Roof Rat


Actual Size: 13 to 15” long including the tail

Characteristics: Slender. Typically grayish to dark gray to black.

Habitat: True to their name, they live and build nests off the ground by climbing canopies and vines.


  • Also known as the “black rat”  or “ship rat”.
  • Tail longer than the combined length of their head and body.
  • Prefer aerial harborages, living in trees and attics.

Roof Rats in Knoxville TN

Roof rats may not be as large or aggressive as Norway rats, but they still can be a pest problem for homeowners throughout the year. These rats are commensal rodents, living near and dependent upon the human habitat for survival. When these rodents infest homes, they can be found in attics, eaves, and rooflines. The most common identifying characteristic of roof rats is their tail. Roof rat tails are hairless and longer than the combined length of their head and body, whereas the tails of other rats are hairy and shorter than their head and body. They are often called tree or palm rats due to their behavior of staying in trees and on top of buildings.

Roof Rat Habitat

Roof rats like to live in tree canopies, dense shrubs, and climbing vines. These rats have pads on their feet to facilitate better climbing of narrow vines and limbs, and their tail also assists to balance when climbing high up off the ground. Roof rats generally begin searching for food shortly after sunset, using trees, utility lines, and fences to gain access to attics, overhead garage storage, woodpiles, and other stored goods. They are nocturnal and scurrying sounds in the attic at night are often the first sign of a roof rat infestation in homes.

Roof Rat Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

Salmonella, leptospirosis, and rat-bite fever are among the dozens of diseases spread by roof rats. When foraging for food, roof rats contaminate food meant for humans, pets, and livestock. Roof rats are omnivores, eating both plants and animals, and are very fond of citrus fruit. They also favor pet food, pet feces, birdseed, meat, and grease, infesting storage sheds, and barbecues. Besides spreading disease, roof rats may cause extensive damage when nesting in walls and attics. Chewed, exposed wires inside walls can spark, causing interior walls to catch fire. If you are dealing with a roof rat problem in your Knoxville area home, always contact a licensed rodent control company.