Life in the Lowcountry brings with it a variety of pests – none of which are welcome in your home. This area is a haven for rodents, and as the seasons change and the weather becomes cooler rodents prefer to make their way inside in search of food and shelter. Rats specifically can enter a building through a hole as small as ½ inch in diameter and they usually stay within 300 feet of their burrow or nest.
While living in a protected environment – such as your home – their lifespan nearly triples! It’s important to understand why these pesky rodents are a problem and how to know if you have rodents present in your home.
Why Are Rats a Problem?
Rats dig burrows in which to live – these burrows can easily cause problems to the stability of your home when rats dig beneath the. These burrows can also block sewer lines and spoil the landscaping of yards.
Roof rats are climbers, and as such they are likely to cause structural damage in homes when they chew on wires and wood.
Rats are known to spread disease in 2 ways: through their biting and through human contact with their droppings. The most common disease(s) transmitted to both humans and animals from rats are:
- Rat bite fever
- Salmonellosis (salmonella)
- Murine typhus
5 Signs There are Rats or Mice in Your Home
If rodents are currently active in or around your home, their runways or tracks will be distinctive but will fade over time. To detect tracks or runways, shine a small black light or flashlight towards the suspected area at an angle – you may see smudge marks, footprints, urine stains or droppings.
If you suspect a certain area is being frequented by rodents, there are a few things you can do to check for tracks:
- Scatter a small amount of baking flour, talcum powder or baby powder in the area of suspected activity (on the floor, behind appliances, etc.). If rodents are active, you are very likely to see their tracks in the powder.
- Put a cracker or piece of bread with peanut butter in the center of your tracking patch area. Check for tracks the next day to determine if you have rodent activity.
A musty, urine-like odor often indicates mice are present, not rats. However, both types of rodents bring with them a foul smell. You may also notice your household pets becoming extra active and excited in areas where rodents are present. This extra pep in their step is a result of the odor of the rodents and is most likely to occur when rodents have recently entered a structure.
Droppings are a sure-fire indicator that rodents are present in your home, and their size indicates whether you are dealing with mice or rats. Mice droppings are about the size of a grain of rice, while rat droppings are about the size of a raisin. If you find droppings that are dark and moist, that means that they are fresh. With time, they dry out and become grayer in color and easily crumble if touched.
A larger volume of droppings will be found where the rodents are nesting or feeding, so if you find droppings make sure to inspect the surrounding area to determine if there is an active or new infestation.
Gnaw Marks & Sound
Unlike with droppings, newer gnaw marks will be lighter in color and will darken with age. One way to determine the age of gnaw marks is to compare marks just noticed with those on a similar material that you know to be older. If the newly discovered marks are lighter in color, this is an indication of a continued infestation. The marks themselves also indicate whether your have rats or mice – larger marks will have been produced by rats because they have larger teeth. So what do gnawing’s look like? They appear as little holes with chewed edges.
Gnawing also produces sound, so listen for gnawing or scratching in the walls or attic of your home, especially at night. Mice and rats are nocturnal, meaning they are active after sundown. They forge and feed at night, when most large predators are either asleep or otherwise occupied. If you suspect any type of mouse or rat activity or infestation in your home, keep your ears peeled once the sun goes down!
Mice and rats are known to use materials such as fabric, shredded paper, or dried plant matter to make their nests. Their nests are often found in boxes, toolboxes, attics, basements, and drawers. If you find something that you suspect to be a nest, check the surrounding area for other indicators (odor, droppings, gnawing, or tracks). If found, it is likely that there is an infestation in your home.