Rodents will do whatever it takes to get inside your home. They’ll climb ladders and walls, walk across wires and swim through sewers (they can even enter your home through your toilet!). So, what can you do to keep them out?
Unfortunately for us, mice are adaptable and relentless in their search for food, warmth and shelter. Your home is the perfect spot to accommodate all of their basic needs. In the colder season, these needs become more acute and this is when they are most likely to move in.
Mice look for weaknesses
Mice are determined opportunists. They will look for any weak spots in your home to gain access. Because of this you have to become a DIY guru; sealing every hole and gap, and repairing any damaged areas of your house.
The main ways that mice get into your home
When talking about rats and mice, an expert once said to me “You have to admire their agility”. I have to say when I had rats in my roof, the last thought on my mind was admiration – it was more like panic!
In fact, did you know that young mice can fit through gaps as small as the width of a pencil (6mm)?!
More frightening rat and mice facts to consider:
House mice can readily scale 2 meter high walls
Mice can squeeze through holes the width of a pencil
Mice can jump as high as 24cm
Rats are able to jump 77cm vertically and 120cm horizontally
What all this means is that you should not only look for visible entry points into your home. Since rodents are sneaky, you have to ponder what they are pondering (a la Pinky and The Brain)… how about checking for gaps around pipework!
Via your roof! The case of the renowned Roof Rats
It is not mere coincidence that another name for the Black rat is roof rat! Black rats in particular are even more agile than other rat species and often find ways indoors via roof tops. These roof rats enter via utility posts and cables, or plants growing up the side of your property.
Are you still wondering how mice got into your high food cupboards? Well, picture the back of your refrigerator. To us humans, it is a necessary part of the appliance, but to rodents it is the perfect climbing frame. It allows them access to left-overs and food located high on kitchen counters.
Other access points into your home:
Via gaps in basement
Unplugged holes around old or new pipework
Via structural weaknesses such as damaged flooring or roofing
Via air vents
Via drain pipes; yes, rats can swim very well and survive in sewers and drains!
How To Keep Mice Out
As a homeowner, a mouse and rat problem is both a financial risk, as well as a risk to your health and well-being (especially when you are kept up at night!).
Rats and mice breed rapidly; turning a small problem into a large-scale rodent infestation very quickly. Combined with the known diseases rodents can carry and the damage they can do to wiring, cables, furniture and other parts of your home, you should take action at the very first signs of a rodent problem.
As with anything, prevention is always better than cure.
There are many cost effective steps you can take to get rid of mice before they become a problem, and which don’t involve a lot of effort. To reduce risks further, professional mouse control solutions are also available.
7 Top Tips for preventing mice in the house
Store food carefully: food should be stored in airtight containers where rats and mice can’t gain access to.
Clean spills and appliances: Regularly clean under stoves, refrigerators and cupboards. Be sure to clean counter tops and wash floors where there has been any spillage that can attract rodents.
Fit bristle (or brush) strips to the bottom of doors to prevent entry, especially in older properties where the door fit may not be snug.
Seal holes around pipes with coarse grade stainless steel wire wool or mesh and caulking.
Seal exterior holes: These are often made in outdoor walls for cables and pipes; check that old pipework holes are sealed too. Any holes that are larger than 5mm will allow mice to gain access because their jaws can fit into tight spaces like these and quickly gnaw larger openings that allow them to enter a building.
Cover airvents with fine galvanised wire mesh, especially if they are damaged.
Fix damaged roofing and use wire mesh to seal any gaps.
Mice require 3 main things to thrive: shelter, warmth and food. Your home provides all of these things, as they are essentially what us humans also need.
1. Your home provides the perfect nesting spot
Once inside, mice will search for an isolated spot in your home, but ideally one that is close to a food source; your kitchen or dining area are ideal hunting ground! This is why you often find mice nests behind kitchen appliances and behind your refrigerator. These spots are both warm and cosy, as well as close to food!
Mice love making use of paper with which to build their nests. If you are stashing your newspapers or magazines in your house, or even toilet paper or paper towels at your workplace, mice will find a way to use these as nesting materials.
2. Mice search for warmth
Mice can easily find warmth by nesting inside cavity walls, under your floorboards, near your hot water tank or even up in your roof or loft area.
3. Mice are always on the lookout for food
What do mice eat? Most people know that mice not only enjoy cheese, but also chocolates and peanut butter. They have even been observed to have a particular preference for a certain flavour of chips!
Mice are able to get their daily water requirement from the food they eat; as long as it contains certain levels of moisture.
Rats, on the other hand, need access to free water and can’t survive on moisture from their food alone. It does explain why rats love bread and vegetables like potatoes, which have a high water content, as well as their general fondness for your compost bin!
This also explains why mouse problems are more common in homes than rat problems. Having said this though, if you live near a river (like me!), lake, stream or happen to have a neighbour with a fish pond in the garden, you are just as likely to be at risk of rats!
Rodent fact: Did you know that mice will feed from multiple places in any one night, but rats are more cautious, preferring to stick to 2 or 3 different places only.
Mice get up to mischief during night time
As mice are nocturnal, it is rare to catch sight of mice during the day, unless you have a very big mice infestation problem. If you are looking for them, the signs of mice can be noticed during the day time.
Mice like moving along skirting boards
Their natural instincts dictate that they move about their environment with caution and always along the edge of something. It would be rare to see mice darting across an open area. In your home, this is usually along skirting boards, kitchen cupboards or along walls. In the wild, this behaviour protects them from predators.
Did you know: whatever activity they are doing, a rodent’s eye will always be looking upwards to stay alert for any predators.
If a mouse problem is left without taking any proper action for too long, you will begin to see smear marks appear along their common routes, which are created from the repeated rubbing of their greasy fur along any form of edge.
The unfortunate signs of mouse droppings and urine
Another obvious sign of their presence in your home is evidence of urine and small parcels of mouse droppings.
Rodents will go out of their way to urinate on things. It’s a form of marking their territory and also communication with other members in the group, directing them to available food sources.
Ever heard of urine pillars? In the case of long term unmanaged rat and mouse infestations, the continued urination from rodents on the same spot will eventually lead to a buildup of material called a urine pillar. Urine pillars are essentially vertical towers of urine combined with the grease from their fur.
Pillars can be found on kinks in the ground or anything that sticks out – like the bottom half of a screw for example.
Within a mischief (yes, that is the official term for a group!) of mice or rats, they can also tell from the smell of the urine whether that urine was left by a male or female, the identity of the exact individual and even (if left by a female) whether she is ready to mate!
You could also find up to 80 small mouse droppings following one nighttime excursion in your kitchen!
What should you do now?
In the wild, mice can survive for 1 year to 18 months given the right social and environmental factors, and all the time multiplying in numbers.
Can you see now how your house could quickly be overrun if no action is taken to prevent a problem happening?
As with anything, prevention is always better than cure.
Follow the #RodentRebels for more information and tips on prevention and control of rats and mice.
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Nicole Maritz is an Online Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial in Johannesburg. Although she is in love with nature and its elements, the creepy crawlies do sometimes get to her - especially Jo'burg's repulsively large, hissing Parktown Prawns! Follow Nicole on Twitter for updates on the weird and the wonderful.