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Norway rats and roof rats are what are called "commensal" rodents. One definition of the word "commensal" is of something that "shares the table" with humans. Another definition found is, "an association between two organisms in which one benefits and the other derives neither benefit nor harm." Well, here at American Pest Solutions, we can agree with that first definition. But we're not so sure about that second one. Let's take a look at whether or not these "commensal" rodents cause humans any harm, how these two kinds of rats enter our New England homes, and how we can work to keep them out.

Norway Rat

A Norway rat is a brownish-gray, robust rat that is a bit larger than a roof rat, measuring as large as 40 cm in length with a sparsely-haired, scaly tail that is shorter than the length of its body. Since Norway rats are poor climbers, they tend to stick to lower levels in homes, in basements, or on ground floors.

Roof Rat

Typically smaller than its Norway cousin, a roof rat can also grow to be longer than 40 cm, but a roof rat's tail is longer than its body. They are slender, shiny black or dark brown in color (with a lighter underbelly) and have large, nearly-hairless ears. Roof rats prefer moist, warm areas in buildings and are excellent climbers, so they tend to live in higher locations in man-made structures.

The Problems With Norway And Roof Rats

  • Rats contaminate food: When rodents make their way into homes, they can sneak into kitchens or pantry areas, chew into stored goods, and deposit bacteria, potentially causing diseases to be spread. Some of the diseases rats can transmit to humans are murine typhus, leptospirosis, and salmonellosis.

  • Rats destroy insulation and other materials: When rats come to set up housekeeping, they are very poor "housekeepers" indeed. They destroy areas by leaving their feces and urine everywhere. They also have the potential to ruin personal belongings this way.

  • Rats never stop chewing: All rodents are equipped with a set of incisors that never stop growing. In order to wear those teeth down, they must continually gnaw on things. In a home, a rat may chew on everything from drywall to structural beams, furniture, cardboard boxes, and even electrical wires. The list of things a rat may chew on is extensive.

  • Rats bring fleas in: Fleas infestations are strongly linked to rats. There are two reasons for this. The first is that rats can explore a home from top to bottom, distributing flea eggs as they travel. Second, fleas do quite well inside a home, especially if there are pets living in the home.

  • Rats bring ticks in: When a tick first hatches it is called a seed tick and has only 6 legs. In this stage of development, it will usually see a small animal to attach too, such as rats and mice. But when that tick develops into a nymph (its second stage of development) it will seek a new host. This is when humans are at risk of being bitten, and also when exposure to tick-borne diseases is possible.

  • Rats bring in parasites: Fleas and ticks are just the beginning. Rats can carry lice, mites, and other parasites into a home, and each of these parasites come with their own set of problems.

How To Keep Rats Out 

  • Trim tree branches away from your roofline and outside walls to prevent roof rats from using them as a bridge to get to your roof.

  • Patch up any holes in your roofline, exterior walls, and foundation. Pay close attention to window and door frames.

  • Inspect locations where pipes enter your home. If you see gaps, use a caulking gun to fill those gaps in.

  • Put wire mesh in the downspouts of your gutter system to keep rats from climbing up.

  • Keep your grass trimmed and the plants around your foundation perimeter neat. Rats love overgrowth.

  • Remove piles in your yard. Norway rats are drawn to piles, especially wood products, because they create their burrows underneath.

If you ever find rats in your New England home, reach out to American Pest Solutions to learn more about our residential pest control options. We are a state licensed pest control company with the tools, knowledge, and experience to solve rat problems.

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