In a long-term survival scenario, it’s clear that you will be sharing your environment with rodents. Rodent-proofing a retreat may be difficult, but it is necessary to maintain the health of your people.
Rodents and Disease
Rats, mice, and other rodents are well-known causes of infections that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The rodent in question may feel fine but serves as a “vector”. A vector carries a disease to its target (you). Rodent-proofing a retreat may be difficult, but it is necessary to maintain the health of your people.
Rats and mice are thought to have originated in Asia, but wherever these animals are introduced, they cause a significant amount of environmental and economic damage. Indeed, they are some of the world’s most invasive species: Every year, a percentage of the world’s food supply is contaminated by their droppings, urine, and hair. Rodents can chew through electrical wiring, and are, therefore, also a fire hazard.
Before I go further, let me tell our readers who have rats and mice as pets that they are generally clean, intelligent creatures. I have had the privilege of working with them in university laboratories as a student. Despite this, it is indisputable that the diseases they may carry are cause for significant concern. These include Plague, Salmonellosis, and many others.
Prevent Rodent Infestation
Given the above, it makes sense to take measures to prevent rodent infestation in the retreat and to eliminate those already there. Much more effort is required to dislodge your unwanted guests once an infestation has occurred. Rodent-proof homes have been carefully evaluated for points of entry from the level of the foundation to the roofline. This includes sewer lines, bathroom vents, pipes and gutters, doors and windows, and vegetation near concrete slabs.
Some rodent-proofing techniques for homes include:
- Sealing cracks in building foundations, walls, siding, and roof joints with mesh hardware cloth, concrete patching, or other materials. Rodents only need ¼ inch of opening to gnaw their way into your home. Metal mesh scouring pads or galvanized window screening (not steel wool, which quickly deteriorates) may be stuffed into crevices as a temporary solution.
- Installing vent guards in bathroom or washer/dryer vents.
- Placing barriers to prevent climbing rodents from going up pipes or gutters.
- Trimming trees so that branches don’t come close to the roof.
- Contacting the utility company (in normal times) for strategies to prevent rats from traveling along power lines to your house.
- Preventing rodents, especially rats, from tunneling under the foundation by placing flat concrete pavers or gravel extending at least 3 feet from the base of the retreat.
Rodent-proofing also involves careful attention to both indoor and outdoor sanitation. Here are some suggestions for the well-prepared:
- Never leave food or water out overnight. Keep your counter tops clean and disinfected.
- Breadboxes may seem old-fashioned, but they are there for a reason: To keep the bread away from rats and mice.
- Never leave pet food outside; clean all bowls daily whether they are used inside or out. Rodents love to eat dog and cat food.
- Clean under kitchen appliances. Even a few crumbs will make a meal for a mouse or rat.
- Keep garbage disposals and sinks clean with a cup of bleach once a month.
- Never flush grease down the sink drain.
- Keep toilet lids down until needed.
- Store dry foods, even pet foods, in sealed containers at least 18 inches off the floor.
- Store firewood away from your home at least 18 inches off the ground.
- Trim all vegetation that abuts the house until the ground is easily inspected.
- Eliminate tree branches that make eaves and gutters accessible.
- Remove ivy or other climbing plants from exterior walls that may hide points of entry.
- Construct barriers around birdhouses and bird-feeders to prevent seed from being accessible to rodents.
- Remove any fruits or vegetables from your garden that you won’t use.
- Keep garbage can lids tightly closed.
- Keep the side and back yards free of debris that might serve as shelters.
- Deny access to water by fixing leaky faucets.
- Avoid putting animal products in your compost bin.
I admit that these are a lot of considerations, but as a person who has dealt with this issue personally, they are worth it. In a survival setting, you have to do everything you can to keep your people free of infectious disease. In a future article, I’ll tackle how to deal with the rodent infestation that’s already there.
Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones