A few weeks ago, while my husband and I were sitting on our lanai having dinner with a friend, she suddenly screamed, “A rat!” I looked up and saw what looked like an overgrown mouse running along the top of the outdoor wall that lines our perimeter. We saw a few more that night, and I continued to see them in the days that followed.

Fortunately, we would only see them outside. They’d run along the outer wall and up the trunks of the trees in and around our yard before disappearing into the palms. After talking with some neighbors and our pest specialist, we figured out that they were roof rats, which are known for their climbing abilities.


We needed to get rid of them. Besides the damage they could cause, rats also are known for transmitting parasites and diseases. Plus, if rats are spotted outside of your home, it’s only a matter of time before they venture indoors.


Our pest specialist recommended using rodenticides to deal with the problem. It would take several days before they ate the bait, but eventually, it would do the trick. If you go this route, remember to consult a professional first, especially if you have pets that could accidentally ingest the poison. Aside from the poison, he suggested doing what we could around the home and yard to keep them from coming back:

Stop feeding them

Rats are attracted to regular food sources. Keep tight-fitting lids on garbage containers, and try to avoid putting food in them until immediately before pickup. Keep dog or cat food in tight containers, and don’t leave it out all day for your pet to graze.

Take away their homes


Roof rats live off the ground and in the trees in and around properties. Thinning the palms and keeping up with removing dead fronds is key. While you’re cleaning, trim away any limbs or fronds that hang within three feet of the roof. The University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) also recommends thinning out or getting rid of climbing hedges and dense vegetation like English ivy and honeysuckle.

Block them out

UC IPM recommends sealing any holes larger than 1/4 inch in diameter. This includes cracks and openings in building foundations and also openings for pipes, wires and vents. Replace screens around doors and windows if they don’t fit tightly. Remember that roof rats like to climb, so check areas above ground level and especially any access points from the roof. Contact a professional for help with this.

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.