Mice and Rats: Exterminators or Do It Yourself?
Will you need rodent exterminators?
When my first husband and I moved to his parent’s cattle ranch, we lived in an old farmhouse for several years until we built our dream house. The wooden house was out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cattle pastures, corn fields, and woods. We had a terrible problem with mice. Each year, as soon as the weather began turning colder, the rodents would feel free to take up residence in our home.
I was totally aghast! I grew up in a suburban brick home, and we never had a single mouse or rat enter our home. We never found any evidence of one being there, either – no mouse droppings and no mouse urine. So when I was faced with protecting my country home against the wily pests, it was all-out war!
I caught many, many mice and sent them to cheese heaven, but they just kept coming. We finally had to hire exterminators to get the job done. If you think, however, that you can solve the problem on your own without using pest exterminators, give it a try! I’ll even share some tips about catching mice and small rats.
Dangers of mice and rats
Rodents, especially mice and rats, can be dangerous. They carry all kinds of germs and can leave them behind in their droppings and in their urine. They can also leave a few of their parasites behind. Remember the Black Plague?
When rodents leave behind fleas, ticks, or mites, humans are susceptible to Omsk hemorrhagic fever, tularemia, and of course, the dreaded plague.
Humans can also catch diseases by eating foods or by drinking water that’s been contaminated by rodent urine or feces. Unfortunately, you can’t always tell if a food source has been contaminated by a rat or mouse. These pests often have urine on the feet, and I realize this is gross, but just imagine if a mouse visits your box of cereal one night and enjoys munching on a few bites. The next morning, you pour your usual bowl of Capt’n Crunch, never realizing a mouse has rummaged through it. What diseases can you catch in this manner? Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, Lassa fever, leptospirosis, lymphocytic chorio-meningitis, rat-bite fever, salmonellosis, and tularemia.
To catch diseases from a mouse or rat, you don’t even have to come in contact with the rodent, its parasites, its feces, or its urine. All you have to do is breathe in dust that’s contaminated by rodent droppings or urine. These include Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, lymphocytic chorio-meningitis, and several South American arenaviruses.
One of the worst things about rats is that they bite! When my mother was a public health nurse, she had to make home visits to poor sections of the county as part of her duties. She told me numerous horror stories of heavily infested areas where mothers used to have to put all their kids in bed with them, and the mother would have to stay awake all night to beat the rats off with a broom. Also, one of her elderly patients who lived alone died, and no one found him for several days. When his body was discovered, his right hand been completely chewed away by rats. Needless to say, there are several diseases humans can get from a rat or mouse bite. Even handling dead rodents can make you susceptible to several diseases.
Have I convinced you yet that you need to get rid of any mice or rats that you might have? If so, you have several options. If the problem is isolated, a simple trap might work. Basically, there are two types of traps: lethal traps and live traps.
Lethal mouse traps and rat traps
You’ve seen these. The traditional mouse trap is the spring trap that’s baited and snaps shut when the rodent nibbles the bait. They’re supposed to snap shut across the neck of the mouse or rat, killing it quickly. Unfortunately, sometimes the pests don’t cooperate, and they wind up being injured but not killed. Then you have to finish the poor creature off. Either way, you have to dispose of the body.
Another problem with this kind of trap is that the rodents can often steal the bait without setting off the trap. Most folks use cheese for bait, but this isn’t the best bait. Try smearing peanut butter on the trap or placing a small piece of pecan or hard bacon rind in the trap. The peanut butter works well because it’s too soft for the mouse to grab all in one piece, ,and the nut and bacon rind work well because they’re hard, so the rodent has to really work to get to the food, thereby setting off the spring.
Another more modern type of trap is the electric trap. With this, when the mouse or rat enters the container, they receive a lethal electric shock, which stops their heart from beating. Most of these traps follow up with an additional shock in 20 seconds, just to make sure the critter is dead. Of course, you still have to dispose of the body or bodies – some of these traps hold numerous mice at the time.
Live or humane traps
Another type of trap is the live trap. These are baited to attract the mouse or rat, but the animals are not harmed. Many of these traps have air holes in them to ensure that the rodents remain alive. Once the mice or rats are trapped, they can be taken to another location – hopefully one far away from your home – to be released unharmed.
Yet another type of mouse trap or rat trap is the glue trap. Although this is a live-catch trap, it’s certainly not humane. With these stick traps, some kind of bait is placed on the trap, or an attractant is sprayed on it. When the rodent steps onto the trap to investigate the food or scent, it becomes glued to the surface of the trap – literally. Oftentimes, the animal gets its nose stuck in the glue and suffocates. Sometimes the mouse or rat chews off its foot in order to escape. Worst of all, some people just toss the traps away, with the live animal still attached, to suffer the slow death of starvation. Personally, I think these traps should be outlawed! It’s much kinder to give the mouse or rat a quick death!
If your rodent problem isn’t isolated, you’re probably going to need professional help in the form of pest exterminators. Actually, if you’ve seen more than one mouse or rat, or evidence of such, you probably have an imbedded, widespread problem. A pest exterminator once told me that the only mice and rats you actually see are either sick or very young. The healthy adult mice and rats are seldom seen in their forays.
Professional pest exterminators will search your entire home to find out where the vermin are entering. This kind of inspection is a good idea even if you don’t have a rodent infestation problem. You know, it’s that ounce of prevention, pound of cure thing. After the mouse exterminators or the rat exterminators find the entrances, they’ll seal them properly so that no more mice or rats can enter your home.
You might be thinking, “Well I can do that myself!” But unless you’re an expert, you’ll miss many possible entry ways, and you probably won’t properly seal the ones you do find, either. Mice are notorious for getting through tiny cracks that seem impossible for them to enter. And rats can chew through lead! The exterminators know just what to look for.
Mice exterminators and rat exterminators also have at their disposal mice repellants and rat repellants that will make your home not so inviting. The exterminators might also place certain poisons outside the home. A word of caution: Never use poisons inside your home for pest eradication! It’s just not worth the risk.
Take the advice of someone who’s been there. Hire professional mouse exterminators or rat exterminators to handle the rodent problem for you. The pest exterminators are experienced with rodents, and they know how to get rid of the vermin and prevent them from re-entering your home.
I fought a losing battle for months with mice. We sealed every hole and crack we could find, but the critters still made their way into the house. I was just about ready to pull out my hair! After we hired a couple of exterminators, however, our problem was solved. And I still have my hair!