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Mickey Mouse is cute and all, but his real-life friends have no business being inside your home. Unfortunately, mice and rats can’t read, so putting up a “No rodents” sign won’t keep the creepy critters away. Knowing why they come inside in the first place, however, can help with rodent control.
“Rodents like what we have to offer them: food, water and shelter! If there is an opening, they will take advantage of it and then take advantage of the safe spot and food resources in our homes,” Chelle Hartzer, Orkin entomologist and technical services manager, told TODAY Home.
Like many of us, mice and rats don’t love the cold, so they tend to seek shelter in the cooler months especially. They also gravitate toward a few specific rooms in your house.
“They like safe places with access to food. That could be your attic with access to the fruit tree or trash bin outside your garage with birdseed and pet food sitting out or your kitchen with dark cabinets and plenty of food options,” Hartzer said.
Rodents like to nest in dark, secluded areas, so basements are also one of their favorite stomping grounds.
How to tell you have a rodent in the house
Just because you haven’t seen a rodent in person doesn’t mean it’s not there. If you suspect that you have a mouse in the house, you could be right if you see any one (or all) of the following signs:
- Mice droppings: The little pests often leave their signature calling card in rooms where food is stored, along the baseboards and under sinks.
- Greasy rub marks: Rats in particular leave greasy dirt marks behind them as they travel the same pathways over and over.
- Chew marks: While searching for food and water, rodents can chew through any number of materials, including wires and plastic.
Are mice and rats dangerous?
Sure, they’re creepy, but do rodents actually pose any real health dangers? Unfortunately, yes.
“Rodents can carry a number of diseases and they can pick up particles of contaminated foods and transmit salmonella and E. coli. While many diseases transmitted by rodents are not common in the U.S., they do still exist,” Hartzer said.
And that’s not all! Rodents can also bring other pests like fleas, ticks and lice into your home, and trigger allergies in some individuals.
Rodents can also cause some pretty serious damage to your house and have been known to chew through drywall insulation, car wiring and electrical wires.
How to get rid of mice and rats
If you’ve ever spotted a mouse or rat in your house, you know how unnerving it is to realize you have a rodent creeping around. If you’re in need of some serious rodent control, there are a few easy ways to deter mice and rats from sneaking into your house. Try the following, for starters:
- Seal any structural cracks or crevices with caulk or steel wool: “House mice can fit through openings as small as a dime and rats through openings as small as a quarter," said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association.
- Keep basements and attics clutter free.
- Eliminate any excess moisture around the house.
Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home.
- Keep food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly.
If you’re past the prevention phase and you need to get rid of a mouse, there are plenty of do it yourself pest control options:
- Peppermint oil can keep mice away from areas of your house that they haven't already invaded.
- Glue traps or snap traps are one of the most reliable ways of getting rid of a mouse.
- Mouse bait stations are perfect if you have little kids in the house! They contain poison that only the mice can reach, and little kids can't get their hands inside. Win, win!
If these DIY rodent control methods aren't working, it's time to call in the pros.
"Professionals know the right tools to use and most importantly, the right placement. Rodents are small, but they are smart and it takes someone with experience and knowledge to assess the situation to remove the problem quickly and safely," Hartzer said.