How to Identify Rats

There are 2 rats that are common to structures: the Norway or brown rat, and the roof or black rat. As adults their bodies are about the same length – 10 inches. They can, however, be easily distinguished from each other by the tail length. The tail on Norway rats is generally shorter than the head and body combined, whereas, the roof rat tail is usually as long as or longer than the combined head and body. In addition, Norway rats are rather heavy-bodied with a blunt snout and somewhat small ears. The roof rat is quite slender with a pointed snout and comparatively large ears. The best evidence for rats is the presence of droppings. Norway rat droppings are large, up to ¾-inch long with blunt ends. Roof rat droppings are slightly smaller, ½-inch with pointed ends. Roof rats tend to nest in the upper areas of buildings including attics.

Roof Rat

Norway (Brown) Rat








Because of their habits, rats can carry and transmit diseases such as Salmonella (food poisoning) and plague.

Where do rats come from?

  • Rat populations are generally found outside but will move inside if they can find a reliable source of food and water.
  • While foraging at night, they gain entry through loose or broken crawl space doors or vents, gaps around HVAC systems and water lines, and holes in foundation walls.
  • If all environmental conditions are met, rats will not have to leave the structure. They will build nests in cellars, on warehouse floors, in storerooms, loading docks.
  • Roof rats often nest in trees or shrubs, and other sites above ground, gaining entrance to homes through loose soffits, loose or missing gable vent screening, or through gaps where electric service enters the roof.
  • They can squeeze through an opening as small as a quarter.
  • Rats are naturally shy and cautious.
  • Homeowners may hear rustling in walls or footsteps running in attics.


As with all pest elimination and pest prevention programs, it is essential to understand the behavior and biology of the specific rodents in order to develop an effective preventive program.

The Norway rat is prolific breeder. After mating, the female gestation period is about 22 days after which she may give birth to a litter of 8-12 young. They are weaned after about 4 weeks. They normally reached sexual maturity after 12 weeks. If, however, conditions are exceptionally good they may reach maturity after 8 weeks. Females may mate again 2-3 days after delivering a litter. Roof rats are not quite as fecund, usually delivering litters of 4-8 young.

Geographically, roof rats are not able to readily adapt to cooler climates. Hence, they are more likely to be found in more southern temperate and tropical areas. In addition, they are more prevalent along coastal areas, generally not being found more than 100 miles inland.

Ways for homeowners to reduce the conditions that harbor and attract rats

  • Remove leaf litter near the structure
  • Remove brush piles near the structure
  • Seal around crawlspace doors.
  • Rodent-proof your HVAC system by sealing gaps where duct work enters.
  • Repair and/or caulk foundation cracks and holes.
  • Inspect and repair foundation vent screens.
  • Inspect and repair soffits and eaves.
  • Repair loose gable vent screening.
  • Make sure all garbage goes into the can.
  • Clean garbage cans and move away from the structure.
  • Clean all outdoor pet food dishes and remove spilled food.
  • Remove all loose birdseed and place in rodent-proof containers.
  • Seek professional assistance and a pest prevention plan.

Economy Exterminators’ Pest Elimination Plus program uses the 4-step approach to solve your rat problem:

  • Our 1st step is the inspection of the property by a Charlotte, Wilmington or Raleigh customer service specialist. It is very important to know the rodent species involved and the severity of the problem.
  • The 2nd step is the initial treatment by a customer service specialist of all areas that the inspection revealed as critical areas. Economy Exterminators uses the newest and most effective baits, traps and materials to solve this problem quickly for you. Critical areas usually include the kitchen, storage areas, crawlspaces, garages and the exterior of the building.
  • The 3rd step is a 37-point inspection of your property to identify areas around the outside of your house that give easy access to the rat.
  • The 4th step is an ongoing maintenance program, such as our pest control programs, to prevent the next generation of rats from infesting your home.