Our Water Our World: Controlling Rats and Mice in your Home

There are plenty of reasons why it’s important to keep rodents out of and away from your home. Rats and mice can bring fleas, ticks, and germs that carry diseases. Rodents and their droppings can make allergies and asthma worse. Rats and mice will eat and contaminate your food, damage property, and can even cause fires by chewing on electrical wires in your walls or attic.

Prevention is key – keep rodents from getting into your home
  • Seal holes and cracks: Since a mouse can squeeze through a hole as thin as a pencil, and both rats and mice can chew a small hole into a larger one, be sure to seal or close off all cracks and crevices.
    • Close off large holes with sheet metal flashing, 1/4″ hardware cloth, plaster, or mortar.
    • Seal smaller holes with caulk, spackle, or cement.
    • Make sure there are no gaps around windows and doors. Use weather stripping and door sweeps if needed, and repair thresholds and windowsills. Keep outside doors and screen doors closed, especially at night.
  • Don’t give rodents a place to hide:
    • Throw away materials that rodents could use to make nests, like shredded paper, cotton or polyester batting, foam rubber, insulation, rags, and string—or keep in pest-proof containers.
    • Remove woodpiles, rock piles, and other debris piles. Store firewood and lumber at least 18″ above the ground and 18″ away from all structures.
    • Thin dense bushes and shrubs and remove heavy vine growth. Make sure tree and shrub branches are at least three feet away from buildings.
    • Get rid of ivy. Ivy provides shelter and food for rats. If you can’t remove it, cut it close to the ground.
    • Use rodent-proof compost bins and never put meat in the compost.
    • Standing water attracts thirsty rodents (and breeds mosquitoes). Turn over empty flowerpots, and remove tires stored outdoors or drill holes in them so water can drain.

How do you know whether you have a rodent problem? You may see a mouse or rat, smell them, or hear them chewing and scampering at night in walls and ceilings. Look for droppings, signs of gnawing, and the nests rats and mice make from shredded paper, cloth, or insulation. You may find rat burrows in the ground outside.

Get rid of rodents
  • Remove or clean up food that attracted the rodents. Remove clutter.
  • Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink—either wash or keep them in the dishwasher with the door closed.
  • Keep food (for people and pets) in the refrigerator or in containers made of glass, metal, or heavy plastic with tight-fitting lids. Store birdseed, and grass seed in pest-proof containers.
  • Remove and clean pet dishes after pets have eaten. Do not leave pet food out overnight, especially outside.
  • Empty garbage often. Outside, keep trash and recycling in rodent-proof cans with closed, tight-fitting lids.
  • Fix leaking faucets and pipes—rats and mice get thirsty too.
  • Set traps. Use snap traps or battery-operated electrocution traps instead of glue boards. Glue-trapped animals don’t die immediately; the glue boards may catch other animals (such as cats) that try to eat the trapped rodents.
If you need to call a professional

Call a pest management professional (PMP) that offers less-toxic solutions to all pest problems (integrated pest management, or IPM).

  • Ask for a thorough inspection to find out where rodents are getting in and what they are eating.
  • Ask the PMP to try trapping rodents before using poisons that are bad for people, pets, and the environment.
  • Whatever method they use, make sure the company will return to remove dead rodents.
  • Insist on pest-proofing services, such as blocking rodent entry points.

For a listing of pest control companies providing IPM services, go to www.ecowisecertified.org or greenshieldcertified.org.

Find more information on controlling rats and mice with eco-friendly products in our OWOW brochures in English and Spanish

The City of Goleta along with the Cities of Buellton, Carpinteria, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and the County of Santa Barbara have partnered with the OWOW organization to promote the use of less-toxic products in an effort to reduce pesticide pollution in our communities. By reducing pesticide use and the use of less-toxic products around the home, you can help reduce pesticides and other pollutants such as herbicides and fertilizers from being picked up while watering or when it rains and transported to the nearest storm drain inlet and into our waterways. The OWOW website is user-friendly and a great resource for finding less-toxic products to use around your home or garden.