Advice about Rats & Mice

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  • Rodents…entirely in the walls???

    (2 replies)

    Hi everyone.

    I have a rodent problem I don’t understand.

    I traveled on and off a lot this summer. Following my first 3 weeks away I came home to evidence of one mouse in just one small corner of my kitchen. Yes, I know, there’s never just one—but I only had one coming out and pooping/chewing things on one corner of my counter. I caught that single mouse. No more chewing or poop.

    After my second long trip away I came home to EXTREMELY LOUD gnawing and squeaking sounds in the evening under my kitchen sink—but, no poop! Nothing chewed! Anywhere! Could not figure out where they were. 

    After a few days the noises went away.  That was two weeks ago. Last night I finally saw something poking out from under the cabinet, where upon later inspection, I found a hole. It did not come entirely out though—just saw a dark thing poking out and around for thirty or so seconds, then it disappeared again.

    Definitely something, probably mice, is living…somewhere in my walls/floors/behind cabinets….BUT they are not entering my kitchen and eating things and pooping everywhere, even though due to a busted hot water heater (sigh) my kitchen is not super clean right now. I have placed traps around there and got nothing.

    What the heck is going on? Why aren’t they coming in? Could it be another bigger animal that can’t actually fit its whole body through the hole but is living in there anyway? Why are they even in there, if they’re not eating everything in my cabinets? I can plug the hole, but how do I get rid of the critters in my walls if they’re not coming inside and I can’t even really figure out where they are?

    i don’t want to pay someone to just say, You have rodents in your walls, plug the hole, set traps—I can do all that on my own.

    Any wisdom, insights, advice, magic-rodent-ridding spells would be deeply appreciated. 

    They are likely coming in from either your attic or (if you have one) your basement/crawlspace. You need to get into both spaces and seal everything up (and yes, that may trap them in the walls, which is a pain but a necessary evil to get it over with). If you are handy and have accessible spaces, you can crawl up and seal everything yourself, but we opted to pay to have this done (spoiler: it isn't cheap!) We also had to have our contaminated attic insulation replaced. I will say we thought we had a single rat trapped in the wall (along with rat mites, which are really awful and itchy to deal with). We had a service come in and thoroughly seal everything up, and then have us set and monitor traps to catch the stragglers who had been trapped inside the house with no exit. We caught nine in the week after they finished, not including the one who stayed trapped in the wall and met his demise--!! Moral of the story: there's never just one. And despite the price tag, it was worth it for me to have someone else deal with it--they had a three-man crew working for a solid day to get everything sealed and all of the contaminated insulation properly disposed of and replaced, and then guaranteed everything for the following year. We are avid DIYers, but that was one project I was happy to outsource.

    I had rats (yes big giant city rats) in my walls. TWICE, in different houses. Once they were living in the foundation, once they were in the attic. No, we didn’t see them running around inside, but nevertheless they were there. Often they feed outside and only come in to live in your house, so you’ll want to find out where they are entering your house and seal their access. As for catching them, find a crawl space or larger hole and place a trap inside that hole. Or climb into your attic (or basement) and lay the traps there. Just be warned if you do this, go and check the traps often. We had one rat die over a long weekend when the weather went over 100F and the whole house stunk unbearably when we returned. I recommend also to hire someone for this, you can DIY but it’s just nasty doing it yourself. 

  • Rats in the car!

    (2 replies)

    Any advice on how to get rid of a possible rat(s) living in a car? EBMUD recently dug up the streets in our neighborhood, sending the sewer rats scurrying. Our car is parked in the driveway, and since Covid we don’t drive much anymore. Our mechanic just noticed the air filter on our Prius had been gnawed on by rats. We’re not sure if the rat is still in there, but the mechanic advised setting traps just in case. This might be a dumb question, but as someone who knows nothing about cars: do we just put the traps in the cabin of the car at night? What kind of traps are most effective/humane? Has anyone here hired exterminators to inspect their car and deal with any infestations? 

    Our old Prius had the air filter chewed by rodents as well. The Toyota mechanics suggested putting dryer sheets in the glove box as they don't like the smell. My understanding is they crawl up there at night because it is warm(er) and like the materials they use which contain soy. If you set traps, I would put them outside the car, not inside. I don't know about humane traps, but you could call Vector Control and ask them what they recommend. Good luck!

    I had the same problem. It seems a rat, or a small family of rats, brought wrappings and nesting material and was camping out under my hood. My vehicle was dormant for a while and I when drove my car it would overheat. Finally, after a scary experience on the highway, I went to a mechanic and was shocked. It was like a motel 6 next to my engine and one radiator fan was broken. Yuck! I did not know the damage was covered by insurance so that was a double bummer. Months later the gas light came on and the mechanic found knawing on an oil filter line which was throwing off a sensor. It was a quick cheap fix but now I vacuum often and make a point to move my car even if its just to drive for a few minutes.. Can you borrow a cat? Joking :) 

  • Neighbor's bird feeders and rat issues

    (7 replies)

    The guy two doors down has installed bird feeders, and now I am seeing rats strolling across the intervening yard to their burrow under our front porch.  I imagine birds are knocking seeds off the feeders and feeding the rats.  At the same time, we are enjoying the increase in birds.

    I'm about to embark on rat-proofing the porch and any other access points.  My experience with rats, however, is that they will find someplace else to live, whereas we want them gone.  There are bird-feeder attachments that can reduce the spillage issue but require more feeder cleaning.  We want to ask the neighbor to deal with the issue, but he is not a very friendly guy and has demonstrated a lack of concern for his neighbors over other issues.

    Any suggestions?

    And any suggestions about how to get the rats out from under our house before rat-proofing?  Otherwise I imagine they will die under our house from hunger and thirst.

    We are a family that enjoys greatly having bird feeders in our yard.  We have installed them for the last 2 winters.  I have two points to make.  1.  We have lived here for 10 years, and there were definitely rats in our yard prior to having the bird feeders.  But we are with you, we want to enjoy the birds, without the rats.  2.  One thing we have done is only have the feeders up in the winter.  This is the most active time for birds to come to the feeders.  In the winter, there are many birds that are feeding on the spilled seed on the ground.   In the summer, these birds are not eating the spilled seed and a lot more accumulates on the ground, drawing the rats.  We follow the Feeder Watch dates suggested by the Audubon Society.  We have noticed a greatly reduced use of the feeders in the spring and summer, so its really not as fun to have the feeders up year round.  Maybe this can be a compromise with your neighbor...just using hummingbird feeders in the summer.  One more thought comes to mind...I'm not sure where you live, but there are county vector control staff, who can come and perhaps work with your neighborhood to reduce the number of rats...

    We had a similar problem in our own backyard.  After we had a bird feeder for a number of months, we started to see a rat coming to browse on seeds at midday.  We put one of the seed catchers up - the disk variety - and stopped seeing the rat within two days.  It sounds like your neighbor might not be very receptive but the disk, though a little goofy looking, is great.  It's heavily used by the birds as an adjunct to the feeder and keeps them safe from the neighborhood cats.  We also called Alameda County Vector Control to see if they had any suggestions beyond the obvious.  They didn't, but they came out, told us where to block holes in our house and left some traps (which haven't caught any rats) and went to talk or leave flyers with some of our neighbors who also have food sources in their yards.  The Vector Control staff that came to our house were very pleasant and non-judgemental.   They might help you talk with your neighbor (or do it for you) if you can't resolve the situation.

    I had a similar issue.  Rats and squirrels love bird food, are highly destruction, spread disease and proliferate like crazy with a good food supply.  We have found them under our house, in the walls, in the attic space and found them building condos in the trees.  As long as there is a bird feeder/food supply you will have rats.  You can try rat traps, but you will never keep-up.  I was catching 2 to 4 rats per week.  How do you feel about cats?  We learned just how difficult a it is to rat proof a house.  Don't think the city can help, but you could try.  If you can't reason with your neighbor you either have to live with it, move or take your neighbor to court.  Are the rats bothering any of the other neighbors?  If reasoning doesn't work, your remedy is small claims court.

    Piece of advice - Take action now, when fall comes the rats will be looking to move inside.  Once they do, it's even harder to get rid of them.  I think it took us nine years to almost get rid of all the rats from our neighbors bird feeder and compost bin.  Rats have a litter about every 4-6 weeks.  Each litter is 4-6.  Just do the math to realize just how quickly this can get out of hand.  And please don't use rat poison.  While it will kill the rats birds and other animals will eat the poisoned rats and die as well. 

    Best of luck 

    ammonia two ways.  1) cut slot on side of large yogurt container. stuff rag into container with tail sticking out slot.  fill with ammonia and seal lid.  pop one of those in all suspected places.  2) get a plastic garden sprayer from the depot and spray areas with ammonia.

    animals will vacate immediately.  ammonia not my favorite thing, but it’s much better than poisoning rodents that in turn will die under the house and/or poison owls, cats etc who pray on rodents.

    lastly, when you rodent proof it’s never gonna be 100% perfect and/or last forever.  be sure to fashion or buy a one-way flapper exit.  there are several on the market.  google university or youtube videos on this.  also, graingers (maybe harbor freight) has steel wool in bulk rolls. works great for stuffing in cracks and crevices. depot also has spray foam with metal particles made for this.  we used all of the above with much success for abating rodents and skunks.  it’s a job that is well worth the time doing right the first time.  best of luck...  

    We used to have a lot of rats (especially since we live on lip of Wildcat canyon).  Then 2 years ago, accidentally I discovered a hole not quite the size of a quarter (in my food pantry, down close to the floor, hidden by an over-hanging shelf).  There was a little bit of rat hair/fur stuck within that little hole.

      I plugged it. No more rats!  It took me 8 years living with rodents 'til I found that teensy opening.  Rats/mice are 90% liquid (or something wild like that). They can squish themselves into nothing.  So, apart from looking for holes in your place, maybe you can break the ice with your neighbor & leave the bird-feeder attachment on his porch--as a gift.  What an inexpensive way to possibly mend fences?!  If he tosses it out or never uses it-- that's ok, isn't it?  Enjoy the birds.  BTW: My neighbor across street is an official bird watcher... The birds have a paradise over there.  I started feeding the birds about 5 years ago. I never noticed an increase in rats in my kitchen.  Finding the hole was the answer.  Good luck.

    We had a nasty rat problem in our garage and under our house. We used a combination of snap traps and a strobe light that ran 24x7 in our garage.

    Search on Amazon "Roxant Pulse Ultra Bright LED Strobe Light (Metal Case) - Manual & Sound Activated Mode & Adjustable Flash Speed Control". Set the strobe at the most annoying level possible (i.e., fast fast fast) and you'll see (no pun intended) why anything with eyes will want to move out of the area. The snap traps killed a few rats, but after we got the strobe, no more dead rats, so I assume the remaining ones all left.

    There were probably rats before the bird feeders arrived on the scene. And they will be there long after the bird feeders are gone. You are not going to be able to get rid of the rats, although it is a good idea to keep them out of your house. Don't annoy your neighbor about the innocent hobby. 

  • How to get rid of rats and mice

    (5 replies)

    We live in an older house and we have mice and rats in our garage and attic (accessible from garage by just climbing up, no ceiling). 

    About a month ago we cleaned out all of the stored food in the garage and hired a pest service to set traps, and we've caught 3 rats and 1 mouse.  Now there's absolutely zero food in the garage, the traps haven't caught anything in over 2 weeks, yet we still hear scurrying above our heads and in the garage when we're quiet in the house.  My guess and from reading the internet is that the rats/mice are going out to find food and coming back to our place for shelter... which makes sense because our neighborhood has over a dozen feral cats patrolling. 

    My questions are..

    Is there a DIY way to get rid of the rats/mice safely, effectively, and non-toxically?  We have a young child and a pet. Do those ultrasonic sound emitting things work? Peppermint oil?

    If not DIY, what kind of service should we contact?  The pest guy we hired was pretty low budget, he only set traps and pick up traps, no cleaning and no sealing up the house (I think due to liability, what if a rat dies in the wall he sealed up...)

    Neither my husband nor I have the stomach to go up to the attic with a flashlight to catch the critters, but we want them gone! 


    After finding the rodents' access points, you need to set (buy or make) exit only doorways so once they leave for evening snacks, they cannot get back in for midnight naps.

    I've had mice twice and honestly, it's a bit difficult, but I suspect the most eco-friendly DIY way to eradicate mice is to trap them in your attic with mouse traps.  You can use peanut butter so it's completely non-toxic.  I'm not sure if peanut butter will attract rats, but it definitely attracts mice to the trap.  The first dead mouse in the trap may break your heart (it did mine), but if you are committed to getting rid of them, this is a low-cost way to do it that doesn't involve bringing any toxins into your home.  And if you follow the instructions on the trap, it's easy to set mouse traps yourself.  You do not need to pay someone to do it for you.

    We hired Clark Pest Control. They set up traps and did exclusion work, which means sealing off all possible entry points. They were very thorough. They'll find problem spots you e overlooked. It was totally worth the money. 

    Call your county's vector control. We live in Alameda County and a guy came out (for free) and examined our house, gave us advice about rats, left us with suggestions and some pamphlets. Very helpful.

    Get a cat... even if it is an outdoor one. Apparently cats let off smells that scare rats and mice away. I've heard that there are rat problems in our neighborhood, but we have two cats and there are several feral cats strolling around, and I have not seen a rat on our street ever.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Rodents in the House Rodents Outdoors

Rodents in the House

Holy [email protected]: Rats in our walls and heating system

July 2013

Soliciting all advice for real solutions to dealing with rats in the walls and heating ducts of our house. A couple years ago we found some in our basement. We hired the Rat Man to get rid of them (not super effective but that's as different topic). Now a few years later they have gotten into the walls of our sunporch and last night one peered out of the vent cover in our living room wall. I am sure we are not the first to encounter such a problem. I am not opposed to inhumane solutions if they work. All advice, please. Totally creeped and freaked out about this. infested

We had a terrible rat problem a few years ago and I took the following steps to get rid of them. First I found and covered all gaps and holes into the house from the outside and covered them with a wire mesh (19 gauge, 1/2 x 1/2-inch) from the top of the roof to the ground. Second I purchased a bulk box of wooden snap rat traps and placed them everywhere. I duct taped them to beams in the garage and placed them in the attic and crawl spaces. Traps should primarily be placed on known pathways used by rats. You will want the cheap wood traps because it is easier to clean up and throw the whole trap away with the dead rat. I baited the traps with peanut butter and cat food (don't use cheese). As you catch more rats you will have to devise ways of camouflaging them because they start to catch on. Check the traps daily and replace or re-bait traps. I highly recommend not using poison and not because I am a hippy. Poison just leaves dead rats everywhere and they start to decompose and attract flies in places you can't get to. Once you feel you have caught all the rats leave a few traps in known traffic areas and check them once in a while. I had a particularly tenacious rat and ended up using poison for the last one. I check my traps occasionally and have still found two rats in the last few years. Relatively Rat Free

Can you get a cat? We haven't had a rat near our house since we got a cat. We picked out a kitten who showed signs of being a good hunter and she took care of our problem. We did have to deal with her bringing home little presents for us, but no more live rats.

Just an obvious response: get two cats (I can't suggest only one, they're sociable and need other felines). Cat-loving householder.

I feel your pain as we had a rat & mice invasion approx. 1.5 yrs was unsettling to say the least. I will spare you the details, but say that we had success w/Garland from Rat Patrol: They provide a 2 year contract of which includes the exclusion (as important as the removal) and removal of the rats. I believe the whole deal was around $600 for a residential property. He is kind of a one man operation & sometimes you have to wait depending on the season, but we were very satisfied. Good Luck....... anon

So sorry you are dealing with rats. We just went thru it, and in talking to my friends and neighbors, seems like everyone goes thru it as one point or another-- we live in an urban area. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, there is very rarely just one-- you probably have a family at this point. SO it is going to take a concerted effort to get each one. If setting out traps each night creeps you out, then definitely hire someone to deal with it for you, but if you can stomach it, you can do it yourself. Personally, I didn't find the snap traps to work at all. I resorted to glue traps and poison. In general seemed like the glue traps (baited with peanut butter cups per hardware store employee suggstion)worked immediately for the younger ones (4 in total)- I set out fold-out glue traps two consecutive nights. But then you need to really kill them 'cuz the glue just immobilizes them so I had to drown them in a bucket (just put whole trap in big bucket). But the adults seem wise to the glue traps and weren't getting caught so I put out the pellet poison where I knew they were likely to come out (we had evident hole in sheetrock)and they ate all the poison and we luckily never saw them (or smelled them) again. The risk in the setting out poison is that they will die in your house and then smell to high heaven or that they die outside somewhere where something else will eat them and get poisoned unintentionally. Good luck to you. anon

Whatever you do, DO NOT use the glue traps. They are one of the most inhumane objects out there. You might not care, but the rats sure do. You can get rid of them, but don't torture them

I had rats in my house once too. You have my sincere condolences. It was an awful experience. Luckily I did manage to get rid of them, but it didn't involve an exterminator. I did use an exterminator, threw $400 at them, and it was a terrible waste of money. All they did was lay down some glue traps (which you can buy yourself), and leave.

Anyways, the traps are the first thing you can do. Go get traps, any type (we used glue traps, which people say are inhumane, but by golly they worked), put some peanut butter on it, and leave the traps inside your vents, behind the fridge, under the stove, behind the washer, at any dark, spooky corner of your house.

Second, walk around your house and find every single little hole you can find. Seal them up, hire a contractor if you need to. I found holes behind the stove and in the furnace room.

Third, go around the house and seal up any entry points into your house. Most of the holes will be under porches, near the foundation line, exhaust vents etc. Hire someone to put serious wire meshes (the kind that cannot be chewed through) around every vent. Hire someone to seal any holes you find. Be sure to check the attic, because that's a likely entry point, be sure to use cement or metal siding, as rats will chew through putty and wood. Don't bother with steel wool, rats just pull that out and keep going. Keep your eyes open for where the rats are getting into your house. You can usually see these because rats run along the side of the walls, leaving a dark, greasy smear. They also trample down dirt and leave a ''run'', showing their frequent routes around your yard.

Fourthly, remove anything around your house that is edible. No more birdfeeders. No pet food. Clear up the yard so there is nowhere to hide. If there is a public trash bin near your house on the street, call the city and ask them to bait it.

Lastly, try to scare the rats away. Get cats. If you don't have cats, ask a friend for some used cat litter. Scatter that around the outside of your house. If you find a ''rat run'' in your yard, put cat litter right there. I hear you can buy tiger urine, although I've never done that. They also sell ultrasonic noise makers, but again, never tried that. Basically you want to annoy the rats so much they decide to move into your neighbor's house, and leave you alone, and that is exactly what happened with us (sorry neighbor).

Good luck. It really is awful, and I hope the rats leave your house very soon.

Contact Alameda County Vector Control (assuming you live in Alameda County) - We were having a problem with rats in our yard and they came out, looked around, gave us some information, and made suggestions to help with control. Rat free

I would contact Alameda County Vector Control for some information on how to eliminate pests. They can also identify whether these are Roof rats or Norway rats which have some differences.

That said, pests need the same things humans need: food, water, and a place to live. If we can deprive them of these things, your home won't be particularly attractive to them.

1. The first thing you need to do is eliminate all the ways they got into your home. Rats can squeeze through openings as small as the size of a quarter or less. Walk around your home and make sure that it is sealed by checking for cracks, holes, screen vents with openings, around utility panels, attic vents, etc.. If you find holes, you can either caulk them (if they are small) of stuff copper mesh into the hole and then fill the space with expanding foam. This is works because the rats won't chew through the copper mesh because it hurts their mouth. Cut back all vegetation within 2-3 feet of your home (Rats are a prey species and don't like to be out in the open), so you're making a no-pest strip around your home. Cut back tree branches close to your home so that none are within 3-5 feet of your roof (if you have roof rats). Spend as much time is necessary eliminating all entry points into your home.

2. Clean up around the yard. If you have a lot of stuff around the yard that could serve as someplace for rats to live, get rid of it, or store it organized, away from your home (wood piles are a favorite for most rodents). Clean up in your home. Reduce clutter and places where rodents can hide.

3. Eliminate sources of food and water for the rats: leaking faucets, water features, tires full of standing water, etc. You need to do this inside your home as well: don't leave dirty dishes full of food and water in the sink. If you do the rats will find this buffet. Store food in plastic containers (not bags - rats will chew right through them) to make food less accessible.

4. Finally: getting rid of the rats in your home. Personally, I prefer snap traps. They are quick and effective if used correctly. Ultra-high frequency devices don't drive rodents away in all cases. Live catch and release traps only put the problem in someone else's yard. Baits can be dangerous particularly to children and pets. If the rodent is poisoned and dies in the wall, you'll have an odor problem for about 6-8 weeks. If a rat is poisoned and eaten by a pet, you may lose a pet.

Duct cleaning may also help. I would start with a company that is certified by Eco-Wise or Certa-Pro (trade organizations).

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Dennis Jordan, CIH Environmental Services Manager, Alameda County Healthy Homes Department

Removing insulation because of rat poop?

Sept 2012

I am wondering about anyone's experience removing their attic insulation because of rat poop/urine. I've heard that because it is very expensive, most people just leave it there. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has decided to go through it, how much it cost, reliable business for it, etc. I am concerned it could be a health concern for the kids. Thx.

The rat poop / urine should not be a health issue so long as your kids are not going into the attic. However, if it needs to be replaced, it shouldn't really be that expensive. If it was blown in the area that is affected can be isolated and vacuumed out, then blown back in. If it is batts, same thing - just remove the affected batts and replace. I don't think you'll have to replace all your attic insulation. Good Luck and I hope this helps. Andus

We also had an issue with rat poop and felt it was important to have our insulation removed and the attic thoroughly cleaned out for health reasons. We used Advanced Home Energy and they did a great job -- thorough cleaning, really nice crew and they sanitized the entire area. Their number is, 510-540-4860. Good luck! Sara

How to keep mice from getting inside?

Sept 2010

I periodically get a small mouse infestation in the kitchen where I keep grains & beans (mostly in glass jars). While mice traps set with PB are very effective once their presence is announced, I'd like to avoid the problem in the first place. I have no idea how the mice get in. Any suggestions about how to block access? no mouse in the house

I had the same problem. An exterminator gave me this tip. Mice can squeeze through the tiniest holes. He suggested steel wool (the type that comes in a bag from the hardware store, not SOS pads). Stick fluffed out steel wool in any holes you see around the outside of the house. Mine were getting in through a hole made for the TV cable. I also stuck the steel wool in small holes in the inside of the house, near the baseboards (once again a hole made for cable wires). Apparently mice hate steel wool. Mice free

Have you considered getting a ''garden cat''? There are many cat rescue groups in the east bay (Fix Our Ferals, Island Cat Resources and Adoptions, Feral Cat Foundation in particular) that are all in need of finding suitable yards for feral/homeless cats that are not tame enough to be indoor pets. Giving a home to a couple feral cats in your back yard would dramatically reduce the number of rodents in the surrounding environment, so that they would stay away from your house, and not come close to getting inside again. Even if outdoor cats are fed they will still hunt rodents. No mice in my yard or house

Awful rat smell - help!

June 2010

We live in a charming board and batten redwood house - all of our walls are raw redwood. The attic isn't insulated. Nothing is insulated. There were rats when we moved in and we've tried hard to curb this problem. But the house often smells in some rooms - a smell i can only describe as ''ratty''. It's just gross - might be rat urine soaked into the walls or ceiling, or the smell of droppings or nests. It's NOT a dead rat smell - we've had those before and I know they do dissipate after a while. This smell I describe has been with us off and on for years. It comes and goes and is really awful sometimes. Now we have a baby and it smells near her crib. Does anyone know what this smell might be? And how to get rid of it? Is it unsafe? There are still a lot of droppings in the attic (tight space, but we could get up there to vacuum them). Any advice on cleaning products? I thought of baking soda but if we put it in the attic it would come right through the batten cracks into our bedroom (and our walls are all dark brown wood...). Thanks in advance for all of your help! Sensitive snout

We had a problem with rats in our attic as well. I suspect that rat urine built up over time can lead to significant decay and mold. I would recommend hiring Rat Patrol, or Pest Control, and take serious measures to get rid of them. You can't cover up the smell if they keep coming back and ultimately it is a health issue. My family was bombarded by rat mites and that was absolutely horrible. Good luck! anon

My heartfelt sympathies with you regarding the rat smell. You are probably smelling rat urine which has saturated the flooring or subflooring. I too have a good sense of smell and I have become somewhat of an unwilling expert on this issue. The smell gets worse in hot weather (just like perfume on a warm body) or whenever there is a new rodent invasion. For resolution, the key is two-fold: replace urine soaked flooring and block future access (called ''exclusion'' in pest control parlance.) GOT RATS is my current preferred pest control outfit. Feel free to call/email me for guidance. Leah

Does this mean I have mice in the kitchen?

Oct 2009

My refrigerator just died, and when we pulled it out, the cord had been chewed (lucky we didn't have a fire!), and there were little pellets under it everywhere that looked suspiciously like poop. Does this mean I have mice in the kitchen?! If so, how do I find out where they are getting in, and how do I get rid of them? I have cats, so I don't want to put poison out. I haven't looked under the nearby stove, but I'm afraid I might find the same thing there. Is there such as thing as a humane mouse trap? Anon

Call Alameda County vector control (if you live in Alameda county). They are fantastic, come at no charge, and help you deal with it-- figuring out how to get rid of the mice, the best way to do clean-up, as well as preventative measures. We thought we only had 2-3 mice, it turned out to be 30. We discovered it when an unopened Mother's Cookie Bag (foil!) was eaten through, two-thirds of the cookies were gone, and lots of little black poop was around it. I think we worked with someone with the name of Tabe Gipson? Knock on wood that we're done with mice now! happily mice-free for a year now

you may have rats, or big mice (please don't shoot the messenger) ... my cat has always been a great hunter, but she is old now and slacking off... mice poop under sink here.. bummer! stuff steel wool in cracks/holes/around pipes under cabinets, leading to lower levels (look inside cabinets, behind fridge, etc.) mice don't usually chew through anything metal... and get some mouse traps... enjoy your game of cat and mouse. -O.

are you sure it's mice and not rats? poop looks the same but rat's poop is 3-5 times as big. if it's mice, your local hardware store will have humane, non-lethal traps (a baited, trap-door, metal cage) that you can bait with crackers or peanut butter. if it's rats, they are way smarter and will not go near a trap unless it's been around for a long time and has lost it's human scent. the only way to get rid of rats other than poison is to find the holes they are coming into the house thru and block them with sheet metal that they can't chew thru. the above advice is based on my dealings with rats in a few of my past homes. good luck rat in a hat

We would get mice every winter. One year we ended up with a whole family and had little baby mice running around - not fun. Since we have a bulldog, we couldn't use and didn't want to use poison. After much trial and error, we discovered how to discourage the mice from coming/staying in our home. First, do all the things that are recommended like keeping your food stored properly, keeping hedges away from close to the house, making sure there aren't any holes that would allow the mice into the house (they can fit into extremely small spaces), etc. But the one big thing that seems to have really helped is using lavender oil mixed in water and spraying that around the house. We use the little fillable spray bottles you can get at Walgreen's for like $2 and have gotten lavender oil various places including Berkeley Bowl or Rainbow Grocery. The mice don't like the strong smell and will leave. We spray around the house both inside and outside. The dog can't eat it and it smells nice, too. We spray all around the kitchen, under cabinets, around vents and the edges of the house. You have to respray occasionally as it does dissipate. But on the occasions that we hear/see signs of mice in the house, I spray the next day and the mice don't come back. Sharon

Rats living in the crawl space

Oct 2007

Help! We have rats living in the crawl space under our house. I don't think they have been there long (part hopeful thinking, partly because until a few months ago we were working on the house) and I need them gone. I am pretty sure that there is only one way in and out of the crawl space-- they ate through the vent screen. We can of course replace this screen, but what I would like to do is get them out, and then replace the screen.

So-- how do we get them out? I want to exhaust all possibilities before we go to traps and poison-- but will go there if I have to. What would be best would be if I could 'annoy' them out, so that they will move their brood to a more desirable location (my neighborhood has many locations that would be popular with the ratly set). I have heard of using ammonia soaked sheets to annoy racoons out of confined spaces-- has anyone had any luck with this or ANY other rat annoyance technique? Thank you for ANY suggestions
Can't live with R-A-T-S

With all of the diseases that rats carry, we had little patience for 'annoyance' techniques. Put 'rat disease' into Google and learn all about them. We called Richard at Employ Exterminators (see references on the BPN website) and he's been great. We had some stubborn rats but I think we're making progress. It's horrible and I can hear Rachel Carson yelling at me from her grave. But you gotta do what you gotta do to protect your family... Anon

I wouldn't wait too long to take a more aggressive measure, although I understand your reasoning for wanting to get them out -- humanely, before closing the hole. We had rats come in our crawl space, crawl up the walls (if they're roof rats, they'll usually head towards the attic to make a nest), nest in our attic, and then we were attacked by rat MITES (it was awful as you can imagine). You may want to try to lure them out with food. They like fruit and cheese and peanut butter. Maybe you could trap them somehow and then let them go? Our neighbors used Eagles Wildlife Service. They remove animals humanely: 209- 324-1853. Good luck! anon

Could you borrow a neighbor's outdoor cat and stick him under your house for an hour? I bet that would scare the rats out pretty quickly.

If you've got no willing neighbor, you could adopt an outdoor feral cat for your yard. Fix Our Ferals is an org that could point you to some adoptable feral cats.

I took in two young ferals off my street and they dispatch all rodent invaders very quickly. I spent time with my ferals so they are now socialized, but they are happy being outdoor, do-as-they-please, cats. They are very low maintenance and the most natural form of rodent control. Love my furry rat controllers

You are going to have to trap or kill them. Either hire a trapper to get them (they may be able to get them live and move them), or trap them yourself. You could use humane traps (have- a-heart) and then release them far from your home (over a mile or more), or buy the snap traps that snap quickly and kill them in a second. Rats are not endangered and trapping and killing them quickly is not that bad. (Never use the traps where they just stick to them. How cruel!) Andi

Decaying rat stuck under the house

May 2007

I have a dead animal stuck under the house or in the wall and we can't get to it. It is stinking up the rear of the house. It seems to be stuck in an inaccessible area. The handyman tried to get under the house, but there wasn't enough clearance. Can anyone give me advice on how to deal with this or who might be able to deal with this? Miko

The smell will dissipate in a few days. I know it's horrid, but if no one can reach the animal, you'll just have to wait until the carcass dries out. We used some strong Glade or Airwick plug-in air freshener for a week or so. Use your handyman $$$ to find where the rat may have entered, and seal up the place. Now rat-free in Montclair

Cleaning mice droppings from old couch

Sept 2006

We recently inherited a couch which had been in storage for a while and seems to have been a mouse playground. We found lots of mouse droppings (and inferred mouse urine) under/between the cushions.

Aside from vacuuming them up, what else can we do to get it clean? It's a Macy's couch upholstered in a dark brown cotton velvety fabric, and most of the cushions have a sticker that says ''Stainmaster'' on them. The cushions have zippers so I guess I could take them off and wash them (won't they shrink?), but what about the fabric on the arms and back?

And should I be concerned about Hanta virus? We have a new baby and I'm probably being paranoid, but isn't it passed by droppings? Mousy Couch

I hate to be blunt, but I would dump the couch. My understanding is that hanta virus is rather rare, mice droppings and urine STINK and there are plenty of other things that mice carry (including fleas), and the amount of cleaning / chemicals that would remove or at least mitigate mouse droppings and pee would render your couch toxic, I think. Both the marketplace and Craigslist have plenty of couches and such, and with a little due diligence you can find something nice that isn't infested or cr*pped on. If you're like me, you're reluctant to let the furniture go b/c you don't want to be wasteful and want to get your money's worth- but it's not worth the risk or ickyness to salvage this one. Find a means to dispose of the couch (not on the street please) and find something new & move on. Droppings? No thanks.

Do NOT vacuum up the mouse droppings. This will distribute any germs/viruses the mouse may carry into the air. Instead, spray the droppings with a diluted bleach solution (10% bleach in water). Once saturated, let it sit for 30 min then wear rubber gloves and clean up the droppings with a paper towel (damp with the bleach solution) and throw everything out, including the gloves if possible (or rinse them with the bleach solution afterwards). A pain but then you don't have to worry. For more info, check out this CDC website: has cats who bring in mice

I am an archivist with the National Park Service, and deal with rodent droppings on occasion. I have included some very good links from the National Park Service Museum Program, and from a museum conservators web site at Stanford If you got the couch from an urban area in Alameda County you probably don't have to worry too much about hantavirus, b/c the mice that carry the virus are are deer mice. That said, hantavirus has been found in more rural areas of California, including Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties. If a couch was in a garage it could be nested in by disease carrying rodents, regardless of the particular species or disease.

Our house was INVADED by mice over winter break last year when our daughter was three months old. We came home to mouse droppings in her crib and in our bed! We chose to leave her for two days with my in-laws while we did a very deep clean. We dampened everything with a mild bleach solution before vacuuming and wiping. We washed all bed covers in bleach solution, surface dampening and sun drying our bed and the baby's bed, spraying, damp-sweeping and mopping the hard wood floors, all surfaces, etc.

I would DEFINITELY give a good clean to the couch if you have an infant at home, if only b/c their immune systems are more vulnerable in general. Clean the couch outside or in a garage, not in the house. As a preliminary step spray WELL and in the nooks and crannies it with a weak bleach solution and let it sun dry, though that will probably cause bleaching. More specific advice is in the links below, which you can adapt to your home situation using common sense. National Park Service on Hantavirus: 08.pdf Stanford University CoOL - Conservation Online. A search for ''hantavirus'' bought up documents in the following document link: cool_allsearch.cgi sara

I'd say dump the couch. Even if you wash the covers or had it cleaned, it won't get rid of the underlying urine. Unsavory at the very least, more like unsanitary. Not for a baby. . .not for anyone. Not worth it. anon

Mice in the house, droppings everywhere

August 2006

Hi, we have mice in our home and they are leaving droppings everywhere! We tried traps, and caught two...but alas, more droppings. Any ideas? Maybe we need an exterminator? I do not want harmful chemicals sprayed or mice dying in our walls. Know anyone who could help? THANKS! Tired of mouse poop

Want to borrow my cat? :) Seriously, though, I've recently dealt with a major rat infestation where I live and found Richard, owner of Employ Exterminators, to be extremely knowledgable and genuinely helpful. You might want to call him to discuss alternatives.

Word to the wise: I accepted his bait treatment and it did the job, but the stench from rats that died in the walls was g-d awful and lasted for ages. In the future, I'd try using traps before resorting to the ''big guns''. Good luck Jane

Contact Alameda County Vector Control. Their website is: We had a problem with mice when we moved back into our home after the Oakland Hills Fire, when all the construction debris and litter was attractive to mice. Vector Control came out and inspected our house, flagged areas where mice were entering the house, and recommended ways to seal off the areas. One area where they were coming in was through holes where plumbing came through the walls, i.e. under sinks and behind toilets. The contractors will often drill a larger hole than necessary, and that becomes a conduit for the mice to enter your house. They recommended spray foam that hardens once it's set to seal off those areas and with a little follow-up trapping we got rid of the mice. Good luck! Christina

Sorry to hear about your mouse situation. we had the same issues when we bought our house 2 years ago. I freaked out and called an exterminator. they wouldn't put out poison, which was fine with me, but traps and came to pick them up. BUT: This was a waste of money. I'd never do it again. And here is why: All they did was finding holes in the house where the rodents came in (but we had to fix the holes). That was a crucial part of getting rid of the pest. kill the ones that are already in the house/crawlspace/walls by setting up traps. and try to find every little hole they might get back in. The other thing we did was putting out bait in the yard. that means you'll find dead mice every now and then while gardening, but it will minimize the colony and thus the chance of any member getting back in the house. Before the rainy season we check our house from the outside, fill up anything suspicious with this plumber foam (home depot, looks ugly though) and we've been clean ever since. good luck! anon

Hi. If you can adopt a young cat or a *dachshund (*who are great hunters), they'll take care of your problem! anon

Hi- If you can at all try to find where they are entering your living space - and keep in mind that mice can enter a hole that is very very small - then fill these holes/spaces with steel wool - the critters will not try to get through this nasty stuff michael

I just want to say one thing first in response to the person who was suggesting to put poison bait out in the yard for the mice - BEWARE! This can be very dangerous! Not only will you have dead rodents in your yard, you may also end up accidentally poisoning your neighbors cat or dog, or some other wild animal. I watched a skunk die in my yard from accidentally ingesting poison rat bait that my landlord put out. It staggered and convulsed all night. The next morning I found it dead under my car. It's nose mouth and eyes were oozing a greenish bloody foam. What if a samll child accidentally ingests mice poison?

I recommend that you keep setting those traps! You probably have lots and lots of mice. You need to trap a whole lot more than just two to get rid of them. Go out and buy more traps. Bait them with peanut butter for several days BEFORE you set them, that way the mice get use to going to the traps for food. Wait and make sure the mice are eating the peanut butter from the traps on a regular basis. Then, set the traps. You should get a lot of them that way. Cover up all small holes, even cracks, that lead to the outside, like areas where pipes come in, or small vents, etc. Fill the holes with steel wool - mice don't like it. Remember, mice and rats can squeeze through a hole that is small as their skull! Check for holes in places that are up high, as they are also amazing climbers. Make sure there is no food attracting the mice into or around your home, like open boxes or bags of cereal, crackers, birdseed, pet food, beans, rice, etc. Seal up all open containers. Check in storage areas, like closets, for stuff that mice might like to eat, like stuffed animals filled with beans. We had mice in our closet. We didn't know what they were getting into until we cleaned the closet out and discovered that they were eating the beans from an old bean bag. Laurey

Mice are very common in berkeley. We had them (or rats) and this is what we did after consulting with my child's science teracher: there is one kind of poison that has a blood thinner in it. It's not coumadin, but something similar. Find the nest (often in the attic, in our case under the heater in the crawlspace) and put the bait there every day. They have to keep eating it daily. Once a few die (they are very smart) they'll figure out something is bad around the nest and move (in our case to the crawlspace under our bedroom). Try to keep putting out the bait. It worked. But yes, make sure other animals and pets and children can't get to it.

The regular poisons will give the rats/mice a stomach ache and then they won't eat it anymore; they'll only sample small amounts of novel 'food'. Our rats I think started around our composter. Any ideas to avoid rats around the compost, by the way? Cutting out all the ivy around it helped a lot too. Apparenttly they love ivy rat free now

Rats getting in through our Spanish roof tiles

July 2004

A couple of months ago we started hearing creatures of the night in the roof and learned that we have roof rats. We had a professional come to our house who said that since we have no attic (it is a small crawlspace full of insulation and no access), he could not set any traps there. The only solution was to cut the branches of the trees over our roof. We did that and it substantially cut down on the activity, however, we still can hear a couple periodically at night. I am concerned that they are going down the walls and then may end up somewhere in the living space of the house. Tonight I thought I heard something in the floor.

We have a Spanish tiles on the roof, which is problematic because there are so many small spaces they can crawl through. We had our entire roof replaced when we moved in several years ago. I wouldn't install Spanish tiles again.

How do you get rid of them in this case? How far can they jump from trees? How do you deal with the roof tiles?

I also heard from the pest control company that Berkeley apparently has a large rat problem. They said it has something to do with the sewers that the city has not corrected. Can anyone confirm that? We have lived in our house in North Berkeley almost 8 years and have never had this problem before. going beserk in Berkeley

I highly recommend Rat Patrol at 888 551 5513. The guy's name is Garland Buckner. It's expensive $500, but he guarantees his work for 2 years. A lot of the other places are cheaper but if it doesn't work they won't back up their work.

There are hugh sewer rats in Berkeley. When they redid the sewer line in front of our house they invaded. We had a lot of rats it was horrible. Garland cleared them up very quickly. When we had another rat a couple of months later he came back and got that one too. It's been a while and we've been rat free. I'm very pleased with his work. Karen

Dear ''going beserk in Berkeley,'' We had a rat problem, and we also have a crawl space instead of an attic. Rat Patrol (Oakland, 510-628-0958) got rid of our rats. Rat Patrol is costly, but they guarantee their work for two years. They do not use rat poison, and they sealed up all access to our house, including the roof. They travel all over the bay area. Good luck! Finally rat-free

Rats in the Attic of our Rented House

May 2004

The attic of our rented house is intermittently invaded by rats. Some months, there are no rats; other months, there are many, and their wild revels and squeaking battles wake us at night. Our landlady brought in an exterminator, who said that trying to trap or kill the rats might be an expensive exercise in futility. He gave two reasons: one is that the rats are absent right now, although they have left abundant evidence of their past occupancy. (He did lay traps, and caught nothing.) The other reason is that there are so very many holes and paths into the attic that new rats are free to enter at will. He thought it would be a vast undertaking to close off all the points of entry, which include the tops of many hollow walls, as well as many openings through the exterior walls. We are reluctant to impose large expenses on our landlady, both out of gratitude to her, and out of enlightened self- interest.

What we'd like to find is some sort of device or substance that would discourage rats from remaining in the attic. We don't want to poison them, because the attic is very difficult to access, and we might well be stuck with a ceiling full of decaying rat carcasses. We're hoping you can point us to noise makers, light sources, or odors that bother rats more than than they do people. Any ideas? (For various reasons, cats, pythons, ferrets, and terriers are out of the question.) Wishing I knew the Pied Piper

I 'm sorry to say but the safest most effective way to repel rats is to do all the things the exterminator recommended: plugging up all the holes and setting snap traps. Smells, lights, sounds and any other kind of sonic devices are useless against rats. You will also need to remove any food sources, junk piles around the house, if any, and thin or eliminate overgrown shrubs or ivy that might harbor rats, or large thick tree branches touching the roof of the house. It is a lot of work, but rats are not a good thing to have around the house. If you don't want to burden the landlady, I suggest you do the work yourself. Here are some websites that explain in detail just how to rat proof your home. They all discourage using poisons for the reason you mentioned, and they also discourage using live traps because most rats are introduced pests in the community that carry diseases.

Good luck! Laurey

Mice Attack!

Nov 2003

Our second story flat has recently been invaded by mice. We had them once before, but we introduced some poison and they dissapeared. The folks downstairs just got a cat and coincidently the mice started coming back to our place for dinner. First they would just hang out in the pantry, nibbling on rice, oats and a variety of grains, but after we boarded up the hole in there, they began appearing in the living room, hallways, even the office. Not cool. Problem is, now we have a 7 month old and we're not so comfortable with poison as we once were. Any non-toxic, non- cat solutions? (I'm allergic) mickey

There are three things you need to do:

1) Go through your home with a fine tooth comb and plug up any holes that may lead to the interior spaces of your walls. They can come in anywhere. And remember, a mouse can squeeze through a hole no bigger than the diameter of it's head. Check where all plumming goes into your walls. Check all electrical outlets. Check all hidden places like nooks and crannies in closets and storage areas. We found a hole where mice were coming in in one of our built-in shelves. They can even enter where a small hole has been drilled for t.v.cable lines. Once you locate ALL your holes, plug them up with steel wool. Mice and rats will not attempt to chew through this stuff. Make sure it is a tight fit so that it doesn't fall out. If the whole is really big then you will have to use a wire mesh with a small weave or a sheet of metal, then cover that up some kind material typically used for patching walls.

2) Set mouse traps. They are non toxic. If you don't like killing them, then you can buy humane traps. Victor makes them and they can be bought at a hardware store. Just keep in mind when ever you use traps, always bait them without setting the trap for a while to get the mice use to getting food from them. Once they are comfortable with eating from the trap, then you set them. Make sure you place the traps in hidden areas so that they are less afraid to approach them. And don't forget to check them.

3) seal up all your food in airtight plastic or glass containers. Leaving grains and nuts lying around on your shelves in their original bags only asks for trouble with pests. Not only will mice and rats chew through the bags, but moths and grain beetles will find the food as well. Also find any other sources of possible food like stuffed animals or dolls that are filled with littles beans. Laurey

Please do NOT use poison to get rid of mice and rats. If the mice or rats ingest poison and are then caught and eaten by owls, hawks, cats, or dogs, those animals will die from eating the poisoned mouse/rat. A friend of mine works at the Lindsey Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. She said that someone brought in a barn owl during her last shift there. The owl had been poisoned and was in very obvious distress. The staff tried to save it, but the owl died.

If you have a mouse or rat infestion, the best solution (I know that it is not for the squeamish) is to (1) plug any holes that they are coming in through and (2) set a lot of snap traps (a lot = one dozen or more). Also, you should/can call the rodent control person in the city that you live in. These people are quite knowledgeable and can figure out where the mice/rats are coming into your house.

Also, clear away thick ivy in your yard, and do not store bird seed or dog/cat food in your garage (unless you use chew proof containers) because that will attract mice or rats to your garage and then your house. Janet

For the mice: the old fashioned mousetrap is a bit gross but can be effective. Bait it with a firm bread, stuck firmly in the trap, dipped in peanut butter. Throw mouse and trap out together--I find a trap does not work as well the second time. The wood ones are very cheap. Find all the holes you can and plug them with metal pot scraper ball thingees (chungas), especially around the pipes under your sink. Set traps where baby can't go! Trapper John

Re the rats, having dealt with them myself, the best solution is plain old-fashioned rat traps. Using poisons has a couple of important disadvantages. Of course, it introduces toxins (toxic to humans as well as rats) into your home, and it is not uncommon for the rats to die inside your walls. Then you have a stinking carcass to remove that can be hard to find. Cecelia

Cat brought in a mouse who has now settled in

Oct 2003

My wonderful cat has a terrible habit of bringing in ''friends'' from outside. We (well actually, my husband) have been able (for the most part) to gather up the variuos birds, mice, lizzards, grasshoppers and worms and set them free back outside. Unfortunately, she brought in one mouse that has found comfort in our home. She has lost interest in this critter. I try to encourage her to get the mouse out from hiding, so that my husband can scoop it up and bring it outside (or let her do the nasty deed) I am not one to use traps or poisons and would want to deal with this with the least amount of direct contact as possible, preferring not to have to make any visual connection with it! Are there any contraptions out there that would help solve this problem? eek- a- mouse!

Have you tried a small have a heart trap with a little peanut butter? You catch him alive then release him outside, without having to touch him. The traps are available at most hardware stores. Tracy

HELP! Rats in the cellar

Jan 2003

We've owned our home for 1.5 years, and recently some animals, probably rats, have been pulling down the insulation. My husband found a dead rat and a nestlike spot, which he removed, and we are now getting nasty smells wafting through the house. Any recommendations as to who to call and what to do? Has anyone solved this one on their own? Of course, we are horrified! No evidence of anything in the actual house YET. Our cellar is mostly a dirt floored crawl space, and we have a floor furnace. --disgusted in san leandro

Having just fought (and won, I think) a major rat battle, I advise you to call Alameda County Vector Control. They have been amazingly helpful to both me and my neighbor (who also has rats, although a different kind). Tabe, the resident rat expert, has visited our house twice and our neighbor's house several times more, diagnosed what kind of rats we had, showed us where the rats have been coming in, told us how to keep them out, came back to look at what we had done to fix the problem and gave us more advice, followed up with phone calls to see how things were going, and in general has made us both feel pretty darn warm and fuzzy about the way our tax dollars are being spent. I highly recommend taking advantage of this free service. Nelly

Critter living among us

Jan 2003

We have some sort of animal living in our heating vent. We can hear it at night in the living room vent which is right above the garage. It is the only vent we hear it in. We called Animal Control and after they told us it might be a roof rat, they pretty much said, ''good luck getting rid of it.'' We're at a loss as to who to call next. An exterminator? A heating specialist? Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Our biggest concerns are 1) the animal's urine is smelling up our house (we thought originally the smell was from our cats) and 2) it will die in the vent and really stink up the place. Allison

Ace hardware carries a product that you plug into an outlet, it affects sound vibrations thru the electrical sytem, not audible to people, safe for pets but it keeps rodents away. Marc

i've heard about these things you plug into the wall that make a high pitched noise that drive rodents away--perhaps that would work for your ceiling animal? i don't know how well they work, and if you have gerbils it might be a problem, but it might be worth finding out more. joanne

A rat whose urine you can smell? That sounds like a giant. We recently had rats in our attic and had a great experience with Janet Elliott from Berkeley Health and Human Services. On the phone I described what I heard and answered some questions, and she decided it was rats. She then came to the house, looked all around outside for possible points of entry, poked around the attic and the kitchen (where I'd seen the furry things) and found where they were hanging out most, and advised us where to put traps and how to set them up. With her advice, we were rat- free within days, and it was all free. You can call her at 981-5310. Good luck.

We recently had the same problem...first it was a mouse wandering around our house...there was evidence of it everywhere, but in places not that obvious.We called a company called Ensure, for $150 they came out,detected the problem set traps and bait. They'll come up to three times and guarantee for 90 days. The mouse was caught within hours of laying the traps. Luckily it was only the one. However, I found a ''dying'' roof rat in our basement a month or so later, it had apparently gotten into the bait. It was shocking to find but at least it is gone. The co. also closes up any prospective openings that they can get into or at least points out those they can't get to. You could probably go to Long's or Target and buy the traps and set the bait yourself, but it was worth it to me to pay the $150 for them to come and deal with it....I can't believe a pest control co. said ''good luck getting rid of it...'' No More Critters...for now DL

Having just fought (and won, I think) a major rat battle, I advise you to call Alameda County Vector Control. They have been amazingly helpful to both me and my neighbor (who also has rats, although a different kind). Tabe, the resident rat expert, has visited our house twice and our neighbor's house several times more, diagnosed what kind of rats we had, showed us where the rats have been coming in, told us how to keep them out, came back to look at what we had done to fix the problem and gave us more advice, followed up with phone calls to see how things were going, and in general has made us both feel pretty darn warm and fuzzy about the way our tax dollars are being spent. I highly recommend taking advantage of this free service. Nelly

Mouse Problem

Feb 2000

Hi, We have a mice problem. We've set all kinds of traps (humane) and catch mice, but apparently not enough. They seem to be spreading and I have recently found mouse poop on my children's clothing. Can anyone recommend anyone who can help me take of this problem.

I know you're looking for an expert, but while waiting for one, here are some considerations that we've used successfully for trapping mice in our own home (some we read about, some common sense, some which just worked):
1. Set lots of traps at a time. We've caught 3-4 mice in one 12 hour period some days with about 8 traps set at a time among 3 rooms. Reset sprung traps right away--our mouse problems seem to have come in waves.
2. Set the traps along walls. Mice are timid and prefer to keep away from open spaces.
3. Set traps around where the mice come in (if you have an idea of where), where the mice go for food, and places in between.
4. Release the mice *blocks* away from your house. I have to admit we use regular mouse traps--cheap so you can have a lot at one time, and fast to empty and reset. Fran

Please post anonymously! I don't want PETA after me! If you see one mouse, you probably have a lot of mice. They will poop throughout your clothes,silverware, etc. eventually and even breed there. I buy loads of inexpensive snap traps and set them everywhere, using bread crust and peanut butter as bait. I don't like killing them, but I believe it is the most humane way to eliminate them, as there is little chance that they will survive if caught and released. If they do survive, it will be at the expense of some mouse that already was in the habitat you release yours into. Also you can spread house mouse diseases to wild mice populations, etc. The mouse usually dies instantly when the trap snaps,instead of starving to death slowly outside somewhere. Anyway, I never use a snap trap twice but simply throw the mouse and the trap out. I make a full-on attack -- lots of traps for several days, and then I generally am rid of them for a long time. Less messy are glue traps but they gross me out. At the same time, you can stop or almost stop more of them from getting in the house, and spare yourself the further killing of them, by assiduously plugging every hole. Ventilation holes need to be covered with screen. Gaps in walls and foundations can be plugged with a hardening foam you buy at the hardware store. The gaps where pipes come in and other holes can be plugged with metal scrubbies. Mice can't chew through the metal, they are cheap, and you can stuff them in gaps and holes.

By the way, as a parent, I think kids should know that we take up space on this planet, and that it is at the cost of other species and habitat, no matter how much we try to pretend otherwise. One house is the death of many creatures, starting when the lot is cleared for building, the road is paved to our door, the lines are laid for sewer, electricity, and so on. We should use our time and space well in respect of that.

Mice and the parasites that they carry are a serious health threat to you and your children. This is no time to worry about being Humane. (What's more Humane anyway - starving to death or having the neck snapped in a fraction of a second? They shoot horses don't they?) Just use spring traps - lots of them - baited with peanut butter. Bait and set the traps just before lights out. Then just try not to react to the sound of traps snapping. If you're squemish about emptying the traps in the morning, don't. Just throw the whole mess away and start the next night with fresh traps. Make sure you change the bait in the ones that don't go off. Mice tend to follow along the base of the walls, so put the traps right next to the walls so they won't miss them. If you don't know which way they'll be coming, put two back to back so they'll encounter the bait no matter which way they come from. Show your kids the traps and explain how they work and how dangerous to little fingers they are. Also show them where you intend to place them so they don't walk into them, and so they will know what the noise is if they happen to hear it. Pick up the traps in the morning so the kids can't play with them. Horror story- A mouse ran across my bearded chin in bed one night. - luckily we had a trap on hand and after baiting it with peanut butter and placing it along the wall in our bedroom, we only had to wait about three minutes before the mouse found it. Also, getting a cat can be extremely effective. We haven't had a mouse in the house since a cat adopted us ten years ago. I'm very allergic to cats, but he spends most of his time outdoors, is not allowed up stairs in the bedroom area, or on the furniture. Also, we use a whole house electrostatic air filter to keep allergens under control. I also wash my hands immeadiately after touching the cat.

Recommendation to rid of mice in humane manner: I heard peppermint essence works b/c they hate the smell of it. I've used it and the mice are no longer here... but who knows? I read from BIRC's literature that those high frequency noise makers don't work although the mice disappeared. Unfortunately, I didn't do a controlled experiment... I just applied every humane repellent known to rid of them asap! I think many of the essence stores like body time in Berkeley has peppermint essence.. I believe you have to place only several drops every week or so. Also try calling BIRC... look for it in white stands for Berkeley Integrated? something something. It's a non-profit org. that provides info to public on using alternatives to harmful chemicals such as pesticides and cleaning products. I have now been using only baking soda, oils and soaps from the kitchen to prevent fungi and aphid infestations on my roses, using very effective iron sulfate tablets for snails/slugs, and am in the process of replacing all household chemicals so all I have are vinegar, baking soda, borax and bon ami as the worst chemicals in my home. I believe they'll send you one free fact sheet for a particular topic... then the annual membership is $30 of $35/year and it supports a great project. They're unfortunately very unorganized so sometimes you have to be patient w/ them.

I have a suggestion for you and it's even FREE!! We had a big problem with mice and called the Alameda County Vector Control Office (in the government pages of the phone book). An inspector came out and identified points of entry into the house and recommended ways to seal them up. Believe it or not, it seems some mice were coming in right through the front door! We had a double door and at the bottom there was a small gap in the weatherstripping on each door and that's where they were coming in. The fix for that space was simply putting on new weatherstripping that fit better. Another area where mice were entering our house was at plumbing for the toilets. There was a tiny gap between the sheetrock and the pipes coming out of the wall. The inspector recommended a product you spray into the gap and it foams up and dries hard, thereby sealing the space. We took care of the recommended fix-its and didn't have a problem after that.

If you can, get a cat. It's the best and surest way to never have any mice around your vicinity. Second best, get your neighbors a cat.

Rodents Outdoors

Getting rats out of large redwood tree

Dec 2011

For the past few years we have been having trouble with rats occasionally getting into our crawl space, stuck under our house, and once in the attic. We have a large redwood tree growing through our deck and believe they are nesting up in the tree (they are roof rats). There are rat dropping on the deck daily. Sometimes the droppings appear during the day right after I've swept (therefore leading us to believe they are falling from nests in the tree).

How can we get the nests (and therefore the rats) out of the tree? We've considered using a power washer to blast them out but that sounds scary and disgusting. Thanks for any experience or advice you can share! anon

When I lived in Hawaii I noticed that many of the Palm trees had metal bands around the base of the trunk. When I asked about this I was told it was to keep rats from nesting up in the branches. Perhaps this could work for you? I think the bands were wider than the length of the rats' bodies so they couldn't climb over them. And they certainly couldn't get a purchase with their claws... So they were out of luck. Sounds like good luck for the people involved, yes? =o) Mailisha

We had trouble with rats at our house in Orinda several years ago. We used a company called Rat Patrol, 510-612-4563 and they got rid of the creatures. I don't remember their approach (i was just so grateful to be rid of them) but it's probably worth a phone call. Good luck!! rat-free, for now

My suggestion is to isolate the tree so they can't get from it to another tree or the roof or anywhere if that is possible. Next you understand that what goes up must come down. We used to keep squirrels out of the bird feeder with a steel disc about 24'' in diameter. Such a disc around the bottom of the tree up fairly high to make sure cats don't jump up to it is needed. It can be a hinged donut shape made at a welding shop. Cover the disc with the super sticky mouse trap adhesive paper and you'll catch every rat coming down. A similar method is to use a water container they can't jump across or climb out of. They will enter the water and swim across only to find they can't climb out. A plastic children's swimming pool can be used to fashion something. Google ''mouse trap made with 5 gallon bucket'' to get some ideas or ''home made mouse trap''. Basically trap them up in the tree and catch them as they come down. The sticky paper can catch birds so be sure it stays clear of seed and maybe set up some scare crow devices to keep them from landing there. trapper

Place a Victor rat trap on your deck and apply peanut butter. We had them in our detached garage, and I disposed of 3 in one week. Anon

How to stop rats from climbing a tree

Oct 2010

Rats are climbing a 6-inch thick cinnamon birch to get to my deck. I want to install a baffle to stop them from climbing the tree. An internet search did not turn up much except some DIY solutions which is not a solution for me. Anyone know of a good solution to stop rats from climbing a tree? Thanks! AA

I doubt you can stop rats from getting onto your deck. You need to figure out why they are doing it in the first place. Pet food? Water? Get rid of what is attracting them and they will go somewhere else.

We have a compost heap and until we bought a plastic container and put wire mesh on the bottom, they would visit (along with raccoons) quite often. They have beady red eyes! :( Even after that they were still hanging around because of a neighbor's peach tree.

I haven't seen any rats though since we got our outside cat. We've never left cat food outside, but I used to keep water on our deck. The raccoons love that. I'm now bringing it in every night and putting it back out in the morning. Our cat will often sleep in until about 4-5 AM and then go out hunting.

You can't get rid of the raccoons. It is a continual battle of wits. Lately I'm winning. :) Cat Lover / Rat Hater

I have several inexpensive solutions for you. Wrap the trunk of the tree or branch with 10-12'' of aluminum. (Not foil, it's got to be a strip of 1/16 thick or so.) Funnel shape is best. Large opening side toward the ground or trunk of the tree. Rats' claws can't grip the aluminum and they will slip off.

Second solution get vines with thorns, blackberry, rose or thistles. Wrap the branch with a lot of it. The rats won't cross. For this to work it has to be thick or dense.

Third, get rat traps. Use French bread coated with peanut butter.

Forth, get a cat. The smell of cat will keep the rats away.

FYI: There's a rat population explosion this year. I caught 11 in one week. ANON

Bizarre rat sightings!

Aug 2009

I am writing in hopes that someone in this group can explain what to me seems like bizarre and unusual events. A week or so ago I was walking near 4th St. around 6 p.m. and came upon a rat on the sidewalk. The animal appeared to be not quite full grown, grayish in color, coat in good shape but clearly not well. It was upright but did not really want to move and when it did, it walked as though injured or perhaps with a neurological problem. This in and of itself did not seem that unusual- I thought perhaps it was an escapee from the nearby Vivarium. But, the next morning, I went to pick someone up in the Elmwood and there in the driveway was another rat, slightly larger, in the same ''condition'' as the one I had seen the day before. The next day I heard from a friend that lives in Albany that her dogs were engaged with a rat in their courtyard. So that makes 3 occurrences in 3 days, miles apart. In all the many years I have lived in this area, I had never seen a rat before. Can anyone offer an explanation for these possibly neurologically compromised animals appearing all over the east bay? Or is this just coincidence from the twilight zone? perplexed

rats do live in abundance throughout the bay area, including areas you mentioned. especially within 5 mile radius of all restaurants, and regardless of how upscale a neighborhood is, there are many many rats!!! they are smart, shy, and have survival instincts, so they don't often show themselves so the ones you did see probably was because they were not well, out and confused, etc. yuck, sorry

If dogs are messing with a sick rodent, that could put them in grave danger of ''secondary poisoning''. The rats you've seen are behaving as if they've been poisoned (and it is a horrible, slow death...they lose their natural tendency to hide undercover, come staggering out in broad daylight and just sit there shivering or convulsing until they die) which could be passed along to dogs, cats, and other predators who might the poisoned rat! If you're seeing them around citywide, it may be there's a city-run poisoning campaign. Worth asking - and keep an eye on those dogs, because the poison could have a delayed reaction on them. careful

I suspect the ''neurological compromise'' may be poison, that's why you're seeing them out in the open and acting strange. I've seen rats in many different locations in Berkeley since I've lived here - 26 years. (An aside: the huge downside of using poison is that raptors who eat these rats are in turn killed). Not surprised

They've eaten rat poison. That's how rat's act when they're dying from it. Why you had coincidental sightings I don't know. Perhaps rat problems are on the rise and businesses are putting out the poison. Or perhaps it was just an odd coincidence. Local

Please call the county Vector Control agency at(510)567-6800. This is the sort of early-warning that they need to hear about. It was mass bird die-offs that were the first warning of Nile Virus in the U.S., so this sort of thing is important. Thanks for noticing!

I was just considering the same questions. We have had many run ins with rats in our North Berkeley home -- both inside and outside, over the years. And everyone else I talk to (literally EVERYone in our neighborhood) has had problems with rats in the basement, attic, house, etc. I quite regularly see them outside in trees, and occasionally see them during the day. Only once did I see one during the day that looked ''drunk'' -- maybe similar to your siting. I imagine this could be because so many are being poisoned as so many people are trying to deal with them. I was just talking to neighbors about this yesterday and someone commented that increased composting efforts have increased the rat population here. Whatever the cause, I certainly wonder if and how the city is dealing with this problem. I keep hoping for the time to investigate this further. And by the way, getting rat MITE bites is also a consequence of the enormous roof rat population and a big public health problem! I share your concern

Although I was highly amused to contemplate the emerging phenomena of the killer zombie rats on narcotics or hallucenogenics, in actuality, it is probably something more prosaic. Rat Poison. Hopefully no pets or wildlife acceptable to humans get into it... rat bastard

There are rats everywhere in our area. The rats you sighted probably ingested poisoned bait that had been left inside a business or home by an exterminator or property owner. The rat went outside to die. I encountered a rat outside a business on San Pablo Ave in Albany and couldn't get the owners inside to do anything. I waited nearby and made sure no kids came near it. Finally the poor thing shuddered and died and the only thing I could do was nudge it under a tree grating. I would have put it out of its misery if I had the means but I just made sure no one got near it until its demise. Wish there was a better way to get rid of them. Anonymous

There has been a rat population explosion. Tie this together with budget cuts for city/county funding for rat control no wonder you've seen several rats.

In our neighborhood this has become more than just a nuisance. Rats are destroying property, they've eaten the wiring in cars and chewed holes in homes and are destroying what's in attics and basements. Since the beginning of summer my neighbor and I caught 17. Some of these rats are so big traps don't kill them and the run off trapped in the trap.

My concern is the diseases rats spread and they cause asthma. Do your neighbors a favor if you see a rat try and trap it. One rat over the course of several months can have 100-400 offspring. - Anon

Neighbor's yard full of raccoons and rats

Sept 2008

Our next-door neighbor is a very nice older man who lives on what is apparently an extremely limited income. His back yard is towering with blackberries and other plants - it likely hasn't been gardened/landscaped in decades. Sometimes, if a neighbor mentions the yard creating problems (as it does for all of us around him), he'll painstakingly cut back the blackberry, which of course roars back in no time. He is not physically capable of doing anything more permanent, and I doubt he has the money to hire anyone to clear it. Both of his immediate neighbors are single mothers, and realistically we have neither the time nor the money to do it for him, either. Our cats frequently catch and deliver rats to our house from his yard (gross - plus we had a rat mite infestation this year that was no picnic), and we have a persistent raccoon problem, with the raccoons getting in through our ''locked'' cat door day and night. Can the City of Berkeley help us? County vector control? Some senior services agency? This is a health and safety issue at this point. Any advice welcome. Rocky raccoon's unwilling host

You might want to let your neighbor know about Rebuilding Together, the national nonprofit that used to be Christmas in April. Depending on what city you are in, Berkeley or Oakland, contact your affiliate and get an application. The national website is Twice a year this group helps low income homeowners fix up their homes (or do it for them) using volunteers and often licensed contractors. If you put it to him nicely, and often to help him with his application (computer skills are helpful) I'm sure this would be better than nagging or otherwise making him feel like he ''can't keep up'' with the demands of home ownership. When the workday rolls around, you can also help or enlist some of your neighbors to put in an hour or two. They'll take care of the rest. RT volunteer

Cats bringing in multiple rodents each night

May 2008

I am 3 months pregnant and besides getting up to go pee frequently my husband and I have to get up 2-3x per night because our cats drag in mice/gophers and play with them(fight over them) at the foot of our bed. We get up each night to put them in the outside trash or else they will lacerate them on our carpet. As many know, repremending cats doesn't work, so we try giving them as little attention for it as possible- although we see no difference. We have tried to lock them out of the bedroom but they cry all night in from of the door which is also disturbing to our sleep. Does anyone know how to get cats to stop bringing us dead rodents? It is beginning to really disrupt our ability to sleep well. Any suggestions would be appreciated. C.

Since cats are obligate carnivores it is wired into their brains to catch those rodents. It also seems to be wired into them to bring their prizes to the ''large cats'' who supply their food morning and night. The easiest way to solve this problem is to install a cat door so you can lock them in at night. We use one that has an in-only, out-only or in & out feature. You just slide the buttons to adjust their access. The cats will also be much safer if they're in at night. They won't be happy at first, but if they get fed as soon as they come in they will adjust. AND since you are pregnant either wear rubber gloves when you clean their litter boxes or have you husband do it. Many cats carry a parasite called Toxoplasmosis that rarely affects their health but can be dangerous for your impending baby. It's shed in their fecal matter. Jenny, Registered Vet Tech

You may receive a lot of the same suggestion, but here goes: have you considered eliminating your cats' access to the outdoors? Cats are so destructive to the urban/suburban environment plus it cannot be good for you (pregnant) or your future children to be exposed to the kinds of nasty things the cats routinely bring into your home, be it a carcass or other less visible organisms/bacteria.

To further consider this idea, or prior to dismissing it out of hand, I suggest that you read up on some of the benefits that indoor cats experience including longer, healthier lives, AND some of the environmental benefits of keeping cats indoors, such as not impacting wild life. Erin

Either lock the cats inside the house for the night, or, if they sit and cry by the cat door, outside the house for the night. (They may cry outside too but at least you won't hear them as well.) There is NO reason to put up with that at ANY time, least of all when you are pregnant! anon

maybe not let the cats out at night so they're not bringing their playthings into the house to begin with? Anonymous

What about putting in a board to close the cats in the house at night? Then they can't get out to get the rodents. Wishing You Luck

Answer #1: Obvious -- close your cats into the house at night. They'll hate it, you'll hate it. They'll get used to it eventually.

Answer #2: Do some kind of eradication/poisoning of rodents in your yard so that they're not so prevalent. But that might poison your cats if you continue leaving them out.

Answer #3: See # 1.

Answer #4: Not so much an answer, but advice: one of these days, you'll have a live rat in your stove or refrigerator, like I did. Then you'll have to replace those appliances, but before your do, your whole house will stink of dead, burning rodent carcass which is just horrible. Anon

Rodent Invasion!

Jan 2008

In the last two months, we've had a massive rodent problem in South Berkeley. The rats have burrowed underground and chewed through the wall of our old garage. We called in vector control who recommended clearing out more boxes, patching up holes and wire netting vented areas, which we've done, but we're still in rat hell. Also, we assume that anything that's been exposed needs to be thrown away and even a bleach solution to clean an item is not sufficient, right? Even though we have a toddler and a dog, we're considering using poison and even calling in an exterminator which I imagine will be quite expensive. Any experience like this? Frustrated Family

We had a similar problem in the hills. I reccommend the ratzapper before resorting to poison, though. They also sell them at the Ace hardware at San Pablo and Central.

It's a little bit twisted, because you have to train the rat to eat from the thing, and then after you train them- you turn on the power, and zap- dead rat. If you have a toddler, you'll need to find a place to put it where it won't be disturbed, but a normal place the rats often go. melissa

Have you thought about adopting an outdoor cat or two? I work with a non-profit group called Fix Our Ferals (, we help people humanely reduce the feral cat population in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties through trap-neuter-return (TNR). We often find cats in places where it is too dangerous for them to live, and need to find new locations for them after they have been neutered, vaccinated and given rabies shots. The re-location process takes approximately 3-4 weeks, then you just need to feed the cats. Even if well fed, the cats will hunt rodents in their territory, they will also act as a natural deterant to the rodents just but their presence. Feel free to email me for more information. Lisa

I feel your pain! We have had a really bad rat problem in our garage (also chewed through and growing their own city in there, while destroying ALL of our stuff). For a long time, I tried to be PC about the whole thing and not use poison (also have a toddler and dog) but..finally couldn't take it anymore and called Burge Pest Control. .They put bait boxes in the garage...the bait boxes do not look easy for people/dogs to get into (but because of the abundance of rats, I'm not spending any time in there anyway!) and they were placed in out of the way places since rats are discrete travelers. Then the exterminator comes and periodically replaces the bait (the sign that they are gone is when the bait is no longer being eaten, apparently). So far its been successful. Burge's number is 888/292-pest and I found them to be really conscientious about the presence of kids/pets. HazMat suit no longer needed

We had a problem with rats and a big possum living in the basement of our old craftsman house. Rat Patrol came to our rescue, set traps, closed up the holes and we haven't seen a rodent since (that was 3 and a half years ago). They were very nice too - Rat Patrol. Oakland, CA. 510-628-0958 Rat Free in Rockridge

We have recently found that we have the same problem. However, we are renting and the landlord has done everything necessary to rid the house of the rats. We found three LARGE rats, dead, in the downstairs garage. Then noticed that they had been chewing through boxes, lots of poop, etc.

THe advice we got was to patch the holes around any sources leading into the garage. (They aren't in the house; upstairs.) We contacted Gring Pest Control in Albany and they sent someone out to bait the crawlspace under the house and then they offer a monthly service. (I believe it's around $45 p/month) and they place these box/traps on the outer perimeter of the property and come and empty them monthly. This is quite the norm for our neighborhood I found out (in the El Cerrito hills). And a few of our neighbors have said that it has eliminated problems they were having before.

Also, just to share...We had to find a pest/waste removal company to come and do the clean-up. They insisted that we in NO WAY should attempt to clean up the feces as it is EXTREMELY toxic and cannot be cleaned with normal household cleaners (bleach, etc.) and there are special chemical precautions which need to be taken (protective masks, clothing, etc.) So, I would NOT recommend doing the cleaning yourselves. We were quoted around $300 for the whole clean-up job. Which covers the basement, crawlspaces, the furnace and all of the garage. They take away dead rodents and clean all the mess. I think that's a fair price to pay for peace of mind! Best of luck! Angela