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Unwanted house guests: Prepare for rats this fall and winter

Photo: Surprise Truck/Creative Commons

SPONSORED — Unless you’re Cinderella, chances are you’ve never counted a rat among your friends. The long-tailed rodents are infamous for causing extensive — and expensive — damage to the home, from grinding through your insulation, floor joists and walls to causing fires by chewing through electrical cables.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s website lists nearly a dozen diseases directly linked to rats, including hantavirus, salmonellosis and even plague.

As winter approaches, rats will be on the lookout for shelter and food. Keeping them out of your home will take some effort.

“Rats are around your home for three basic needs: food, water and shelter,” said Randy Schilling of Eden Pest, which serves the Pacific Northwest with various locations in Washington and Oregon. “So every homeowner’s goal should be to reduce their risk by reducing resources.”

Before the weather turns colder, be proactive about kicking rats to the curb.

Recognize the signs

If you have a rat infestation, you’ll likely know it. Schilling warns you don’t have to see a long tail to recognize the problem.

“As nocturnal creatures, rats are most active between dusk and dawn and usually hide from humans during the day,” Schilling said. “It is often easier to spot signs of a problem, rather than the actual pest.”

Those signs include rat droppings, usually found in concentrated areas, which appear like a dark, large grain of rice. You might also hear scratching noises on your roof, under floorboards or even between walls. You’ll also quickly notice any damage caused by the rats, such as wood or electrical cables that have been gnawed on. Rats also tend to build nests in warm, hidden places close to food sources. Check beneath kitchen appliances for nests made from shredded newspaper, fabric and other collected debris.

Batten the hatches

Safeguarding your home against a rat infestation means cutting off their access points. While you might think your home is secure, it doesn’t take a large breach for one rat (or 37) to burrow inside. suggests securing areas most likely vulnerable to rats.

The website suggests installing door sweeps on exterior doors and repairing any damaged screens, screening vents and chimney openings, and sealing cracks and holes on the outside of the home — like those where utility lines and pipes enter the home — using caulk, copper mesh, or both. Unfortunately, often times rats will burrow down below your home’s foundation, making it difficult to find their point of entry.

Tidy up outside

When it comes to preventing unwanted guests, spring cleaning has nothing on winter tidying. The less clutter you have in and around the house, the fewer places rats can hide, burrow and nibble the winter away. Keep outdoor garbage cans secure with tightly fitting lids and store them away from your home. Clean up any debris in and around the yard and garden; if you have a compost heap, keep in mind that organic food waste is likely to attract rats.

Keep a lid on it

Your pantry might seem pretty boring to you, but it’s a gold mine for rats. Instead of keeping food in open or easily breached boxes or bags, store all food in metal or glass containers with securely fitting lids. Clean up any spilled crumbs immediately, and make a point to regularly vacuum or sweep up pantry and kitchen floors. If you keep pet food in the pantry or garage, make sure it’s in a secure container and, preferably, stored above ground level.

Call for backup

Eradicating rats can be difficult, and despite your efforts sometimes the most efficient strategy is to hire a professional. If you continue to see rat droppings or home damage despite your best preventive measures, it might be time to call an experienced pest control expert, skilled at eliminating rodent infestations.

These professionals can trap and remove rats with little effort required from the homeowner. Once you’ve resolved the rat problem, your pest control officer will advise you on how best to keep your home rat-free.


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