Preparing for cold weather? Rodents are too! 

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As the weather starts to turn, many people start to spend more time indoors. That’s not only true for humans, but also for rats and mice. They’re looking for a place to stay that’s warm, dry, and close to food sources. So, as you’re preparing for winter, take steps now to keep them out of your home. 

Seal up cracks and holes 

The most important thing to do is make sure rats and mice can’t get in your home. Seal up any cracks or holes they might be squeezing through. Mice can fit through holes the size of a dime, while rats can fit through holes the size of a quarter.  

Inspect your home and fill any openings larger than ¼-inch. Seal cracks in walls or foundations with wire mesh. It’s common to find gaps where pipes enter your home – fill these with wire mesh and caulk. If you have a chimney, get a chimney cap. You may want to hire a professional to do this work. 

Eliminate food sources – inside & out 

Food can attract rodents, both inside and outside your home. Inside, keep food off the floor and store it in rodent-proof containers. Outside, it’s easy to forget that many things can attract rodents – including birdfeeders, pet food, fruit trees, garbage, and compost. Once they’ve come for the food outside, they may explore ways to get inside.  

Follow the steps below to avoid providing food to rodents outside your home.  


Anything a squirrel can do, a rat can do better. This includes climbing birdfeeders to steal food. If you know rodents are nearby, it’s best to refrain from feeding birds and other wildlife.  

Pet food 

Pet food has all the nutrients rats need to survive. Avoid feeding your pets outside. Bagged pet food should be stored in rodent proof containers, such as metal or heavy-duty plastic containers. Be sure to pick up your pet’s waste regularly too – that can also be a food source for rodents! 

Fruit trees and berry bushes 

Fruit is a great food source for rats. If you have fruit trees, but aren’t eating the fruit, regularly prune and trim your tree. Be sure to pick up fallen fruit immediately.  

Compost and food waste  

Many gardeners like to compost grass clippings and kitchen waste. There are a few things you can do to ensure rodents don’t use compost as a food source: 

  • Choose a compost bin that closes and doesn’t have any openings larger than ¼ inch, such as an in-ground composter. 
  • Avoid adding meat, dairy, and fish to your home compost. 
  • Ensure you don’t leave food scraps on the ground. 

If you have a curbside compost service, keep your containers clean.  Replace the lids if they become damaged.  

Remove hiding and nesting places 

Rodents like to nest in dark areas that are warm and dry. In your yard, this can include overgrown vegetation, piles of yard waste, stacks of firewood, and compost bins. 


Trim vegetation back so it’s not against the side of your house. This prevents rodents from using it as a ladder to gain access to your house. Remove dead plants from your garden and make sure it’s not overgrown. Also consider covering your garden for the winter. 

Yard waste 

Piles of yard waste and leaves give rodents a space to burrow and live. Stay on top of raking, and properly dispose of yard waste. 


Firewood can be a great shelter for rodents. If you use firewood in the winter, store it outdoors and away from the sides of your home. Keep it off the ground using concrete blocks, bricks, or firewood grates. This makes it easier to inspect and less likely rodents will nest there. 

Where to learn more about getting rid of rodents 

For more information, visit our How to get rid of rats and mice webpage (in-language resources available). If you live in Seattle, you can report rodents to public health by calling 206-263-8450 or filing a report online at Environmental Health’s online services portal (this webpage is in English only). At this time, our rat response program is funded by the City of Seattle and is limited to city residents. If you live outside of Seattle, please contact your city with any rat complaints.  

Originally published 10/24/2023