As temperatures drop, mice, rats, and other rodents can seek refuge in the warmest recesses of your home. Not only can these pests ruin your food and spook you by jumping out of dark corners, they can also carry serious illnesses that could make us sick like salmonella and hantavirus. What can you do to keep your home rodent-free this winter? Read on for valuable tips and advice.

Remove Access to Food

Rodents can handle some extreme conditions, which means one of the main reasons they’ll put down roots in a home (versus a barn, garage, or somewhere with less traffic) is because of the easy access to food. Cardboard boxes or bags can be a welcome sight to rodents, whose sharp teeth can allow them to chew through just about anything to get to the food inside.

One of the quickest and most effective ways to make your home less inviting to rodents is to secure your food. Items that are kept in cans, glass, or thick plastic containers are generally rodent-safe, while pantry items in bags or boxes could be at risk. Investing in some food storage containers (or even securing your cereal and granola bars in a large plastic tub for a few months) can go a long way toward sending your local rodents elsewhere.

If your garbage can doesn’t have a lid, it’s a good idea to get one (or take the trash out each evening) so that any food scraps don’t provide a midnight buffet. And don’t forget about your pet food—dog and cat food can be a tasty treat for rats and mice. If you feed your pets dry food, put it in a plastic tub or container first; you can even use a clean kitty litter pail. Avoid leaving pet food out overnight until your rodents have been eradicated.

Identify and Block Entry Points

Once you’ve removed the temptation of food, the next step toward protecting your home from mice and rats involves a little detective work. Mice can easily fit through a hole the size of a dime, while rats can fit through a hole the size of a quarter, so even the tiniest breach in your siding, weatherstripping, or foundation can create a veritable rodent highway. A home exclusion to seal pests and rodents out is a perfect solution. Give the outside and inside of your house a good inspection, sealing any cracks or holes you discover. Pay special attention to where utilities enter your house, as mice and rats can easily slip alongside electrical wires or a water supply line.

If you get heat from a wood-burning stove or pellet stove, be sure to keep your wood in a dry place at least 20 feet from your home. Woodpiles can be an attractive hiding spot for rodents, so the farther it is from your house, the longer these pests will have to travel to get into your home.

Finally, keep an eye out for any water leaks. Rodents need a steady supply of water in addition to food, so a leaky bathroom faucet or a water leak in your basement can serve as a source of fresh water that draws rodents in.

Get Help From a Pest Control Company

If you see even one mouse or rat in your home, there are likely a dozen more hiding. And because rodents are smart creatures with a very short breeding cycle, to truly get rid of a rodent infestation, you’ll often need the services of a pest control professional. The earlier you get started, the less rodent damage you’ll experience, and you’ll be able to take one big worry off your plate as you head into the holiday season. Call the pest control and rodent extermination experts at Life After Bugs to schedule all-in-one rodent trapping exclusion service.