You’re a clean person. You have a beautiful, immaculate home. You always clean your kitchen floors and counter tops after dinner. You never leave food open. The dog food containers and garbage cans all have tight lids. Then one night while going for a drink of water, you walk up on an intruder. It scampers away in a flash and you are not even sure what you just saw. Your thoughts are in denial, “Was it a rat? It couldn’t be. Not in my house.” Well you shouldn’t be ashamed. Rats and mice are everywhere. They live in our trees, our yards, our sewers, and our homes. We don’t realize they are there because they only come out at night. While your cleanliness definitely helps keep them away, the litter bugs of our city who throw food trash on our streets keep these creatures well fed. A mouse can have a litter of up to 14, and one female can have up to 10 litters a year. Her babies have babies, and their babies have babies, and so on goes the exponential growth of the mouse population. Unless we douse our city with environmentally harmful pesticides, these creatures are here to stay, and we will all be victims.
When it begins getting cold outside, mice are prone to do more of their hunting inside. Our beautiful, old Midtown homes generally have a number of VIP entrances for our scavenger friends. Rats and mice can fit through holes and cracks that are a fraction of their own size. So don’t be ashamed, be prepared.
FYI: Rats are the larger ones, usually 6 – 10 inches in length, not counting tail. Mice are much smaller, usually 2 – 4 inches.
What to do
It is virtually impossible to seal off all entrances that mice could use to enter your home, especially in an older home. Start by focusing on sealing any obvious entrances. The dryer vent is often the most common entrance. Also, look for any holes that have been created to accommodate plumbing or electrical pipes. Rats can chew through wood and plastics, and often will in order to access food or water. So you also will need to look for entrances they may have created for themselves. A great way to plug these holes is with steel wool. Because of the sharp fibers, mice find it offensive and painful to chew through. The versatility of steel wool makes it easy to apply and remove from openings.
Second, you will need to find any food sources. The primary motivation for rats and mice to come into your home is food. Make sure your trash cans have lids. Check your pantry for plastic containers that may have been left open or chewed through. Do not leave pet food sitting out over night or leave it in the bag in which it was purchased. Store it in a hard, preferably metal, container with a lid.
In our hardware store, we roast peanuts and store the raw nuts in the back, in a large, trash can made of ¼ inch thick fiberglass. One Monday morning we came to work and a rat had chewed a hole right through the thick fiberglass.
Next, you will need to look into repellant and/or extermination options. The best repellant and exterminator is a house cat. We started selling dog food at our hardware store about fifteen years ago, and it didn’t take long for the mice to move in. They were building nests in the shelving and in the walls, not to mention pre-opening bags of our premium pet food. We brought in a store cat and the problem was solved. Not everyone can have a cat though, so let’s explore some other options.
There are audial and olfactory repellants. These are non-toxic, pet-friendly options commonly used by people that don’t want to harm rodents or the environment with inhumane traps and poisons. An audial repellent plugs into an electrical outlet and produces constantly changing, high frequency ultrasonic waves to which rodents cannot acclimate, and humans cannot hear. The drawback is that the sound loses effectiveness when it hits soft surfaces. It would work best in a room with hard wood floors and little furniture.
Olfactory repellants come in liquid sprays or granules. They are made of a variety of ingredients such as; putrescent egg solids, garlic oil, cedar oil, castor oil, peppermint oil, cloves, and capsaicinoids such as red cayenne pepper, piperine, and black pepper oil. The downside to these repellents is that humans can detect the smell, and they’re messy. They are for the most part only suitable for outside use.
Both audial and olfactory repellents are great to try in an effort to protect animals and our environment. But as with most green alternatives, the drawback is their lack of effectiveness.
The most common traps are glue traps and snap traps. Glue traps are simply a pad of glue in the middle of which you can place bait. These are great for detecting a rat problem or catching multiple mice. The larger glue traps can catch three or four mice at a time. Only expect to catch one large rat at a time with a glue trap, and sometimes larger rats get away. Disposal is often an issue with these traps and is not for the compassionate or faint at heart. The mouse does not die a quick and peaceful death, and the rodent will likely still be alive when you find it. You will need to make sure these traps are placed out of reach of children and pets such as under and behind large appliances.
Snap traps have been around the longest. They are simply a wooden plank with a spring rigged metal bar that snaps down on the rodent when it tries to take the bait. Rats sometimes get away from these traps, and they can go off accidentally. However, they do have more success with larger rats and provide a quick, less painful death. As with glue traps, you will need to place these traps out of reach of children and pets.
There is an animal friendly option in this category. Humane traps catch the rodent without harming it. They work by bait being placed inside a cage with a trap door. Once caught, the rodent can be taken to a new location and released unharmed. Humane traps are often necessary to catch the largest of rodents which can be illusive to glue and snap traps. The downside is that they are expensive, and don’t be surprised if you catch the neighbor’s cat a time or two.
There are a number of different chemicals used in poisons and they are relatively equally effective. They take about a day or two to kill the rodent, but they are the most effective way to kill the largest quantity of rats and mice. They come in many different forms from small pellets to large chunks. Smaller pellets are more effective and easier to use inside. Large chunks last longer outside where the poison is subject to the elements of the outdoors. It is important to make sure the rodents don’t have access to human food otherwise they will eat it instead of the poison.
While poison is the most effective extermination tool, it warrants a lot of concerns. The poison must be carefully placed as it can be harmful to children and pets. Environmentalists are concerned that the poison goes into our ecosystem after the rodent dies and decomposes. Pet owners are concerned that their pet will catch the poisoned rat and ingest some of the poison itself. The most common complaint about poisons is that the animal may die in your walls or attic and you are stuck with the smell of decomposing rat until the decomposition process is complete. There is a popular misconception that certain rat poisons embalm the rodent after it dies. This is a hoax. There is a rat poison sold in Louisiana called M-BALM-R. The packaging is designed to target those who want to believe this is possible. But if you look at the ingredients, it is the same as RAMIK brand rat poison, just different packaging and four times the cost. Your hope is that the poison makes the rat thirsty, and it will go outside looking for water and die. Though this is often the case, there are no guarantees.
As you have learned, there is no perfect solution to our living amongst rat and mice populations. But now that you know all the options and their pros and cons, you can decide what measurements are best suited for your home. Just remember, no matter what actions you take, you will likely see these rodents again, and you shouldn’t be ashamed.
— By: Mick Blankenship