Roof rats, known among biologists as Rattus rattus or black rats, call for decisive rodent control measures. The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management defines the areas most commonly affected by roof rat problems to include the West Coast, the lower East Coast and the Gulf States. Even so, if you see something scurrying along on the neighbor’s roof, do not discount the possibility of a rat control problem, even if you live far away from the coast. Is it possible to get rid of roof rats yourself? Possibly — but only if you are not squeamish. Consider rodent control to be a more proactive problem. In fact, there are seven roof rat control tips you can implement today with little difficulty. Who knows, they might just keep Rattus rattus off your property.
Rodent Control in seven simple Steps
- Seal off openings along (and below) the roofline. Roof rats enter through gaps no wider than half an inch. Avoid window screen material or aluminum sheeting to seal off any holes; they are no match for the teeth of a determined rodent. Instead, pick metal flashing to close up any entry holes into the attic. Remember to secure the garage! Watching rats run along the rafters is not a pretty sight.
- Cut back overhanging tree branches. Rattus rattus is quite an acrobat and jumps about 48 inches from a branch to a roof. Survey the trees surrounding your home and keep limbs at a distance of at least 50 inches; cut down all overhanging branches. While you are at it, consider whether the trees are growing too close together. Fruit trees in particular should be growing somewhat isolated from other trees.
- Store trashcans and compost piles away from the house. Getting rid of roof rats can be as simple as removing the main attraction: food. Trashcans and compost piles with ill-fitting lids are a major attractant for rodents. Replace the cans with models that offer good lid closure.
- Harvest fruit trees promptly and clean up dropped fruit. Sunny Southern California in particular is home to numerous roof rat populations. Rodent control measures here include the prompt harvesting of oranges, which the animals eat. Telltale signs of rodent feeding include orange rinds largely intact, even though the fruit seems to have been eaten from the inside. The advice does not just pertain to citrus fruit but also other types of fruit that may attract the attention of a Rattus rattus with a sweet tooth.
- Remove common food sources. If you keep a well-stocked birdfeeder in your yard, roof rats may not be far away. Feeding cats or dogs outside is another reason why your property may become a hot spot for rodent activity. Even the presence of snails and insects can make your home more attractive to the rodents.
- Revisit your vines. While ivy crawling up the façade of a house is a hallmark of old British mansions, it is also an open invitation for roof rats. Vines growing along fences and trellises echo this friendly invite.
- Flash the rats! Sheet metal strips that are at least 24 inches wide make perfect flashing to prevent rats from climbing up or down. Install flashing snugly around trees, chimneys and walls.
What does not work?
Have you seen the electronic devices marketed for rodent control? Sellers promise that these gadgets will emit high frequency sounds, which roof rats supposedly cannot stand. In truth, rats are frightened of sounds initially but quickly become accustomed to repetitive noises. The University of Arizona also warns consumers away from chemical repellents. While they may work on other pests, they have not been proven to discourage the presence of roof rats. Contrary to their reputations, cats will not make a dent in a growing roof rat population. Sure, Fluffy might present you with a juvenile rat occasionally, but only the most aggressive felines manage to hunt and kill full-sized adult pests.
Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management; “Roof Rats”
University of Arizona; “Roof Rat Control around Homes and Other Structures”