Roof Rat

Roof rats are known by a variety of other names, including palm rats, fruit rats, ship rats and Alexandrian rats.

Both roof rats and Norway rats, a stockier variety of rat, can infest homes. For effective pest control, you need to determine what type of rat is scurrying around your attic. Roof rats differ from the Norway rat in several ways. Let’s look at some of these differences.


Unlike the Norway rat, which is also known as a sewer or brown rat, roof rats are smaller in size and their tails are longer than their bodies. They grow up to 18 in in length, including their tail, and weigh at least 5 oz.


Roof rats are generally black in color, while Norway rats are brown or gray. Roof rats have smaller and sleeker bodies than Norway rats, and their fur is smooth. Other roof rat features include large ears with very little hair and pointy faces.

Nesting Areas

Unlike other rat species, roof rats are also good climbers and build nests above ground, not underground in burrows. Outdoors, you can find roof rats nesting in trees, shrubs, wood piles and dense vegetation. Indoors, roof rats like to build nests in the upper areas of the home where it’s kept warm by rising heat. You may find them nesting in various places inside the home, including:

  • Attics

  • Cabinets

  • Ceilings

  • Garages

  • Inside walls and sheetrock

  • Laundry rooms

  • Patios

  • Pool areas

Their living space must provide them with enough water to sustain life.


Unlike other rat species that often prefer to eat meat scraps and high-protein foods, the diet of roof rats is similar to that of squirrels. This means they mainly eat nuts and fruits, but, just like other rat species, roof rats are omnivorous. They will eat just about anything if they are hungry enough, including:

  • Ornamental plants

  • Dog and cat food

  • Feed for cows, swine and chickens

  • Vegetables in the garden

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Tree bark

  • Insects

  • Lizards

  • Paper

  • Candle wax

These rats are also hoarders and stash nuts and seeds in their nesting areas for later use.

Water sources for roof rats include:

  • Bird baths

  • Leaky pipes

  • Air conditioning condensation drip line

  • Pets’ water bowls

  • Saucers under potted plants

  • Irrigation lines

Roof rats will also chew through plastic and metal pipes to get water, which can lead to serious structural damage.