How to keep mice and rats out of your home

Slam the door in the face of these unwanted house guests.

a rat

Inquiries about how to get rid of rats and mice soared over the winter – possibly due to climate change.

Figures released by Rentokil Pest Control show the number of householders and businesses asking how to get rid of rodents increased by 36 per cent last winter, compared to averages recorded over the past three years.

Colder winters usually mean fewer rodents, because they don’t survive the lower temperatures, but milder weather is apparently allowing more rodents to live, and long hot summers are creating perfect conditions for young mice and rats to leave the nest and breed rapidly.

“Last year’s summer was the hottest on record for the Northern Hemisphere, and the surge in rodent sightings this winter are a legacy of these conditions, as more young rodents survived through to adulthood and were then able to breed almost immediately,” explains Paul Blackhurst, head of Rentokil Pest Control’s Technical Academy.

“Rain and a drop in temperature cause rats and mice to migrate indoors, where there's more food and shelter. With rain falling, it’s likely we’ll continue to record a rise in rodent inquiries as rats are displaced from their burrows,” he adds. “However, there are steps you can take to ensure pests are kept at bay.”

Signs of a rodent problem include an unusual, ammonia-like smell, small dark droppings, greasy marks on walls or skirting boards, and gnaw marks. Hearing scratching noises, especially at night, is also a sign of rats and mice, and their nocturnal nature means they can remain hidden for a long time before you begin to suspect they’ve invaded your home.

But rodents can potentially spread germs, and damage your property through gnawing, so if you suspect you have unwanted furry house guests, it’s a good idea to get rid of them quickly.

Prevention is always better than cure, however, and it’s an even better ideal to try and stop rodents getting into your home in the first place. Here are the sensible ways to keep rats and mice out of your home – and what to do if they take up residence.

1. Seal gaps
Mice are capable of squeezing through gaps the size of a Biro to enter a building. So check around the outside of your home, particularly near pipes and drains, to make sure there are no holes. And if you see any, fill them with wire wool, caulk, metal kick plates or cement.

2. Clean up after eating

A mouse only needs 3g of food per day, so simple measures like ensuring crumbs and dropped morsels aren’t left on the floor, and that all waste food is sealed and disposed of properly is crucial. Mr Blackhurst stresses: “The simple step of ensuring food and waste is properly sealed and stored can make a big difference.”

3. Don’t leave food out overnight
Tom And Jerry Cheese GIF
It’s easily done, but try not to leave food and leftovers out on the side in the kitchen. When the house is dark and quiet, mice will smell it and enjoy a feast.

4. Ensure waste is stored away well
Make sure rubbish is stored in a strong bin with a lid large enough to prevent waste from overflowing. Use strong plastic or metal containers for waste so rodents aren’t attracted to any smells, and don’t leave food waste in black bin bags on the floor. “Rodents and other pests can easily tear through black bin liners to get to unwanted food,” Mr Blackhurst points out.

5. Cut out clutter

Move storage away from walls where possible, and remember less clutter means fewer places for rodents to hide.

6. Your bird feeder may be a mouse feeder
Bird feeders may attract rodents to your home and although it may be nice to feed the birds, you may actually be giving food and shelter to the local mice too.

7. It’s probably not just one
Rodents like to stay out of sight as it helps them feel safe, so seeing just one pest could actually indicate a larger problem. They also have a very quick reproduction cycle, so failing to act could create the conditions for an isolated issue to turn into a full infestation. Prevention is definitely better than cure. “You might not think that one mouse sighting warrants immediate attention, but a problem can quickly escalate into something more serious if left untreated,” stresses Mr Blackhurst.

8. Don’t rely on a cat
Not Safe For Work No GIF
Rentokil insists getting a cat to deter mice is an old wives’ tale, as while cats do instinctively hunt mice, a well-fed pet isn’t always going to deliver effective mouse control.

9. Or anti-mouse plants
There are several plants that mice are supposed to dislike, including peppermint, chamomile, lavender, cloves and chillies. They may provide a deterrent, but it’s unlikely they’re powerful enough to keep mice away completely.

10. Think carefully about traps
There are various types of mouse/rat traps available – some that kill the rat/mouse, and humane ones that trap them so you can set them free away from your home. It’s advised that release should always be at least two miles away from your property, or you risk your unwanted house guest returning.

11. Call in the experts
Rodents breed very quickly, so by the time you notice they’re in your home they may have a large family. Pest control experts can get rid of rats and mice from your home quickly and easily, if you don’t want to try the DIY route.

Have you ever had a problem with rodents? What do you do to keep them away from your home?

– With PA

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    double j
    29th Oct 2020
    We have one unwanted house guest and I can’t catch it!! I have put cheese, peanut butter , cream cheese on the old fashion mouse trap and the little blotter eats it all but the trap doesn’t go off. I know it work’s because I tripped it with a pencil and it broke the pencil . I also tried the environmental friendly tray and the mouse wouldn’t climb up and go inside. But I will get it !!!
    29th Oct 2020
    They get in through the little door under the house here and we only know when we hear scratching in the walls at night.
    I find using talon pellets gets rid of them eventually although I sometimes have to use several of the little boxes.
    29th Oct 2020
    Do not release them - kill them - otherwise you just perpetuate the problem
    pedro the swift
    30th Oct 2020
    I have been using a humane trap and the end up going a long way away. I did release one once and as it scarpered across open ground a crow dived on it and took it for a flight.
    Havent had any for some time but I note they are active again.
    30th Oct 2020
    double j, try putting a sultana on the trap, they can't pull it off easily
    The Bronze Anzac
    30th Oct 2020
    There used to be a product available from Hardware stores & Supermarkets that poisoned the rodents & importantly the dead animal never smelled, especially if it died hidden in the ceiling or other hard to find places. Is that product still available, & if so what is its name & places for sale ?
    30th Oct 2020
    Not a good idea using poison as it affects other animals in the food chain eg birds owls reptiles etc that prey on mice and rats. We already have too much poison in our environment. Keeping kitchen clean and food sealed is a good start as well as blocking any holes. Apparently napthalene and camphor are good deterrents and I find in my pantry, camphor is working ..... so far no evidence they have returned. If this keeps working I'll put it elsewhere in the house, not an unpleasant smell either.
    2nd Nov 2020
    What a lot of shit about mice don’t like chilles, been growing them for years and they love them!

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