Rats are nothing new in a city like Ottawa. They live side by side with us whether we are aware of them or not.

No, rats aren’t new, but the amount of tunneling and excavating going on these days is. Between the LRT tunnel, infrastructure repairs, and other construction projects, we are shaking up plenty of rat habitat.

And that has the rats on the move.

“You’re digging up sewers. You’re tunneling into prime real estate for them,” says Jeff Bow of Abell Pest Control. “It is unusual.”

Bow and other local pest control experts estimate their rat-related calls are up around 25%.

As the weather gets colder, more displaced rats are looking to move indoors.  And city dwellers, as it turns out, are a rat’s best source of food, water and shelter by a country mile.

Something Emilie Idene of Ottawa knows all-too well. “One day I went to the kitchen to get some water. And I turned on the light and I see something black running, and it was a rat,” she says.

Jeff Bow says the first line of defense is to make sure they can’t get in to your home or business. And be aware that rats can squeeze into some pretty tiny places. “They generally say the size of a quarter,” he says. “So you have a gap around a pipe or around a door that’s the size of a quarter, they’re going to get in.”

If you can’t keep them out your next step is to deploy rat traps or poison bait. The bait should be locked in a special rodent bait station to protect pets and children.

Professional exterminators will know the best way to deal with the unwanted intruders. They can also find out how they got in so that, hopefully, the problem won’t return.