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The roof rat (Rattus Rattus) is one of two introduced rats found in the contiguous 48 states. The Norway rat is the other species and is better known because of its widespread distribution. When distinguishing the Norway rat from the Roof rat, pull the tail back over the body. The tail of the Roof rat will reach the nose. The tail of the Norway rat will not reach beyond the ears.  A third rat species, the Polynesian rat, is present in the Hawaiian Islands but not on the mainland. Rattus Rattus is commonly known as the roof rat, black rat or ship rat. Here in Florida they are also called a palm rat and fruit rat. Roof rats were common on early sailing ships and apparently arrived in this country by that route. This rat has a long record as a carrier of plague.

Three subspecies have been named, generally identified by their fur color:

The black rat, R. Rattus Rattus Linnaeus, is black with a gray belly.
The Alexandrine rat, R. Rattus alexandrinus Geoffroy has an agouti (brownish streaked with gray) back and gray belly.
The fruit rat, R. Rattus frugivorus Rafinesque, has an agouti back and white belly.
Crossbreeding between subspecies has often occurred, resulting in unreliability in identification by color. However, Roof rats do not cross with Norway rats.


Roof rats range along the lower half of the East Coast and throughout the Gulf States and upward into Arkansas. They also exist along the Pacific Coast and are found on the Hawaiian Islands. The roof rat is apparently not quite as adaptable as the Norway rat, which is one reason it has not spread throughout the country. Its geographic distribution suggests it is more suited to tropical and semi-tropical climates. Occasionally isolated populations are reported from areas not within their normal distribution range; however, these instances are rare. Most of the Great Plains states are free of roof rats but infestations can occur.


Roof rats are more aerial than Norway rats in their habitat selection and often will live in trees or on vine covered fences. Landscaped residential or industrial areas provide good habitat, as does vegetation of riverbanks and streams. They will often move into sugarcane and citrus groves. Roof rats are sometimes found living in or around poultry or other farm buildings as well as in industrial sites where food and shelter are available. Being agile climbers, Roof rats frequently enter buildings from the roof or accesses near utility lines which they use to travel from area to area. They have been found in sewer systems, but this is not very common.

Feeding Habits:

The food habits of roof rats resemble those of tree squirrels, since they both like a wide variety of fruit and nuts. They also feed on a variety of ornamental and native plant materials. Like the Norway rat, they are omnivorous and will feed on most anything if necessary. Roof rats usually require water daily, though their local diet may provide an adequate amount if high in water content.

Reproduction and Development:

Born in a nest about 21 to 23 days after conception, the young rats are naked and their eyes are closed. The 5 to 8 young in the litter develop rapidly, growing hair within a week. When they are 9 to 14 days old, their eyes open and they begin to explore for food and move about near their nest. In the third week they begin to take solid food. The number of litters depends on the area and varies with nearness to the limit of their climatic range, availability of nutritious food, density of the local rat population and age of the rat. The young may continue to nurse until 4 or 5 weeks old. Young rats generally cannot be trapped until about 1 month old. At about 3 months of age they are completely independent of the mother and are reproductively mature. In tropical or semitropical regions, the breeding season may be nearly year-round. Usually the peaks in breeding occur in the spring and fall.

Feeding Behavior:

Roof rats usually begin searching for food shortly after sunset. If the food is in an exposed area and too large to be eaten quickly, yet not too large to be moved, they will usually carry it to a hiding place before eating it. Many rats will cache or hoard considerable amounts of solid food, which they may or may not eat later. When necessary, roof rats will travel considerable distances for food. They can often be seen at night running along overhead utility lines. They may live in trees or attics and climb down to a food source. This is important from the standpoint of control, for traditional baiting or trapping on the ground or floor may intercept very few roof rats. Roof rats have a strong tendency to avoid new objects in their environment and this can influence control efforts. These rats may take several days before they will approach a bait station or trap.


Rats see poorly, relying more on smell, taste, touch and hearing. They are considered to be colorblind, responding only to the degree of lightness and darkness of colors.  Roof rats also have an excellent sense of balance. They use their tails for balance while traveling along overhead utility lines and are very agile climbers.
Roof Rat

Historically, the roof rat has been associated with having spread the plague or black death during the Middle Ages. The roof rat is also known as the black rat, even though it is not necessarily black in color, but rather is usually dark brown. Your typical roof rat is between 13 to 18 inches long, including its tail. In fact, it is distinguished from other rats by that tail, which is longer than the rest of its body. Roof rats are sleek, slender, and agile and have larger ears than a Norway rat.

Step 1.  The Trapping Process.
Please understand that this is only part of a successful rat control program. AWC will set rat traps in strategic places to quickly trap any rats currently present in your attic. We will then return to check the traps and remove any that were caught as well as reset new traps. The process usually takes 3 to 5 visits though in rare instances where larger rat populations are present, more than 5 visits may be necessary. We normally space our visits by one or two days excluding weekends. After our initial inspection, during the trapping process, all remaining visits will usually only require our needing access to those areas where traps are set. The trapping process ends when AWC is certain that there are no more rats.

Step 2.  Identify all areas of entry and sealing them off.
This step is crucial to prevent future rodent infestation and may be necessary to ensure our guaranty. We are experts at not only finding the areas that rats may currently be using to enter your home, but also at identifying any areas that may be vulnerable for other rats to gain access in the future. AWC will supply you with an estimate to rodent proof or seal off these areas. In rare instances, some areas in need of sealing off may require a roofing contractor or other specialist. We will usually perform the seal off as soon as possible after trapping begins.

Step 3.  Decontaminate, disinfect and deodorize attic with VirKon and BioShield.
Please do not overlook or underestimate the importance of this step. Fact: Rat droppings are bio hazardous waste and could pose a health risk! AWC uses a high tech fine mist electronic atomizer to dispense Relyon into your attic to minimize this risk. Relyon is a non-toxic broad-spectrum disinfectant used widely in the hospital and bio safety industries to neutralize airborne and surface bacterial, fungal and viral contaminants. Absolute Wildlife Control utilizes a high tech electronic atomizer to convert Relyon from its liquid form into a super fine mist or fog. The atomized mist or fog works perfectly to permeate hard to reach areas of your attic ensuring thorough coverage to minimize any potential health risks associated with rats and their bio hazardous wastes. Finally, Absolute Wildlife Control will deodorize your attic with BioShield. BioShield is a non-toxic enzyme based odor counteractant that serves a very important purpose. It neutralizes odors created by rat droppings and any other wastes they have left behind. BioShield also prevents and eliminates odors produced from Bio deterioration. Even though short-term rat inhabitance with very few droppings may not have odors that are detectable to humans, these odors are detectable to other rats looking for a place to live and mate, therefore, they must be addressed! Though BioShield comes in liquid form, the electronic atomizer converts it to a fine mist or fog. The atomized fog works perfectly to permeate hard to reach areas of your attic, ensuring thorough coverage.

Step 4.  Remove accessible droppings.
Though somewhat rare, rat droppings do pose a very real possibility of transmitting diseases to humans. When practical, AWC will remove any accessible clusters of rat droppings from solid surfaces using a high-powered vacuum equipped with a Hepa filter. Some reasons why this step may be skipped are, for instance, if the attic is inaccessible or if you have blown in or cellulose insulation. In either case, we strongly recommend that you always have AWC perform step 3. If this step is practical according to the conditions present in your attic, AWC will include this item in your estimate.
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I have been performing rodent control and rodent proofing services since 1982 and I can tell you with complete confidence that there is little that I have not seen and no rodent problem that I can not cure. If you think you have a rat problem, give me a call today.

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