Mice and rats, although small, can be enormous headaches for homeowners. They can chew through wires, contaminate food and bring in fleas and other parasites. Knowing which type of rodent is infesting your home — which you can often identify based on the damage they cause — will help you to exterminate them more effectively.
How Mice and Rats Get Into Your Home
Mice and rats can enter homes through a variety of openings. Rats can squeeze through holes the size of a half dollar, while mice can fit through gaps the size of a nickel. For this reason, it’s important to carefully check the outside of your house and close any openings of these sizes. Here are some places where rodents commonly sneak in:
- Corner Posts and J-Channels: Corner posts go over the siding in the corners of your house, and j-channels are the trim around doors and windows that cover up the ends of vinyl siding. The corner posts allow rodents to climb up the side of your house easily, and they are often able to squeeze in the gaps between the j-channels and siding.
- Foundations: Cracks in your house’s foundation also provide an opportunity for rodents to enter. Rubble foundations and stack stone foundations are especially vulnerable to rodent infestations because of the gaps they contain.
- Attached Garages: If your garage doors are uneven or are left open for long periods of time, mice and rats can easily enter. Clutter can also invite these unwanted furry pests.
- Bilco Doors: “Bilco doors” refers to the slanted doors outside of some homes that lead to the basement. Mice can often fit through the gap between these two doors.
- Gutters and Waterspouts: These exterior fixtures make it easy for mice and rats to gain access to your roof.
- Chimneys: Chimneys are commonly made of brick and stone, which are easy for mice and rats to scale and gain entry to your house.
- Openings for Utility Lines: Houses have openings in their sides for utility lines to enter, which are often large enough for rodents to squeeze through, as well.
House Damage Caused by Mice
While the physical differences between mice and rats may be distinct, they also differ regarding the havoc they can wreak on your home. Here are seven examples of the damage mice can cause in your home.
Mice leave a substantial about of fecal matter, ranging from 70 to 150 droppings per day. The feces appears black when fresh, but turns a grey color when old. You’ll commonly find droppings in places like the back of your silverware drawer, behind your food boxes, the back of your pantries or under your kitchen sink. These are the same places cockroaches tend to leave droppings, so it’s important to be able to tell the difference — cockroach waste has ridges, is more seed-shaped and is often smeared on the walls, too.
Mouse droppings, on the other hand, are more spindle-shaped and measure about a quarter of an inch. If you look at a dropping closely, you may also notice the middle is fatter, it’s pointier at the ends, and it typically bends in an arch.
Mice are opportunistic eaters that will consume many things in your home, but they prefer to eat cereals. When eating cereal, they tend to remove the outer husk so they can eat the white endosperm inside. They typically eat in the same places every night, which makes it easier to catch them. They don’t need to drink water, but if it’s available, they will consume about 3ml daily.
While rats move cautiously and tend to be quiet, mice tend to not care about making noise when traveling through your walls.
Mice can gnaw on various things in your home, which can pose a fire hazard. However, their teeth are relatively weak. As long as you properly store your food sources in glass or metal containers, the mice will not be able to access it.
Mice tend to make their homes as close as possible to a reliable food source. You are much more likely to find them in walls or other susceptible areas in your kitchen, such as below the sink. Mice also prefer cozy beds and will collect soft, fibrous materials like clothing, paper and even insulation from your walls to build comfortable beds.
Mice can quickly reproduce, which means more damage. Mice can start procreating by the time they’re four to six weeks old. They can have babies anytime during the year and produce litters of five or six offspring each time. Each year, a female can give birth to between five and 10 litters.
Mice transmit many diseases, and most of them are harmful to humans. In fact, they are one of the leading causes of disease transmission. Some of the most common illness mice can bring into your home include:
- Hantavirus: An hantavirus infection can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), a respiratory disease with a 38 percent mortality rate. Symptoms begin to appear between one and five weeks after coming in contact with the urine, feces or saliva of infected rodents. Early symptoms include fever, fatigue and muscle aches. About four to 10 days later, coughing, shortness of breath and respiratory failure can occur. There is no treatment, cure or vaccine for this illness, but if the patient receives acute medical care early on, this may improve their chances of survival.
- Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis: This disease is caused by lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Researchers believe 5 percent of house mice in the U.S. carry this virus. Transmission can occur after coming in contact with fresh urine, saliva, droppings or nesting materials used by infected mice. The inflection has two phases. The first includes general symptoms like fever, lack of appetite and muscle aches. Neurological diseases like meningitis and encephalitis characterize the second phase. The fatality rate is less than 1 percent, although long-lasting neurological damage is possible.
- Leptospirosis: Although many different animals carry this disease, it is usually transmitted to humans via the urine of mice and rats, which is often present in contaminated food. The disease begins with flu-like symptoms like vomiting and an intense headache. Then, as the patient seems to be recovering, more severe symptoms like meningitis and liver damage can occur.
House Damage Caused by Rats
Since rats are larger and harder to detect and catch, they tend to cause more damage to a house. Here are seven common examples.
Rats leave around 40 to 50 pellets per day, and they are found in small or sometimes large groups. When fresh, these droppings appear dark and soft and have a glistening, damp surface. When they’re old, they turn a dull grey, and their texture becomes crumbly and dusty. You will find these droppings where rats tend to live — such as attics, garages, basements and rooftops.
Rat droppings are larger than mouse droppings, measuring about three-quarters of an inch long and an eighth of an inch thick. They are also curved, shaped like a sausage and pointy at the ends.
- Brown Rats: Brown rats prefer to eat meat and cereals. When eating cereals, they will cut the grain, which makes it look like it’s been chopped. They tend to seek food in the same places, which makes them easier to catch. They also drink around 60ml of water a day.
- Black Rats: Black rats prefer to eat moist fruit. Unlike brown rats, black rats do not eat in the same places on consecutive nights, which makes it more difficult to trap them. To catch a black rat, you must place a large number of traps using moist food, which only remains edible to a black rat for a few days. This means you’ll have to replace the fruit after a few days. These rats drink around 30ml of water per day.
While mice tend to make their homes in or near your kitchen, rats prefer to burrow into the ground or underneath your clutter — this is why it’s best to keep your stuff clean and organized.
Rats also knaw on materials, but their stronger teeth can chew through tough materials such as aluminum, glass, wood, sheet metal and even cinder blocks. As you can imagine, this can wreak serious havoc on wires, pipes, air ducts and many other systems in your house.
Because rats are bigger than mice, their chew marks tend to be larger.
Rats can reproduce once they reach three to four months of age. Like mice, they can have babies at any time during the year and have up to 14 offspring at a time. They typically have around five litters per year.
6. Preying on Mice
For homeowners, this is a positive thing — rats are known to prey on and kill mice. This happens more often when other accessible food sources are scarce.
Rats are known to carry many of the same conditions and viruses as that mice do, along with:
- Plague: Although this disease is most associated with the millions of deaths it caused during the Middle Ages, it still affects humans today, with infections occurring in rural and semi-rural areas of the western U.S. Plague is most often transmitted by infected fleas. If a rodent carrying an infected flea dies, the flee will search for other sources of blood — including humans. Symptoms include fever, headache, chills and pain in the lymph nodes. Although plague is a severe illness, it is treatable with antibiotics — as long as the treatment is prompt.
- Tapeworms: Rats carry small tapeworms that can be transmitted to humans. This most commonly occurs when humans eat foods contaminated with rat droppings. These parasites hatch, grow and reproduce in the gut.
- Rat Bite Fever: This disease is characterized by fever, chills, headache, skin rash, muscle pain, vomiting and many other unpleasant symptoms. It carries a mortality rate of 10 percent if left untreated.
Signs You Have a Rodent Infestation
If you are experiencing a rodent infestation problem — or suspect your house might be infested — it’s best to contact a professional. Signs your home may be infected include:
- Seeing a Mouse: Mice are secretive and nocturnal, so seeing just one is a sign there may be many more.
- Spotting Droppings: You’ll find droppings in places where mice live or stop to collect food. Removing droppings and reinspecting later is an effective way to see whether a mouse population is still active in your home. Never handle droppings without respiratory protection, though.
- Seeing Footprints: If you see fresh tracks of little rodent feet, this is an obvious indicator of an infestation.
- Spotting Nests in Burrows: Rodents build nests, so spotting them in burrows or other places that provide protection is another sign.
- Seeing Chewed Debris: If you spot bits of food, plastic or wood with gnaw marks, rodents may be present in your home.
- Hearing Noises: If you hear the sounds of scurrying, gnawing or scratching in the walls, this also suggests an infestation.
- Smelling Foul Odors: Rodents give off some unpleasant odors, including urine and feces. A dead rodent is also quite pungent.
Noticing any of these signs is a reason to hire a professional. Pest control specialists can perform inspections to determine the extent of your problem, exterminate the rodents with little inconvenience to those living in your house and perform a bacterial cleanup afterward. This last service is critical for the cleanliness of the house and the health of its residents. Even after the pests are gone, their mess remains — which includes any allergens, bacteria, fleas and diseases they brought in with them.
Pest Pros Can Help
If you live in the Cape Cod area and think your home has suffered mouse or rat damage, Pest Pros is the service for all your pest control needs. Since 1999, we’ve been helping prevent and control pests with our fast, dependable and eco-friendly services. We serve communities throughout Cape Cod, including Duxbury, Plymouth, Yarmouth, Falmouth, Hyannis, Chatham, Barnstable, Wareham, Dennis, Orleans, Scituate, Kingston, Marshfield, Sandwich and many more.
At Pest Pros, we take great pride in our work and do our best to ensure you get the results you want. Our team is made up of experienced professionals who are certified by the Massachusetts Pesticide Bureau to deliver the quality service we’ve come to be known for.
One of our goals at Pest Pros is always to improve our methods and equipment. We strive to stay on top of the latest innovations in pest control technology, so you can get the most cutting-edge service.
In addition to mice and rats, we also specialize in termites, fleas, bees, ants, mosquitos, ticks, crickets, spiders and earwigs. If you’re experiencing an infestation or would just like a hassle-free inspection, call us at (508) 888-0999 or contact us online. We respond promptly to deliver the services our customers need.