Roof Rats
Roof rats cause damage and disease.


Commonly found in Yardley and throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the roof rat is a rodent that spends 90% of its life at least four feet above the ground. Slightly smaller than a Norway rat, the roof rat is also known as a black rat and ship rat. As their name and behavior indicates, roof rats dwell in attics, walls, garages, and can wreak havoc on humans and on their environment in a number of ways.


At about 13-18” in length including their tail, the common roof rat can weigh in anywhere between 5-10 ounces. They are slender with large ears and have a grayish black, sleek coat. Their tail is hairless and they have a pointed snout.


Roof rats are not choosy about their diet. They are omnivores and will eat anything that is provided to pets and farm animals, as well as most human food. Their preferred diet includes fruit, seeds, slugs, snails, leaves, fungi, insects, stems, sugar, coffee beans, and cocoa.


This rodent has adapted to a huge variety of habitats. While the roof rat originated in the warm climate of Southeast Asia, they have adapted to cooler, more urban areas, as well. Roof rats build their nests in all types of wooden structures, mainly in attics, ceilings, garages, wall voids, and on thatched roofs. Since their specialty is climbing, they prefer higher elevations, however; they have also been known to dwell in patios, laundry rooms, and in and around swimming pools. They are also known for creating nests in trees, overgrown shrubs, and thick vegetation.


Like most rodents, roof rats can cause a considerable amount of damage to man-made structures such as homes and office buildings. They can be responsible for creating fire hazards by gnawing through electrical wires, and can also contaminate food. They can cause extensive damage to door frames, lead pipes, upholstery, plastics, and even walkways and building foundations. They can also spread life-threatening disease.


As a nocturnal creature, roof rats are most often seen at night and they will travel up 300’ to find food. They are excellent balancers and can be spotted running along utility lines and the tops of fences. These rodents are agile and will squeeze into openings as little as ½” wide. Although they prefer climbing and traveling above ground, they will climb down if they find a suitable source of food. They can easily climb up rough surfaces like brick and concrete and can jump 2-4’ horizontally. If they are jumping from an elevated location, they can jump 4-8’ horizontally.


Known as considerable vectors for transmitting disease, roof rats carry viruses and bacteria that can cause life-threatening illness in humans. Some of these illnesses include Streptococcus pneumonia, Tyzzer’s disease, typhus, plague, and trichinosis.

Diseases are spread to humans most often through the inhalation of fecal matter dust (droppings), but can also be spread via bites or other contact with the animal. Another illness that can be spread via roof rat droppings and bites is Rat Bite Fever. The symptoms for this disease don’t appear until ten days or so after being infected. This is a serious, painful disease that needs immediate medical treatment.


The first sign of a roof rat infestation may be visual, in that the homeowner or business owner sees these rats climbing in trees, along rooftops, and balancing along wires and fences. Here are some other signs of a roof rat infestation:

• The presence of roof rat droppings. These are 4-5” long, are capsule-shaped with pointed ends.
• Grease marks left behind by their travels. The roof rat produces oil in its fur that is left behind as it runs and climbs.
• Gnawing sounds can be heard within the walls and/or in trees.
• Gnaw marks on storage containers, walls, doors, insulation, electrical wires, aluminum siding, sheet metal, etc.
• Holes in floors and walls.
• Look for piles of shredded material. This can indicate a roof rat nesting place.



• Locate any holes in the building’s structure that are larger than a nickel. Roof rats can squeeze through holes this size and gain entrance.
• A good place to start looking for openings is by following pipeline and wires/cables and inspecting where they enter the home.


• Keep all areas with food clean and sanitized. Pantries, kitchens, outdoor picnic areas should all be kept clean.
• The rest of the building or home should be kept clean as well and free of food debris.
• Maintain regular garbage pickup.

Lawn & Environmental

• Do not stack wood in piles alongside the building.
• Keep foliage trimmed back away from the home or office building.
• Make sure that lawn areas are mowed on a regular basis, and that shrubbery is trimmed.


Determining the difference between a mouse and a rat is a homeowner’s main dilemma where extermination is concerned.  That is because species identification can play a crucial role in successfully eliminating a rodent problem.

Additionally, the impulse to simply set a couple of mouse traps is common when mice are seen by property owners. Unfortunately, this course of action is not effective in the event of an infestation. Traps alone may be able to eliminate a few individuals, but large numbers of mice typically require the services of a rodent control professional.

A licensed rodent exterminator has a variety of techniques to end the infestation. This will include methods of excluding rodents from re-entering the building as well as traps and chemical control. With all of these precautions, it is possible to return a home or office to a safe and hygienic state.

If you suspect a rodent control issue, call the professional team of licensed exterminators at SafeGuard Pest Control, LLC today. We can determine if you have a mouse or rat problem in your Yardley home or office, and then proceed to implementing the best, most effective treatments. 

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A Division Of Newtown Termite & Pest Control, Inc. 
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