There’s nothing worse than just getting into bed, snuggling down and then hearing the insistent patter of tiny, scratchy feet racing around in the ceiling above you.

However, experts are warning that those scratchy feet might belong to rats, rather than their less portly cousins, mice.

[Read more: Daddy-long-legs: How to get rid of them]

David Cross, head of technical training academy at Rentokil Pest Control, says: “Rodents are a common problem in households during the winter months, as they are attracted by the abundance of food, warmth and shelter on offer.

"Given the choice, they will go for carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods that deliver the most energy, but they are gluttons, so will eat almost anything. With this being the case, storing food appropriately is the first step in keeping them at bay.”

So, with winter drawing in, now’s the time to put a stop to vermin making your home their home too.

Top tips for vermin-proofing your home

  • Keep foods in sealed containers
  • Make sure outdoor bins have secure lids
  • Keep hiding places to a minimum (no clutter!)
  • Clear up pet food and bird feed when not in use
  • Compost bin should be fastened tightly, or food waste kept to a minimum
  • Get a cat – although, if it’s well fed it won’t need to supplement its diet with live vermin…
  • Fit bristle or brush strips to the bottoms of exterior doors
  • Fill holes in exterior walls, roofing cavities and eaves
  • Disgustingly, rats have been caught swimming up drains, round u-bends and into toilets – so put the lid down!
  • Fix metal grates to drains, air bricks and vents to keep them covered
  • Seal any holes around pipe work with wire wool or professional sealant
  • “Mice and rodents are under constant threat from predators and so will only feel safe if they have somewhere to hide. Where possible, objects should be moved away from the walls, so that you can easily check what’s behind them,” says Cross.
  • Cut back bushes, trees, overhanging branches and grass to limit nesting and shelter possibilities for mice
  • Place traps in areas that could be potential trouble spots

[Read more: British homes are being invaded by giant spiders – here’s how to get rid of them]

Signs you have vermin – meaning it may be time to bring in the pest controllers

Aside from scratching, scurrying sounds in the ceiling and under floorboards, Rentokil pest controllers advise looking out for:

  • Droppings (dark in colour and the size and shape of grains of rice)
  • Footprints (to assess whether tracks are fresh, sprinkle the area with flour, if overnight the flour has been disturbed, it could very well be rats)
  • Rub marks (rats have poor eyesight, so bump up against walls and skirting boards for navigational purposes, you’ll be able to spot the grime they leave behind)
  • Strong smell of urine
  • Mice build nests in small, cosy cavities, check behind fridges and under floorboards for piles of soft shredded materials

“If you have a problem with rodents then it’s important to catch it early and consult with a professional pest controller to deal with the infestation before the population size grows,” concludes Cross.

“Where pest control is concerned, prevention is always better than cure.”