During the cold winter months, many Maryland homeowners may encounter some of the most dreaded household pests: rats. Not only are these rodents creepy in appearance, but they are also known for carrying a number of diseases, such as murine typhus, leptospirosis, and salmonellosis, that can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

When it comes to preventing and getting rid of rats, it is important to be aware of what attracts them in the first place. Being armed with the knowledge of what attracts these critters will give you the best chance of preventing rats from making themselves at home in your home this winter.

1. Open Food Bins

Rats are attracted to food and water like all living creatures, so open food bins will be an open invitation to come inside. To prevent rats from entering and hanging around your home, use airtight containers that seal out air and odors. Use these containers for any open boxes in your pantry, including cereals, sugar, flour, and other staples.

2. Unsealed Garbage

Likewise, trash filled with food scraps that emit strong odors will also be a magnet for rats to your Maryland home. This applies to garbage cans both inside and outside of your home, as rats can still make their way inside if they smell rotting garbage through the walls. To prevent this from happening, purchase a kitchen garbage can with a lid that seals tightly. You should also be sure to keep any outside trash cans closed and a safe distance away from your house for the best chance of preventing rats and other pests.

3. Warmth and Shelter

During the cold months, winter rats will typically seek warmth and shelter inside of homes and buildings. While rats are active throughout the year and can be seen in any weather, you are most likely to see them when the temperatures drop. To prevent them from getting cozy in your home, take the proper preventative measures to keep these pests away, such as sealing entry points.

4. Standing Water

Standing water in bird baths, fountains, and clogged gutters make for great attractants for rats and other pests. Additionally, any flooding or puddles on your property can also attract rats, so be sure to maintain your landscaping and regularly clean your gutters to prevent these pests from hanging around.

5. Leaves and Yard Waste

Piles of leaves provide warmth and shelter for rats living on your property, especially during the cold fall and winter months. To prevent these critters from sticking around, it is always a good idea to remove any piles of leaves and yard waste on your property. Do this throughout the fall to prevent rats in your Maryland home during the winter.

6. Compost

If you practice composting, be sure to keep your compost bin far away from your house, and make sure to properly seal the bin to prevent rats from getting in. You should also avoid composting any strong-smelling foods that rats are known to love, such as meats, cheese, and animal fats.

7. Pet Waste

Rats are known to feast on pet waste, which is why pet owners are often more likely to deal with these pests. If you have a cat, stay on top of litter box cleanings to prevent rodents from hanging around. If you’re a dog owner, pick up your dog’s poop in your yard daily and dispose of it in a sealed garbage can away from the house.

8. Nesting Materials

Rats use materials such as shredded paper, tissues, insulation, and cardboard to build their nests, and they will find these items around your home to do so. To prevent rats, regularly clean your home and get rid of anything that could help these critters build their nests, such as stacks of old newspapers and overflowing garbage cans.

9. Indoor Plants

Indoor plants provide warmth and shelter for rats, which is why it is important to be vigilant if you have a lot of houseplants. A good rule of thumb as a plant owner is to regularly trim and prune your plants to prevent them from becoming overgrown and ensure your plants are draining properly to prevent standing water that can attract rats.

How to Prevent Rats from Entering Your Home

Finding rats in your Maryland home can be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By understanding what attracts rats and getting rid of these attractants, you’re already well on your way to creating a pest-free home. Additional rat prevention tips include:

  • Sealing cracks and crevices in your home
  • Maintaining a clean and tidy yard
  • Eliminating food and water sources
  • Cleaning up trash and clutter
  • Sealing food and waste in airtight containers/receptacles
  • Removing pet waste daily

Signs It’s Time to Call an Exterminator

If you’re dealing with rats and mouse traps that aren’t working, then it’s time to call an exterminator. Contacting an experienced pest control professional is your best bet for taking care of an infestation before it gets out of hand and avoiding potential diseases.


What diseases do rats carry?

Rats are known to be some of the dirtiest animals and carry a number of diseases, including plague, salmonella, hantavirus, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. Because of this, it is imperative to take the necessary steps to prevent a rat infestation from happening and contact an exterminator if you suspect these pests are already in your home.

How can I tell if I have a rat infestation?

Some of the biggest signs of a rat infestation include:

  • Rat droppings around your home
  • Noises from inside the walls
  • Gnaw marks on food packaging
  • Burrows or holes around the house

Can I get rid of rats without using chemicals?

While a professional exterminator will be able to recommend the best course of action to get rid of a rat infestation, there are several chemical-free methods you could try. Setting up traps may be effective in getting rid of rats, as well as the use of essential oils these pests are known to hate the smell of, such as peppermint oil.