Like it or not, rats are nearly everywhere. The two most common kinds are Norway rats and roof rats. I moved to Florida from the Chicago suburbs in the early 1990’s. In the Chicago area, I learned all of the in’s and out’s of nuisance wildlife management, often referred to as being a trapper.

While Chicago has rats, for our business, we never dealt with the pesky rodents. My job mostly dealt with raccoons, opossums, squirrels, skunks and occasionally in the winter, mice.

A family of roof rats.
A family of roof rats.

When I moved to Florida and started my own trapping business, I figured I would be dealing with the same animals, with a few small exceptions…such as, up North we had groundhogs, in Florida we have armadillos…lots of them.

But I had no idea how bad the rat problem was in Central Florida. To be fair, it’s not just Central Florida but that is where I just happen to be. While working in Palm Harbor, Florida in the ’90’s, I recall inspecting the attic of a very nice home. In the attic I found massive amounts of rat droppings. Still thinking like a Northerner, I was afraid to tell this nice, elderly lady that she had rats; I figured she would throw me out of her house!

Well, to my surprise after telling her she had rats, her response was “Oh, I know. I’ve had them for years.” That was when I began to discover the extent of the Florida rat infestation.

Eventually, our saying would become something like “I feed my family with rats!” No, not literally. When I first opened up my business in Florida, I thought my money would come from humanely resolving issues with raccoons, squirrels, opossums and such…I found that rats would become the foundation of my business.

People are often surprised to find they have rats in their attic. Though we have a saying here at Creepy Creatures Pest & Wildlife…whatever the question is, the answer is always “It’s rats.” While we say this tongue and cheek, we say it because rats are EVERYWHERE!

It never fails. Nearly every day we get calls from people in Pinellas county that have rats in their attic. They come up with all sorts of excuses…I live by the water…I live in the country, I have fruit trees, my neighbor has fruit trees, there is construction next door, my neighbor has fruit trees…there are countless excuses on why someone has rats. But the truth is rat live everywhere and they need 3 things…food, water and shelter.

And while there are definitely things that will encourage rats, rats are just everywhere. And they can find food and water just about anywhere. So if your home has any sort of small holes, you will get rats…no matter how clean you keep your home.

Keep Rats Out

While many people think that rats are a simple thing to fix… put out some rat traps or some poison and TADA! No more rats…unfortunately, that is just not true in most cases.

The trouble with rats is, they drag their belly everywhere they go. Dragging their belly means they leave their scent everywhere…yes, everywhere. What this means is, if you catch all the rats living in an area, as long as there is still an opening, new rats will smell that other rats have been there and now, those rats will move back in and there will be another re-infestation.

The most critical thing when working to resolve a rat issue is a very, very thorough inspection. A thorough inspection requires inspecting every place that has potential for rats to enter. This includes the roof and crawlspace underneath the house.

Too many people, including pest control professionals will just walk around the house on the ground and then just put some traps in the attic. While this will work on occasion, a roof inspection is necessary.

There are common areas where rats will commonly enter. These are the easy openings to find. But then there are others that are far less obvious. And then there are those places that are partially accessible but do not allow you to see everything. An example would be, you can see a hole and it appears to go somewhere, but you cannot see where it goes. Maybe it just goes into a wall and then stops…or it goes into a wall then into the attic. If you cannot determine where an opening goes, then you must assume it goes somewhere and therefor you have to treat it as an opening and seal it up.

Rats Entering Air Conditioning Line

Here in Central Florida, the two most common areas for rats to enter are air conditioning chases, they often run up the side of the house and go into the attic.

Rats enter through air conditioning chase lines into the attic.
Rat enter through soffits.

The other opening would be the soffits; specifically the crook area where one soffit meets another.

Soffit opening for rats.

These two areas should be sealed up tight when homes are built but builders just do not take the time to address these areas when building homes.

At Creepy Creatures Pest & Wildlife we do countless inspections on home purchases where we get called in to do a termite inspection and find rats in the attic. Many new buyers are upset thinking the seller pulled a fast one on them but many times the sellers have no idea there were rats in the attic.

In fact, when I was dating my now wife, I had been called by her neighbors to deal with some rats. She was surprised they had rats in their attic. I told her that it is very possible she could have rats in her attic…she doubted me. So I went up into her attic, found some rat droppings and took pictures to show her! She could not believe she had rats and had no idea.

Rats Entering Attic Through Sewer Line

Their is another situation with rats that is incredibly frustrating for both homeowner and pest control professional. In rare cases, rats will enter homes through sewer pipes. Sometimes you just feel it in your Spidey sense when you do the inspection but it is normally confirmed when you are 100% sure that all of the openings are sealed up yet there are still rats in the attic.

In many cases, the homeowner keeps moving from pest control company to pest control company hoping someone will figure things out. Or rather, they are hoping to find a different answer than what the answer is…rats are entering through a sewer pipe.

How rats enter attics via sewer pipes.

While there are different scenarios, this happens most often when a bathroom is being renovated. For the renovation the toilet or another plumbing area gets moved. The plumber cuts off the sewer pipe that runs from the sewer, connects to the toilet and continues out the roof. There are times when the plumber will cut the current sewer pipe and not cap it.

Rats entering attic via sewer pipe.
Rats entering attic via sewer pipe.

After this, the unsealed pipe is closed back up into the wall. Years later, people in the home are hearing rats even though they thought the entire home was sealed up. The problem is, the people that live in the home now were not the people that did the renovation, so they have no idea about the open pipe hidden in the wall.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems with dealing with rats is not taking it serious enough. Rat often need serious attention. Be sure to focus on how they are getting and you will have a solid shot at resolving your issue for a long time!

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Dusty Showers has been in the urban nuisance wildlife and pest control field since 1993. Taught by Garon Fyffe, a pioneer in humane nuisance wildlife management, Dusty has a passion for finding humane solutions to human & wildlife conflicts. Dusty was the only individual invited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in the lat 1990's to help write legislation for legal protection of Florida bats. With an instinct for solving wildlife, Dusty found pest control to be an easy "add-on interest". Dusty started his first business "Animal Instincts Wildlife & Pest Management" in the Tampa Bay, Florida area in 1995. Eventually selling Animal Instincts in 2002, Dusty went on to start Creepy Creatures Termite and Pest Control in 2009, which he still owns and operates today in Palm Harbor, Florida.

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