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Mice and Rats: Exterminators or Do It Yourself?

Updated on October 17, 2011

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!

Pest exterminators

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!

Rodent exterminators can get rid of your pests!
Rodent exterminators can get rid of your pests!


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    • profile image

      Gail Lee 5 days ago

      Since one of our neighbors is leaving dog food outside in their patio during the night, we now have had rats visiting our back yard, more than likely nesting under our shed. My coonhound alerts me when there is one hanging out in the vines on our trellis, but is unable to climb up high enough to catch it. Since I don't really want her to catch it herself, I have had really good success with an easy to make trap that I saw on YouTube. It's a pretty popular method, given the number of videos I've seen posted. All it takes is one of those 5 gallon buckets (Lowes, Home Depot, or commercial paint buckets, etc) filled half to two thirds full with water, a soda can, a piece of heavy wire (pliers to crimp it with), a scrap of wood for a ramp up to the top edge of the bucket, and some peanut butter. The rat walks up the ramp, steps out onto the wire towards the soda can to get the peanut butter, it spins, and drops the rat into the water for one fateful swim. I like this method because as much as I don't like drowning the little guys, I especially don't want them breeding in my back yard. Unlike a snap trap, the drowning method assures you that you aren't going to find a suffering still alive rat in the trap when you go out to check the trap in the morning. Works like a charm.

    • profile image

      Phil R 3 years ago

      I've done a lot of pest control on my own but the only time I couldn't do it on my own was with bed bugs. I had to hire another company in Phoenix to do that ..

    • profile image

      Luke Bently 5 years ago

      Thanks for this article! I have thought about doing pest control on my own but I think I'll hire an exterminator in phoenix instead. hopefully we get rid of the pests soon.

    • profile image

      michaelb 5 years ago

      "Humane traps?" LOL, kill the f-ckers. It's just not worth being "humane."

    • profile image

      Rosielee 6 years ago

      I live in rural NSW and right across the road from the showgrounds where i live when out driving its common to see mice running across the road between towns and even in town (watched them come over from the showgrounds little monsters) well around April last year we had a very bad mice problem in the shed and house got a pile of thoses plastic traps tried jam chocolate on the traps nothing much happened changed to peanut butter after a week within the next week we had caught about 20 or so then we started on the shed. This was actually quite scary within 2 days we had caught over 50 mice had 9 traps set at different areas of the shed and you just hear snap snap snap also the dog was catching them in the back yard. We haven't had any more in the house and still have the traps set every where in the shed carport chicken cage house storage shed its just a matter of keeping an eye on all the traps and sometimes moving them a bit now we are down to catching a couple each month (morning habit while I feed all our pets it to check the traps as I am going seeing if any have been set off have caught anything) catching them outside prevents them getting in the house

    • profile image

      tia 6 years ago

      i have tried everything to get rid of my mice. i called an exterminator and everything, now the mice are worse than before. it really sucks. i dont know what else to do. they pee and poop everywhere, i clean and clean and they stink up my house. its gross :(

    • profile image

      Nie05 6 years ago

      I'm pregnant and worried my mice problem could harm my baby. Is that something I should worry about?

    • profile image

      Rodent Control Melbourne 6 years ago

      Some really great advice Habee. You can try and solve the problem yourself but things can get complicated fast. If it is small scale then you can buy poison traps from your local DIY store. But any bigger than that, I'd get the professionals in.


    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Lady, thanks for the great tip!!

    • Lady In NC profile image

      Lady In NC 7 years ago from A Small Town In North Carolina

      Eeeeek !! I have a phobia when it comes to mice or rats . Its been a very long time since I've seen one ,but if I do my whole insides feel like they freeze up .its a terrible . Your hub with all this information was very well written ,however the pic ya used ,well eeeks !! A natural remedy used to rid of rats & mice ,is cotton balls drenched in pure peppermint oil . It weakens their respiratory system ..

      Enjoyed reading your hubs

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for the info, Jenny!

    • jennysteadman profile image

      jennysteadman 7 years ago from New Mexico

      Ugh, that picture is horrible. Mice seem to get into our home as well, and the diseases they can carry are really dangerous. I just found this mousetrap from Victor called the Kill and Seal. This hygienic trap completely seals so no parasites, bodily fluids, or odors can escape.

      Here's the trap I'm talking about:

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for the advice, Alan!

    • profile image

      Alan 7 years ago

      If you decide to save some money (And who doesn't need that?!? ) don't buy the Ortho Home Defense Kill and Contain mousetraps. I bought one and it never worked. Then I read the other day that they were under investigation for poor advertising practices.

    • tbryce1966 profile image

      tbryce1966 7 years ago

      If you decide to save some money (And who doesn't need that?!? ) don't buy the Ortho Home Defense Kill and Contain mousetraps. I bought one and it never worked. Then I read the other day that they were under investigation for poor advertising practices.

    • elf_cash profile image

      elf_cash 7 years ago

      I think I'd go with exterminators.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Haha! No, Betty, we live in town now and no longer have mice!

    • Betty Reid profile image

      Betty Reid 8 years ago from Texas

      I hope that photo is not from your house! I recently had a rodent problem that was finally solved by identifying and covering the hole through which they entered.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Audrey, how do you recommend cooking the rats? I've tried frying them, but they were rather dry and chewy. Should I have parboiled them first?

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 8 years ago from Washington

      I'm so afraid of using rat poisons and such and I've had a devil of a time trying to convince neighbors that even if they use this stuff in THEIR yards/houses that yes, in fact, it could effect my dogs IF they ever happened to bite into the things in OUR yards! They seem totally brain dead on this subject - or they are secretly trying to kill my dogs! I actually have a great micer - my male malamutes for some reason always seem to find rats and mice - who knew! And they bring them to me right at the back door - just like a cat. Much to my joy of course because then I can fry them up for dinner....har har! Great info!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Now THAT is a scary bit of info, Brian!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      They are wily little critters, Jen!

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 8 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Way too much information for me, not sure I will ever sleep again. Especially if you believe the reports that you are never more than 1m (3 feet) away from a rat. That was reported in the UK however, so at least I can take comfort from the fact I don't live there anymore.

    • JenDobson27 profile image

      JenDobson27 8 years ago

      I just can't stand those little creatures. Sometimes they are just too tough to outsmart!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Eth, I never tried chocolate - didn't want to waste any on the mousies!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Sandy, I agree!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      I don't have to worry about the critters anymore, HH!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Once had mice in the past. Not nice. Chocolate on the trap did the trick.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      That must have been awful. I had twice in 20 years a mouse in the house and gosh I was after it. Thank you for a great hub.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Cool, Herbi! I'm back in town now, so no rodents - except for the squirrels. lol

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Years ago, I remember mice in my parent pantry. Very creepy.

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 8 years ago from Holly, MI

      Well if the cats and dogs aren't catching about adopt a barn owl. lol They eat 3 rodents a day. :) hehe

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Pam, cats? See the comment I left Larry!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Larry! We had plenty of cats, and they killed the varmints, but I guess they just couldn't keep up!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 8 years ago from United States

      Habee, I can't look at the picture! I would have to call the exterminator for rats but might try to get rid of mice. I have a big cat well suited for the job and he is out of work right now. Good hub.

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 8 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Hi habee...That must have been an interesting time for a young suburban girl coming face to face with nature...Excellent Hub with good advise for removing these pests: Call the professionals.!

      My tag team of 2 cats and a Jack Russell keep our place pest-free for the most part...We have pack rats here that munch auto wiring and insulation...The cats chase the rat and knock it around until the Jack Russell arrives and kills it quickly with a bite and a vigorous shake...Can't beat teamwork..! Thanks for this...Larry


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