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How to get rid of Roof Rats

Know your enemy

Before you can know how to get rid of roof rats let’s find out what one is. In Britain, there are two types of rat: the brown rat and the black rat. The black rat, also known as the roof rat, spends 90% of its life four feet or more off the ground and tends to live in walls, trees and loft spaces. The following information will tell you how to control rats.

Smaller than the brown rat, black rats are 13 to 18 inches in length, including the tail. They weigh between five and nine ounces and have slender bodies, pointed snouts, big eyes and large, almost hairless ears.

difference between black and brown rats

They are nocturnal and active within a territory of 200 to 300 feet from their nesting locations. Black rat colonies can range from three to four individuals up to several hundred.

Outside, black rats nest in trees, woodpiles, debris and in dense vegetation. Inside, they prefer to nest in the upper levels of the building, such as the attic and ceiling.

They can climb up brick, concrete block and other rough surfaces and travel along power lines to trees and roofs. Black rats are also able to jump two feet up and four feet horizontality, and can double the horizontal distance if jumping from a height.

What damage do rats cause ?

It is very important to control your rat infestation, particularly as they can spread diseases. Rats spread disease directly by contaminating food with their urine or faeces, or by biting. They can also transmit diseases indirectly through fleas, which if infected, can transfer the disease to other animals or people.

As well as spreading disease, rats can gnaw through wires, pipes, wood and upholstery. As a result, rats can cause structural damage including undermining the foundations of buildings, damaging plastic and lead pipes, damaging door frames, furniture and electric wires and can destroy and contaminate stored foods.

How to tell if you have rats

There are a number of ways to tell if you have rats in your home, including:

  • Footprints or track marks, found in the mud or between places of safety including trees, bushes and sheds.
  • Rat droppings, which are long, cylindrical and usually grey or black in colour
  • Damage to wires, pipes, furniture, timber and food coverings
  • Unsettled pets
  • Various sounds in the attic and walls, including gnawing, scratching and digging noises
  • Dirty grey smear marks left where they cross over solid objects such as walls and timber
  • Visual sightings, often as they feed.

Before you go on the attack

As always, prevention is a cheaper and better alternative than cure.

To prevent rats entering your home, it’s important to understand how and why they get inside.

Rats will enter your home in search for one or all of the three things they need to survive: food, water and shelter to create a nest, raise their young and hide from predators.

Rats can enter your home through openings as small as half-an-inch. These openings can be found anywhere including ill-fitting doors or windows, pipes, or holes in the exterior walls or underneath the eaves of block and/or wood constructed buildings.

Once the rats have found an opening, they can extend the opening’s width for easier access.

How to prevent rats from entering your home

To prevent rats nesting in your home, you need to seal any visible openings and ensure that they don’t have access to food, water or shelter.

To limit their shelter, remove rubbish and maintain vegetation around the building to reduce the number of safety spots around your house. As rats can use tree branches that overhang the roof and can climb up ivy and creepers to gain entry to your attic, these may require regular trimming or even removal.

For food and water, ensure that all potential food is secured in sealed steel containers and that you do not have any leaking pipes.

There are many products that can help seal any openings around your home. Wire mesh can be used for larger holes or broken air vents, while smaller openings can be filled using expanding foam, Mouse-stop proofing paste and/or wire wool.

Expanding Foam

No Nonsense Expanding Foam comes in a large 750ml value for money size to ensure you have enough product for an average house sealing exercise.

Steel Wool Pest Excluder

Arctic Steel Wool Pest Excluder 450g is a high quality steel wool suitable for blocking rodent access holes.

Mousestop Proofing Paste

Mousestop Rodent Proofing Paste is an animal friendly non-toxic, hard setting paste that is waterproof and able to be painted over. Perfect for sealing those small cracks that mice can access or gaps around pipes.

Mouse Mesh Grills

These mouse mesh grills are an easy to install preventative measure to stop a wide range of pests from entering buildings via an air-brick.

Weapons available

To get rid of your roof rats, you can purchase a range of products. These include rodenticides, lethal traps and electronic kill traps.

  • Rodenticides
  • Lethal Traps
  • Electronic Kill Traps

Victor Electronic Rat Trap

The Victor Electronic Rat Trap is extremely easy to use. Simply bait, place, turn on and empty. The trap is equipped with advanced smart circuit technology that senses when a rodent enters the trap. 

Snap E Rat Trap

With the Snap E Rat Trap, it’s the end of the road for rats and other pesky rodents. The quick response time makes certain that once caught, the rat stays caught! Two pre-formed holes in the trap base allow for surface mounting. Your fingers never touch the rodent

Rentokil Weatherproof Blocks

Rentokil Rat and Mouse Weatherproof Blocks is a ‘ready to use’ rat poison bait for AMATEUR USE, containing 0.0025% brodifacoum.


Rodenticides are the quickest and easiest way to get rid of a large colony of rats. Rats are highly intelligent social creatures which live and feed together as a colony.

If they sense something is wrong with their food source, they will stay away. As toxicity builds up slowly, by the time it has taken a lethal dose, usually between two and four feeds, the rat still has not associated the food with its demise and soon the whole colony will have gradually joined in on the feast.

Within ten to 14 days, the entire colony will have been peacefully eliminated.

Because of the way rodents feed and to keep non target species safe, rodenticide should only be used with rat bait stations and placed in several locations where rats are active.

If you have one or two occasional rats, rat traps can be effective. Traps work best when used inside bait stations, which hide the trap from view and prevents other animals from accessing the trap.

Rats are highly intelligent and learn from the mistakes of other rats. If they see another rat caught in a trap, they will forever be cautious and stay away from them. This is why traps will not be effective against a large colony of rats.

Want to know how long it takes for rat poison to work?


Summary of the five best ways to get rid of roof rats:

  1. Prevention
  2. Rodenticides
  3. Lethal traps
  4. Electronic kill traps

Rats are important to control as they cause damage and spread disease.

As always, the best and cheapest option is prevention. For established colonies use rodenticides, but for occasional visitors lethal, live catch and electronic kill traps can be used.

For more information on how to get rid of roof rats and rat control, get in touch today.

Read our full guide: How to control rats

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