If lovable old Mickey came from Disney World to live at your house, you and your kids would be delighted. But when Mickey’s real-life cousins move into your kitchen cabinets, well, that’s another story.
Same for the squirrel that thinks your attic is a great place to raise a family, or the raccoon that turns your chimney into a condo. They’re not so cute when they’re on your turf.
Mice, squirrels, raccoons and bats are the most common fur-covered pests that invade our homes (often when the weather starts turning cool). They really don’t mean any harm. They’re just looking for food, water and shelter. We’ll tell you how to keep your home from becoming a varmint’s dream house.
For tips on keeping critters from entering your home, see the Additional Information at the end of this story.
Eliminate Food Sources
- Store food, especially grains, pet food and birdseed, in rodent-proof metal or heavy plastic containers.
- Store grass seed in sealed containers.
- Put away any uneaten pet food.
- Rodent-proof your garbage cans by setting them on 6-in. high wood platforms. Make sure lids fit tight; use rubber cords to fasten them down if necessary. Replace garbage cans that have cracks or holes.
- Pick up any fruit that has fallen from trees in your yard.
- Search out holes (even small ones) around your foundation, eaves and soffits and fill them with steel wool, cover with sheet metal, or fill with caulk, plaster or cement.
Set snap traps with the baited trigger end of the trap tight against the wall, because mice usually run along walls. Wherever possible, use two traps. Dispose of a dead mouse in a plastic bag in the garbage, then reuse the trap. The scent of the dead mouse will help attract any other mice in the house.
An alternate trap position puts the traps parallel to the wall with the bait at opposite ends. Place traps under sinks or appliances, and in closets or behind furniture, since mice tend to avoid open areas. Chocolate, nutmeat or cheese makes good bait. The expanded-trigger type traps shown in these photos work best.
If you get a mouse in your house, trap it as soon as you can. There’s no such thing as only one mouse! And don’t get upset about killing a few mice. A female mouse can have up to 10 litters a year with six or more babies per litter. (That’s why there’s no such thing as only one mouse.) However, if killing mice bothers you, there are live traps available, as shown in Photo 3.
Photos 1 and 2 show the most effective way to position the ordinary, super-cheap snap trap. One trap will do the job, but you’ll double your chances by using two traps together. A mouse can jump over one trap, but not two.
There’s no problem reusing a mousetrap either. The scent of the captured mouse that remains on the trap actually attracts other mice.
Poisons are another option for mice, including closed, baited containers with a small opening for the mouse to enter. But we’re not recommending poisons. They’re a danger to kids and pets. Plus, since poison doesn’t work immediately, the dying mouse crawls off somewhere to die and decompose, leaving a smell you will never find, but will always remember.
If you get a squirrel in your house, it’ll usually be in the attic. So you’ve got to get it out, and the only sure way to get it out is to trap it. Then seal up the openings so it doesn’t come back.
Begin by keeping watch around the soffits and eaves for a few days to see if you can spot the squirrel entering. If that fails, check the attic to find out where it is nesting; the entry point will probably be close by, and from a darkened attic you may be able to see daylight through the opening.
If both these methods fail, you’ll just have to check out the possible entry points suggested in our illustration and seal them up with pieces of wood or small strips of sheet aluminum after trapping the squirrel. For squirrels, live traps (Photo 4) work best. They use a spring-loaded door with a trip lever. Peanut butter on a cracker, set at the back of the cage, works well for bait.
Check the cage every day, although when you do catch the beast, you’ll probably know it by the racket it makes. Wear heavy gloves and use caution when moving the trap and releasing the squirrel. Then cover the entry opening.
Capturing and removing raccoons from your chimney (one of their favorite places to live) is probably best left to a pest control professional. Raccoons are very strong, smart, difficult to trap and when cornered, dangerous. They can easily kill a small dog, so don’t mess with them.
If you do trap a raccoon, local ordinances may require releasing it and any of its young right where you captured it, so check with local animal control authorities before taking it out to Uncle Fred’s farm.
When rats show up, it’s bad news, since they can carry fleas and disease. You can trap them with a snap trap for rats (like a mousetrap, but much bigger). Watch that snap. It could break your finger! And dispose of dead rats carefully. Wear plastic gloves, watch out for escaping fleas, and put the body in the garbage inside two zipper-top plastic bags.
If a bat gets into your house, don’t panic. Just remember that bats are our friends in spite of all their bad press. A small brown bat can eat 1,000 insects a night. They’re usually easy to get rid of, since they want out even more than you want them out. Turn off the lights and open the doors and windows. Once their panic subsides, they’ll follow the fresh air current out.
If you have repeated bat visits, it probably means your attic has become a bat motel. Spreading mothballs around the attic occasionally works, but not usually. You’ll probably need to call a pest control specialist. He or she will caulk and seal all openings, then install a couple of one-way doors that will let bats out, but not back in.
Pest control specialists will also handle any furry beasts that you don’t want to trap, capture or dispose of. Check the Yellow Pages under “Pest Control.” Some specialize in evicting certain types of critters; others offer general pest control. Prices range anywhere from $50 to $800, depending on the job. But prices can vary considerably for the same type of job, so be sure to shop around.