Do I have rats? – How to Identify a Canadian Rat Infestation


Roof Rats vs Norway Rats

There are two main species of rat that bother Canadian homeowners: the roof rat and the Norway rat. The two have very different habits and habitats so it is crucial to identify which rat you’re dealing with to properly remove and exclude them from your home. 

Roof rats are only found in cities along the west coast of British Columbia such as Vancouver but Norway rats can be found in suburban and urban areas across Canada including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax. Neither are native to Canada – the Noway rat is thought to have originated in Nothern China (oddly not in Norway as the name would suggest), and the roof rat likely originated in India. However, this was long ago and for centuries rats have thrived off human civilization, following us around the world populating all continents (except Antarctica). 

Norway Rat vs Roof Rat

The Norway rat is also called the brown rat as they are generally brown or grey in colour. Whereas the roof rat is also called the black rat since they are darker in colour ranging from black to brown. Roof rats are also smaller, growing to about 20 cm long (excluding the tail) whereas Norway rats can grow to about 30 cm long. 

With all that said, Norway rats and roof rats can still be hard to tell apart visually, the easiest way to identify them is based on their habitats. Roof rats as the name suggests are strong climbers and enjoy living in tree tops, attics and roofs. Norway rats, however, are burrowers living in tunnels they dig in the ground and making their way into basements or garages. 

Did you know?
Alberta has been essentially rat free since 1950 when their provincial Rat Control Program was established.

Do I have rats?

Just because you haven’t seen a rat doesn’t mean they’re not around. Rats are nocturnal and will come out when you’re not home or are sleeping, that’s why it’s important to look for other signs of infestation.

Possible signs of a rat infestation:

  • Pellet-shaped droppings 
  • Damaged food packaging 
  • Chewed holes in walls 
  • Scurrying sounds in the walls at night 
  • Unexplained musty smells 

Are rats dangerous?

A rat infestation is a health hazard as rats are known to carry a multitude of diseases, leave toxic droppings in their wake and spoil food. They can also cause significant structural damage by chewing through walls, wires and ducts. 

Additionally, rats reproduce at rapid rates, meaning a small rat problem can quickly become a major infestation. Rats continue to mate and give birth year-round but their biggest breeding seasons are in the spring and fall. The average Canadian rat will give birth to 3-6 litters a year of 7-8 young! They will go only to live for 6 months to a year, becoming sexually mature only a couple months after birth. 

Did you know?
Rats can move each one of their whiskers individually. They use these whiskers to sense their environment similar to how humans use their fingers. 
Brown rat

How do I prevent a rat problem?

As the temperature continues to drop throughout the fall and into the winter many rodents and other creepy crawlies will be driven inside Canadian homes. To prevent rats and other wildlife from moving in it’s important to inspect the outside of your home and close any holes. As well as eliminate any possible food sources by cleaning food preparation stations immediately after use, cleaning up spills or crumbs, and sealing garbage bins. 

The garage should not be overlooked in this inspection as it is a prime location for Norway rats to nest. Make sure to declutter and close boxes to dissuade nesting, seal garbage bins, and ensure there is a good seal between the garage door and its frame. For more information on how you should be preparing your garage for winter check out this article

How to prevent rat problems - infographic

How do I get rid of rats?

If you already have rats living in your home, it’s crucial you call rodent pest control professionals like Terminix Canada to take care of the problem and properly sanitize your space. 

Terminix Canada offers expert pest control services for both residential and commercial properties. We have local pest control experts at locations across Canada including BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Call us today to learn how we can help.