentially since the days of these and other pandemics, as have hygienic practices and systems. Nonetheless, roof rats remain capable of carrying a wide range of disease-causing pathogens and they remain a threat to health and wellbeing of humans in certain situation.

Not only can certain diseases be transferred from direct roof rat to human contact, but there are diseases that can pass through droppings of this rodent. The plague is transmitted via fleas that use a roof rat as a host.

Roof rat droppings are particularly perilous. There are pathogens, that have the demonstrable ability to survive in rodent droppings for an extended period of time, even after the feces dry out. Indeed, dried rat droppings are especially dangerous because they crumble easily. When that occurs, dust from the feces becomes airborne. That dust can carry a virus of bacterium along with it. For example, if rodent droppings contain the hantavirus, a human might inhale the dust and virus and become infected.

The hazards associated with roof rats underscore the need to be on guard against infestation by this rodent. In addition, these dangers necessitate serious consideration of the need for professional assistance to eradicate an infestation and to clean up rodent droppings and other waste created by roof rats in a home or business.