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Home > General > Rats in Hawaii: Types, Facts & Tips for Homeowners

Rats in Hawaii: Types, Facts & Tips for Homeowners

rats playing

Unfortunately, Hawaii has a rat problem. They live underground in lava tube caves and endanger the state’s important agriculture. They cause damage to seed sources and wreak havoc on the insects that are necessary for effective gardening. They can also harbor many diseases that can be passed on to humans. There are four types of rodents that flourish in Hawaii. Here’s what you should know about them.


The 4 Types of Rats in Hawaii

1. The Roof Rat

rats eating
Image Credit: Piqsels
Species Name Rattus rattus
Size 8 inches
Natural Environment Tree canopies, shrubs, grassy areas

Roof rats are nocturnal animals that tend to come out at night for food and nest building. They prefer to live in fields and forests where they can scale to the treetops and hide inside thick shrubs. They are not generally seen during daytime hours unless there is a high concentration of them and competition for things like habitats and food is scarce.

These rats can get into homes and cause damage while there. They will chew through wires, pillage the kitchen, and leave droppings all over the place. They are excellent climbers, so it is common to see rat nests in trees and on power poles. Roof rats are also referred to as black rats due to their appearance.

2. The Norway Rat

Species Name Rattus norvegicus
Size 16 inches
Natural Environment Open fields, sewers, interior buildings

The Norway rat is large for a rodent, being 16 inches long when fully grown. They originally lived in forests and away from humans, but today, they prefer living in human dwellings whenever possible because food tends to be abundant. These rats have dense fur coverage, but their tail and ears are typically bald.

Native to Northern China, Norway rats were introduced to places like the United States in the 18th century when international trade began to boom. They can live in a wide variety of places, including open fields, forested areas, sewage systems, and even commercial and residential buildings.

3. The Polynesian Rat

Species Name Rattus exulsans
Size 4.7 inches
Natural Environment Grasslands, forests, cities

Originally from Southeast Asia, the Polynesian rat has been distributed throughout most of the Pacific, including Hawaii. They got to Hawaii on Polynesian canoes, along with dogs, pigs, and chickens. These rats can’t swim well but they are great at climbing trees. While they can live fine in nature, they tend to gravitate toward human dwellings, where food sources are easy to come by.

These animals prefer low elevations, so they may be seen scurrying around beach areas where tourists frequent. Polynesian rats can birth up to four babies per litter and can have several litters each year. They have a short lifespan of about a year but can do serious damage to a dwelling in that amount of time.

4. The Field Mouse

Field Mouse
Image Credit: Pixabay
Species Name Mus musculus
Size 3.5 inches
Natural Environment Grasslands, forests, structures

Field mice are smaller than the other types of rodents that are common in Hawaii, but they are just as big of a problem. They are not technically rats, but these rodents live in the same types of areas as rats do, and they also typically look for human dwellings to inhabit when possible.

These are fast and sneaky animals, so hearing them is much more likely than seeing them. Droppings are the clearest indication that a field mouse has been hanging out inside your home. Sometimes the mice will chew electrical wires and cause damage inside the walls, so it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of their presence.


How to Get Rid of Unwanted Rodents

You can set up rat traps in areas of your home where signs of these rodents are present. Humane traps are a great option, as they will not kill the rat but will restrain it in a container until you can take the container outdoors and let the rat go free. Poison and snap traps are other options, but these can result in suffering for the animal that you simply want out of your home.

If you prefer a hands-off option, you can have a pest control specialist treat your home and property for rats so you don’t have to worry about how to get rid of them yourself. Keep in mind that rodents can live in the lava tubes under the ground, so it’s almost impossible to keep them away for good. You may have to schedule an appointment with a pest control specialist at least once a year.



Rats are more than just a nuisance in Hawaii. They spread disease and can overrun a space if left alone. With four different kinds of rodents to deal with, it’s common for households to have a rat or mouse problem at one time or another. Rats are also commonly seen scurrying about in public areas, especially parks.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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