Richmond, Virginia, received some bad news recently as CBS News named it the 28th most rat-infested city in the U.S.

According to the article, “in the first nine months of 2021, residents of a 783-unit public-housing complex in Richmond called in 323 work-order requests for pests. The mice and rat problem was so bad, the Richmond News reported, one resident called a crisis hotline.”

But we’re now in the thick of winter, so there’s not much to worry about, right?

Think again, because if you believe rats hibernate, then you’re in for a shocking surprise. When the mercury on the thermometer starts to plunge, rats seek food and shelter indoors. These rodents then stay active throughout the winter – hiding in your basement, attic, garage, and numerous other places.

Why Rats Pick Your Home Instead of Your Neighbors’

Rodents are warm-blooded creatures – mammals – which means they need to stay warm to survive. They also need food, which becomes scarcer in the winter. Combine these two issues – a need for warm shelter and a need for food – and it’s easy to see why rats might check in to your home for the winter.

But there are plenty of homes in the neighborhood, so why yours? Rats search for the most hospitable environment, and if your home is more attractive than the house across the street, well, guess who is going to see a rat invasion this winter. So, what makes your home more attractive than others to rats?

  • Your home is messy, and you often leave out food and don’t immediately clean spills.
  • The exterior of your home includes woodpiles, leaf piles, shrubs, and/or debris – all of which provide wonderful shelters for rats.
  • Your pet’s 20-pound bag of food is easily accessible.
  • Your home has leaky plumbing, giving rats easy access to water.

How to Keep Rats Away This Winter

If you remove the things that attract rats to your home, then these pests will move on to a house that is more welcoming. Specifically, follow the 12 tips below.

  1. Clean your home regularly and give special attention to the kitchen by cleaning underneath the refrigerator, stove, and toaster.
  2. Thoroughly inspect the exterior of your home and plug any holes that are larger than ¼ inch.
  3. Trim any tree limbs that give rats access to the upper areas of your home, including the roof.
  4. Cut back ivy or other climbing vines from the side of your house, as these plants serve as ladders that rats can climb on.
  5. Make sure the lids on your trashcans are secured tightly to help prevent rats from accessing your garbage – which make for a delicious rat family meal.
  6. Clear out the remains of your fall garden and pick up any decaying fruit or nuts that may have fallen in your yard. If you compost, you’ll want to invest in a rat-proof compost bin, rather than leaving compost out in the open.
  7. Maintain a clean yard that’s free of fallen limbs, leaf piles, and/or debris.
  8. Stack firewood far away from your home, and only keep as much as you need on your property.
  9. Store dry goods and pet food in containers made of metal or glass.
  10. Don’t leave out food, including bread.
  11. Feed your pets inside the house and keep their water bowls indoors. You should also keep litter boxes clean and pick up any pet feces from your yard.
  12. Fix leaky outdoor faucets to cut off water supplies.

Rat Signs and What to Do About Them

While no one wants to find a rat in their home, following the above advice will minimize the chance you ever will. If you discover you do have rats – telltale signs are oily rub marks left in places where rats travel along walls; gnaw marks on wood around the house; tooth marks about ⅛-inch long; rat droppings around food packages, in drawers or cupboards, and under the sink; nesting material such as shredded paper, fabric, or dried plant matter; and signs of chewing on food packaging – then it’s time to contact a company that provides professional rat control services, such as Eco Pest Control. A trained technician can inspect your home for these pests and help you set up a customized prevention plan.