Rats in the Attic Tuesday November 6, 2012
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Rats in the Attic

Ahhhh, toasty fires, warm comfy rooms, holiday cheese tidbits — just the place for critters to come in from out of the cold. With winter around the corner, rats and mice may also want to share in the warmth of your cozy home…..

Roof Rats Climbing Roof Rats (Rattus rattus) – Tail is longer than the body.

“Su Casa Mi Casa!”

Fall is a good time to trim any overhanging branches touching your home; otherwise, the trees are like the Bering Strait, providing a bridge for rats to crossover into new territory—your roof and into your attic!!! If you hear scratching noises coming from the ceiling or in the walls, these explorers may have already set up camp in your home.

Brown Rat in Profile

“Cheese please!”

Roof Rats

Roof Rats are Old World Rats, Rattus rattus, an introduced species from Europe (Definitely not protected) and are sometimes called “Black Rats” but many are actually brown in color. Resilient and intelligent, roof rats have found many ways to survive over time. These rats existed in prehistoric Europe and Eastern Europe during post-glacial periods; however, the exact origin is unknown although DNA suggests they migrated from Southeast Asia.

Adult Black Roof Rat Roof Rats are also known as “Black Rats.”

Roof rats are great climbers and tend to nest up high (trees, attics). Being nocturnal, they forage for food after sunset and what they are unable to eat, they´ll carry back to their nest for a later meal (perhaps a 3:00 am snack which can be heard from your bedroom ceiling!) Roof rats breed throughout the year, producing 3 to 6 litters of up to 10 babies each. Their “social groups” can be as many as 60 members within a given area!

Black Rat Roof Rat / Black Rat

Norway or “Brown” Rat

Despite the name “Norway Rat,” the “Brown Rat” came from central Asia, most likely China, and is now the most common rat in the entire world (except Antarctica) making it the most successful surviving mammal (besides us humans). Basically, wherever there are humans, there are brown rats. The Norway rat doesn´t climb as well as the roof rat and tends to make its burrow within the ground. It´s also a better swimmer than the roof rat and able to swim both above and below the water´s surface. In urban areas, the Norway rat is prevalent, making their living on the streets, sewers, wharfs, and into our homes.

Norway Rat in Flower Pot NYC Brown Rat in Flower Pot

Rats can be one of the most troublesome of rodents when they decide to set up camp in your attic or within the walls of your home. They scurry across the attic floor, creating pitter-patter noises with their tiny feet, waking you up at three in the morning. Then they may decide to visit your kitchen where they eat and contaminate your food.

Norway Rat Eating Sunflower Seeds Norway / Brown Rat (Rattus horvegicus) eating sunflower seeds.

Disease and Food Contamination

Rats often cause damage to the structure of your home, they chew on electrical wires, damage insulation in the attic with urine, and they transmit parasites and diseases. The urine, droppings, and saliva rats leave behind when inhaled by humans can cause Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), a virus that although rare, is potentially deadly.

Black Rat picked up a carrot from an errant sandwich Rattus rattus – Roof Rat – Black Rat eating a carrot.

Another disease transmitted by rodents is Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. In humans it causes a wide range of flu-like symptoms: high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting. Symptoms may also include jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. For more information on all the diseases transmitted by rats, you can visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Cold Weather

As the season turns and winter approaches, rats will be seeking out warm places; tis the season for rodents and a time to ensure your home is as rat-proof as possible. Trim the trees, check your vents and window screens, doggy doors, any gaps between the floors and doors, and put away their favorite foods – fruits and nuts.

Tree branches on roof - Easy rat access to home Trees with overhanging branches should be trimmed back.

Help with Rats in Your Home

For more information on how Hearts Pest Management, Inc helps you prevent rat damage and fix a bad situation in your home caused by rats, review these to pages on our website: Rats and Mice Mites and Parasites.

Article by:

Donna Walker


Each photo is accredited within except for images from Microsoft Office.

Rat References:

Schoenherr, Allan A., A Natural History of California, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 1992 Wikipedia – Black Rats; Norway (Brown) Rats http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/direct.html


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