Aw, Rats! How COVID-19 Could Make Your Home a Target for Rodents


Call it the law of unintended consequences. As a result of the COVID-19 quarantine, residents of many large cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, and New York have reported swarms of rats.

The connection? Because many restaurants are closed entirely, with others open only for takeout, there’s far less food waste in the cities’ dumpsters and alleyways. That’s sent rodents scurrying into the streets looking for food, and it is even happening in the suburbs.

As Jim Fredericks of the National Pest Management Association told the Chicago Tribune, “Homeowners should use some of their extra time at home to look for any potential entry points, and shove a steel wool pad in any holes larger than a quarter: a quarter-sized hole is all a rat needs to squeeze inside, while mice only need a dime-sized hole.”

rodent control
An empty street in New Orleans’ French Quarter

Resourceful Rodents

Rats are resourceful. When they can’t find food in their usual spots, common rodents will look elsewhere until they find it. Wherever restaurants are closed and dumpsters are devoid of tasty trash, rats will search for new sources of food – including inside your home.

If there’s a way to get into your house through a narrow opening, such as a doorway or window, rats can find it. Plus, they multiply quickly. A female rat can give birth to up to a dozen babies every three weeks.

On top of the “ick” factor, rats are bad news. These household pests can pose a threat to your health and safety. Rats spread a number of diseases and like to chomp on cords and wires, which can cause electrical damage or fires.

Taking Precautions

Normally, rodent “season” – when customers most often call rodent control services – occurs in late autumn, when temperatures drop and rodents seek shelter and warmth in homes and buildings. But you might want to take a few precautions now, especially if you live in close proximity to a restaurant. Remember, keeping rats away now is easier than getting rid of rats later.

Even if you’re not worried about rats, consider tackling this list of chores for general pest prevention while you’re at home:

  • Secure the outside of your home. Inspect all of your outer walls to look for any gaps, but don’t stop there. Check any building on your property that could serve as a haven for rodents: garages, sheds, closed patios, and sunrooms. Find and seal cracks in the walls, foundations, and roofing. Fill gaps with steel wool and expanding foam, or block them with hardware cloth. Seal cracks and crevices with caulk. Install door sweeps or weather stripping to prevent rodents from entering – especially around your garage door.
  • Check your vents. They’re designed to let cool, dry air into your home, especially into your attic and roof. Make sure they’re not letting rats in, too. Protect all of your open-air vents with screens and proper sealing so that no rodents can squirm their way in.
  • Protect your pipes. Eliminate sources of water, such as leaky pipes or clogged drains. If your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system or any other drainage system in your home use pipes that exit outdoors, make sure that those pipes are properly protected.
  • Remove any temptations that might make your home more attractive to rodents. Store pet food or birdseed in a metal or plastic bin, and remember to pick up pet food bowls at night. After meals or snacks, immediately pack leftover food in sealed containers. Keep trash cans tightly sealed, because smells can attract rodents. Move larger piles of trash to a waste disposal site quickly, and clean up thoroughly after outdoor play or picnics. Remember to keep your pantry closed at all times, and consider purchasing bins and containers to store flour, sugar, and other ingredients, rather than leaving them in their original bags.
  • Eliminate hiding places. Store firewood at least 20 feet away from your home. Remove weeds and debris and keep shrubbery and tree branches trimmed. Seal off pool heating equipment, as it is very common for rodents to make nests there. Store boxes and containers in your attic and basement a few inches above the ground. The best form of rodent control is to remove anything that gives rats food or a place to hide.

    household pests
    A rat prowls for food on a kitchen counter

Signs of a Rat Infestation

Think there’s a chance that your home already has a few unwelcome inhabitants? Look for these signs that rodents have taken up residence:

  • Rodent droppings near pet food, in cupboards, drawers, or in your attic or basement.
  • Signs of nibbling or chewing of food boxes, plastic bags, or containers.
  • A stale or pungent odor – a common sign that rodents are present.

If you notice any of these signs or suspect that you have a rodent infestation, it’s best to call a pest professional to assist you with rodent control. As always, HomeTeam is happy to help, and we are committed to providing exceptional service. Visit or call 855-855-4873 to schedule an appointment.

Schedule Service Now

Start protecting your home today. Enter your zip code to find the HomeTeam location servicing your area.


Sign up for our e-newsletters for helpful tips, discounts, and promotions!

What is Taexx?

*Installation method is customized to construction types, and may vary.

Visit the full HomeTeam Pest Defense Video Library»

Schedule a Service

Picture of a HomeTeam Pest Defense Service Vehicle

Schedule an appointment today. Enter your zip code to find the HomeTeam location servicing your area.


Would you like to call 844.372.7552?


Would you like to call 844.372.7553?


Would you like to call 844.372.7558?


Would you like to call 520-462-9743?


Would you like to call 844-574-1560?


Would you like to call 844-372-7552?


Location Finder

  • Get a free Termite brochure

    All Fields Are Required