Roof Rat


Actual Size: 16” long including the tail

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

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


  • Also known as the black rat or a ship rat.
  • Prefer aerial harborages, which is why they’re named roof rats!
  • Nocturnal and most often heard at night when you have an infestation.

Roof Rats in Eastern Tennessee

In the U.S., roof rats are a relatively serious pest problem. Like many household rodents, roof 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 expert climbers and are often heard scurrying along roof lines or trees at night.

Roof Rat Habitat

Roof rats prefer to live above ground 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, wood piles and other stored goods. Roof rats 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 & Dangers

Roof rats are feared for their ability to spread some dangerous diseases, including salmonella, leptospirosis, and rat bite fever. 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, bird seed, meat and grease, infesting storage sheds and bbq’s. 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. For this reason, it’s important to stay wary of roof rats near your property.

Due to the risk of roof rat behavior in your Sevierville area home, removal should be performed by a licensed rodent control company.