Can Rats Climb?


Wintertime is when rats become a really bothersome pest for homeowners because the freezing temperatures outside send rats scurrying indoors for shelter. Think your home is sealed up as tight as Fort Knox? Are you sure every entry point has been eliminated? Unfortunately, you may not be looking high enough.

Rodents in Alabama keep our technicians busy throughout the year partly because they have a lot of tricks for getting inside homes. One of their top talents is climbing. Their ability to climb gives rats ways to sneak inside without homeowners knowing until it’s too late.

Keep reading to learn more about how rats get around and what you can do to prevent them from climbing inside your home.

How Well Do Rats Climb?

It turns out rats are amazing climbers. It’s one of the reasons this type of vermin has been able to migrate throughout the world. Rats were able to climb their way onto ships hundreds of years ago to hitch a ride to the New World. They can scale vertical walls with ease. They can scurry up trees in seconds. They can even run up drainpipes, electrical wires or cables better than any circus performer.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska have noted that rats can scale just about any type of wall, especially if it has texture. They’ve been known to run up:

  • Concrete

  • Brick

  • Wood

  • Sheet Metal

  • Plastic

  • Stucco

  • Drywall

Most all rodents can climb, but their skill usually depends on the species. For example, the roof rat (a.k.a. black rat) is particularly good at climbing, which is how the species got its name. They aren’t quite as skilled as roof rats, but Norway rats are also well-known climbers. Alabama residents have to be on the lookout since both black rats and Norway rats are found throughout the state.

What Makes Rats Such Good Climbers

Rats have a few anatomical advantages when it comes to climbing. For starters, their claws and pads are equipped for latching on to virtually any surface. They have five phalanges “fingers” on each paw that are extremely sharp. The pads of the paws also help. They have microscopic dermal ridges that help increase friction and allow rats to grip onto various surfaces.

They’ll also use their tails to balance themselves or wrap around cords, wires, ropes, etc. if needed. If you ever see a rat walking across a cord you’ll notice that they use their tails the same way a tightrope walker uses a balancing pole.

Then there’s the leaping ability of rats. Rodents have a vertical leap of around 36 inches, and they can also leap 48 inches horizontally. That means a rat can climb a tree up to four feet away from your house and still leap onto the roof or walls. Rats can also survive a fall up to 50 feet so if they miss the leap they’ll probably try again.

Why Homeowners Should Worry

It’s not uncommon to see rats running along rooflines after climbing up the side of a wall, drain or tree. This is something no homeowner wants to catch sight of because it could be a sign that rats are now your attic roommates.

You can make sure there are no gaps in the garage door, caulk around seams and plug up every hole you see, but how often do you inspect the roof? If you’re like most people you break out the ladder maybe once or twice a year. That leaves a huge surface area on your home susceptible to rats. They love getting up on the roof because they can do their dirty work undetected.

All it take is a ½” hole in the fascia, a loose vent or a damaged shingle to give rats access. And if there’s not a hole already, they can easily make one. If a rat finds a weak spot they can chew and claw a hole very quickly.

The best time for a thorough roof inspection is early fall, but it’s never too late to give it a good once over. You should look for:

  • Gaps in the fascia

  • Loose fascia boards

  • Rotten or water damaged wood

  • Loose or damaged vents along the walls and roof

  • Loose or missing shingles

  • Chewing, claw marks or holes

If you have a chimney you’ll need to take additional steps to keep your fireplace pest-free during the winter. Inspect all around the chimney to look for gaps and cracks. If you don’t have a chimney cap install one as soon as you can. A chimney cap prevents larger pests like rodents, raccoons and birds from making their way down the fireplace without affected the flow of smoke.

Clients that call Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. for small rodent removal can rest assured we’ll inspect the house from top to bottom. Our technicians pay careful attention to the roofline and know what signs to look for to tell if rats are climbing their way inside your home. Call us today if you need help getting rats off your roof!

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