Types of Rats

If you have rats in your home, it is likely one of four species of rats: Norway rats, roof rats, cotton rats, and pack rats.

The cotton rat is found in the southern United States. Both Norway rats and roof rats thrive throughout the U.S. The Norway species tends to be solitary, but an infestation can still consist of up to 40 rodents in a single home. In contrast, roof rats are more social and will live in colonies of over 100 rodents.

Norway Rats

norway rat

Appearance - Although Norway rats are nocturnal, they may emerge and be spotted during the day if the infestation is large enough. They have coarse fur that is brown, reddish, or gray on their heads and backs, and whitish gray on their bellies. Norway rats are the largest rat species typically seen in U.S. homes, reaching lengths of about seven to ten inches. Though often confused with sleek, agile roof rats, these pests are more full-bodied with blunter snouts.

Diet- Almost any type of food appeals to Norway rats. Their natural diet includes plants, seeds, insects, and small animals. In homes, the pests raid pantries and garbage cans for grains, meat, fish, nuts, and fruit. Although they will eat carrion and rotting food, they prefer fresh items.

Habitat - Found in all 48 lowers states. Marshes or fields near ponds and streams are the preferred natural habitats of Norway rats. However, the presence of more abundant shelter, food, and water often draws the pests into homes, yards, canals, barns, and sewers. Norway rats prefer to live in urban environments at low elevations and tend to stick to the ground floors, cellars, or basements of buildings.

Roof Rats

Appearance - Physical characteristics of roof rats include sleek coats that are usually gray, black, or brown with white underbellies. Their bodies measure about seven to eight inches long, and they have even longer tails that are roughly eight to ten inches in length.
Diet- Roof rats prefer fruits, vegetation, and nuts to make up the majority of their diet. They also eat insects and snails. However, when sources are limited, roof rats consume anything they can find. This opportunistic behavior drives the pests into homes where they scavenge for leftover scraps, pet food, and trash.
Habitat- Roof rats cannot survive in colder climates so you will find roof rats in coastal cities and in the Southern US. live in warm regions of the U.S. Lands covered in dense vegetation and located near water are the preferred habitats of these pests. Their nesting sites include parks and areas near ponds, particularly in trees and shrubbery. Farms and sheds also create protective shelters for the rodents and substitute as nests when vegetation is scarce.

Pack Rats

mouse eating peanuts

Appearance - Pack rats are similar in appearance to standard rats, with long tails, large ears, and big black eyes. Their average size ranges from about 12 to 18 inches. They usually have gray fur on their backs and heads and lighter fur on their bellies and feet. Unlike traditional rats, pack rats often have hairy tails.

Diet- Depending on the region in which they live, pack rat diets vary. Bushytailed woodrats in the western part of the United States eat mainly vegetation. Those found in the south tend to eat fruits and seeds. If it’s nearby, pack rats may also seek out human food easily accessible in garbage cans or left in gardens.

Habitat- These rodents adapt quickly to their environment, which allows them to survive in both dry, desert locations, and cool, mountainous areas. The highest density is in the deserts of Western United States and Mexico. Some found in deciduous forest of the east cost, juniper woodlands in the southwest, oak woodlands along the coastal western United States and in the Sonoran Desert, and in the forest and rocky habitats of the western United States and western Canada. Pack rats construct dens, called middens, out of twigs and other materials they collect. Typically, these dens are located in caves or crevices, but the pests will also nest in attics, basements, or crawl spaces.

Cotton Rats


Cotton rats are found in many parts of the United States, especially in the Southeast. These small rodents have large eyes and thick, greyish fur. These creatures will invade your property if you leave open bowls of pet food on your porch or yard. These animals are always looking for food, so they may be tempted to enter into your home through any open spaces in your structure or foundation.

Cotton rats are not necessarily dangerous to humans. However, their droppings and carcasses have been known to carry certain diseases that can be harmful to humans if not handled properly. To avoid potentially harmful diseases or infections, you need to call a Trutech specialist to conduct a cotton rat removal properly.

Appearance- The entire length of a cotton rat is 10 inches on average, with the tail comprising about four inches of that. Their tails are almost completely hairless and appear scaly. Other traits include their stiff, rough fur coats that are usually black, gray, or brown.

Diet- Unless threatened with limited access to vegetation, cotton rats primarily eat plants, seeds, roots, and stems. Fruits, nuts, and sugarcane are also part of their diet. When the pests are unable to find their preferred meals, they resort to scavenging for eggs and young quail, among other small birds and carcasses.

Habitat- Florida to Virginia and Westward to New Mexico & Arizona. Ideal cotton rat habitats range from grasslands and meadows to marshlands, so long as they are densely covered. Cotton rats also nest in embankments, cultivated fields, under logs, and along roadsides. Nests are built from dry grass and other plant materials. The rodents construct paths to and from their nests and other locations.