4 Telltale Signs You’ve Got Roof Rats
I believe in coexistence and the principle of live and let live. That extends to animals and even some insects! With roof rats, I’ve modified it to: “I live here and if YOU want to live, do it wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy over there! Here’s why roof rats freak me out and 4 sure signs you’ve got a problem.
Roof Rats Can Make You & Your Pets Very Sick
Remember learning about the bubonic plague pandemic that wiped out 1/3 of Europe’s population in the 14th century? Yeah… that was courtesy of roof rats! They hosted the plague-infected fleas. Here in the United States, there is still an average of 7 reported cases of the plague per year and they’re mostly out here in the western states. The good news is that we can now treat it. The bad news is that plague isn’t the only disease these prevalent rodents have been known to carry.
I’d like to clarify here, I’m far from squeamish. I’ve handled and treated wildlife. I’ve mopped up dog vomit and cat hairballs before coffee without batting an eye. I vermicompost, breed black soldier fly grubs and I have chickens. ‘nuff said. It is with this strong tolerance for “ick” that I say: you don’t want to mess around when it comes to roof rats! Besides tapeworms, roundworms, pinworms, mites and 18 other parasites that roof rats specifically can carry, leptospirosis personally ranks as the creepiest and scariest disease these guys spread.
Leptospirosis, an uncommon but nasty bacterial infection, affects both humans and other animals. It also can be fatal (it’s rare, but it happened just a few months ago to both a man in NY and dogs in NJ). Most often symptoms appear suddenly and include high fever, headaches, vomiting, chills, muscle aches, rash and diarrhea. That’s just for round one. There can be a second, more severe episode after a short recovery. Read more about Leptospirosis on the CDC page.
Now, in all fairness, roof rats are not the only Lepto spreading pest around and I’ve been dealing with these vermin for over 4 months. So far neither my animals nor I have contracted any disease or parasitic infestation. I have been very careful to keep us away from dead rats, rat droppings, urine & rat-chewed fruit leftovers to the best of my ability though.
Signs that There’s Roof Rats at Your Abode
Really, any rodent problem should be handled quickly. Roof rats happen to be extremely common in California, as they prefer the warm weather (don’t we all?) and don’t do well in cold climates. Here are a few telltale signs that you’ve got a roof rat problem.
- Gnawed plant stems and hollowed out fruit around your premises- Roof rats prefer a diet of fruits, nuts and seeds. They’ll gnaw and hollow out both ripe and unripe fruit on the ground and on the tree.
- Grease marks- The more roof rats rub along surfaces the more they leave oil and dirt behind. Over time, this builds up to make a dark smudge. Look for sooty smudge marks, especially high up on structures rather than near the bottom, as they remain at least 4ft off the ground most of the time.
- Scratching and screeching sounds in the attic at night- In my research I read repeatedly that you can hear them skittering around above you when it’s quiet at night. In my experience, I heard what I can only imagine as rats catapulting each other across the ceiling crawl space while squealing loudly throughout the day, and most active at night.
- Droppings (AKA: Poop)- This is a tough one to identify with roof rats nesting in your attic. I’ve never seen a single rat dropping in my house, because they’re all above my ceiling. Where I first noticed the little rat pellets was on the top railing of my fence. Roof rat droppings are small (usually no longer than 1/2″) and cylindrical with tapered ends on both sides. WHY I got that close to them to check it out is beyond me. Like I said, I’m far from squeamish. I did protect myself by using a respirator and wearing gloves though. I would recommend that you do the same if you decide to go nosing about where rat poop may lurk.
If you experience one or more of these signs, chances are you’ve got roof rats. If you do, I empathize with you. They can be hard to get rid of once they’re hunkered down and multiplying.
Check out what to do about them in my post: How I Got Roof Rats, How YOU Can Avoid Them & Why You Should.
Did you identify roof rats at your property? What was your first sign? Please share in the comment section below.