One of the most common home invaders for centuries has been the rodent. Between mice and rats, these pests can damage your walls, eat your food, and cause all sorts of problems. Unfortunately, mice infest homes because their natural habitat is shrinking and they seek food, water, warmth, and shelter.
It is important to identify whether you have one mouse or an infestation. Mice and rats are closely related, but methods for removing mice differ slightly from rat removal due to the size of the intruders. Luckily, it is possible to identify these invaders without having first spotted one.
Identifying a Mouse Infestation
The first step is to identify if you have a rodent problem. As with many forms of animal infestation, scratching or scuttling sounds are indicators of unwanted housemates. The smell of urine is another indicator of an infestation, and rodent urine is particularly strong and musky. Gnaw marks and chew holes are a third clear sign of rodent activity.
Droppings are not only a means to identify a rodent problem, but also a way to identify the type of rodent. Rodent droppings tend to be capsular in appearance and may accumulate quickly, even if there is only one pest.
The types of droppings are:
- Mouse: under one quarter inch and pointed at the ends
- Norway Rat: larger than one half inch with blunt ends
- Roof Rat: larger than one inch with pointed ends
Shinier droppings are fresh, whereas older droppings tend to be dull and crumbly. If there are multiple sizes, then you likely have a larger infestation of both adults and pups.
Dealing with an Infestation
The first step in eliminating rodents is to find the entry points and block them off using metal or epoxy. As mice can enter through cracks or holes as small as a dime, this is a time-consuming yet necessary task. Once you are certain that no more may enter the home, the methods of dealing with your infestation will vary somewhat.
The second step is to make sure they have no food sources. Keep all foods in metal containers or the refrigerator, and place boxed goods is a well-sealed area that has already been checked for possible entry points. Doing so makes trapping rodents easier and may even encourage some to leave on their own.
Mice in Walls
An infestation in your walls or ceiling can prove very difficult to deal with. Rodents will find your insulation an attractive nesting material and may chew through wires or plastic pipes. Worst of all, their waste will be mostly hidden, meaning it is more difficult to clean up after getting rid of them.
Using poisons may mean that the rodents will die within your walls. They also can take several days to kill the rodent. Meanwhile, children and pets will also be at risk of exposure to the poison. Thus, the best method is to use traps or to call an exterminator. If using traps, remember that the process will take time and that numerous traps should be placed.
Mice in the Attic
It is somewhat easier to deal with an infestation in your attic. Again, traps are the best method to use. Keep an eye out for any nests or scavenged foods, as the pests will bring their findings to this relatively isolated area for safer consumption. This will help you place the traps more effectively. Snap traps are an option, if you normally keep your attic door locked so pets and children can’t get in.
Mice in the Garage
The garage can be a frustrating source of infestation. In addition to checking walls for entry points, the garage door should be considered a possible entry point. Make sure that the door seals well when closed, leaving no room for the pests to squeeze in.
Once again, traps are the most effective solution. If your garage is a place where children and animals are not permitted to play, then snap traps may be extremely useful here. However, as snap traps will sometimes misfire, live traps remain the best solution.
Methods of Mouse Removal
Over the years, there have been many claims of products and methods to remove mice. Some of these methods are more useful than others. The following methods are some of the more commonly suggested solutions, but are by no means the only ones.
Does Peppermint Oil do Anything?
Peppermint oil may be effective against mice, although the results have some limitations. By placing some of this oil on cotton balls and distributing them in places where mice are known to visit or nest, you are creating a scent barrier which is too strong for their sensitive noses. As the odor quickly spreads, the mice will theoretically evacuate the affected areas.
There are some downsides to using peppermint oil, however. First, it does not provide a permanent solution, as the oil will evaporate within days. Second, the pure oil may be harmful to pets and children, as well as causing allergic reactions in some adults. Third, it can become quite messy and irritate the human nose if spilled.
Are Cats an Effective Solution?
Contrary to popular belief, not all cats love hunting mice. Indoor cats who are well-fed may find a mouse to be an interesting play toy for a while, but will eventually grow bored. Cats are also less immediately effective against infestations, and contact with a dead mouse means exposing your household to the risk of diseases to which the cat is immune.
There are countless forms of repellent out there, from sprays to oils and beyond. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence that any of these repellents work, and you could find yourself wasting a lot of money before finding one which has any effect on your unwanted guests. It is better to avoid using these at all.
It has been proven that sonic deterrents are ineffective against rodents and other invasive species. The use of lights is also ineffective, as a hungry mouse is a bold mouse. Your money is better spent on mouse traps or a professional exterminator.
The most effective method of removing mice continues to be the humble mouse trap. While some are lethal, many modern traps capture the mice without harming them. It is a good idea to become familiar with the many types out there before selecting which to use for your infestation problem. Keep in mind that mice and rats will require different traps due to the size difference.
Traditional Snap Traps
The snap trap is a simple device which has been used effectively for over 100 years. It remains highly popular, although there are some drawbacks. As these traps use a basic spring-loaded bar to crush the mouse, they often fail to kill the mouse, instead crushing a leg or tail and leaving the rodent in pain.
Another drawback to the snap trap is that it is very sensitive, leading to accidents. Children and pets are also at risk of being injured by snap traps. Finally, as the trap is intended to kill, it can cause unwanted exposure to disease through the rodent’s blood.
Humane Mouse Traps
Humane mouse traps are designed to be both effective and safe. Unlike a snap trap, the moving parts generally consist of either a door or ramp. The biggest downside to a live trap is that captured rodents must be released at least one mile from your home, preferably in a wooded area, so that they will not find their way back.
To use a door trap, simply place some bait in the trap. Peanut butter and brie are both highly effective, although many different foods will work, including dog food. The mouse enters the trap to get to the food, knocking over the support for the door. The door shuts, leaving them trapped.
Traps which employ a ramp follow the same principle, but may sometimes catch more than one mouse. Bait them as you would a door trap. The mouse will follow the scent of the food, walking over a hinged ramp to get to the food. Once past the ramp, it raises again, leaving the rodent trapped.
Another form of trap that has gained in popularity is the glue trap. This is a strip of paper with a sticky substance on it similar to fly paper. The rodent’s feet and fur will get stuck to the paper. While effective, these traps will sometimes suffocate the rodent, plus there is a risk of a child or pet getting stuck to one. It is better to simply avoid these and buy a humane trap instead.
Homemade Mouse Traps
Over the years, people have invented plenty of homemade trap options, some of which work better than others. These have varying results, and some are designed for single use, while others may catch multiple rodents. If you decide to make your own trap, be aware that there is no guarantee of success.
Simple traps involve a cardboard or heavy paper base, some form of container, such as a tin can, bait, and a prop. The bait is placed under the container, which is then propped upright by anything from a toothpick to a quarter. When the mouse enters, the prop is knocked away and the container drops, trapping them. The trap and its base lid are then used to transport the mouse far from your home.
An example of a multiple trap requires a large bucket, an empty can opened at both ends, a dowel that is longer than the barrel, and a paint stick or other “ramp”. Drill holes in the bucket near the top and insert the dowel with the tin can in the middle. Smear peanut butter on the can and place your ramp. The mice will climb up and fall into the bucket while trying to reach the bait. The whole trap may then be used to transport the captive rodents.
In many cases, it is either easier or cheaper to hire a professional exterminator to deal with the rodent problem before they cause too much damage to your furniture. This may save you time and money, depending upon the size of the infestation. As mice are one of the most common pests, it is easy to find an exterminator in your area.
What Should I Expect?
A professional exterminator will examine the house for runs, entry points, and other signs of infestation. Once they have identified an infestation and the type of rodent you have, they will seal off the entry points. Next, depending upon the severity of the infestation, they will either set traps or spray. Finally, most exterminators will do a follow-up visit to ensure the removal was complete.
How much does it cost?
According to How Much Does It Cost, an extermination will run between $40 and $300 depending upon the size of your house and the infestation. This does not include any fees for cleanup or hiring repairmen to fix damaged wires or pipes. While this may not be cost-effective for a single mouse, it is cheaper than purchasing enough traps to handle a large infestation.
Potential Health Risks
Rodent infestations pose numerous health risks. While a larger infestation poses a greater threat, even a small number of invaders can be dangerous. There is a chance that your mouse problem is accompanied by disease and/or parasites.
The term “plague rat” is based on the 14th century outbreak of bubonic plague, more commonly known as the “Black Death”. The plague’s bacteria Yersinia pestis remains a threat today; although another strain of Y. pestis which caused the Justinian plague has become extinct. The virus is transmitted by fleas which normally feed on rats, gerbils, and other rodents.
Fleas, ticks, and mites also lead to other diseases such as Lyme disease. Because they feed on blood, these parasites can transmit illness from one host to another and can be a threat to humans and pets, especially those with a poor immune system.
One of the most dangerous diseases spread by rodents is Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS. Spread through contaminated waste or saliva from rodents, the virus may take up to five weeks before symptoms show. Different strains are transmitted by particular species of rodent, with the most prevalent North American strain coming from the deer mouse.
Early symptoms include chills, fever, muscular pain, nausea, and vomiting. As the virus breaks down the capillaries in your lungs, it causes them to fill with fluid. This leads to difficulty breathing and organ failure if not treated immediately. The mortality rate for the North American variety is 30%.
Other dangerous diseases may also be spread through rodent feces or contact. These include: rat bite/Haverhill fever, lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, and tularemia.
Professional Wildlife Removal offers a current national directory of rodent exterminator services.
Tomcat offers detailed information on rodent species and methods of extermination.
For more information on the ongoing threat of bubonic plague, BBC News discusses the efforts to study mutations in the Y. pestis bacteria.
The Mayo Clinic provides extensive information on HPS, including risk factors and other important information.
You will find an extensive list of rodent-transmitted diseases on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.