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Roof Rat vs. Norway Rat: What’s The Difference?

Posted on March 23, 2023

Estimated Reading Time : 4 Min.

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Roof Rat vs. Norway Rat: What’s The Difference?

Do you know the difference between a roof rat and a Norway rat? While both fall under the rodent category, it’s important to distinguish between the two to correctly identify and address any rat problem your home may have. From physical differences to dietary habits, understanding the unique characteristics of each rat can help you take the necessary steps to prevent and control an infestation.

That is what we’ll cover in this very article. We’ll explore the differences between Norway rats and roof rats and provide you with the knowledge you need to keep your home free from a rat infestation.

What Are Roof Rats? 

Roof rats
Roof Rats

Roof rats, also known as black rats or ship rats, are a type of rodent found all over the world. They have earned their name because they prefer to live in high places like the roof or attic of a building, particularly in urban environments. Roof rats have slender and agile physiques and are known to have smooth black fur.

What Is A Norway Rat?

Norway rat
Norway Rat

A Norway rat, also known as a brown rat, is a common species of rodent found in urban and rural areas worldwide. They are larger than roof rats, with a stocky and robust build. 

Norway rats are named after the country where they were first classified as a distinct rat species in the late 18th century. They are also known as brown, common, or sewer rats. Despite their name, Norway rats are not exclusive to Norway and are found around the world. 

Comparing Roof Rats vs. Norway Rats

Now that you are familiar with both of these rat species, let us delve further into the topic and compare the differences between them so that you can get the necessary help and keep your home pest-free. Below we’ve provided some of the critical parameters that differentiate a Norway rat from a roof rat. 


Color is usually one of the significant factors that will help you differentiate between various pests. In this case, both rat species have dense fur that helps regulate their body temperature, but the texture and color of their fur can be used as one way to distinguish between the two species. 

Roof rats have smooth fur that is typically black or dark brown, while Norway rats have fur that is usually brown or brownish-gray in color and is coarser in texture than that of roof rats. 


Norway rats are larger and heavier than roof rats. Adult Norway rats typically weigh between 12 to 16 ounces and can grow up to 10 inches in length, not including their tails. In contrast, roof rats are smaller and lighter, with adult roof rats weighing between 5 to 9 ounces, and growing up to 8 inches in length, not including their tails.

In terms of their tails, both species have tails that are longer than their bodies, but the shape of their body differs. Roof rats have slender, longer tails that are uniformly thin, while Norway rats have shorter and thicker tails that are slightly scaly in appearance.

These physical differences in size, weight, and other features can be helpful in identifying which species of rat you may be dealing with during an infestation.

Behavior And Habits

Understanding the preferred habitats and behavioral patterns of each species can be helpful in determining where to focus prevention and control efforts in case of an infestation.

Both Norway rats and roof rats infest your home in different ways, so their behavior is a crucial factor that can help you correctly identify these two common rat species. 

Living Habits and Nesting Areas

Roof rats tend to live in higher elevations, such as attics, roofs, trees, and dense vegetation. They are great climbers and agile jumpers and can crawl into buildings through openings as small as 1/2 inch. They can cause damage to your power and utility lines as well. 

On the other hand, Norway rats are the complete opposite, as these rodents focus more on a building’s foundations than the roof. They are low-lying rodents and tend to create complex underground systems. They typically inhabit lower levels of buildings, such as basements, sewers, and ground floors, hence their other name, sewer rat. 

These rats like to live in the burrow they make. So if you find caves or holes near your home or lawns, then it is likely that there is a Norway rat infestation. 

Climate Preferences

Roof rats prefer warmer climates, typically found in coastal and southern regions of America. 

Norway rats, on the other hand, are more adaptable to a wider range of climates and are found in temperate and colder regions. They are common in urban and suburban areas throughout the United States.

Diseases Associated With Roof Rats And Norway Rats 

In the above section, we addressed the significant differences between roof rats and Norway rats. Look for these differences so that you can get the right treatment immediately. Despite their differences, both these pests have one thing in common, they are known to transmit disease and cause health problems. 

Rodents can carry diseases that are easily transmitted to humans through contact with their feces, urine, and saliva. In addition to carrying diseases, rat infestations can also pose health risks. Rats can contaminate food and water sources, leading to the spread of bacteria and other pathogens. 

Roof rat vs norway rat

We Can Take Care Of Your Pest Problems

Notice signs of rodents or another form of pest infestation? If yes, then it is best to get in touch with a professional pest control company so that you can stop these annoying pests early and protect your property from further damage. 
Jamison Pest and Lawn can handle all of your rodent problems and help you get your property back to its original condition. We are the best when it comes to rodent control services in Tennessee. Be it a roof rat or Norway rat infestation, we are the experts in assessing them. All you need to do is contact us at (901) 452-1505, and our experts will get in touch with you.

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