What is a roof rat?

What is a roof rat?

Roof rats are not native to Arizona, but they certainly have made themselves right at home.

Roof rats are house pests.They are noisy, leave poop everywhere, and have a strong musty smell. Roof rats get their name from their trademark ability to scale everything from trees and shrubs to power lines and roofs. They are also known as the black rat, fruit rat, ship rat, and palm rat. In Arizona, known sightings have been made in the Arcadia district, Chandler, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Tempe, as well as others throughout Maricopa County.

What do roof rats look like?

Usually black or dark brown in color, roof rats have a narrow figure. They have long hairless tails that span the length of their body and large ears. Roof rats are nocturnal. They don’t have the best eyesight, they are colorblind, but they manage to still see clearly in the dark. Roof rats can grow to be quite large, up to 18 inches long (including the tail) and half a pound in weight. Yet, the oil and dust on their body produces a grease that enables them to squeeze their way into any hole, crack, or crevasse as small as the size of a nickel (approximately ¼ inch). Roof rats will eat almost anything to stay alive, but the short list is nuts, seeds, and all varieties of fruit.

The roof rat family

Roof rats climb like squirrels, but they reproduce like rabbits. A typical female roof rat is only pregnant for 22 days before giving birth to 6-8 rat pups. The pups can reach maturity as soon as 2 months old. In warm weather, females can produce up to 3 litters in a year. That’s one mama rat producing up to 24 baby rats in a single year. Yikes! 

Are roof rats dangerous?

Roof rats are a serious health concern. When feeling threatened, roof rats have been known to bite and scratch, both of which can lead to a series of illnesses. Fleas often accompany roof rats, which can cause harm in a variety of ways. They spread disease and food contamination everywhere they go. In fact, roof rats are the same black rats that spread the pneumonic plague in the dark ages. Most of all, roof rats cause serious structural damage to your home. They have strong teeth that can cut through cement, metal pipes, aluminum siding, sheetrock, drywall, wood, plastic and a variety of other materials. With unmatched determination, they carve a path by any means possible to food and water. Often, roof rats nest in and trample on insulation, rendering it ineffective. Roof rats also chew through electrical wiring in the home. This can cause power outages and electrical fires.