How to Keep Rodents Away from Your Home & Neighborhood

News Release

Cut Off Food and Shelter: Store Garbage Properly & Keep Property Free of Debris
The Allegheny County Health Department is offering residents information and advice on how to combat rodent problems in and around their homes.

“We tend to get more rodent complaints this time of year, because people spend more time outdoors and may notice rodent activity in their yards and neighborhoods,” said Health Director Dr. Bruce W. Dixon.
The first step to avoiding a rodent problem is to maintain your own property and be sure it’s not providing rats with the food and shelter they need to survive. If other properties are littered with garbage and debris, report the conditions to the Health Department so the owners can be cited and ordered to clean up.
Complaints can be reported by contacting the Health Department at 412-687-ACHD or
Health officials recommend the following tips to prevent rodent problems:

  • Store garbage properly, since it accounts for 80% of a rat’s diet.
  • Drain moisture out of your garbage before placing it in plastic bags.  This will reduce odors, cut down on the breeding of flies and limit spills during handling and removal.

Use a kitchen garbage can with a lid and a plastic liner.

In addition to the kitchen garbage can, store garbage in at least one 30-35 gallon container with a tight-fitting lid for every two people in the household.  Use bungee cords or rope to tie down loose-fitting lids.

Don’t leave plastic bags containing garbage and awaiting pickup outside, on the porch or in the garage overnight.  Rats are most active at night and move in once they find a steady source of food.  You may not notice the small holes they chew in the bags until it’s too late.
Clean the garbage storage area after each collection and frequently wash your cans.

Don’t let dog food sit out for more than an hour after feeding time and clean up your pet’s waste daily, because rats will feed on your pet’s food and its waste.
Don’t throw bread or seed on the ground to feed birds.  It is a violation of health regulations because it will attract rodents.

  • If you feed birds, use a birdfeeder and clean the ground under the feeder weekly.

Store grains such as rice, cereals and pasta in metal or glass containers; store potatoes and onions in the refrigerator or in metal or glass containers; store dry pet foods and bird seed in metal garbage cans with tight-fitting lids.

Old cars no longer in use and household items such as chairs, sofas and refrigerators should be hauled away from your yard, porch or driveway as soon as they are discarded so they don’t become a nesting or hiding place for rodents.
Don’t let items you’ll never use again accumulate in your basement or attic.
To keep rats out of your house, close holes in floors, baseboards and especially openings in exterior walls and foundations for water, sewer and gas lines.

Close exterior doors tightly because rodents can enter through openings as small as a quarter-inch and make sure basement windows fit tightly and have no broken glass.
Bruce W. Dixon, M.D., Director
Guillermo Cole, Public Information Officer
412-578-8004, e-mail: