Rodent-Proof Your House

Rodent-proof your house with these techniques to keep your home vermin-free.

| March/April 2007

Some helpful tips to rodent-proof your house.

Rats and mice do more damage inside our homes than any other mammal in the world. They spoil food, spread diseases and chew essential parts of the home such as electrical wires. Phenomenally fertile, a cute pair of mice living in your garage can grow into a gang of 20 or more in only a few months.

You don't have to use poisons to keep rats and mice from ruining food or taking up residence in your attic. Instead, use the "seal up, trap up, clean up" strategy, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plus good common sense (see page 67 in this issue). It's important to understand that not all rodents are pests. Numerous species of small rodents are native to North America, including insect-eating grasshopper mice. Most rodents prefer fields to human habitats, but the opposite is true of three species uniquely adapted to living around humans: the house mouse, the roof rat and the Norway rat. The better you know these troublemakers, the easier it will be to bring them under control.

Rodent-Proof Your House: Lining up Predators

Ted Hazen, a third-generation millwright in Norfolk, Virginia, says that cats historically have been the primary means of controlling mice in houses and in mills, where spilled grain is a constant rodent attractant. "A good mousing cat will eat 1,200 mice a year," Hazen says. (See "Barn Cats" in the September/October 2006 issue of Grit.)

Hazen says some cats are more gifted mousers than others, but even great mousing cats can be intimidated by big rats. In California, Tom Stephan uses Jack Russell terriers to catch rats, sometimes in combination with his trained Saker falcon (native to Europe and Asia), which snatches up rats as the dogs flush them from their holes. "There is no other dog that's better," Stephan says. "They are a top-notch type-A hunting dog." In addition to pawing through just about anything to get to a rat, Stephan says, his Jack Russells go for the kill. It sounds gory, but so is removing rats from snap traps.

If you keep a barn cat or rat-minded dog, never scold them for bringing you their prey. Cats and rodent-hunting dogs are great for preventing mice problems because they're best at detecting intruders in their home territory. But don't expect a cat to bring a large mouse population under control, and it may take more than one dog to get rid of rats.

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