Roof Rat


Actual Size: 5-7.2 inches

Characteristics: Small and agile, also known as black rats, house rats, or ship rats. They have a long tail and pointy snout. Roof rats are typically black or brown.


  • Roof rats eat a large range of food, including seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables, small animals, and inedible substances (like paper).
  • Roof rats prefer to nest in high areas, like trees and attic spaces.
  • Like most rats, they are typically nocturnal. Seeing them during the day indicates an infestation.

Roof Rats in Central and Eastern Virginia

The roof rat is smaller and less aggressive than the Norway rat, but nonetheless a nuisance pest. It also tends to be more skittish than the Norway rat, and avoid contact with people. When these rodents infest homes, they can be found in attics, eaves and rooflines. The most common identifying characteristic of roof rats is their tail. Roof rat tails are hairless and longer than the combined length of their head and body, whereas the tails of other rats are hairy, and shorter than their head and body.  They are often mistaken for house mice.

Roof Rat Habitat

True to their name, roof rats like to be above ground. Outdoors, they like tree canopies, dense shrubs and climbing vines. These rats have pads on their feet to facilitate better climbing of narrow vines and limbs, and their tail also assists to balance when climbing high up off the ground. Roof rats generally begin searching for food shortly after sunset, using trees, utility lines and fences to gain access to attics, overhead garage storage, wood piles and other stored goods. Roof rats are nocturnal and it’s rare to see them during the day. Hearing scurrying sounds in the attic at night is often the first sign of a roof rat problem.

Roof Rat Habits & Dangers

Salmonella, leptospirosis, and rat bite fever are among the dozens of diseases spread by roof rats. When foraging for food, roof rats contaminate food meant for humans, pets and livestock. Roof rats are omnivores, eating both plants and animals, and are very fond of citrus fruit. They also favor pet food, pet feces, bird seed, meat and grease, infesting storage sheds and bbq’s. Besides spreading disease, roof rats may cause extensive damage when nesting in walls and attics. When roof rats gnaw on electrical wires, the exposed wires can become a fire hazard.

Because roof rats can be dangerous in your Virginia property, always contact your local rodent exterminators for help!