The holidays are about being with family and friends and appreciating your relationships and each other. Normally, all of these great holiday memories happen in your home or a relative's. Last month, we focused on the many types of rodents that can infest your home and what you can do to prevent that from happening and control methods for treating if you have already seen signs of rodents. As we get closer to the holidays and the weather turns colder, your home is more at risk at being seen as a safe and warm haven for these homeless rodents.
Rodent pests can cause considerable damage to your home while contributing to the unsanitary aspect of it. Especially in households with children who are more susceptible to illness.
Enjoy your time with family and friends this holiday season by making sure your home is rodent-proof and rodent-free.
The general types of these rodents that exist in your home can include the Norway rat, the roof (or black) rat and the house mouse. Roof rats usually stake out attics or cabinets and can climb quite well. Norway rats choose to live in the ground by digging burrows against foundations, tree trunks, and gardens. Their burrows can lead into crawl spaces and small openings around pipes which can enable them to inhabit your kitchens and bathrooms.
No matter the type of rat that lives in your home, you can be sure that it will be attracted to any food item you have in your pantry, especially high-quality food products such as meat and fresh grain. If you have pets, be extra cautious about foods being left out, because rats will smell and detect dog food that is sitting out.
Rats need one-half to one fluid ounce of water everyday when consuming dry foods. They have extremely sharp senses of taste, hearing, and smell. Once they are aware of what is within their reach and given their keen senses, rats will do anything to get to food or shelter. Overall, rats are able to enter a building through openings that are wider than half an inch across. Rats have a very short life span -- most die within a year. However, rats can breed rapidly, so even though they die off quickly, their young will survive them. Female rats produce five or six litters of about half a dozen to a dozen young each year.
Now that you know a little about the rat's habits, how can you tell that you have rats living alongside you in your home? Spotting droppings or visible signs of fresh gnawing should be an obvious indicator of rats. Rat tracks can appear on dusty surfaces or mud. Rats usually build runways and burrows to get into your home and they can be found next to buildings and under debris and low vegetation.
Here are some simple rules of thumb you can adopt to prevent a rodent invasion in your home:
- Store all your accessible food in rodent-proof containers such as glass or metal
- Place your trash in tightly covered metal cans to prevent smells from escaping or potential rodent entry.
- Check your faucets to make sure they are functioning properly and to fix leaks as they occur, since gaps or holes around pipes can serve as easy entry points for rodents.
- Seal up any unnecessary openings with concrete or sheet metal. For other access points, a 1/4 inch hardware cloth or steel wool should do the trick.
- For pet owners, put any uneaten pet food away before you go to bed, as any pet food left out is subject to rodent consumption!
- Carefully watch your bird feeders. Be sure you are not feeding the local rodent population instead of desirable song birds!
Most people are familiar with squirrels and some may even find this particular rodent to be cute and charming. Gray squirrels are small rodents found throughout Texas.
Traps are often effective where there is a small population of gray squirrels or in urban areas where a toxicant cannot be used safely. Small cage traps are available from feed stores, sporting goods stores and many garden supply centers. Traps should be baited with grain or oats and placed near the entrance to the burrow. Rat traps are also an effective way to catch smaller gray squirrels. The traps should be baited and placed near the burrow entrance.
Traps with an expanded trigger can be placed in the squirrel’s travel path. Set this way, the trap does not have to be baited. The animal will step on the trigger as it moves along the path.
Identifying the rodent you may have in your house and utilizing appropriate control methods is key to keeping your home clean and ready for the holidays.
Fran Phalin is a freelance editor and writer specializing in home improvement topics. She is based in Austin, TX.
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