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When the battle with household pests begins, homeowners know they could be facing a problematic challenge. But your household visitors can go past bugs, insects, or bee and wasp problems. Rats and mice can also be troublesome pests, especially as the seasons begin to change. It isn't uncommon for domesticated rodents to be kept as pets, but their wild counterparts are unwanted visitors because of their invasive habits and role in the spread of disease.

Compared to other pests you might encounter in the home, mice and rats are easy to identify - but that doesn't mean you will know they are there. Mice are know for their sleek, gray bodies, large ears and pointed noses. They typically inhabit grassy fields and wooded areas, but often turn up in more populated, urban areas. Their diet usually includes seeds, fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods. Because of their small bodies, mice can easily find their way into drawers, cabinets, and pantries without homeowners noticing, and might also be responsible for some structural damage. 

The larger cousin of mice, rats can be identified by their larger bodies and long, hairless tail. They range in color from black to light brown and have small ears and blunt noses. These critters can make their home in a variety of places, including dumps, warehouses, crawl spaces, woodpiles, and shrubs. The dietary habits of rats also ranges, since they will eat just about anything they can find. Rats are known for their habits of gnawing through wood and paper, which could mean damage to your home if they decide to move in. 

What these rodents do have in common is their love for warm places with easy access to food sources. As previously mentioned, homeowners are more likely to encounter rats and mice in their homes as the seasons change, temperatures drop, and outside food sources become limited. But unless it's being kept as a family pet, mice and rats should not left be to make your house their new home. 

Why are rodents considered pests?

While mice and rats pose no apparent danger, they are known as vessels for diseases, along with their intrusive and destructive nature. These wild rodents can carry various pathogens that can lead to diseases in humans, including Leptospirosis (also known as Weil's disease), Rat Bite fever, Tularemia, and Salmonella. Rodents are also known to be a source of ectoparasitic diseases as well, including Maurine Typhus, Rabies, and Hantavirus, a life-threatening disease. 

In addition to the various health risks mice and rats can pose to humans, these creatures are also known to be messy house guests. Rodents are known to gnaw their way into cupboards, drawers, and pantries, leaving you with damages that will need to be repaired. They can also easily infest improperly stored foods and supplies and leave behind droppings. 

How can I spot an infestation? 

Homeowners might find it difficult to tell right away if rodents have become a problem in their home. Because of their small size and discreet nature, signs of mice and rodents can be subtle and hard to see. Also, rodents don't always come in large numbers. Homeowners might discover that their pest problem is the work of only one or two rodents. If you believe that you might be hosting an unwanted mouse or rat, here are some signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Small holes or teeth marks in food bags
  • Gnawing or teeth marks  through wood,  and sawdust
  • Droppings or pellets, often near pests' entrances and exits, or throughout their favorite routes of travel
  • Household pets like cats and dogs might catch scent of rodents before you notice. Keep an eye out for unusual behavior.

How can I solve the problem?

Getting rid of mice and rats can prove to be much more challenging than insects or wood destroying pests. Extermination can be hard due to rodents' small size and the multiple entrance points they can find into a home or structure. The first step is protecting against infestation to begin with. This includes making sure that foods and perishable foods are properly stored and put away. Homeowners should also ensure that rodents don't have easy access into the home through cracks, holes, or other possible points-of-entry. Keep an eye out for holes around foundation of the home, wiring damages, holes in screens, insulation that has been pulled apart or looks like it has been bedded in, and other obvious clues that might suggest that a rodent has been in the area. These are just a few examples of the common damages that mice and rats can cause in a home. 

There are multiple, do-it-yourself tactics that homeowners can help to limit rodent infestation in a home. Holes and cracks can be filled with copper scrubber pads or steel wool - both can easily be found at a local store. You could also consider patching holes with foam insulation to obscure access. Replace or repair screens in windows and doors, along with replacing crawl space access covers. Blocking common or easy-to-access entry points is an effective tactic for keeping rodents out. This can be done by simply keeping house and garage doors closed as often as possible. 

What are some other things to consider when keeping mice and rats at bay? If you have pet or bird food in the home, take a closer look at how it's stored - is the container sealed tightly and securely? Homeowners might also want to move things such as bird feeders, firewood, and storage away from the home to discourage rodents from taking an interest. 

If you do find a rodent problem in your home, there are a multitude of options homeowners can choose from to solve the problem. Traps are a common, do-it-yourself solution. New designs have made for a safe, poison-free alternative to homeowners who prefer to take care of the pest problem on their own. But this tactic proves to be very time consuming and not always successful. Depending on the style or model of trap used, some homeowners might also find end results to be graphic and disturbing. Another popular solution is the use of rodenticides or rat poisons. While known to be an effective tactic, these chemicals can be toxic to humans and household pets if they come into contact with them. Poisons can also poses a problem if the rodent dies somewhere inaccessible by humans in the house. Homeowners can also consider contacting a local extermination professional, some who specialize in the removal of rodents.    

As the temperatures begin to drop for another fall season, it isn't rare to find outdoor critters moving inside for warmth and food. Though you might not be able to spot the signs straight away. In preparation for the colder months, consider adding a home inspection to your home maintenance routine.