ROOFRAT.NET * How to best indentify and control roof rats
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All about Roof Rats

Roof ratThe roof rat is dark brown to black in color and measures 13 to 18 inches in length including tail. They weigh 5-9 ounces, are slender, and their ears are large and nearly hairless. Their droppings are long and cylindrical.

Nesting Requirements
Roof rats nest outside in trees, woodpiles and debris, and in dense vegetation. Inside, roof rats prefer to nest in the upper levels of a building in the attic and ceiling.

Food Preferences
Roof rats are omnivorious, but tend to more vegetarian preferences. Typical food is fresh fruit, plant material, nuts and seeds, vegetables and even tree bark.

Roof rats evidence
Roof rat didn't just gnaw a hole in this dishwasher drain line, it chewed the entire length.
Natural Enemies
Dogs, cats, snakes, birds of prey, owls, coyotes and other rats.

Medical Importance
Rats can spread disease. Sometimes they transmit disease directly by contaminating food with their urine or feces or by biting people. Indirectly, they transmit by infecting as when fleas bite a disease-infected rat, then a person or other animal.

Potential Damage
Rat burrows can cause structural damage by undermining the foundations of buildings, roads and walkways, can cause damage by gnawing, damaging plastic and lead pipes, door frames, upholstery, and electric wires, and can cause damage through the destruction and contamination of stored foods.


Common denominator for roof rats
Oleanders are the most common denominator for roof rats; the dark green hedge provides a safe refuge and an ideal path of travel. In Phoenix summers when attic temperatures rise over 130 degrees, roof rats find oleanders a cool place to nest. Roof rats can often be heard walking through the oleander as they travel over the dry leaves.

Understanding Roof Rat Behavior

Common signs of roof rat activity

  • Visual sightings on power lines, trees, bushes, patios, roofs, etc.
  • Hollowed citrus and other fruit
  • Rat droppings
  • Noises in the attic and walls
  • Gnawing sounds and gnaw marks around roof eaves
  • Damage to plastics and coverings on electrical wires
  • Unsettled pets


Places roof rats have been found

  • They have been found in swimming pools, laundry rooms, attics, garages, and patios.
  • They’ve been seen on power lines in the alleys.
  • Roof rats spend 90 percent of their life 4 feet or more off the ground.

Roof rat traveling patterns

  • Roof rats are strongly arboreal (tree inhabitants) and travel along power lines to trees, oleanders, vines, and roofs.
  • They can climb up brick, concrete block and other rough surfaces.
  • They can jump 2 feet up and 4 feet horizontally (double the horizontal distance if they are jumping from a height).
  • Ground covers and compost bins also provide safe travel routes and nests.
  • During twilight and nighttime hours, within a territory 200 to 300 feet from their daytime nesting locations.
  • They thrive in cool weather and are most active from November through May.


How roof rats enter homes

  • They enter homes, sheds, garages and other structures through any opening larger than a nickel, looking for places safe from predators and good for nesting.
  • They may follow pipes down from the attic, gnaw through drywall, to access structures
  • They may chew through wood, plastic, aluminum siding, sheet rock, and soft metals to gain access to interiors.
  • Attics provide a safe refuge, a nesting place for their young and routes into the home below.

What roof rats eat and drink

They love to eat all types of citrus and other fruits, and nuts, including:

  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Grapefruits
  • Oranges (including ornamental oranges)
  • Tangelos
  • Tangerines
  • Figs
  • Pomegranates
  • Palm fruit, including Queen Palm fruit, especially in summer when citrus is not available
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • All nut fruits like walnuts, almonds and pecans
  • Rats do not have a discerning taste for fruit like humans
  • Fruit can be green (unripe) or even rotted
  • Rats eat fruit more for their water content than for food sustenance

They’ll also eat:

  • Bird seed (both in feeders and stored in bags)
  • Dog and cat food (left outside after dark are favorites)
  • Stored grains
  • Vegetables in your garden
  • Insects
  • Lizards
  • Tree bark
  • Soap
  • Paper
  • Animal and taxidermy hides
  • Beeswax and candle wax


Water sources include:

  • Leaky faucets
  • Leaky sprinkler heads
  • Leaky irrigation boxes
  • Bird baths
  • Water fountains
  • Ornamental ponds
  • Irrigation lines
  • Air conditioner condensation drip lines
  • Saucers under potted plants
  • Pet water dishes
  • And remember, they will chew through metal and plastic pipes to reach water!


Actions to take if you see evidence of roof rats on your property

  • First, see the section on Roof Rat Prevention in the next section for complete instructions on ways to discourage rats from feeding and nesting in and around your property.
  • Report sightings to the Maricopa County Environmental Complaint Line at (602) 506-6616 or log your complaint at
  • Maricopa County officers identify and test rat specimens throughout the county.
  • Roof rats throughout Maricopa County continue to test negative for tularemia (rabbit fever), Hantavirus, and plague.
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