Even if you’re one of those people who consider rodents to be cute, low-maintenance pets, it’s a different story when they are unwelcome guests infesting your home or office. Rodents cause damage, contaminate food, carry fleas, lice, and ticks, and spread diseases, including the sometimes-fatal hantavirus.
Rodents breed very quickly. The young are born 20 days after mating. One female mouse is able to produce up to 10 litters in just one year, and each of her young can reproduce two months after birth. Rodent infestations grow exponentially and can be nearly impossible to exterminate unless you catch them early. Here are six of the most easy-to-identify signs that you’ve got a rodent problem.
1) A rat or mouse sighting
While it sounds obvious, rodents are nocturnal creatures that prefer to hide from humans, space permitting. If you see dead or living rodents in your home or office, you’ve probably got a full-blown infestation underway. Rodent overpopulation forces them out into the open.
It’s easy to confuse a mouse with a standard brown, or Norway, rat. A house mouse has fine fur, usually weighs less than an ounce, and measures from 5” to 7-1/2” including the tail. Rats weigh about a pound and can measure from 13” to 18” with tail.
2) Droppings and urine stains
Brown rats can produce up to 40 dark brown, spindle-shaped droppings a night. Droppings measure 1/2” – 3/4″ long and look like a large grain of rice with blunt ends. A house mouse’s black droppings are smaller, about 1/8” – 1/4″ long, with pointed ends.
Rodent droppings are usually found near nesting and breeding locations and around items they have chewed while nesting. You may find feces inside drawers, cupboards, and cardboard boxes. Urine stains are often seen on the woodwork and baseboards.
Remember that disturbing rodent droppings can be dangerous without gloves and a respirator. Don’t sweep or vacuum areas where feces are found. Pick up droppings carefully, and place them in plastic bags for disposal.
Unlike rats, house mice emit musky odors. You may also be smelling dead rodents decaying inside your walls or rafters. This usually dissipates on its own a few weeks later after the body decomposes.
Rodents build their nests from shredded cloth, fabric, paper, or cardboard in warm, secluded places close to a food source. Look behind and under your kitchen or breakroom appliances, in supply rooms, garages, basements, and attics. Mice nests are approximately 5″ in diameter and are sometimes lined with fur and feathers.
Rodent teeth are constantly growing and require gnawing on hard materials like wood and plastic to keep them trim. You may find large, visible rat teeth marks in ripped food packages, on door casings, around pipes, or in holes left on your floorboards and walls. Rodents can cause fires by chewing through electrical cables.
Mice are agile climbers who can jump about a foot high and fit through an opening the size of a dime. You, or your family pets, might hear them scuffling and scratching inside your walls at night, or scurrying across your roof.
Brown rats are not as athletic, so you might notice their sounds beneath you, under decking or coming in through your heating vents. Rats are often detected by their “bruxing,” a grinding noise they make with their teeth.
Without quick rodent control measures, a small rat or mouse infestation can quickly explode into a serious case of overpopulation that causes extensive damage to your property and health. Seek the services of a licensed and experienced pest control company to stop the invasion in the earliest stages.