Ask Angie’s List: How can I prevent indoor rodent invasions?


Rats and mice are mammals, which means they like to find cozy warm places to build their nests and birth and raise their young. They usually create comfortable burrows outdoors, but cold temperatures drive them to find solace in warmer areas. Your home makes an attractive residence if they can get in, and they’re likely to prefer it as a permanent home if they can.

The best way to deal with rodent problems is to prevent them from ever getting inside in the first place. However, that can be easier said than done. Rats and mice possess flexible bone structures that allow them to squeeze into incredibly small cracks and crevices. Rats can maneuver through a hole the size of a quarter, and mice can often get through holes no wider than a pencil! Pipes, power outlets, garage doors, foundation cracks, siding and roofing all offer ideal entry spaces for pests. Carefully inspect your exterior, fill cracks and plug up openings as tightly as possible.

You can also head off furry visitors by carefully protecting your food supply and waste. Mice will try to get into boxes of food such as cereal and rice, while rats will gravitate toward trash. You can minimize this by not leaving food out in the open, and storing food in glass or metal jars rather than cardboard or plastic boxes. Take trash out promptly and make sure the lid on the can is secured.

Once rodents get in, though, you’ll need professional help to get rid of them. Pest control companies will begin to address your infestation by finding and sealing all entry points. They’ll also try to figure out where rats are coming from, as infestations often begin in a main lair outdoors or in sewer systems. Most pest control companies deal with rodents using old-school methods: baits, traps and exclusion. Fumigation is an extreme step and should only be tried as a last resort.

You can also take some DIY steps to drive away rats and mice. Cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil, castor oil or citronella oil will irritate their sensitive noses and cause them to seek food and shelter elsewhere.

Take great caution with over-the-counter solutions. Many rodenticides contain chemicals dangerous to mammals, which means they can harm people or pets. In some cases, if a cat eats a mouse that has been poisoned, it will hurt the cat. You can use a variety of trap options. Spring traps are environmentally friendly and provide a humane death for rodents. Glue traps are effective, but offer a slow and painful death. You can also try live traps, but check them frequently to avoid starving any trapped rodents.

Expect to pay between $200 and $600 for a rodent removal job. An extensive infestation that requires multiple visits will be more expensive, possibly more than $1,000.

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