How to Get Rid of Roof Rats and Prevent Them From Coming Back

Is something wreaking havoc in your attic? Follow these steps for how to get rid of roof rats and keep them away for good.
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How to Get Rid of Roof Rats


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It might start with scuttling sounds coming from the attic or bite marks in cereal boxes, but if you have roof rats, they will likely make their presence known one way or another. But what are roof rats, and how are they different from other rat species? Roof rats are a unique breed of rat that are skilled climbers, and thus prefer to spend time high up in trees or, as the name suggests, on the roof. They are notorious for nesting in attic insulation.

Many homeowners are eager to find ways to get rid of rats simply because they prefer not to come face to face with one in the middle of the night. However, roof rats can be more than just a nuisance; they are known to carry pathogens like hantavirus and parasites like fleas and mites. They can also do significant structural damage to the home—if they cannot find an existing hole for entry, they are liable to make one themselves. So how do you get rid of roof rats? There are several strategies, such as baiting and trapping, using natural deterrents, and, if necessary, hiring a pest control company. Read on to find out how to get rid of roof rats once and for all.

Time required: 1 to 6 weeks
Difficulty: Beginner
Estimated cost: $15 to $50

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Before You Begin…

How to Get Rid of Roof Rats

Getting rid of rats is not a particularly pleasant task, but there are a few ways to accelerate the process while also making it safer. Are roof rats dangerous? They may show signs of aggression when threatened. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep your distance from roof rats since their bites can transmit disease. Follow these basic guidelines for the best results.

Tips for How to Get Rid of Roof Rats

  • Eliminate potential entry points by repairing holes and gaps in the roof or siding.
  • Keep the home clean and make sure food packages are sealed and put away.
  • Use natural deterrents.
  • Hire a professional pest control company.

Safety Considerations

  • Use caution when handling items could potentially be contaminated with rat droppings, saliva, or urine.
  • Do not approach or try to grab roof rats.
  • Place rat poison and snap traps out of reach of children and pets.

STEP 1: Identify the roof rats and where they may be nesting.

It isn’t always clear what type of critter is scuttling in the walls or leaving droppings in the pantry. Like most rodents, roof rats are nocturnal and will mostly stay out of sight during the day. Because of this, it may also be unclear how many roof rats live together in the nest.

But what do roof rats look like? Roof rats can most easily be identified by their brown or black color and long tails. They tend to be darker and slightly smaller than their more common cousin, the brown rat. Another sign to look for are droppings. Roof rat droppings are much larger than mouse poop and are usually dark and shiny.

As soon as you spot these signs of roof rats, the next step is to locate their nest. Roof rats are adept at climbing and prefer to nest up high. It’s especially important to find out how to get rid of roof rats in the attic and other tough-to-reach spots—if the rats die up there or bring food back to the nest, this can lead to additional problems such as insects, mold, and unpleasant odors.

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STEP 2: Block entryways to the home and trim any overhanging tree branches.

Once the nest has been located, homeowners can try to spot any gaps or holes where the rats could have gained entry and seal them with caulk. Keep in mind that rats can fit through holes as small as a quarter, and even baby roof rats are able to chew through very tough materials. It’s also a good idea to inspect the outside of the home for potential modes of entry. Since roof rats love heights, they may use tree branches or vines to make their way onto the roof.

How to Get Rid of Roof Rats

STEP 3: Eliminate what may be attracting roof rats to your home.

Roof rats are opportunistic creatures—they’ll make their homes wherever they can find food, water, and shelter. Making these resources scarce in the home is absolutely essential to getting rid of roof rats. What do roof rats eat? In the wild, they prefer fruits, nuts, and seeds, but they are certainly not averse to “people food” if it’s accessible.

Homeowners will want to ensure that any food messes and crumbs are cleaned up every night and consider transferring pantry items to airtight containers. If they are hungry enough, rats will even snack on paper or cardboard, so dispose of any excess boxes or other clutter that rats may be able to access. It’s also a good idea to repair any leaks or areas with excess moisture.

STEP 4: Baiting and trapping can eliminate a roof rat population.

Baiting and trapping are tried and true methods of getting rid of rodents, including roof rats. Trapping is a good option for eliminating rats indoors. Snap traps or electronic traps marketed for rodents are all effective roof rat traps. Place a few of these near the nest or in places where roof rat poop or tracks have been spotted and check them a couple of times a day. Most types of traps can be emptied and reset for multiple uses. Rat bait, or rodenticide, contains poison that is strong enough to kill rats once they finish feeding on it. It is recommended to only use bait outdoors in order to avoid having rats die inside the home in order to avoid having rats die inside the home, but remember that any other animal that feeds on a poisoned rat can be harmed.

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STEP 5: Consider natural deterrents to discourage roof rats.

Homeowners who are wondering how to get rid of rats without poison, may prefer to use natural deterrents instead of rodenticide. This is a more humane method for how to get rid of rats in the attic naturally that eliminates the need for dangerous chemicals around the home.

Natural deterrents utilize scents or substances that roof rats find unpleasant to keep them away from the house. Mothballs, chili pepper flakes, garlic, and peppermint oil, clove oil, or tea tree oil are all effective deterrents that some homeowners may already have on hand. Homeowners can apply these substances in parts of the home or yard where roof rats have been spotted to discourage them from coming back. Ultrasonic devices are another natural alternative; they emit a high-pitched sound that repels roof rats and other rodents and pests.

How to Get Rid of Roof Rats

STEP 6: Contact a pest control professional to get rid of roof rats.

If roof rats refuse to take the hint after a homeowner has all of the above steps, or if the infestation is severe, it may be wise to contact a roof rat exterminator. Roof rats can be particularly elusive because of their affinity for heights. Pest control professionals know how to get rid of rats in walls, ceilings, and other areas that are difficult to access.

Another major concern when dealing with roof rats is the potential for exposure to bacteria and viruses. Exterminators can safely dispose of any droppings or carcasses to mitigate the spread of disease. If the idea of dealing with the problem yourself is overwhelming, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help.

Using the above methods will likely rid the home of roof rats in short order. Remember that roof rats are intentional about where they make their nests, so eliminating anything that might have attracted them to your home in the first place will be a key component of this process. If it seems like no amount of traps or natural deterrents are doing the trick, there is no shame in enlisting the help of one of the best pest control companies like Orkin or Terminix.


Still have questions about how to get rid of roof rats? Here are the answers to the most common inquiries about these pests.

Q. Where do roof rats live during the day?

Since roof rats are nocturnal, they will stay near the nest during the day and venture out after sunset to find food. Roof rats that live outdoors nest in trees and on roofs and power lines. Indoors, they often choose attics or high cabinets.

Q. Are roof rats hard to get rid of?

These rats may be slightly more challenging to remove than other rodents because roof rat nests can be less accessible. For severe or stubborn roof rat problems, it may be necessary to have a pest control company intervene.

Q. What can I put on the roof to get rid of rats?

Placing deterrents on the roof such as mothballs, chili pepper flakes, or cotton balls dipped in peppermint oil or tea tree oil will discourage rats from entering the home. Ultrasonic devices may also be effective for deterring rats and other common pests.

Q. Are roof rats aggressive?

Roof rats can become aggressive if they feel that they are being threatened.

Q. Are roof rats scared of humans?

Roof rats tend to be wary of humans and will typically try to remain out of sight.

Q. How do I get rid of rats on my roof naturally?

Natural deterrents placed strategically around potential entry points can be an effective alternative to using bait or poison.

Q. Can roof rats climb up walls?

Roof rats are skilled climbers and are able to climb most types of walls. Homes with vines growing on their exteriors are especially inviting to roof rats.

Q. Are roof rats active at night?

Yes, roof rats are nocturnal and are typically active only at night.

Q. What does a roof rat look like?

Roof rats can most easily be identified by their brown or black color and long tails. They tend to be darker and slightly smaller than their more common cousin the brown rat.