How do rats survive the winter?


Winter tends to come with a lot of surprises. When we think of the colder months, there's usually a host of great memories. We think back to gift giving and family gatherings. We might even remember house guests who really defined the celebrations that year. But winter also tends to bring in a type of guest which is both undesired and surprising. As the days grow colder, a lot of people come home to discover that they're living with rats.

Discovering that a rat has taken up residence in your home is certainly surprising. But on reflection, many people find it just as surprising that it doesn't happen more often. After all, freezing weather isn't fun even with full winter outfits on. It has to be rough on rodents who spend all of their time outdoors. This raises a question of how a rat is able to survive winters in the first place. Are their needs radically different than humans, or have they found other ways to stay safe during cold spells?

A history of two species with very similar temperature preferences

Where there's humans, there's almost always going to be rats. They've been a continual and unwanted guest throughout humanity's exploration of the world. Any ship setting out to explore would have a good chance of bringing a rat along for the ride. There's a good reason for it too. A rat tends to like the same general climate preferred by humans.

It's natural that a rat would want to join in as we spread our preferred way of living all over the world. This also leads into one of the rat's all-time favorite survival strategies. And it's the same reason why we often find rat colonies moving into our homes during the colder months. 

A rat searching for shelter amid the snow

It's important to remember just how long rat colonies have been following human trends. For example, the United States was founded almost 245 years ago. This makes it quite young when we look at the world as a whole. Now think about how many generations of rats have come of age during the time that the area was colonized.

Most people will probably guess a number in the hundreds or lower thousands. But the actual number is shockingly large. A female rat can reach maturity in ten to twelve weeks. This means that in the history of the United States there's been time for over 11,520 rat generations. That's a very long time for an animal to evolve and adapt to its environment. All of this points to one very important point about rats. They've been around humans long enough that we've essentially become a part of their habitat. Rats have evolved instinctive reactions which help them survive around humans.

A rat knows that where there's humans there's going to be both food and protection from the elements. They're also extremely good at staying hidden from sight. For example, people might assume that a rat sighting in their home means they've only just moved in. But we can think about all the other locations on a property. What areas of a home can protect against the elements?

Garages and attics might be a little chillier than the main part of a dwelling, but it's still far better than what a rat faces in nature. Even an unheated shed will provide some measure of warmth. This is even more true when we consider how a rat will display nesting tendencies. A rat can build a very cozy home for itself in areas of our hoses which we'd consider overly cold or drafty. A rat may well even take up residence in our vehicles. They're typically small enough to run through a car's ventilation.

A rat can climb through gutters, drains, and any number of different and almost invisible areas. If something has both a ceiling and ventilation, then you can bet a rat has a good chance of gaining entry. They're especially well equipped for this due to their ability to dig into the earth.

Shortcuts when a rat just has to burrow

This is the point where people tend to raise an objection. They'll usually insist that their home doesn't have any easy points of entry for rodents to climb through. Again though, it's important to remember just how long rodents have lived around humans. Their instincts are carefully honed to give them some inherent advantages.

One of the biggest tools in a rat's arsenal is their ability to burrow. If a rat were in the forest, they might try to create a small safe haven from the cold by digging underground. This burrow would then be filled up with insulation and food. But a rat has a much better option if they’re around humans. The rodents will usually try to create a burrow adjacent or underneath people's homes.

There's a lot of advantages to be had from this type of strategy. Worst case scenario, a rat instantly gains a solid and often continually warmed roof for their burrow. But the best case scenario? It's quite common for a rat to start out trying to create a burrow, but midway through the process the rodent may well discover that there's a far more tempting possibility. They might start to feel the warmth of a home. Or the rat might start to smell the resident's home cooking. But whatever the specific reason, a tempted rat will put a considerable amount of work into finding a way indoors.

All it takes is a single weak spot to give a rat their point of entry. For example, think of all the wiring and plumbing in an average home. Much of this feeds through holes within or underneath floors and walls. A rat capable of burrowing into the ground can easily just expand those holes. When they do so he now has an invisible entry point to human homes.

This is also one of the issues which makes rodent control so difficult. A rat can often get into a home through shockingly small holes. And the places they're most likely to create a hole are often the least visible to the human eye.

Putting everything together to create an effective strategy

It's also important for us to make use of humanity's biggest advantage against rodents. We're able to note trends and predict a rat's behavior in advance. We can begin to prepare for uninvited guests before the weather turns cold. Of course, it's both possible and important to deal with a rat infestation which is already progressing. But prevention is easily the most effective form of pest control. Laying out a few traps just before the weather cools down can help ensure a rat infestation never becomes a problem in the first place.

Any rodent-control solution should not only be effective, but safe for your family and pets. This is why the A24 Automatic Rat & Mouse Trap is an ideal choice for homes. The trap is non-toxic and safe for use indoors or outdoors.  The trap is not only effective at trapping rats, but humane as well.

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