As the cooler weather rolls in and we start to spend more time indoors – so do pesky rodents! Rats and mice are some of the top nuisance pests. They wreak havoc on your home and easily spread disease. They do not need much space to wiggle their bodies through holes or cracks so even if you think your home is fully protected, more often than not they’ll find a way inside. Rats can wiggle their way into gaps and holes as small as ½ inch, and if the hold is not yet that size the rat can gnaw at it until it is. Mice only need a gap or hole ¼ inch and just like rats, they’ll chew and gnaw at smaller openings until they are big enough to wiggle through.
In the Lowcountry we see a much higher volume of rats than other areas of the country. This is due to our mild climate and proximity to water. Fun fact – rats are strong swimmers! Once inside your home, these pests search for 2 things: food and water. If they can find both, then it is highly likely that they will stay and their population will grow quickly.
It is frightening and unpleasant to see a rat or mouse in the house. But even worse than that, these rodents can cause extensive damage to your home with their gnawing, urinating, defecating, nest-making, and potential for spreading disease. If you suspect rodent activity in your house, take a look at the top four things mice or rats are doing in your home.
Making a Nest
Making a nest is a top priority for mice and rats. Rodents like to have a nice, soft, comfortable place to birth their babies. Mice and rats will use whatever they can find – from old newspapers to files and cardboard boxes – to build their nests. Even your drywall, insulation, and wiring is not safe! When rodents make their way to these items, they cause significant and costly damage to your home. Bared wires even run the risk of igniting a fire.
Hunting for Food
One of the main ways that mice and rats spread disease is through contaminating your food. Once contaminated, your food can potentially be the source of many diseases, including:
- Salmonellosis (salmonella)
- Rat bite fever
- Murine typhus
Mice and rats roam your home in search of food and amidst that search will urinate and drop its feces along the way – contaminating everything in its path. If the rodent(s) make their way to your pantry, it is likely that it/they will walk on the food and its packaging. Why does this matter? Well … the next time you touch those items you’re likely touching its urine trail and/or feces!
The teeth of mice and rats are extremely sharp and they usually chew through packaging to get to food. Even the boxes and bags you think are safe are not, and the moment they get in to the food is when the risk for spreading disease drastically increases.
Finding a Water Source
Like humans, rodents cannot survive long-term without water. Although some food they consume will provide them with some hydration, they also require free-standing water to live. They are incredibly resourceful critters and will drink water found at the base of a potted plant, your pets water, or that from a slow-draining or plugged up bathtub.
Rodents are prolific breeders, meaning their populations can explode quickly. All they need is sufficient food, water, and shelter.
- Rats: Each female rat can have up to 7 litters in 1 year with up to 14 young in each litter! At just 4 weeks, rats are full-grown adults and able to reproduce. This means that multiple generations can be born in a single year from each female in the litter.
- Mice: Female mice breed even more! A female house mouse can have up to 10 litters in a single year with between 6-12 young in each litter. At 7 weeks they are full-grown adults so in ideal conditions their population can explode in just a few months.