If you have a rodent problem, you’re not alone. Due to closures and warmer winters, Americans are noticing more rodents in their homes, particularly mice and rats. These rodents were able to reproduce largely during the winter and then move to residential areas.
Rodents on the Rise
According to the United States Census Bureau, 14.8 million Americans reported seeing mice or rats in the last 12 months. They also found that rodents were more likely to be found in homes that had structural issues. For example, homes that have outside walls that slope, lean, or buckle were more likely to see rodents.
Signs of Rodent Infestation
While you may not see the rat or mouse itself, there are many signs to look for when identifying a rat or mouse infestation.
First, look to see if you notice any rodent droppings. Mouse droppings and rat droppings can be difficult to tell apart. Rat droppings are generally wider and larger compared to mouse droppings. Mouse droppings are usually smaller and can be compared to dark pieces of rice. When inspecting your home for rodent droppings, look in kitchen cabinets, pantries, near food packages, under the sink, attics, crawl spaces, and even air vents.
To get rid of these droppings, it’s crucial to eliminate the source first. It’s best to have a professional do this however, if you want to do it yourself be sure to wear protective gear such as a mask and gloves.
Bad odor or a musky smell within your home may be a sign of a mouse or rat infestation. Rodents often leave droppings and urine around their nest. Such a smell could also come from the dead body of a rodent or even just their natural scent.
Holes & Gnawing
Rodents are known to gnaw on objects like wires, boxes, furniture, wooden pieces, insulation and more. They also tear pieces of material to build their nests.
Inspect wires and pipes around the house or outside for gnawing as rats and mice need a water supply to survive.
Check your walls and yard for holds as rats and mice create entry holes which can be early signs for infestation.
The second sign to check for are rodent nests. Mice and rats find pieces of paper, fabric, leaves, cotton, twigs, and other plant materials to make these nests.
Be sure to look for these nests in attics, between walls, under your porch, in crawlspaces and other similar areas.
Tracks & Footprints
Rats and mice create tracks that can be easily visible due to their identifiable footprints with 4 toes at the front and 5 at the back. In areas where there is mud or dust, these can easily be seen. However, these footprints may resemble other animals such as squirrels which can make it tricky.
Getting Rid of Rodents
Rodents are an issue for many homes and getting rid of them before they reproduce in your home is important. The most effective way of getting rid of rodents is by placing snap traps.
Snap traps can be placed in various areas and allow you to dispose of the rodent. It’s best to place traps in dark corners and any areas where you have spotted droppings. Remember to place these traps against the walls where mice are more likely to travel and trigger the trap.
When setting snap traps, you can also place baits such as peanut butter, chocolate, and even small pieces of material that can be used for nests.
Other types of traps include glue boards and box traps. Glue boards have a sticky substance that helps catch mice, however, mice can learn to avoid the glue. Box traps on the other hand are used to humanely capture live rodents and relocate them. Box traps are not recommended because releasing a live rodent can be difficult, transfer germs and the rodents may even return.
If you’re looking for traps, check out our top picks.
Following some tactics to prevent rodents can save you lots of time and damage to your property. One of the best methods to prevent mice and rats is by sealing off all entrances. Rats can get into your home through holes that are half an inch wide. On the other hand, mice can travel through holes that are one quarter of an inch wide. If there isn’t an existing hole, these rodents can chew through material to create one.
Some methods to close gaps include:
- For smaller holes, use copper mesh or steel wool and use caulk to keep these materials in place
- Close large holes with cement, metal sheeting or a lath screen
- Use caulk or foam around doors and windows
Do not use wood to close rodent holes as they can easily chew through and create a new hole.
When inspecting your property, look for holes all around in areas such as:
- The roof
- The garage
- Behind cabinets and appliances
- Near pipes and sinks
- The attic
- Any electrical wiring
- Any plumbing pipes
- Around the foundation of your property
Clean Up Living Spaces & Work Areas
To prevent rat and mice infestations, seal up any food in protective containers. If you have a pet, be sure to put away their food and water bowl as well. Leaving any food open overnight can attract hungry rodents.
If you have trash bins or food compost bins inside the house or outside, make sure that these containers are not easily accessible by rodents. If the bins do not close tight, you may need to find rodent-proof containers.
Health Risks Due to Rodent Infestations
Rodents can carry and transmit diseases through urine and feces.
The CDC has reported the following diseases to be directly transferred from rodents:
- Hantavirus – a respiratory disease that can cause fatigue, fever, and muscle aches
- Lassa Fever – can cause fever, weakness, headaches, vomiting and muscle pains
- Leptospirosis – blood infection that can cause headaches, muscle pains, fevers, and severe symptoms such as bleeding in lungs or meningitis
- Lymphocytic Chloro-meningitis (LCM) - can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, vomiting, sore throat, cough, joint pain, testicular pain, parotid pain, meningitis, encephalitis, and meningoencephalitis
- Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever – a virus transferred from rodent blood or feces
- Plague – can cause fever, weakness, chills, and other symptoms
- Rat-Bite Fever – transferred through rodent urine or mucous and can cause fever, vomiting, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, and rashes
- Salmonellosis – can cause diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting
- South American Arenaviruses – can spread through rodent urine or droppings and can cause fever, weakness, body aches, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Tularemia – can cause skin ulcers, lymph gland inflammation, headaches, fever, chills, and fatigue