Between December 2007 and March 2009, small mammals were captured in 6 Atlantic Forest patches in Brazil. We assessed tick-host associations and whether they differ among forest strata, sites, seasons, and host age classes or between sexes. Moreover, we assessed the exposure of animals to Rickettsia spp. In total, 432 animals were captured and 808 ticks were found on 32·9% of them. Significant differences were found among host species, collection sites, and forest strata; microhabitat preference was a strong risk factor for tick infestation. The highest tick density rates were recorded in forest fragments settled in rural areas; 91·3% of the ticks were collected from animals trapped in these forest fragments. A high prevalence (68·8%) of antibodies to Rickettsia spp. was detected among animals. This study suggests that disturbed Atlantic Forest fragments provide an environment for ticks and small mammals, which are highly exposed to rickettsiae. It also indicates that forest patches settled in rural areas are usually associated with higher small mammal diversity as well as with higher tick density rates.