There are many types of rats in Florida, but there are three common types of rodent pests that Florida homeowners are most likely to encounter living in their homes or garages, or elsewhere on their property. While there are similarities and differences among these three main types of Florida rats, what homeowners need to know about all of them is that rats and other wild rodents pose a very real threat to our homes, as well as to our health.
Rats can cause extensive property damage as they build nests and chew their way through wood, electrical wires, drywall and more. Rats and other wild rodents are also known for spreading serious diseases to humans and other animals, including bubonic plague—yes, the very same sickness that spread like wildfire during the Middle Ages, killing off over half the entire population of Europe.
Even if you never come into direct contact with a rat that’s been living somewhere inside or around your home, you and your loved ones and pets are still at risk from the diseases these pests can carry, which can spread through bites from fleas, ticks or mites that have previously fed on infected rodents. Exposure to rat urine and feces also poses a health danger. These are just some of the reasons why knowledgeable Florida homeowners know that if they see a rat anywhere on their property, it’s a warning sign that a serious problem could develop that should be dealt with right away.
The following information covers the three most common types of rats in Florida, how to determine whether you have rats in your home, attic or garage and how to get rid of them if you do.
Types Of Rats In Florida
The three specific types of rats in Florida that homeowners are most likely to spot in their homes, attics or garages or someplace else on their property are roof rats, Norway rats and woodrats.
All rats tend to share some common characteristics. These rodents follow the same paths and routes as they move throughout their day, traveling back and forth between their nests and food or water sources. Tats also have naturally oily fur that leaves greasy marks along the walls or beams that they regularly travel along. Also, all rats leave urine and droppings around the areas where they build nests. Homeowners should know that all rats have constantly growing front teeth that require lots of regular gnawing to keep filed down.
Possibly the most frightening statistics are about rats’ reproduction. Many types of rats are very prolific, capable of producing 20 or more babies in a year. That means that when these creatures make a nest in someone’s home or garage, they can quickly become a big problem. If you spot gnaw marks, droppings or greasy track marks along walls, baseboards or beams, these are good signs that you may have a rat problem on your hands.
The traits we mention above are true of roof rats, Norway rats and woodrats. Beyond those similarities, however, these three common types of Florida rats have some distinct characteristics that can help you determine which specific type of rat you’re dealing with, if you find evidence of rat activity in or around your home. If you want to compare a roof rat vs. Norway rat or learn how these species are distinct from a woodrat, you may want to consider each type separately.
Also known as black rats, as well as palm rats, fruit rats or citrus rats (because of their largely vegetarian diets), roof rats are the most common type of rat that is found in Florida. Roof rats are excellent climbers, and they often prefer to build their nests up high, in attics or in beams near the roof. These rats are typically dark brown or black in color; adult roof rats can grow to anywhere from three to eight inches in length. Their feces is typically just over a centimeter in length, with pointed ends, so if you find rat droppings that match this description, and especially if you find it in a location that’s above ground-level, you may be dealing with a roof rat infestation.
These rats typically live outdoors, although they may head indoors when there isn’t enough food or water available in their usual habitat, which is most likely to happen either during the winter months or after an extreme weather event, like a flood. Since Norway rats are burrowers, when they do build a nest indoors, they are likely to do so in spaces that are low to the ground or even underground, such as in basements or crawl spaces, or under a pier-and-beam foundation. Usually larger than roof rats, adult Norway rats can grow to six to eight inches in length, with shaggy brown or gray fur. Their ears and tails are scaled, and their droppings are larger than roof rat droppings, with rounded rather than pointed ends.
Most commonly found in the northern part of Florida, woodrats are about the same size as Norway rats. Their fur, however, which ranges from grey to black and sometimes has hints of red or brown, is longer and softer than that of the roof rat or Norway rat, and their ears and tails are furry, rather than scaly. Like roof rats, woodrats are vegetarians by nature, preferring to eat a wide variety of plant matter, including seeds, leaves, stems, bark, and wood (hence their name). Like other types of rats, however, woodrats will eat almost anything if their preferred natural food sources aren’t available.
Florida Rats In Attic: Warning Signs
Along with the telltale signs described above, there are other ways to determine whether you have rats living somewhere inside your home or elsewhere on your property. Rats are usually most active at night, so if you hear scratching, scurrying or squeaking noises inside a wall, ceiling or ductwork within your attic, garage or home, and especially if you hear these noises at nighttime, it’s a sign that rats or some other rodent may be nesting in your living space. Dogs and cats can also be good indicators of the presence of rats or other pests; pay attention if your pet stares fixedly at a seemingly blank spot on the wall, as they may be hearing or smelling a rat or other wild animal.
In Florida, rats that make their nests in attics are most likely to be roof rats, as these are the most common variety of Florida rat and are also great climbers that have no trouble reaching and building a nest up high. If you suspect rat activity in your attic, look for dark, greasy rub marks along the rafters in your attic, and also look for gnaw marks on wood, drywall and even electrical wires.
Best Way To Get Rid Of Rats In Attic
If you have rats nesting in your attic, it’s important to deal with the problem as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Rats can cause a lot of expensive damage as they chew through building materials and leave behind their urine and feces. Rats have even been known to cause electrical fires when they chew through wiring or dislodge it as they build their nests. Furthermore, rats can cause many types of diseases in humans and other animals, both directly (through their own bites) and indirectly (through their urine and feces, as well as through their fleas, ticks and mites that may move on to other hosts).
Determining the best way to get rid of rats in the attic depends on how many rats are present. If you believe you have just one or two rats making occasional visits to your attic, it may be enough simply to set out traps to catch them. Trapping rats can involve using either traditional snap traps or humane traps, both of which use bait to lure the rat into the trap.
If you have a full-fledged rat infestation, traps and poison may not be a comprehensive enough strategy to deal with the problem effectively. However many rats you’re dealing with, and wherever they might be in your attic or home or elsewhere around your property, the best strategy for getting rid of them is a defensive one. If you want to keep rats out of your attic, you’ll need to find any gaps or holes in the eaves or other areas that they might be using to gain entry, and plug them up with steel wool and wire mesh. Keep in mind that rats can squeeze through relatively small openings. It’s wise to close off even little gaps that are only as wide as your finger. You should also remove any food or water that might be attracting the rats to your attic.
Where Do Rats Live In Your House?
Knowing where rats are most likely to go is a key factor in determining the best way to get rid of them once they are living in your home or on your property. The most common areas where rats might build a nest in your home are inside walls or ductwork, inside garages or attic spaces or beneath a pier-and-beam foundation. Rats that enter homes are often seeking food or water, so they might also be found in your pantry or your kitchen. This is why it’s smart to keep food in airtight containers rather than sitting open on counters or shelves.
Rats might also go into laundry rooms or anyplace else where they can access water, especially if they don’t have easy access to a water source outdoors. On that note, if you have any leaky pipes anywhere around your home, whether inside or outdoors, it’s important to fix them promptly, as rats may be attracted to the dripping water. Similarly, keep bird feeders well away from your home and garage, as rats often enjoy eating the food that birds drop onto the ground.
Got Rodents? Here’s What To Do
Keeping rodents out of your home can seem like a daunting task. If you suspect that you have a rodent problem, there are a variety of strategies and solutions you can implement to address the issue. First and foremost, cutting off rats’ access to your home, attic or garage is key, and an important next step is cutting off their access to food and water sources. Addressing these two main components—access and sustenance—will go a long way toward preventing rat problems, but they may not be enough to eliminate a rat problem once it develops.
ABC Can Rodent-Proof Your Property
Finding all possible entry points that rats might use to get into your house or garage can be a difficult and time-consuming process. For many people, it’s a smarter and safer strategy simply to hire a professional exterminator. At ABC Home & Commercial Services, our professionals are experts in all types of pest control. We know how to deal safely with rat problems, including rodent infestations, so that you, along with your loved ones and pets, can enjoy peace of mind and a pest-free household.