As the cold weather of winter sets in, most of us are preparing for the busy holiday season. What we often don’t realize is that pests are busy preparing for winter, as well. These overwintering pests make their way into our homes in search of shelter during the harsh winter months. One of the most common overwintering pests are rats. Rats often enter our homes unnoticed and hide out in attics, basements, and crawlspaces. Besides being a nuisance, rats can also carry serious diseases like Salmonella. They can chew through wooden structures and electrical wires, causing significant damage to your home.

Prevention is key to keeping these overwintering pests out of your home. Here are 15 tips for keeping rats out of your home this winter.

  1. Keep food, including pet food, sealed in airtight containers.
  2. Take the trash out regularly and use cans with locking lids.
  3. Clean up spills and crumbs immediately.
  4. Vacuum regularly.
  5. If you have to leave dirty dishes out overnight, leave them in a sink full of water instead of out on the counter.
  6. Don’t leave pet food and water bowls out overnight. Bring in birdseed from feeders at night, as well.
  7. Keep attics and garages cleaned and organized. Use plastic storage when possible and store them off the ground.
  8. Get rid of any standing water on your property. Check for leaky pipes and faucets and repair them.
  9. Inspect your exterior walls for holes, cracks and rotten wood and seal and repair them.
  10. Repair any torn window and door screens and use weatherstripping and door sweeps.
  11. Use screens on chimney vents.
  12. Declutter your yard to eliminate hiding places for pests.
  13. Keep your grass mowed and keep tree branches and shrubbery trimmed away from the sides of your house and your roof.
  14. Store firewood away from the house and elevate it off the ground if possible.
  15. If you suspect you have a rat problem, call a pest control professional who can help you identify the source of the problem and provide you with a treatment and prevention plan for your situation.