Roof Rats Are on the Rise. Here’s How to Fight Back.

Oct 17

When you think of rats, you probably think of furry, little creatures scurrying along baseboards, under debris, in dumpsters, and underneath porches. In other words, you think of rats on the ground. But another type of rat has been on the rise in the U.S. They’re called roof rats, and they’re unique in that they prefer to nest and breed in elevated spaces like lofts, attics, and rafters.

Unlike Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus), which typically live and breed at ground level, roof rats (Rattus rattus) are generally thinner and more agile. Their smaller bodies and nimble paws allow them to navigate narrow, up-high spaces like rafters without taking a tumble.

Pixar’s Ratatouille taught us that rats above our heads can help us cook five-star French cuisine. But in reality, roof rats do all the bothersome things rats tend to do: they breed, spread disease, damage structures, and generally make a mess of things.

The bad news is that roof rats are on the rise in the United States. But the good news is there are exciting new ways to fight them.

To better understand roof rats, let’s take a closer look at how they spread.

Roof Rats: a Growing Problem in the United States

Roof rats are found worldwide, but they’re believed to have originated in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia. It’s theorized they came to America all the way back in 1609, stowing away on the ships of the colonists who landed at Jamestown.

In the United States, roof rats have come a long way since those early days of infesting a few colonial barns. In 2005, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) put out a map showing roof rats impacting wide swaths of the West Coast, East Coast, and the Southeast. Because roof rats generally prefer warmer, ocean-influenced climates, their accumulation in the coastal states and seaports makes sense.

Rats are tenacious travelers, however, and a lot can change in a short amount of time. In 2020, the pest management company Orkin used internal data to model the spread of roof rats since the NPMA report. After just fifteen years, their data showed a roof rat explosion—not just deeper saturation on the coasts, but extensive inroads into the middle of the country.

Diagram of United States in 2005 showing rats on west coast and in southern and southeast states.Diagram of the United States in 2020 showing much deeper penetration of rats into the country. They show deeper penetration from the west, and the entire midwest and central states are covered.

As Orkin pointed out, roof rat populations are booming along major interstates, likely due to the critters’ tendency to stow away in vehicles. (See? Roof rats still have a lot in common with their Jamestown ancestors.) As U.S. infrastructure developed alongside online retail and the accompanying distribution centers, roof rats have had ample opportunity to hitch a ride on railways and tractor-trailers. Wherever an Amazon package goes, roof rats can theoretically follow.

Poisons and Traps Aren’t Always Effective Against Roof Rats

With much of the country at risk from a roof rat infestation, you’re probably wondering how to fight back against these “uppity” pests.

The first answers that may come to mind are lethal traps or poisons. While they can certainly put a dent in the problem, they’re not always the best method for long-term control. That’s because roof rats can breed so quickly that leaving a single mating pair alive can cause their numbers to bounce back.

Consider these rat fertility control facts:

  • Can start having babies only 5-6 weeks after they are born
  • Ovulate every 4-5 days
  • Have an average of 6-12 rat pups per litter—or maybe as many as 22—after three weeks of gestation
  • Can get pregnant again just 24 hours after giving birth
  • Can mate up to 500 times in six hours (seriously!)

As you can see, lethal methods alone aren’t always effective against roof rats. Not only do they leave you vulnerable to the next generation of rats, but they can be tricky to deploy in the hard-to-reach spaces where roof rats do their thing. Likewise, it isn’t always easy to retrieve corpses from these areas—and leaving behind rotting rats can result in awful odors and insect infestations.

Can you permanently get rid of roof rats? The answer is yes.

The Elevate Bait System™ with ContraPest® is a Novel Way to Get Rid of Roof Rats

Roof rats will never stop getting down, so you need a solution that stops baby roof rats before they start. And that solution is ContraPest—a revolutionary liquid bait that acts as a contraceptive, restricting both male and female roof rats without harming them. As long as roof rats keep ingesting ContraPest, they won’t produce litters no matter how many times they do the deed.

Photo of the Elevate Bait Station with a bottle of the ContraPest solution The Elevate Bait System is the latest innovation from the makers of ContraPest, and it’s specially designed for roof rats. It’s easily mountable in all the elevated places where roof rats hang out. Because it can hang and be secured to walls, rafters, and other vertical surfaces, it provides an additional option when horizontal spaces or ledges are unavailable. And it only needs to be refilled once a month, meaning you won’t have to make frequent trips up a ladder.

With the Elevate Bait System with ContraPest, you can take pest control to a higher level while cutting roof rats down to size.