What is a Roof Rat?
A Roof Rat, official name Rattus Rattus, is the native rat species in Florida, California and other warm or coastal parts of the USA. In those areas, if you see a wild rat, or discover an abandoned litter, chances are they are Roof rats.
Roof Rats tend to live near people, as we are a convenient source of food and shelter. For thousands of years, rats have lived in man-made structures and ate our crops or left-overs. Although these rats weren’t “pets”, they were dependant on people and would have had a harder time living in the wild.
After hundreds of generations, Rattus rattus self-selected to tolerate the presence of people. There are mutations that cause rats to be more tame, curious or brave. Rats which have at least some of these genes are better able to live near people, forage for food in our homes, or raise their babies around our noises, smells and activities. These are things which most animals avoid. So, those rats have shelter, food and safety from predators. That’s why rats are so successful, and found almost everywhere in the world where people also live. That is also why it was easy to breed tame, pet Roof Rats: they had already been selectively breeding themselves for thousands of years!
It is believed that Roof Rats originated in India. They were known to the ancient Romans, who accidently brought them to Europe in their galleons along with their intended cargo of spices and other foreign luxuries.
Roof rats were the dominant rat species in Europe for about 2,000 years. Around the 1700’s, they began to be displaced in Northern Europe by cold tolerant, bigger, more aggressive and faster breeding Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus.) Norway rats, otherwise known as Sewer Rats, were the species of rat which Jack Black, the Royal Rat-catcher, originally domesticated in London. Which is why pet store rats are Norway Rats and not Roof Rats!
Roof Rats are an arboreal species of rat. That means they are really good at climbing and jumping. Here’s one climbing a tree:
Here’s one climbing straight up a wall!
They are also very quick, good at hiding and somewhat willful. Especially babies, like this nutty little girl!
Young Roof Rats are sometimes impatient when you first handle them, but Roof Rats are very social and will learn to love to be petted and stroked!
Roof Rats tend to mellow out as they get older, so inexperienced pet owners may find adults easier to manage. Our former breeders have already been socialized by us, and are calm and friendly. Like Bao Bao:
Our Roof Rats mostly come in 2 basic colors: Agouti and Black
We now have one baby, Snowflake, which has a lighter color, and we hope to breed more like her in the future:
Because they are arboreal, they have long tails for good balance, long, muscular legs and digits for climbing and jumping, and long nails with a velcro-like grip. They are originally from India, so their long, slender bodies are adapted to warm weather. Their acute senses help them avoid predators: large ears and eyes for great hearing and vision. Smell is their most important sense: that’s how they locate food, identify their friends (and enemies) and find their way back home. Just like dogs, the first thing rats do upon meeting each other is sniff their rear ends. They will know you by your smell, too, and if a stranger is holding them, don’t be surprised if they quickly jump back to someone or someplace that smells familiar.
Roof Rats are generally healthy animals, and relatively easy to care for as pets. They can mostly use the same cages, toys and other items as other small pet rodents (but don’t mix species.) They like to chew, so avoid plastic and other chewable materials where they can reach them with their teeth. They can also eat most of the same things as Norway Rats, and should do fine on pelleted rat food intended for young rats, supplemented with occasional treats for bonding and training.
Roof rats are intelligent and playful animals that become very attached to their owners. Roofy was amazing!
Young baby Roof Rats are not for everyone, as they can be high energy and skittish. Our training course will help prepare you for the joys, and challenges, of owning a baby pet roof rat. For a more laid back rat, consider adopting adult roof rats or “teenaged” Roof Rats that have already been trained and socialized by us. Or a mix of adult and babies, as the adults will show the babies how to behave themselves.