How to Handle Rodents in Your Home
Rats and mice are notorious home invaders. Just like other home pests like insects and larger animals, rodents seek warmth, food, and a place to build nests away from the threats of the outdoors. These highly versatile animals can adapt to a range of shelters and find their way into your home with impressive climbing and burrowing abilities.
Unfortunately, rodents can also be very dangerous to your health and safety. In addition to spreading disease and bacteria, rats and mice have been known to chew through wires in your home and even cause structural damage. If you’ve heard scuttering in the attic or detected dropping in your kitchen, it’s important to face the issue quickly.
Their adept ability to reproduce quickly and find shelter in hard-to-reach places also make them difficult to get rid of on your own. In this guide, we’ll discuss all you need to know about finding a rodent in your house and when it’s time to call in the professionals for assistance.
The Threat of Rodent Infestations
In most cases, rodents want nothing to do with burrowing in your home specifically. Like all pests, they are usually looking for shelter and a dependable food source but prefer to be outside. Rodents rarely bite unless they feel incredibly threatened, but their bites can be dangerous if not attended to properly.
Here are the top threats of mice or rats accumulating in your home. We’ll also detail the more specific threats of each rat and mouse species below.
- Damage to your electrical wires, potentially causing fire hazards
- Dying in walls and attics, causing foul-smelling, unhealthy odors
- Disruptive noises in your walls or attic
- Disease-carrying droppings, urine, and hair
- Can carry ticks that then bring Lyme Disease
- Tearing or chewing drywall and insulation
- Contaminating or eating food
Most Common Types of Rodents in Your Home
Identifying a mouse of the type of rat in your house can be difficult. They are skilled hiders and when you do manage to spot them, they move quickly. However, by identifying the animal, it could be easier to keep it from setting up a home in your space.
You are likely to have one of the six mice or rats in your space, depending on where you live.
The easiest way to differentiate these rodents is by their size and coloring. Deer mice are quite small—only up to two inches in size—and they have a distinctly brown or reddish-brown body with a white underbelly.
You’re more likely to have deer mice in or around your home if you live in a rural area. They are found throughout North America, mainly in densely wooded areas. They are unlikely to burrow into your home on purpose, but when they do, will stick to hidden areas like crawl spaces and basements.
Deer mice specifically build burrows to protect themselves from predators, so it’s possible to notice signs of deer mice in your yard by their telltale tunnels.
Deer mice notoriously carry the Hantavirus—a rare yet serious respiratory disease. If you detect an infestation of deer mice in or around your home, avoid handling dead mice or feces without protective gear.
These mice are most likely what one imagines when they think of a common rodent. House mice only grow to around two-inches long and have nearly all-gray bodies, as opposed to the dual coloring like the deer mouse.
House mice can survive in both rural and urban areas due to their incredible climbing and burrowing skills. House mice can fit through strikingly small spaces—as small as one-fourth of an inch—and climb to high entry points.
In addition to their stealth ability to break into homes and damage property, a small percentage of house mice have been known to carry the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), another flu-like, respiratory disease that can affect both people and pet rodents.
It’s easy to mix this variety of mice with a deer mouse since both have brown bodies and white underbellies and measure to about the same size.
Also more like the deer mouse, you’re more likely to find white-footed mice surrounding wooded areas outside of cities and densely populated towns. Though they prefer hidden outdoor spaces like logs, piles of rocks, or in thick brush, they can occasionally seek similar shelter inside a home.
White-footed mice are prime carriers of black-legged ticks, which can carry Lyme Disease. On very rare occasions, they have also been found to carry Hantavirus as well.
Despite their names, you can find the very common Norway Rat all over the world, particularly in very urban or rural regions. They can grow as large as 12-inches long and typically range in color between brown, gray, and black.
Outdoors, they typically hide in piles of leaves, firewood, and stones. If they work their way indoors, they can burrow in a range of enclosed spaces.
These larger rodents can cause significant damage to the electrical wires, drywall, and insulation in your home. Their hair, urine, and feces also carry a wide range of common diseases.
You can differentiate pack rats from other species by their white underbellies and relatively smaller size—since they only grow up to around eight inches. The tops of their bodies range in color from brown and tan to yellow and cream.
Pack rats are mainly seen throughout the western states of the US but can be found in most parts of the country. Pack rats form dens and burrow in packs, even sometimes building nests in trees.
Pack rats will specifically seek out food sources inside buildings, bringing a range of bacteria and disease to compromise the food storage as they go.
These large rats can grow as long as 16 inches and have distinct coloring much like the pack rat—with a darker body and white underbelly. Their fur is much darker than the Norway rat, even appearing dark on some species. These incredible climbers get their names for being able to scale trees, buildings, and even steep roofs.
If roof rats do make their way into your home, they’re more often found in higher spaces like the tops of cabinets, attics, or in ventilation systems.
Roof rats pose a combination of threats similar to other rodents. They can carry disease or diseased ticks in their fur. They also gnaw through home structures to access food sources.
How to Protect Your Home From Rodents
Rodents are incredibly skilled in getting into your home and making themselves comfortable, even if they prefer the outdoors.
Know the Common Rodent Entry Points
So, how do rats and mice make their way inside in the first place? Here is a top-down outline of entry points these climbers and burrowers often use:
- Gaps in your attic, roof, or shingles
- Turbine or gable vents
- Spaces in your roof returns
- Gaps in exterior walls
- Dryer vents
- Oven vents
- Pipe openings
- Foundation grates
- Garage doors
- Cellar and basement openings
Throughout the year, check these common entryways to ensure that they are properly protected from rodents, especially if you’ve had a problem in the past. When in doubt, a professional can help you determine safe ways to seal up these areas without damaging your home.
Protect Your Perimeter
Rodents are more likely to find their way inside your home if they’re comfortable nesting just outside of it. Check these common problem spots for rodents, and remove the temptation by either reorganizing the area or cordoning or trouble spots with greater storage. Be sure to check your:
- Firewood piles
- Piles of debris, stones, or bricks, especially after construction or small home projects
- Piles of leaves in the fall
- Weather sealing on your garage and home doors, windows, the base of the foundation
Look for the Common Signs
It won’t take long to know that you have rodents in your home. Even though many of them will only come out at night, they often leave sure signs that they’ve been in the area. If you detect any of these issues, be sure to talk to a pest specialist about how to locate and remove the rodents from your home.
- Chew marks in wires around the house or unexplained electrical issues
- Chew marks in drywall, around corners, and in attic insulation
- Urine smell
- Rodent nests—typically made up of wood chips or other debris
- Sounds of scampering in walls or attic
- Nervous or hunting pests
Make Your Space Inhospitable
Once you remove all the temptations for rodents, they are less likely to come into your home. If you find your home is prone to rodents, take the following steps to ensure they stay away:
- Install an ultrasonic pest control device to deter pests
- Remove all available food sources
- Clean your counters, floors, and behind appliances frequently
- Do not leave garbage uncovered and close to your home
- Adopt a natural predator such as a cat—though it should be noted that many house cats are not interested in killing indoor pests
Top Ways to Remove Rodents From Your Home
If you only have one or two rodents in your home, the DIY approach may be the best route, but it’s always important to proceed with caution since rodents carry disease and dangerous bacteria.
When trying to remove rodents on your own, approach the situation like a professional exterminator by taking an integrated approach. Each step should be completed in a timely manner to keep so that you both remove the rodent and keep others from coming back.
Using Rodent Baits
You’re likely to spot bait stations outdoors around problem buildings around the perimeter of people’s homes. Bait stations are small boxes containing poisonous food for the rodent to retrieve and bring back to its nest.
The shape of the stations prevent pets of children from accessing the poison but still eliminates the rodents quickly. You are not likely to find dead rodents inside the stations themselves, since the rodents head back to their habitats after grabbing the food.
These types of traps are ideal if you have a large number of rodents in your home, or if you aren’t sure about your situation since they can take care of over 10 rodents at once.
Using Rodent Traps
Though the old-fashioned bait-and-snap traps are the most common, there are far more sanitary options on the market today.
By far the most humane option on this list, catch-and-release traps are ideal for a small number of rodents in your home. The rodent is enticed into the cage by a piece of food before the door closes behind them.
When releasing the rodents, do so with protective gloves and masks to protect yourself from bites or bacteria. It is also recommended to release the rodents away from your home so that they do not quickly return to their nest.
These battery-powered traps aim to quickly eliminate rodents with the use of a high voltage. Many include removable chambers to safely dispose of the rodents after they have been trapped.
Plastic Snap Traps
Unlike the wooden variety, modern snap traps use find-tuned technology to quickly eliminate rodents in a quick and human manner. In this case, you will have to handle the rodent itself, a downside to this method. Some brands offer enclosed versions of these traps as well.
When to Call a Professional
More so than many other pests, rodents can be dangerous to try and handle in your home. Professional exterminators like those at Terminix are widely experienced in finding, trapping, removing, and preventing rodents in your home.
If you’re concerned about safely handling a trapped or eliminated rodent, call your local Terminix team today for a free consultation. Our team takes a three-step plan to tackle the problem, including:
- Inspecting all areas of your home as well as its perimeter for rodents, nests, or signs of damage
- Excluding rodents with baits and traps before sealing up entryways for their potential return
- For the extent of your plan, our team will return each year to re-inspect your home for newly damaged areas as well as unwanted visitors.
Whether you’re looking to prevent rodents from entering your home or if you’ve already detected them, give Terminix a call today for personalized care and a customized rodent removal plan.