Rodent Control Strategies
Got Rats and Mice?
Use exclusion and sanitation tactics to get rid of rodents in a safe and cost-effective way. The most effective long-term solution is to keep rodents out in the first place. Measures such as sealing entry points prevent rodents from entering buildings and help you avoid a full-scale invasion.
The Basics on Rodent Control
Rats and mice are not only a nuisance but can also cause property damage and transmit diseases. You’ll know they’ve arrived if you see rodent droppings near a food source or shredded fabric or paper. If you identify rodents, there are several steps to take to ensure permanent removal of these pests.
Removing rodents with traps or poisons will not keep rodents out of your home in the future. To permanently keep rats and mice out of your home or business, you will need to prevent access by sealing all possible entry points. It is equally important to eliminate rodent attractions such as food and water by keeping food in tightly sealed containers and repairing leaky pipes.
Common Sources of Food and Water
- Food in unsealed containers such as bags of chips, rice, cereal, crackers, flour, and other non-perishables.
- Pet food and water left out overnight or in a bag rather than in a secure container.
- Fruits or vegetables in open bowls left outside of refrigerator.
- Leaky pipes or faucets throughout the house.
- Open trash and compost containers.
Common Rodent Access Points
- Holes near cabinets, closets or doors leading to outside or crawl spaces.
- Holes around sink or appliance pipes.
- Cracked foundations in the basement or unscreened ventilation holes in the attic, especially in older structures.
- Holes around windows or doors.
- Missing screens in vents or crawl spaces under buildings.
Once you have blocked the access points and removed sources of food and water, you’ll need to eliminate the remaining rodents. The following sections offer an overview of different treatment options and serve as useful guidance for keeping your home or business permanently free of rats and mice.
Guidelines to Maintaining a Rodent-Free Home
Three Guiding Principles:
|Seal entry points to prevent rodents from entering your home or business. Be sure to use 1/4" x 1/4" metal mesh to seal off existing entry points. For more tips on how to exclude rodents and what type of materials to use, visit University of Florida's Non-Chemical Rodent Control page.||Look for signs of rats and mice such as rodent droppings round food, kitchen corners, inside cabinets or under sinks.||Remove rodents by using snap or electronic traps. Be cautious with live traps as rodents might urinate which increases the risk of spreading disease. In addition, some states prohibit releasing rodents into the wild.|
|Remove rodent attractions such as food or shelter by ensuring that food is securely stored and that surroundings are clean.||Also, look for nesting material such as shredded paper or fabric.||Install barn owl nesting boxes to naturally control rodents.|
- Don’t plant ivy — it provides shelter and a food source for rodents: snails and slugs. Ivy on walls can form “rat ladders” to windows, attics and other interior spaces.
- Keep compost piles as far away from structures as possible and grass cut to no more than two inches tall.
- Maintain at least a 2 foot space between bushes, shrubs, fences, and buildings. Also, remove tree limbs within 3 feet of a structure or roof.
- Avoid having a birdfeeder since it provides a source of food for rodents.
- Keep outdoor grills and cooking areas clean.
- Keep firewood off the ground and as far away from structures as possible to mitigate shelter opportunities.
- Use city-issue plastic trash bins. If cracked or missing a lid, contact the Department of Sanitation for a replacement.
- Encase all food items such as breakfast cereals, chips, and crackers in containers.
- Opt for garbage bins and compost containers with a top that seals tightly.
- Rinse food and beverage containers before discarding or recycling.
- Clean your garbage and recycling bins frequently.
- Do not leave pet food or water out overnight.
- Maintain stove tops clean and free of food scraps.
- De-clutter your home of papers, fabric, and any similar materials that attract rodents for nesting.
- Repair leaky pipes.
- Seal entry points around cabinets, interior walls, attic, and crawl spaces with steel wool, caulk, or 1/4″ x 1/4″ metal mesh.
- Maintain attic, crawl spaces, and cabinets near sinks clean and free of moisture.
Promote Natural Predators
Natural predators such as snakes, hawks, and owls can help to control rodent populations by feeding on rats and mice. Barn owls are efficient hunters and a family of barn owls can eat as many as 3000 mice per year. To encourage barn owls to nest and stay in your area, consider installing a nesting box. Strategic placement of nesting boxes combined with the use of traps and other preventative measures will go a long way to managing your rodent problems.
For more information on installing and maintaining nesting boxes, visit the Hungry Owl Project or the Barn Owl Box Company. Please note that the Hungry Owl Project strongly urges that NO rodent poisons be used indoors or outdoors while encouraging owls to your property. Using rodent poisons could kill an owl if it feeds on a poisoned rodent.
Treating Rodent Infestations
If you confirm that rats or mice are present in your home, you will need to use a combination of preventative measures and treatment options to get rid of them. The preventative measures include, removing food, water, shelter, and access to your home. This section will focus on the treatment options available and provide an overview of traps.
Summary of Rodent Control Recommendations
Types of Traps
Benefits of Using Traps
Using traps instead of rodent poisons gives you clear confirmation of a captured rodent and allows you to better gauge the effectiveness of treatment. You are also able to dispose of rodents immediately rather than dealing with the foul odor of rotting carcasses from poisoned rodents inside your walls or otherwise out of reach. Most important, using traps allows you to avoid rodenticides, which pose a greater threat of exposure to children, pets, and non-target wildlife, including natural predators.
For a guide on how to select and place traps, watch this video created by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program.
|Snap Trap||This is the oldest type of trap and uses a spring-loaded bar to kill a rodent on contact. Some modern snap traps prevent risk to children and pets by enclosing the device in a plastic box. Click here to watch an instructional video on how to safely set a snap trap.|
|Electronic Trap||This battery-powered trap delivers an electric shock that kills rodents quickly. This is a newer type of trap, and models are available for both rats and mice.|
|Live-Animal Trap||This is a catch and release system that avoids killing a rat or mouse. Some states prohibit releasing rodents into the wild. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that captured rats or mice might urinate and increase risk of spreading disease.|
|Multiple-Catch Live Mouse Trap||This is a catch and release system that allows for capture of multiple mice. See warnings for the live animal trap above.|
|Glue Trap||Glue traps are not recommended because the adhesive plate that is used to capture rodents can also trap birds, baby animals, lizards, and even pets. These traps also cause undue suffering to rodents. The CDC warns that captured rats or mice might urinate and increase the risk of spreading disease.|
Enclosure boxes are plastic boxes that can fit a single snap trap, sometimes more, in order to provide an additional layer of protection for kids and pets. These boxes also hide the dead rodent, making for easier disposal of rodent, and can be re-used.
When using traps, take the following safety steps:
- Always read and follow the label instructions on the rodent control product.
- Be sure to place traps in locations where children and pets cannot access them or place traps in safety enclosure boxes.
Cleaning up after trapping rodents
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following safety tips:
- Use gloves when disposing of dead rodents, nests, or any nesting material.
- Spray the dead rodent or nesting material with a disinfectant solution and allow them to soak for 5 minutes before disposing rodent or materials in a secure plastic bag.
- Spray and wipe up the area surrounding dead rodent or nesting material with a disinfectant.
- Place the plastic bag with rodent or nesting material into another plastic bag along with any wipes or rags that were used to sanitize the surrounding area.
- Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
For tips on cleaning up rodent urine and droppings, see the CDC’s Cleaning up after rodents page.
Review all your options before deciding on a treatment plan. If you decide to work with a pest control professional, be sure the company is Ecowise, GreenShield or GreenPro certified and familiar with Integrated Pest Management techniques.
Preventing and treating rodent infestations requires a combination of eliminating access points rats and mice might use to enter your home, removing food sources and shelter that attract rodents, and using traps to get rid of existing rats and mice in or around your home.
Using a multi-tactic approach to manage rodents decreases the risk of dealing with future infestations since a significant piece of the puzzle is adopting preventative measures such as blocking access and eliminating food and water sources that attract rats and mice.
Rodenticides consist of different types of poisons used to kill rodents. Rodenticide baits can be lethal for any mammal or bird that ingests them and are not only poisonous for rodents. As a result, all baits pose a high risk of poisoning for non-target animals that might eat the bait or consume a poisoned rat or mouse.
For more information on different types of rodenticides, please visit our Rodenticides page.
If you choose to use rodenticides, you should be ready to deal with these potential consequences:
- Rodents are likely to die in locations where they cannot be retrieved. The smell of a dead animal will persist for several weeks to several months.
- If you or your neighbors have cats or dogs, they may die or become acutely ill from eating poisoned rodents.
- Predatory birds like hawks, eagles and owls, and mammalian predators such as foxes and coyotes may die from eating poisoned rodents or a rodenticide bait.
- Children are at risk of accidental poisoning since they might mistake the rodenticide bait for candy or food.
If after assessing the risks to children, pets, and wildlife of using rodenticides, you still determine that rodenticides are necessary, take these precautionary steps to reduce risk:
- Always read and follow the label instructions on the pesticide product. The label is the law and you could be liable for any damage resulting from not following the label instructions.
- Use only US EPA approved products that are sold and used with tamper resistant bait stations to protect children, pets, and wildlife. See US EPA’s list of rodenticide bait station products here.
- Indoors, only place rodenticide bait stations in locations that are completely inaccessible to children and pets—inside walls, under heavy appliances, or in enclosed crawlspaces.
- To protect wildlife, consumer-use rodenticide bait products must not contain the second-generation anticoagulants (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone) as active ingredients (US EPA).
- Once all signs of rodents are gone, remove bait stations promptly by placing in a secure plastic bag.
- University of California, Davis IPM Online: Pests of homes, structures, people and pets.
- University of Florida’s IFAS Extension: Rodent control measures.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Information on disease hazards posed by rodent infestations.
- National Pesticide Information Center: Provides objective, science-based information about pesticides to enable people to make informed decisions about pesticides usage.
- US Environmental Protection Agency:
- Humane Pest Control: A commercial company that focuses on maintaining human living spaces rodent-free primarily by blocking their entry.