Rodent Control

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In a recent article, we talked about rodent-proofing your home, but what about rodent control once they’re permanent residents? In good times OR bad, rodents in your retreat are bad news due to the various diseases they carry in their urine and droppings.  For more information on these illnesses, as well as advice on how to rodent-proof your home, go here:


If you’re not sure that your home is currently rodent-free, you might consider:

  • Looking for any partially eaten food, gnawed containers, or nesting material, especially in the back of pantries.
  • Inspecting your home’s interior at night with a flashlight; look closely at the bases of walls, as rats and mice prefer to travel along them. Little used areas of the home should be especially targeted for inspection.
  • Looking for rodent droppings. Mice and rat defecate 50 times a day; if they are in your home, you should be able to find their feces along floorboards, in attic crawl spaces, and in basements.
  • Setting out a thin layer of flour or talcum powder by areas through which rats and mice might enter your home.  Make sure to place additional flour or powder along floorboards, as rodents prefer to travel along walls. The critters will leave tracks which will prove their presence.
  • Having cats and dogs as “mousers”. They may or may not be efficient at eliminating rats and mice, but they will alert you when a rodent is near.
  • Listening for squeaking and scrabbling noises inside walls at night.
  • Checking for unusual smells in areas of your home. If there are a lot of rats in your home, you may notice an odor from their urine.

Once you have made the determination that you have rats or mice in your home, it’s time to reduce the population.  It should be noted that long-term rodent control will be difficult if you haven’t followed my suggestions for indoor and outdoor sanitation in the earlier article linked above.


There are various mouse and rat traps on the market. Several poisons are also available to kill rodent invaders.These poisons act to cause the inability of the blood to clot.  In a week or so, the rodent starts bleeding spontaneously and dies. Other poisons include metal phosphides, which react with rodent stomach acid to produce toxic gas in 1-3 days, as well as high-dose Vitamin D preparations, causing death by lethal calcium levels.

Rat poisons are problematic, in my opinion. there is always the risk that something (or someone) that you don’t want to kill, like a household pet or a child, might accidentally ingest it. If that’s not enough to convince you, poisons may leave you with a bunch of dead, rotting animals inside your walls. The stench from their corpses may last a month or more.  In extreme cases, a deodorizer is inserted through a hole drilled in the wall to eliminate the lingering odor.  Therefore, it simply makes more sense to use traps.

If you must place traps outside, don’t use regular traps. Consider trapping boxes made specifically for rodents instead. These can be snap traps, electronic “zappers”, glue traps or even catch and release versions. Both rats and mice will readily go for a small amount of fresh peanut butter as bait. Advice to the soft-hearted about catch and release traps: Brown rats, black rats, and house mice are not native wildlife; besides other damage, they will cause casualties among endangered songbird eggs and young if you let them go.

Glue traps are popular but controversial.  They are better weapons against mice than rats. Unfortunately, they usually leave you with a live animal to kill. Throw the trap and animal into a bucket of water or strike it with a stick several times just behind the head. Another disadvantage of the glue trap is that it loses effectiveness in dusty areas or at extreme temperatures.  By the way, never use a glue trap outside, you are not guaranteed to just have rats get stuck in them.

Your standard mousetrap is known as a “snap trap“.  Snap traps should always be placed in perpendicular fashion with the bait side against the wall.  Never use just one trap: Place a number of them several feet apart in the rodent’s usual path. Traps can also be fastened to pipes with wire or thick rubber bands if your rodent visitors are climbing to upper levels.

Electronic zappers are effective, if more expensive than your standard snap trap. For more info on rodent traps and control, consider a visit to


When cleaning out a building populated with rats or mice, specific safety precautions should be followed to avoid infection. First and foremost: Remember that you should never handle a wild rodent, alive or dead, without disposable gloves. Masks, coveralls, and shoe covers should be worn when cleaning any significant infestation. Other steps to follow:

  • Open windows and doors before cleaning to allow it to air out, then leave for an hour.
  • Avoid raising dust if at all possible.
  • Steam-clean all carpeting and upholstery.
  • Clean all surfaces with a diluted bleach solution or other household disinfectant; soak areas that held dead animals, nests, or droppings.
  • Wash all bedding linens, pillows, etc .with hot water; use the high heat setting on your dryer.
  • Eliminate any insulation material contaminated by rodent urine, feces, or nesting material.
  • Place contaminated items that cannot be thrown away (such as important documents), outside in the sun for several hours. If this isn’t possible, “quarantine” the items for a week in a rodent-free area.  This should give enough time for viruses to be inactivated.
  • Dispose of any contaminated items or dead rodents in a plastic bag (double-bagging is better), and then place them in an exterior garbage can.
  • Thoroughly wash hands after cleaning. Consider showering with soap and hot water.

We share our world with many other creatures. Some of these creatures invade our homes and can damage our possessions and, more importantly, our health. With careful attention to sanitation and the occasional surgical strike, we can eliminate unwanted guests and make our homes safe environments for our families. Whether times are good or bad, these are house guests you don’t want to entertain.

Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones

Joe Alton, M.D., Survival Expert

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