Rodents (rats and mice) are common pests in our area and can be dangerous. They can ruin your food, destroy things in your home and start electrical fires. Rats and mice also carry diseases that can make people sick. As rats are a very dangerous, it’s important that you understand how to recognize an infestation, the damage they can do, and how to get rid of the pest by yourself, in case you have a tighter budget or don’t know any rodent professionals you can trust.
Rats spread diseases through their skin, their bite and their droppings, as well as through the food they eat. They eat and contaminate stored meats, fruits, crackers, nuts, and grains and can transmit murine typhus, leptospirosis, ratbite fever, and salmonellosis (food poisoning).
Simple Rodent Control Tips
10 ways homeowners can proactively prevent and eliminate rats in their homes:
- Install door sweeps on exterior doors and repair damaged screens.
- Screen vents and openings to chimneys.
- Seal cracks and holes on the outside of the home, including areas where utilities and pipes enter the home, using caulk, steel wool or a combination of both.
- Store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly.
- Keep attics, basements and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
- Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation and windows.
- Eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged drains that provide the perfect breeding site for pests.
- Inspect items such as boxes, grocery bags and other packages brought into the home.
- Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and keep shrubbery trimmed and cut back from the house.
- If you suspect a pest infestation in your home, contact a licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the pest problem.
If you spot evidence of a rodent infestation, do not hesitate to act to handle the problem. Rodents are known to reproduce quickly, and a small problem can turn into a big issue overnight if left untreated.
Traps can be an easy and inexpensive way to eliminate rats. Traps are relatively cheap, if unbaited, can be left in place for long periods. But all traps, baited or unbaited, must be regularly inspected, as a dead or dying rat or a food bait can attract secondary insects and cause an infestation. Traps should be set where rat signs are seen and in out-of-the-way, hidden areas, especially in attics, basements and near food sources. Always take care to keep traps away from potential triggering by children or pets.
- Snap Traps. Rat-sized wooden or plastic traps can be one of the most effective means of capturing and killing rats and can be the least expensive. When using a snap trap to capture a rat, be sure to use a larger trap labeled for rat control. The small mouse traps are not likely to kill or hold the rat, and could, instead, inhumanely injure the rodent.
- Live Traps. Live traps use the rodents' natural tendency to investigate and wiggle into holes. In these traps, the rodent can get in but cannot get out. This is often through a wind-up mechanism triggered by touch. When the rodent goes into the hole, the mechanism snaps it to the other side of the trap where it is captured. These traps must be regularly inspected and emptied. In addition, once captured, the rodent must be humanely killed or released where it won't reenter the home or building or be of harm to others.
- Glueboards. Glueboards are not usually very effective in rat control, as these larger rodents can sometimes pull themselves loose from the glue or, if caught by only a foot or two, it can simply drag the board around stuck to its body.
Baits include those used in traps and those that poison rats without using traps. These are the usual types:
- Baiting Traps. Dry pet food can be a very attractive bait for rats, so can nuts, dried fruits and dried meats, such as bacon. These can be attached to the trap with thread, wire or even glue. For rats, soft baits, such as peanut butter and cheese, are not always effective, because the rat can sometimes pull off the bait without snapping the trap.
- Rodenticides. Rodenticides are the poison pesticides for the killing of rats and mice. Some can be bought at home stores, but a new EPA regulation has now limited these to specific baits sold only in disposable, ready-to-use bait stations. This can help protect children and pets from inadvertent contact with or eating of these poison baits. If the rat population has gotten high, it may be best to contact a licensed pest control professional, as they have access to and knowledge of proper use of bulk rodenticides. Otherwise, it is generally recommended that homeowners use traps to control and eliminate rats. When any pesticide or rodenticide is used, all label directions must be read and precisely followed.
- Bait Stations. Bait stations are enclosed equipment in which a rodenticide bait is placed. The station does not trap the rat, instead, when used properly and locked in place, the rat can enter the station to eat the bait, while it the bait is protected against accidental contact or ingestion by children or non-target animals.