There's nothing quite like a mouse (or rat) in the house to put occupants on edge. Rodent infestation is a big problem in some areas, but any house or business anywhere can become home to these pesky critters. Rodents do more than just annoy occupants; they damage property and carry disease. If you suspect an infestation, or even a presence, you should be prepared to take action to protect your property and health.
The telltale signs of a rodent infestation include droppings, gnaw marks on baseboards and food containers, nesting materials such as shredded paper and fabrics, a musty odor and, of course, visual and auditory confirmation.
How do you go about getting rid of these unwelcome guests? When should you use natural methods and when do you need to break out the big guns and get poisons? The good news is that sealing small holes where rodents can get in and trapping them are considered the two most effective methods for controlling rodents indoors. And neither requires any chemicals!
Clean: The best way to stop an infestation problem is to prevent it in the first place. Do this by being a bad host. Don't provide easy access to food, water or nesting materials. Rodents thrive on food found on the floor, in the sink on unwashed dishes, crumbs in the cupboards and food sitting on the counter. Keep your garbage covered tightly. Store food in heavy-duty plastics or glass or metal containers. Don't let dirty dishes sit. Recycle unused papers, store fabric and keep items like cotton balls in a glass container. Outside, keep your garbage in a receptacle with a tight lid, keep grass cut and don't let unused items like boats and cars become a rodent house.
Block Entry: A mouse can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime, so visually inspect your house, especially near doors and windows and where utility lines enter the house. Fill any holes with copper mesh, concrete, brick mortar or steel wool (a temporary fix). Make sure that all water supply pipes are capped. If you know that you have an infestation and plan to try rodent repellents, you may want to wait a few days before patching holes. These would also be the animals' means of escape.
Repellents: Many of the natural rodent controls fall under the repellent category. Rodents can't stand the smell of peppermint oil and catnip oil. Natural control method resources, such as "1001 All-Natural Secrets to a Pest-Free Property" by Dr. Myles H. Bader (2002), suggest saturating a cotton ball with one of these oils and placing it near the areas where rodents, or signs of rodents, have been seen. Mice and rats hate the smell and go elsewhere. There are mixed reviews of this, and other natural repellent recipes and products, online. Predator urine repellent is widely available to protect the perimeter of your home from rodents who want to get in, and protect your yard from outdoor pests such as voles and shrews. Start natural and if you aren't satisfied, move on to chemical repellents. Always follow manufacturer instructions.
Trapping: Trapping, combined with blocking entry, is the best way to get rid of and control the rodent population in your home. There are several types of traps available: snap traps, glue-floor traps and multi-capture traps. Snap traps provide a quick death. Glue-floor traps cause an extended period of suffering and are criticized for this, but they are effective. Multi-capture traps have a way in, but no way out. Humane traps are also an option.
When trapping, use the traps against the walls where you notice activity. Set traps about 6 feet apart. It's better to use too many traps than not enough. Also, bait the traps without setting them for several days. This will allow the rodents to become used to the traps. A dab of peanut butter coated with rolled oats is a good trap for mice, while ground meat or fish is enticing to rats. Traps should be kept from pets and children.
Non-Toxic (to humans) Poison
When you have a rodent problem, combining trapping and poisoning to knock down the population is in order. Some people are uncomfortable using poisons of this nature in the house. There are a few recipes that are not toxic to humans, but are lethal to rats and mice. For example, Dr. Bader suggests combining 2 ounces of barium carbonate with 1/2 ounce of granulated sugar and 1/2 ounce of bread crumbs. Mix in enough water to form bait balls. A search engine will help you find recipes as well as products that fall into this category.
If all else fails, homeowners can try one of the many poisons available to control rodent populations: Warfarin, Pival, Fumarin, Chlorophacinone, Bromadiolone and Cholecalciferol. Again, always read and follow manufacturers' instructions.
If you are using poison as a last resort, you've already done everything to prevent another infestation. If you find yourself back at square one despite your best efforts, it may be time to call a pro. You are probably overlooking something that they will be able to detect.