Why Are There Rats Around my House?


What New Jersey Homeowners Want to Know About Rats

What kinds of rats are found in New Jersey homes?

There are four kinds of rats that inhabit the Garden State:

  • Brown rats (AKA Norway rats) are brownish-gray and thin-tailed. They are also called the common rat or sewer rat. Some homeowners can mistake them for large mice. These rats burrow to make their nests.
  • Black rats (AKA roof rats or ship rats) are black to light brown in color with a lighter underbelly. They have thicker tails than brown rats but smaller bodies overall. Black rats do not burrow but instead climb to high places for shelter.
  • Eastern woodrats have brown-gray fur, black tips, white feet, and a white underbelly. In the summer, mature eastern woodrats turn a cinnamon brown-red color. They build large dens out of yard debris and tend to live alone.
  • Marsh rice rats are slender, semi-aquatic rodents with course, moderately long grayish-brown fur, slightly streaked with black. They have grayish-white or cream-colored bellies and feet.

What kind of damage can rats do to my home?

Rats can chew through common homebuilding materials including wood, concrete, sheetrock, and even aluminum. Rats are also known to chew through metal and plastic pipes. They can cause significant aesthetic and structural damage by compromising support beams, wooden joists, drywall, and more. Similarly, they have been known to chew through electrical wires and cause short circuits or even house fires. Once they're in the walls, it is likely they will chew your insulation to shreds as well.

How do rats find a way inside the home?

Rats are opportunists and will look for weak entry points around the base of your home. They seek out holes in the foundation, concrete floors, and stone walls to squeeze through. They will also tunnel through the ground and out of uncovered dirt basement floors. If a natural way in is not apparent, they may seek out roof vents, uncovered floor drains, and even sewer vents to try and get inside.

How can I reduce the likelihood of a rat infestation?

To avoid dealing with rats, do your best to avoid attracting them. Rats love clutter and food because it means they will be able to build their nest, feed their young, and proliferate in peace. To discourage rats from collecting around the outside of your house, clear your yard of trash and clutter that rats may like to hide in. Also tightly seal any air or water leaks you find around your home, as they can use these to gain access.

If you have farm animals or sheds where you store pet food, make sure the food is airtight. This will reduce the likelihood that a rat will smell it but also prevent the rats from contaminating your animal feed with harmful pathogens and diseases. Keep an eye out for gnaw marks on any wood framing for your shed or even dog houses, as this may be a sign of rats sniffing around.

Why don't we include mice in this rat FAQ?

We like to consider rat control separate from mice control because rats and mice will hardly ever be in the same house at the same time. Mice know that rats may eat them and will relocate if they detect the odor of rats in the home. This is why sometimes artificial rat odor can be used to repel mice from an area.

Only a very large supply of food could sustain both rats and mice in the same building, such as in grain silos or food storage warehouses. Residential homes typically do not have large enough food supplies to attract rats and mice.




Norway Rats

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