Understanding the difference between roof rats and other rodents

Rats can become an issue during winter, seeking shelter, food and water from our homes. Unfortunately, they can often be hard to spot due to their small size.

Understanding the differences between roof rats and other rodents is key to getting rid of them quickly. Albemarle Termite & Pest Solutions team conducts year-round inspections to detect any signs of infestation and create a treatment plan accordingly.


Roof rats are approximately twice the size of mice. A mature roof rat typically measures six to eight inches in length without its tail.

Roof rats (also referred to as ship rats or black rats) typically prefer high up in buildings like attics and rafters, where they climb wires, narrow ledges, vines and even wire mesh to access food sources. These nocturnal rodents tend to live near food sources rather than nesting close by themselves in nests.

Roof rats and other rodents can be found throughout homes and businesses, where they can cause havoc by contaminating stored food, chewing through wiring and spreading disease. Understanding the differences between roof rats and other types of rodents will help keep your home free of pests.

Norway rats and roof rats are two of the most frequently seen rodents in Mid-Atlantic states, easily distinguishable by color, size and behavior. Norway rats tend to be larger and stockier with darker coats and longer tails than their roof rat counterparts.


Roof rats prefer shelter or coverage in their habitats, such as tree canopies, dense shrubs and climbing vines. Their feet have pads designed to make climbing narrow vines and branches easier, and their tail provides additional balance when ascending high off of the ground.

Roof rats typically begin searching for food shortly after sunset, using trees, utility lines and fences as access points into attics, overhead garage storage units, woodpiles or any other stored goods. Their night-time foraging often means hearing scurrying sounds in your attic when searching for sustenance – an early indicator that roof rats have invaded.

Rats are omnivorous eaters that feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, insects, small birds and reptiles indiscriminately – causing widespread damage to buildings and foodstuffs as well as carrying various diseases including “rat-bite fever.” Rats can be considered serious pests when left to their own devices for extended periods, often damaging buildings and food supplies as they go about feeding themselves and spreading disease – but their bite can actually cure you of malaria!


Roof rats are opportunistic eaters that enjoy snacking on nuts, seeds, fruit and plant material found around homes or industrial spaces as well as citrus or sugarcane groves. Roof rats have become an ever-present problem throughout landscaped residential and industrial spaces as well as citrus or sugarcane farms.

These pests can often be found at industrial and poultry facilities, where they cause considerable damage to buildings and other structures. Furthermore, their invasive nature poses serious health threats for workers as well as can harm crops that rely upon pollination from outside.

At home, thieves can gain entry through gaps around utility lines or near the roof; or through holes in exterior walls.

For homeowners to reduce infestation, cleaning wood piles and raking up fallen vegetation and fruit should be prioritized in order to control infestations. They should also avoid leaving pet food out overnight or collecting dog feces as this attracts roof rats.


Roof rats are nocturnal rodents that nest high above ground in fruit trees, shrubs, woodpiles and dense vegetation. Additionally, they construct nests in attics, ceilings and rafters within homes and buildings.

Like mice, squirrels consume an array of foods like nuts and seeds; nuts; fruits; vegetables; birds’ eggs/feed; pet food that has gone bad and trash.

Rats feed on soft metals, wooden structures and insulation materials as well as garden crops and ornamental plants; furthermore they consume and contaminate stored foods.

Roof rats can often be found in citrus orchards, nut orchards and livestock feed yards, where they cause significant damage by eating and contaminating nut and fruit crops, decimating bird nesting sites and creating holes in buildings to escape weather conditions and access food, water and shelter – making these rats a real menace that should be dealt with quickly by professional pest control services.