If you think rats hibernate, you’re in for a big surprise.

rat in tree

When the mercury on the thermometer starts to plunge, rats may seek food and shelter indoors. These rodents stay active throughout the winter. And if the conditions in your home are hospitable, they may very well decide to move their activities inside your house.

Do what you can to nip this potential problem in the bud. Learn what attracts these rodents to your home and how to help get rid of rats this winter.

What Attracts Rats to Your Home?

Rodents are mammals, meaning they need to maintain a warm body temperature to survive. Couple that with the fact that harsh winter months mean there are fewer food sources readily available, and you can see why rats might decide to call your house “home” when it gets cold out.

There are other factors that can attract rats to your house, too. These include:

  • A messy home, especially if you leave food out or don’t clean up spills immediately after they happen
  • Areas that provide shelter, such as woodpiles, leaf piles, shrubs or debris
  • Pet food or excrement
  • Easy access to food and water (Rats are opportunistic when it comes to food, meaning they’ll climb into trash cans and compost heaps for meals.)
  • Ways to enter your home

How to Keep Rats Away From Your House

When you’re trying to figure out how to keep rats away, it helps to think of what a rat would need to survive. The best rat deterrent is removing any factors that offer these rodents food or shelter. Here are several ways to help do just that:

  • If you live in a warmer climate, fix leaky outdoor faucets to cut off water supplies.
  • Inspect your home and plug up any holes that are larger than a ¼ inch.
  • Keep tree limbs trimmed so that rats aren’t able to climb into the upper areas of your home. Additionally, you’ll want to cut back ivy or other climbing vines from the side of your house.
  • Clean your home regularly, paying special attention to the kitchen. Don’t forget to sweep up your floor and to check easy-to-forget areas, including under the toaster and by the base of your fridge, oven and trash can.
  • Store dry goods and pet food in containers made of metal or glass. And remember not to leave food out. (This goes for bread, too. Put that loaf in the fridge or a breadbox.)
  • 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.
  • Make sure the lids on your trashcans are secured tightly to help prevent rats from accessing the contents.
  • Clear out the remains of your summer or 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.
  • Maintain a clean yard that’s free of fallen limbs, leaf piles or debris.
  • Stack firewood far away from your home, and only keep as much as you need on your property.

While the thought of discovering a rat in your house may be enough to make you want to move, you do have options. The first step is knowing what attracts rats and then figuring out how to keep them away. The second is contacting a company that provides professional rodent control services, like Terminix®. A trained technician can inspect your home for these animals and help you set up a customized prevention plan.