Rats in the Attic can be quite a problem not only from a peace of mind standpoint, but also from a construction and health viewpoint. They are able to very quickly populate a given area and cause tremendous damage to a structure. They are prodigious chewers and have been observed chewing everything in an attic space from duct work to electrical wires, water lines to stored items. Rats do not have bladder control, so they are continually excreting while moving along through their lives. This urine trail is loaded with pheromones that each rat uses as an easy way to find its way back to the place it started. Other rats are also able to detect this odor and use it to find suitable housing. Along with the urine issues come the flip side of the coin--droppings. A small population of rats, in very short order, can accumulate a huge amount of droppings that left unchecked can result in some serious health issues.
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Copyright Wildlife Ranger 2013
The Roof Rat (Rattus rattus). We do more rodent work in Orlando than work for all the other species of nuisance wildlife combined. We have a tremendous rat population in Orlando and the rule of thumb here is that any home five years of age or older--has them, has had them, or will have them. They have mastered the art of gaining access to our structures and then carving out quite a happy life from the unused portions of our homes. The two most common rat species found in Central Florida are the Roof Rat (Citrus Rat, Black Rat) and the Norway Rat (Brown Rat). The main difference between the two, for our purposes, are that the Norway Rats tend to stay at ground level where the Roof Rat will typically climb as a means of gaining entry to shelter. Once inside the attic or crawlspace rats will typically use the area for sleeping, mating, playing and will exit nightly for a food and water source.
• Rats are typically nocturnal, although it is not terribly uncommon to observe them out in daylight hours. They are omnivores and will feed on nearly all food items. In our area, citrus is a favorite as it is a one-stop-shop providing both a food and water source.

• Life span in the wild is approximately one to two years (up to four in captivity).

• Home range is typically shorter than a few hundred feet from the nesting site.

• Adult rats can reach a length of 16 1/2". Females are capable of producing three to five litters per year, consisting of one to sixteen offspring.

• Baby rats are born blind and hairless but are capable of producing their own litters by as little as twelve weeks of age.
Noise: This is usually the first sign that shows the homeowner that something may not be quite right in the home. The noise can usually be detected in the small hours of the night, when the house is typically more quiet, and while all the humans in the house are drifing off to sleep--the rodent population is just waking up to go do some shopping and restaurant-hopping in the neighborhood backyards. The most common time to hear this activity is after midnight (while the rats are heading out) and just before dawn (as the rats are heading home after a night of partying). Some exceptions apply, but this holds true in most cases.
Structural Damage: As noted above, rats will chew into any constructed surface to gain entry to the structure. Most construction techniques used by the home builder do not limit these issues as the contractor building your home is concerned with water-tightness and not animal infiltration. Rats only need an entry point a little smaller than the size of a quarter to make their way in and will often exploit weak areas of construction such as eave gaps and poorly done soffit. They are able to chew their way through most any material found in your attic and usually do so.
Droppings: Urine and droppings left behind in your attic are a real concern. After a population has been evicted it is highly recommended that a proper attic clean up be conducted to make the home safe and healthy.
Recurrence: The pheromones left behind by the rats as they travel will invite others to investigate the area and is another very good reason to conduct an attic decontamination. Once you have had rats in your attic you are more likely to have others attempt to reach the same spot. A thorough exclusion, done correctly, should prevent re-entry through the original entry points.
Typical chew-hole entry in eave gap.
"Sleeping" rat, dollar bill used for scale.
Exlusion: Repairing the entry points and ensuring that the home is properly excluded is the key to solving the issue permanently. Rat repairs should be made using only industry accepted materials and procedures as the persistance and intelligence of the animal will ultimately undo any effort that is not completed 100% to standard.