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How to prevent rat problems

Garbage and recycling totes are one tool for combatting rodent problems, but they aren't the be-all end-all, according to Peter Tripi, senior public health sanitarian for the county Department of Health.

Rats need food and shelter, and many times humans give it to them unknowingly.

There's a lot you can do to prevent rats from becoming a problem inside and outside your home. Here are some steps should you take to reduce the chances of having a rat problem, according to the county health department:

* Keep a tight lid on garbage cans at all times.

* Check your home's foundation and seal any holes.

* Don't feed your pets outside. If you have to, immediately remove any uneaten food and store the food in rat-proof containers.

* Clean up pet waste daily in and around your yard.

* Eliminate sources of water.

* Remove trash from your yard, especially keeping clean the areas under decks, behind steps or other places rats may find shelter.

* Don't let bird seed accumulate on the ground below your bird feeder. All bird feeding should be halted in any neighborhood with a rat problem.

* Keep any piles of wood or other stored materials away from walls and above ground at least 18 inches.

* Windows and doors should close tightly and basement windows should have heavy screening on them.

* Floor drains should be fastened to the floor to prevent rats from coming up through the sewer.

* Use a rodent-proof enclosure for all composting.

 The actions of one house in a neighborhood can have a large effect on whether rats make their home there, Tripi said.

"We need people to be community-minded," he said.

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