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Of Mice and Men: Why Is It So Hard to Get Rid of Mice & Rats?

Updated: Oct 31, 2019


Despite all of our technological prowess and the advances we’ve made in such fields as health care, computing, genetic engineering and other scientific areas that bear directly on our well-being, there’s one domain where we seem to be faltering: Controlling our rodent populations.


Now, there are any number of reasons for this ̶ too many to go in to ̶ but one reason may be that pest control specialists have not kept pace with the ways in which these populations have changed over the last few decades!


And by pace, we don’t mean they don’t recognize the problem. It’s just that many in the industry are relying on what used to work in the past and, as a result, have narrowed their approach to rodent eradication.


Why Keep up with the Rodents?

Believe it or not, there are some radical souls who think that we should not be trying to eliminate rodents at all! Their argument, such as it is, goes something like this: Rodents are a natural part of the environment as a whole and are key to the stability and sustainability of various species. All life on planet Earth is interlinked, therefore we should do nothing to ‘upset’ that balance.


Unfortunately, that’s rather like saying that we shouldn’t try to control mosquito populations because malaria is caused by a naturally occurring parasite so we should just let it be. Alas, that’s just not an option.


And for those of you who hesitate, just for a moment, about the appropriateness of rodent eradication, remember that rats and mice can pose a threat to humans.


According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

"Worldwide, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases. These diseases can be spread to humans directly, through handling of rodents, through contact with rodent feces, urine, or saliva, or through rodent bites. Diseases carried by rodents can also be spread to humans indirectly, through ticks, mites or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent."

In fact, reliable research indicates that rodents can directly transmit such diseases as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome, Lassa Fever, Leptospirosis , Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM), Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever, as well as Plague, Rat-Bite Fever, Salmonellosis and South American Arenaviruses.

Quite a list, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Know Your Rodents!

Before we get to the subject of how to get rid of rats and mice, let’s take a quick look at how to identify which, if any, rodents you have in the home (or office).


  1. First, and foremost, rats and mice are nothing if not flexible, which is to say ‘adaptable.’

  2. Second, rodents are extremely smart, so whether or not you’re a pest control professional or just a regular homeowner, you cannot assume that you have the ‘upper hand’ over any rodent. They may well prove you wrong!


So, before you try every home remedy to get rid of mice and before you call your pest control professional to place mouse or rat traps, make sure that you have identified which rodent has invaded your home. Like such interlopers as bed bugs, fleas or ticks (among others) rats and mice are sneaky and devious: They’ll make their way into virtually any space, silently and will quickly make themselves ‘at home.'


Where to Find These Furry Invaders

To identify a rodent, you have to find it! Start by searching for holes near cabinets or closets, under sinks, cracks in foundation walls, gaps or holes around windows, vents, pipes, and missing screens. Actually, there are a myriad of ways that mice and rats can make entry into a home or office, so you just have to be vigilant.


Also, keep in mind that keeping an eye on the exterior of your home is also important. Rats and mice can find shelter almost anywhere, including compost heaps, bushes, stacks of firewood, clusters of plants and under flower pots and composters. Of course, however comfortable these rodents are in their outside accommodations, it’s only a matter of time before they find their way inside, especially with the onset of winter.


Signs of Mice and Rats: What to Look for:

To make sure that you are effectively tracking down any rodent interlopers, it’s worth taking your time and properly identifying the signs of infestation. Simply limiting your search to finding droppings or large holes that signal points of entry may not be enough.


What Do Mice Droppings Look Like?

Mice droppings are small and smooth with pointed ends, usually about 1/8 - 1/4 of an inch long. The droppings of the common Norway rat are normally brown and are blunt on both ends, while Roof rat droppings are dark and pointed at both ends.


As you undertake your primary assessment in trying to identify your mouse or rat species, keep a few other possible signs of invasions in mind. For instance, the sort of hair you might discover can quickly tell you whether you have rats, or mice, or both.


Mice and Rat Bite Marks

Admittedly, it’s sometimes hard to make this kind of identification with complete certainty, but there will probably be other signs to look out for. Bite marks on cardboard boxes and containers (in pantries and cupboards) are a good indicator of the type of rodent you’re dealing with. Small bite marks, say about 2mm in size, are usually those of a mouse, while larger one (in the 4mm range) says ‘rats.’ Also keep in mind that closed or sealed, boxes are ideal rodent homes, so best to approach them with care!


If you’re a professional pest control specialist, you are almost always under pressure to get the job done as quickly as possible. However, you might be well advised to explain to your customer that rushing the job may actually be counter-productive: It’s easy to miss something and that can result in call-backs, which are irritating for the customer and lost revenue for you!


If you’re a professional and you’re dealing with infestations in large buildings ̶ office blocks, for instance, apartment houses, maybe hotels or restaurants ̶ you may need to go hi-tech in your eradication efforts, such as deploying electronic rodent monitoring devices such as remote devices, cameras, even infra-red sensors. But this is akin to bringing in the ‘big guns’ and only feasible for those large-scale operators among you.


Where Are the Mice Hiding?

You can also rely on the old, tried-and-true detection methods. For instance, if you look long enough ̶ along baseboards, in corners and near food sources ̶ you may well discover the entrance point for these mice or rats. And, as you doubtless know, smears along baseboards and wainscoting are a sure sign of rodent presence. Sometimes you can even see tiny footprints or lines from tails dragging in dusty areas.


Another clue ̶ which again you’re probably aware of ̶ to the presence of rats or mice is a disagreeable, pungent odor.


How to Keep Mice and Rats at Bay

The quickest and easiest way to dissuade rodents from setting up home in a house or office is to deny them food. After all, finding food and water are the main reasons that rodents enter any dwelling or building.


So, be alert to rodent activity around bowls of pet food. Remove crumbs from kitchen surfaces, and never leave food-encrusted plates in sinks overnight. Open trash containers are very inviting for rodents, so cover them as best you can, and keep even open bags of rice (and other grains), flour, sugar, confectionery items and cereals in sealed plastic containers. And, by the way, this is also an effective way of keeping such pests as grain moths at bay.


Using Mouse Traps and Bait – Tips for the Pros

Using any kind of trap can be difficult for homeowners or non-professionals, but they obviously work and may be the only viable way you have of eradicating rodents, especially if the infestation is serious.


Which Mouse Traps Work Best?

However, if you do elect to use traps, do so for the right reason and not because it’s easy or convenient. For instance, snap traps work particularly well in corners, especially if they’re shaded or dark. Since rats are especially drawn to shaded corners ̶ they probably make them feel at ease ̶ so you’d be well advised to use snap traps here as well. And, of course, there are always glue traps, which tend to work best when they’re placed along sebum trails.


And by the way, some of the rules and lore that have governed the industry in the past ̶ such as distributing traps 25 to 50 feet apart for rats, and eight to 12 feet for mice, etc ̶ are simply unfounded. In fact, it’s a pretty amateurish way to approach the job!

Rely, instead, on the behavior (and zoology) you’ve learned from your observations and proven experience. Set those traps along sebum highways, not where old-wives tales tell you to. And if you are going to set them at varying distances make sure that to locate them in shaded areas, rats and mice prefer to travel.


Finally, it’s always a good idea to visit your customer after you’ve applied bait. Seven days is ideal. It’s an easy way to see how much bait has been taken and adding more if it’s needed.


What to Do After You Get Rid of Rats or Mice

Just because the rats and/or mice have been eradicated doesn’t mean that your job is done. The fact is that microorganisms of one unpleasant kind or another will be left behind, and you need to eliminate them as quickly as possible.

For that we recommend Sterifab. It’s a specially engineered antimicrobial agent that can eradicate any of the microorganisms that rats and mice carry with them, and obviously leave behind, in particular resistant bacterial spores. What’s more, Sterifab will not only eliminate microorganisms, it will also destroy viruses, fungus, as well as mold and mildew.


Get more information about how to use Sterifab and where to buy it.


Want more tips?

Learn more about how to get rid of mice or how to get rid of the smell of dead rats or mice.

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