Rodents are incredibly common in the UK, and while many people think of them as living in sewers or even in laboratories, they are likely to be a lot happier if they can find a cosy corner of your garden or warm up inside your house. As a result, home infestations are not uncommon. They can be tricky to deal with, but knowing about them and how they’ve found their way in is half the battle.
While rats are generally fairly reclusive, there are usually a few ways you can tell if there are unwanted houseguests making themselves at home.
The most obvious way you can tell if there’s a problem is if you actually see a rat or a mouse. It’s fairly safe to assume that it won’t be one which has just turned up and will be running out the back door any second; if a rodent has found somewhere warm with a good supply of food and water they are likely to settle down for the long haul.
Even if you don’t see the pest itself, there are plenty of other clues. if you spot droppings, gnawed wood or cables, or you hear scurrying, it’s likely rats or mice have taken up residence.
Once you’ve found out you have a problem the next logical step is to find out how they’re getting in. Even if you manage to rid yourself of the current infestation, a new one could use the same entrance point and the cycle could continue for months or even years unless you ensure your home is properly sealed.
Usually a rat will have got in through a structural fault in your building, but this doesn’t have to be huge. A hole as small as two inches in diameter is enough to let a young rat into your house; once they’re in they might grow too large to leave. For mice a gap as small as half an inch in diameter is more than enough room to get in. Broken ventilation bricks as well as holes from old plumbing or general gaps in the brickwork could be all it takes. If you live in a semi-detached or terraced property the pests could also be coming in through one of your neighbours’ homes.
Once you’ve checked the outside walls, you can move your fridge, cooker and dishwasher. There might be gaps in between the flooring or by the skirting board which are just big enough for a little whiskered rodent. Before you start moving the furniture, it’s a good idea to open your doors. You might disturb a rat and if you’re lucky it might run straight outside.
Be sure to check under floorboards if you do find any gaps and the look in the attic as well.
So you know you have rats or mice, and you know how they’re getting in as well. Now is the time to think about getting rid of them – and stopping them from coming back. There are a number of different methods, all with varying degrees of effectiveness. Some might work better for some people than for others, and sometimes a combination of products is the best solution. Your main options are traps, poisons, or electronic devices.
Let’s start with poisons. These are generally considered to be the most effective way to rid your house of a rat problem, although you will need to think very carefully about how they’re used. If you have pets or children then you are almost certainly going to want to steer clear of this particular method. There is also the risk that the rodent will die somewhere you have minimal if any access to, which can make disposing of the body very tricky.
Traps are often what people think of when it comes to pest problem (a certain cartoon cat and mouse spring to mind too). You might be thinking about the sprung loaded devices with cheese which can be easily knocked and set off by the wrong creature if you’re not careful. Peanuts and chocolate in particular and considered to be excellent baits, and you can buy pet-safe mouse traps which are covered to prevent the wrong nose from setting them off. It’s worth remembering that the more traps you use, the better than chances of success.
Glue traps tend to be considered as a last resort, as you will need to check them very frequently to make sure you’re disposing of your pests humanely. They can be incredibly effective, but we would recommend trying a catch alive or a back break style trap first. Mice are very inquisitive while rats are more cautious, so depending on your particular little furry problem you might find it takes a while to get any sort of success with traps.
More recently we’ve seen the introduction of electronic control which uses either sonic or electro-magnetic fields. As the rodents dislike this sensation, they often choose to vacate the premises within a few days. While some people swear by these devices, others prefer to know that they have physically removed all traces of the rodents through catch or kill traps.