How to Prevent Rodents From Moving In
What Attracts Rats and Mice?
Rats and mice are pretty similar to humans—they are mammals, omnivores, and are looking for places that provide food, water, and shelter, just like us. As far as attracting rodents, those three factors are really what it comes down to. If your home has water for drinking, food for eating, shelter (and materials that can be used to build a nest), consider your home on the market for rodents.
As opportunists who share a diet similar to our own, rodents often find their way to a home’s garbage before making their way inside. While they eat fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and grains in the outdoors, they will eat almost anything left accessible inside your house, such as cereal in cardboard boxes, leftover food on the counter, waste in the trash, and even food scraps in your drain.
Remarkably, mice can go several weeks without water as long as they still have access to food (the water in the food they eat is enough to keep them going). However, they do need water eventually, and can be drawn to pooled water in your yard. Once inside your house, dripping spickets, water left in sinks, water in pet bowls, and leaking water pipes will sustain.
Shelter, and especially warmth, are a must for rats and mice. Favorite haunts of these critters are attics, walls, and crawl spaces. If they can get access to materials, like your home’s insulation, they’re set to make a real cozy nest anywhere they want. And if they can find a spot next to central heating or your boiler room, they’re in heaven.
Why are Rodent Infestations Dangerous?
While rodents might just seem like a nuisance, they present more risk than you might think. The biggest reason is that they are biological vectors of all sorts of pathogens humans can catch, such as:
- Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome: Caught by breathing in fecal particles from infected rodents, this disease affects the lungs and can be severe and sometimes fatal.
- Plague: The most common type of plague is Bubonic plague, the same illness that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages. It is transmitted most often by fleas brought in by rodents biting humans, and can lead to swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills and more.
- Rat-Bite Fever: It sounds like what it is. While rats usually have no reason to bite people, they could be provoked if cornered, though this disease can also be contracted by eating or drinking anything contaminated by rat droppings.
- Salmonella: A disease that causes diarrhea in humans, transmitted by contact with rodent feces.
Although disease transmission is a big reason rodents are dangerous, the fact that they incessantly chew poses another danger. The biggest risk is that they chew through live wires in your home, leading to an electrical fire. They can also damage your home in other ways, leading to less efficient home insulation, or leaks in your roof.
Lastly, rodents can also transport other pests like fleas, ticks, mites, and lice, each of which have their own dangers.
Common Signs of a Rodent Infestation
Mice and rats leave plenty of traces in their wake. While some signs are more obscure, others—like spotting a live mouse—are a dead giveaway.
Here are some common signs that rodents are sharing your home:
- Noises in your walls and attic at night.
- Gnaw marks on packaging in your pantry or any material in the house.
- Rub streaks along baseboards where rats and mice frequently travel.
- Abnormal pet behavior.
- Finding nesting material (insulation, shredded paper, etc.) in strange places.
- Pellet Droppings the size of rice kernels.
- Spotting a rodent in the flesh!
Any of the above could mean you have an infestation on your hands. If that’s the case, time is of the essence because rodents breed so rapidly.
How to Keep Rats Away
A rule of thumb in pest control is that prevention always trumps eradication. You will save money, time, and headache by implementing small steps today rather than waiting for an infestation to surface.
Seal Off Entry Points
The first, and perhaps most effective step, to preclude a rodent infestation is to make sure they have no way into your home. Easier said than done, as mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime, and for rats, a quarter.
Walk the perimeter of your home looking for any openings that rodents could get through around:
- Utility pipes
- Foundation cracks
- Attic or laundry vents
These can be sealed up in a variety of ways, such as with:
- Wire mesh
- Expanding foam
- Hammer and nails
Eliminate Hiding Places
Clutter in a home is a rodent’s best friend. Organizing your home, as well as minimizing belongings on the floor, give rats and mice fewer hiding spots.
Remove Food Sources
This can be as simple as making sure food is put away and dishes are cleaned every evening before going to bed. Putting cereal, flour, snack bars, etc. in rodent-proof bins and jars also goes a long way in making your home less attractive to these opportunists.
Clean Often and Thoroughly
Because rats and mice are nocturnal, making sure the house is clean when the sun goes down is key. After sealing off entry points, cleanliness is your best defense against rodents.
- On a daily basis: Wiping down countertops with a cleaning spray as well as sweeping/vacuuming frequently will leave less food available to fuel a rat or mouse infestation. Make sure all dishes and cooking utensils are cleaned before going to sleep.
- On a weekly basis: Mop floors to remove residue from food or spilled drinks. Declutter and vacuum floors. Check any traps you’ve left set up.
- On a monthly basis: Inspect pipes throughout the house to ensure leaks aren’t drawing rodents and other pests.
- On a yearly basis: See what you can get rid of to declutter spaces like your garage or basement that might harbor rodents.
Build a Barrier Around Your Home
Along the same lines of keeping your home’s interior decluttered, cleaning up your yard will reduce the allure it holds for rats and mice.
- Keep wood piles neat and far away from the home.
- Refrain from using ground covering that can shelter rodents.
- Keep your trash sealed with a good lid.
- Remove scrap wood piles.
- Keep tools like ladders and wheel barrows hung on walls or stored in a garage.
Trim Back Trees and Shrubs
Rodents are skilled climbers, so a stray branch bridging your yard and the roof of your house is as good as a hotel “Vacancy” sign to a rat. Lopping tree branches and shrubbery that touch or come near your home’s exterior gives rodents one more reason to not bother with your home.
Use Natural Rodent Repellent
Chemical repellents can have negative effects on humans as well as rodents, so natural options are very attractive. While its difficult to definitively say how effective natural repellent methods are, proponents usually recommend:
- Essential oils
- Cayenne Pepper
Rodents have keen powers of smell, so most of these work by barraging their noses, ideally steering them clear of your living space.
Set Up Rodent Traps
There’s never any harm in leaving classic snap traps in out-of-the-way places such as attics, crawlspaces, or garages. Even if rodents aren’t active around your home, this will both nip an infestation in the bud, as well as clue you into rodent activity right at the start. Check traps every week, so dead rodents don’t start to stink!
Adopt a Cat
A classic rodent control technique in rural America and Europe: let a cat do the dirty work. Hunting rodents is part of their biology, even for well-fed house cats.
Get Regular Inspections from a Pest Control Company
And finally, a very effective preventative measure is having a local company, like BOG Pest Control, regularly inspect your home for rodent activity or conditions that might be conducive to rodents. Professional exterminators will easily recognize factors that will attract rodents, making prevention that much easier for you.
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