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Mice or rats are pretty hardy rodent creatures to deal with. They can actually leap off tall buildings in a single bound, pass through seemingly solid walls and may even be able to smell nuclear fallout. They’re not superheroes but something far less welcome in your home. If you want to get rid of mice, there are a few steps you should take to evict them once and for all.
Just as the arrival of cold weather sends people looking for the comfort of a heated place, it has the exact same effect on rodents, sending mice and rats to the relative comfort of your basement or crawlspace, or even to the rooms in which you live. Cohabitating with these creatures isn’t just frightening, but a potentially serious health threat, especially for families with children.
Fall and winter are an especially busy time of year for encounters with these less than welcome houseguests. Mice are rapid breeders and need warm nests to keep up the pace. So when the cold arrives, they move indoors to ensure that their nest keeps warm. Mice like to eat the same foods we do and they’ll do whatever it takes to get to your cupboards.
And doing whatever it takes to eat is something mice and rats have had thousands of years to practice.
If you’ve ever thought you can get rid of mice by “mouse proofing” your house by sealing up small gaps around the outside, forget it. Mice can squeeze through spaces as small as a nickel and rats need a space only twice that size to find their way into to your home. You can look for obvious gaps that can allow rodents to get in and seal them, but with rats when there’s a will, there’s a way.
Scared of mice? You’re in good company!
For most people, the experience of meeting face-to-face with one of these furry creatures can be frightening. According to a survey done by the American Dental Association, seeing a mouse is the third most common fear of most Americans, right behind the fear of public speaking and the fear of going to the dentist.
Getting rid of mice critical for allergy sufferers
But besides the risk of coming down with a good case of musophobia, living with rodents can be extremely unhealthy. Jeff May, an expert on indoor air quality and author of the new book “My House is Killing Me”(John Hopkins University Press), says there are literally dozens of ways a rodent infestation can contaminate your house.
“Mice are not particular about where they leave their droppings,” May says. “The droppings become moldy and the mold spores are released to the air inside your home, producing horrible odors and a potentially very unhealthy environment.” May says mice are also a transport mechanism for other potentially allergen-producing insects, such as mites and carpet beetles.”
The result of this contamination of your home’s living space can also be very dangerous for children, according to two studies completed by scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. Mouse allergen, in the form of urine or dander, was found to be a significant contributing factor to a childhood asthma epidemic in urban areas.
Before these studies, mice weren’t widely recognized as an allergen in homes,” says Dr. Robert Wood, associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins and the lead investigator of both studies. “Now we know that houses are full of it, and we were surprised that mice turned out to be even more important in inner city asthma than cats, dogs or dust mites.”
Dr. Andrew Campbell, medical director for the Texas-based Center for Immune, Environmental and Toxic Disorders, agrees. He says he’s also seen increasing evidence that people have been becoming sick from exposure to rodents. “It’s hard to get direct connected evidence because you’d have to catch the mouse. However, in our practice there is indirect evidence where we can assume it came from a mouse.”
Mice contaminated food making people sick
Campbell says he’s seeing situations where children have been bitten with no other rational explanation. Equally disgusting, he’s seen people get sick from eating food which may have been consumed by rodents. “Sometimes a patient will assume a piece of fruit has a bad spot, cut it out, and eat the rest. The food can be contaminated by bacteria and viruses carried by the rodent. This results in lymph node enlargement, diarrhea and other problems. Typically the patient needs a stronger antibiotic which is not the usual first line of defense with other infections.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that rodents contaminate approximately 400,000 tons of food annually.
Rodents have been around for centuries and are not going anywhere soon. Mice have even been shown to be able to smell nuclear fallout. A study conducted by the International University of Health and Welfare in Japan claims that mice can “smell” low level or radiation that cannot be detected by humans.
Bottom line: Taking steps to get rid of mice can potentially improve your both your health and safety.
5 ways to get rid of mice in your house
Fortunately, there a number of ways you can rodent control your house::
1. Avoid nesting sites
Stacks of newspapers, cardboard boxes, firewood, lumber or other storage encourages nesting. All storage should be off the ground or floor at the inside and outside foundation perimeters of your home. Make sure bushes, plants or hedges are trimmed back away from the house foundation too.
2. Keep a clean house
Wash dishes and cooking utensils immediately after use. Keep counters and floors free of soiled food. And, clean the inside cabinets and pantries frequently to avoid feeding furry creatures.
3. Secure storage
Keep all food, water and garbage in metal or thick plastic containers with tight fitting lids. Never leave food or water out overnight. Place all garbage in heavy-duty cans and store away from the home or building, if possible.
4. Seal Entrances
Mice can squeeze through spaces as small as a finger. Seal up potential entrances with sheet metal, steel wool or cement.
Search the foundation for cracks, gaps or holes – a mouse can fit into a space the size of a dime, and a rat into one the size of a quarter.
Check all doors, door frames, and garage doors to ensure there is a tight seal. Damaged or missing door sweeps are one of the most common rodent entry points.
Ensure all windows, screens and window panes, including window wells, are in good repair.
Pay particular attention to the spaces around pipes, vents and ducts. Carefully check all openings where plumbing, gas and electric or cable wiring enters the home or building. Dryer vents and exhaust vents are also popular targets. Remember that entry points near the ground aren’t the only ones at risk – most rodents have no difficulty scaling siding, wires, or branches.
Be sure to inspect the roof line for any gaps. Ensure that shingles, ventilators, chimney and vent screens are all in place and undamaged. Make sure the chimney cap is secure as well.
5. Use rodenticides
Poisons designed to eliminate rodent infestations are safe and highly effective if used in accordance with label directions. If exposure to children or pets is a concern, use lockable bait stations. With a bait station, the poison is secured inside a container that has holes small enough for only a rodent to enter.
The old phrase “beating the rat race” is really a misnomer. If you really want to get rid of mice, it’s more like you have to beat them at their own game. If it was a race, we’d lose.
Did I miss the answer to the question which was “Kathryn wonders if an ultrasonic device would help control the mice in her basement”?
Glen, the short answer is NO. Ultrasonic devices will not prevent rodent infestations. Follow the tips set out in this post for the best way to manage the problem.
Another comment–I have found that shoving steel wool into a hole to discourage mice doesn’t work. They mat the steel wool down and crawl over it. Besides, it will deteriorate over time. Fill the hole properly with patching cement.
I used to be too squeamish to handle emptying mouse traps. We had them at work, unfortunately, and I’d ask my male boss to dispose of the trap if we caught one. One day he grumbled about why was it HIS responsibility. After thinking it over, I decided it was time for me to learn to deal with it. By now I’ve killed dozens and dozens of both mice and chipmunks (you didn’t mention those destructive little pests) and I assure you, I’m not afraid of them anymore. I actually smile at the thought of another one that won’t be causing problems anymore, or breeding. When I set the traditional traps indoors, I glue it into half an empty cereal box (or similar) with one end open to let them access the trap, then put it in a plastic shopping bag. That way, when I catch one, it’s easy to grab the bag, tie it closed, and toss it in the garbage can outside. Last year I decided to double down and use water traps outdoors that I made out of old 5 gallon buckets and supplies I scrounged from around the house. There are numerous videos online about how to make water traps. Far, far more successful than spring traps, and I didn’t notice any mice indoors last winter. I also catch chipmunks with them (they eat my tomatoes!!!!!), though they are much craftier than mice and harder to snag. (Think about the fact that they can hang by their back feet like squirrels, and probably are smarter than mice.) I use rain water and a touch of bleach in the water to counteract whatever diseases they might be carrying. It’s infinitely cheaper than spring traps which went up in price a couple years ago. I’m lucky to have a spot in the woods to dump the buckets. Ladies, trust me when I say, you can learn to deal with the sight of dead rodents. Go for it. Dead ones are way, way better than live ones in the house. And for heaven’s sake, don’t bait them with cheese. Only cartoon mice care about cheese. Use peanut butter. Way, way cheaper.
I wish I would have ran the other way when we bought our house and 2 days later I went in to start cleaning and watched a mouse scatter across the floor. 13 years later we are still dealing with mice. We quickly sealed open pipes that led up from our crawl space which eliminated them getting into our house but we hear them in attic every couple weeks. We have a crawl space so unfortunately I feel like this is our problem. Nothing works! We have tried bait, traps, soaps, sprays, foam sealer, peppermint, fox urine…you name it we tried it. We have no idea where they come in from therefore I fear we will live with these pests forever.
I would not recommend poison. The mouse or rat will die inside the walls or in other areas and the decaying carcass will smell awful. Then, you have to call an exterminator. The best measure is to have a professional inspect their entrances and seal them all off.
Did you know that roof rats are very smart? They push traps with their noses and they call their “buddies” over for the nice treat that you left! So, we have to be just a little smarter. We were sucessful in catching those lovely little squirel-like creatures by nailing the wooden traps to a piece of wood larger than the trap. That way when they stand on the platform…you guessed it! They really like bougainvillia too. Hope this helps!