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Rodent Control 101: Facts About Mice and Rats

 
Introduction

Having a rodent in your home can be stressful and unpleasant. In this section, you’ll learn all of the facts about mice and rats, including: how to identify if you do have an unwanted "guest," the answers to some common rodent myths, and tips on how to rodent-proof your home. When you have a rodent there are some key principles you should remember:

  • Before buying a product, there are some quick and easy steps you can take to help rodent-proof your home.
  • Certain products need to be kept out of reach of children and pets.
  • Some products are only designed for indoor use only and should not be used outdoors.
Know The Signs
 
 Droppings
Image of rodent droppings types

Mouse Droppings

Usually about 1/8" and black in color.

Norway Rat

Droppings about 3/4" long.

Roof Rat (or Black Rat)

Droppings about 1/2" long.

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 Footprints
Image of rodent footprint types

Tracks can be spotted along areas where rodents travel. Dusting with flour or talc can help spot them. Use a strong flashlight at a low angle to check for tracks and tail drags.

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 Gnawing
Image of a rodent gnawing a bag

Evidence of recent gnawing, especially on packaged goods, cardboard boxes and areas around pipes, ducts and vents. Holes can often be found along baseboards and in corner where an existing small hole or crack could be enlarged.

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 Rubmarks

Dark greasy marks formed by contact with the rat's body. Frequently found along areas where rodents travel.

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 Unusual Pet Activity

Your dog or cat pawing excitedly at a kitchen cabinet, the base of your refrigerator or a wall.

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 Sounds

Sounds

Do you hear scampering noises in the walls at night? Chewing or gnawing sounds?

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 Burrows

Look for them in the ground, along the outside of buildings.

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Problems Rodents Pose

Rats and mice pose a health risk because they carry and contribute to asthma and allergies and a wide range of diseases.

Asthma and Allergies:

  • A study by The John Hopkins Medical Center shows rodents are a leading cause of asthma in inner city children and have also been shown to aggravate allergy symptoms. -- Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dec. 2000.

Diseases:

  • Salmonella, commonly known as “food poisoning,” is caused by ingesting food contaminated with salmonella bacteria often carried by rodent feces.
  • Trichinosis is caused by the infestation of muscle tissue by trichinae, an intestinal parasite spread by rodents.
  • Leptospirosis is infectious bacteria that “drills” itself like a corkscrew into human skin and embeds itself in vital organs, namely kidneys. Humans contract it from walking barefoot on wet, contaminated floors where infected particles float in rodent urine.

Rats and mice are extremely destructive creatues:

  • Eat through cardboard, wood, plaster and even plastic.
  • Gnaw on electrical wiring, which can potentially cause an electrical fire.
  • Contaminate food.
Rodent Myths

MYTH: Rodents can get as big as cats.

FACT: An adult Norway rats don’t typically exceed half a pound with a body about 8 inches long, with a tail nearly as long. That's far smaller than the average cat. The fear many people have of rodents, combined with quick nighttime settings, often results in exaggerated stories.

MYTH: Rodents can live a long time

FACT: Mice in the wild do not normally live much more than a year. In fact, the average mouse lives six to twelve months. Disease, predators, competition and poor weather cut many rodent lives short.

MYTH: Rats and mice don’t have bones, so they can get through tiny holes.

FACT: Rats and mice have internal skeletons like other mammals but they do have very flexible ribs allowing them to squeeze through any gap into which they can fit their head.

MYTH: There is one mouse per person living in a city.

FACT: Next to humans, mice are regarded as the most common mammal in most cities. However, populations rise and fall according to factors like weather, food supplies, shelter and control efforts – not the number of people. There are many mice living in cities, but their distribution is uneven and the absolute numbers are unknown.

MYTH: Only people who live in run-down buildings in poor neighborhoods get rodents.

FACT: Anyone can find themselves with a rat or a mouse problem – even in the most affluent neighborhoods. Rodents seek available food and shelter wherever it can be found – regardless of economics.

MYTH: If you see rats or mice in the daytime, there is a large population around.

FACT: Although primarily nocturnal, rats and mice may move about at any time of the day or night. They are more visible during the daytime because it is easier for people to see them. Sightings usually are not a good indicator of how many rats or mice are living nearby.

MYTH: Cheese is a favorite food of rats and mice and is the best bait for traps.

FACT: Mice and rats don't seek cheese more than other foods. Cheese historically was a common bait because it was readily available and easy to fasten to a trap. Today, depending on the species of rodent present, people commonly use peanut butter, bacon, chocolate or fruit.

MYTH: Rats and mice are not aggressive and will not bite or attack people.

FACT: When cornered, rats can charge or leap at a person, and when handled, wild rats and mice will squeal and bite. Their bite can easily penetrate flesh and cause puncture wounds. Rats also bite sleeping people, especially children, when food odor is present.

MYTH: Rats carried diseases (like the Plague) in the Middle Ages, but today they don't.

FACT: In the U.S. today, the Norway rat has been incriminated in transmitting dozens of different diseases to people, including salmonella, leptospirosis and trichinosis and rat-bite fever.

MYTH: Having cats is good for mouse prevention.

FACT: Not all cats are good “mousers,” and few cats will challenge a rat. Although some cats hunt for mice, many cats tolerate rats or mice, especially when they are well-fed and won't do much for mouse prevention. It could be said that more rats and mice have been fed by cat food than killed by a cat.

Rodent Proofing Tips

Clean Up Common Areas

  • Keep counters, floors, cabinets, and pantries clean and free of crumbs.
  • Clean large household appliances regularly - mice often make those areas their home.
  • Wash all dishes immediately after use for best rat prevention practices.

Eliminate Nesting Areas

  • Keep all storage off the floor at the inside and outside of foundation perimeters.
  • Make sure to clean and organize your garage, attic and basement areas on a regular basis.

Keep Pet Areas Clean

  • Never leave food or water out overnight, even for your pets.
  • Clean up after your pets daily for rat prevention - pet feces are a food source for rats and mice.

Seal Potential Entrances

  • Mice can squeeze through spaces as small as a dime. Seal up potential entrances with sheet metal, steel wool or cement.
  • Check spaces around foundations, pipes, vents and ducts and block them with steel wool or cement. The best mouse and rat prevention is making sure they can't get in.
How to Get Rid of Mice

Realizing you have unwanted guests in your home is never pleasant and may cause some initial panic. But, stay calm. d-CON® is here to help for your mice infestation. From houses to apartments to attics, we've seen it all and we're here to help you learn how to get rid of a mouse or mice in your home.

The first step is identifying your culprit and the level of your mice infestation. Listen closely for the distinct scratching noises and keep an eye out for droppings to determine where you're intruders favored spots are. Second, secure your home. Eliminate all possible feeding sites and entry points. When dealing with how to get rid of mice in an attic, this is especially important as there tent o be multiple openings. Even the smallest of holes or cracks should be sealed and covered. While mice do have limits, flexible rib cages allow them to squeeze through smaller holes than you might expect. Place all food that you would normally keep in bag (chips, cereal, cookies, etc.) into glass or plastic sealed containers with very tight lids. Be sure to do a thorough cleaning of your home to eliminate any crumbs or hidden morsels.

Next, it's time to select your bait or trap. d-CON® offers a variety of way to get rid of mice, but how to get rid of mice in your house is your decision. From snap traps to bait stations to covered, no view traps, d-CON® has an extermination option for every situation. If your trap requires bait, try using common items such as peanut butter, cheese or chocolate. Place your traps or bait stations along walls and floor boards to target common mice pathways in both low and high traffic rooms in your home. If you suspect a favored area of your intruders, place traps about 4 to 6 feet apart in that area. If no rodents have been caught after 3-5 days, and you know they are still around, try moving your traps or baits to new locations.

How to Get Rid of Mice In An Apartment

While the above directions are still applicable, how to get rid of mice in an apartment may vary slightly from other types of buildings and therefore required unique solutions. While your apartment may be free of rodents, your neighbors may still be attracting mice and once a mice infestation has started, it's hard to stop them from entering your dwelling. Keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs, like scurrying in kitchen cabinets and droppings under the sink.

When placing traps and bait stations, remember that mice in an apartment may be a bit bolder. Place traps and bait stations under furniture, in the back of cabinets, under sinks, and any other dark corners. While it may be tempting to place the majority of traps and bait stations in your bedroom where you sleep, your kitchen is the biggest attraction to mice and should be the number one spot fortified.

Rodents 101

Types of Rodents

There are many types of rodents that may infest your house, however, the most common tend to be mice and rats. Knowing the difference and what to look for will help to determine the most efficient solution to rid your house of these nasty vermin. Rats are generally larger than mice, however young rats can often be mistaken for mice. They can usually be distinguished by their over-sized heads and unusually long feet.

Types of Mice

House Mouse: House mice are extremely common animals worldwide and the most common type of mice in homes. House mice have light grey or brown short hair and weigh between 12 to 30 grams. They can grow up to 20 cm from the nose to tail. Droppings are the easiest way to identify these pests, as even a light infestation can produce thousands of droppings. Droppings are long and slim and pointed at both ends.

Deer Mouse: Deer mice can transmit a variety of diseases including Hantavirus. Deer mice can usually be identified by their large ears and black beady eyes. While their underbelly and feet are usually white, deer mice also have a distinct light brown-red body. They generally grow to about 7 to 10 cm long from nose to tail. 

Types of Rats

Norway Rat: Knows as the "super rat," Norway rats are larger than the roof rat and can reach 40.5 cm in length, much larger than most types of rats. They tend to dwell in basements and sewers bust are also known to burrow beneath building foundations or larger piles of trash or wood. With distinct stocky bodies, you'll begin to notice as these gray-brown rats steal scraps for their nests. 

Roof Rat: Often the culprits when electrical damage is involved, roof rats are superb climbers and often inhabit the upper floors of office buildings and attics. Also referred to as black rats, roof rats tend to live in warmer climates along the coast and seek secure, elevated areas to next.