PHOENIX — As "snowbirds" flock to Valley homes for the cooler months of the year, another guest is trying to join them inside - rats.
With the temperatures dropping, rodents are looking for food and warmer shelter.
Most Arizonans are familiar with black "roof rats," which love citrus. There is another brown rat though, that is more prone to living in sewers and entering your home through the pipes.
"Those are the ones we deal with more than we deal with the black rats," said Chad Little, Co-Owner of Urban Desert Pest Control. "There’s multiple ways they can come in. They will come through the sewer system, into the pipes [and] chew their way out."
The rats, while small in size, have incisors that can chew through just about anything.
"They chew through steel sometimes, cast-iron pipes," said Cole Rodenkirk, an employee with Urban Desert Pest. "They will even chew a hole right through your stucco to get inside of your house."
Once inside, the pest can make you pay big money. "I need a new dishwasher because they chewed through the pump in the dishwasher," said David Schmidt, who lives in Arcadia. "They get into the food in the pantry. We’ve had to throw out a lot of things that they’ve chewed on."
"I’ve literally seen people spend tens of thousands of dollars to remedy rat issues," said Little.
Not only can it be costly, but it can also derail any homeowner's peace of mind. "This lady literally went to go pee in the middle of the night. She opened up the toilet and the rat was doing laps inside the toilet," said Little.
"We hear a lot of screaming," said Rodenkirk.
One of the people screaming was Tammy Mendez who lives in west Phoenix.
"I thought somebody was tickling my arm, and I woke up to have a mouse running on my arm," said Mendez. "When I see the [baby rats] it scares me, because I know where there are babies there’s got to be a mom."
Mendez is right, and the reproductive facts are equally disturbing. "Every 22 days, a female is going to have babies," said Little. "She can get pregnant the day after she gives birth."
If rats come through your piping, there is no real way to prevent that ahead of time, since it requires knocking down walls to expose the holes.
The advice from experts is to address any rodent issues right away. If you think you hear rats in your home, see feces anywhere, or notice chewing in food or exterior walls - do not wait until it gets worse. Set up traps, look for possible entry points, and call a professional if you are not able to address the issue yourself.