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5 Signs of a Rodent Problem

By Chris Williams on December 29, 2010.

A rodent infestation can happen in the best of homes. As the months get colder, pesky rodents start seeking shelter in warm places. And what’s warmer than your cozy home?

One of the hardest things to determine is if your house has an actual infestation or if just one rodent somehow found its way into your home. Here are a few things to consider if you suspect a rodent problem. Begin by looking for these five signs.

1. Sights and Sounds- Chances are if you suspect a rodent problem it is probably because you have already seen one in your home. Most rodents are active at night time. Your best way of spotting them is with a bright flashlight. Look in cabinets and along stairways and rafters. If you have seen rodents during the day time chances are you definitely have a rodent infestation.

Keep in mind that rodents tend to have a very limited range of living space. Depending on the food sources available, some mice may only be living with a 10 foot diameter. Rats on the other hand are much more active and may be moving in and out of your home. Their living range can be over 150 feet!

Also, try listening for "rodent sounds" during the nighttime hours. The sounds are most likely scratching, gnawing or clawing (perhaps in your walls, rafters, or cabinets). If you have an infestation you may even hear squeaking and rodent fighting in these spots.

2. Droppings– One of the easiest and most visible ways of determining if you have a rodent problem is by looking for rodent droppings. Once a rodent enters your home it immediately begins looking for anything and everything to eat. Droppings are most commonly found in cabinets, pantries, and the nooks and crannies of your flooring.

Simply noticing the droppings is the first step. The next thing you’ll want to determine is how old the droppings are. In doing this you’ll be able to find out how long these pesky rodents have been hiding out in your home.

Older droppings tend to be dull and gray. They are also quite dry and tend to crumble as you clean them. Fresh droppings are a sign of a recent rodent infestation. They are usually softer, shinier and darker. Mice droppings are quite small (about ⅛ inch long), but rat droppings can be over ½ inch in diameter and length.

3. Runways- This applies mostly to rat infestations. Rats follow odor trails and use the same runways between their food and water sources and burrows. Rats also prefer to remain in contact with a surface in order to pick out the odor trail they are leaving behind. For this reason, you can begin by trying to identify rodent runways and rub-marks. The runways can be difficult to spot. Outdoor runways are narrow paths of rundown ground that is always clear of any kind of

debris. Indoor runways are most commonly along walls and steps. If you notice cobwebs and dust in these areas then you know they are not being used by any rodents.

4. Rub-marks- If you suspect a runway within your home begin by looking for rub-marks. Rats have a rather greasy coat of fur. Because they like to keep surface contact with their runways, rats often times leave a slightly greasy path along their runway. Again, this is how they are always able to find their runways. The runways tend to have a dark greasy mark. Fresh rub-marks can be smeared if you rub them with a cloth. Older runways that are no longer in use tend to gather dust and the grease then dries and flakes away.

5. Urine- Once you have identified the possible living space and diameter or runway of rodents, you can check to see if your hypothesis is right. The best thing to do is look for rodent urine by using a fluorescent or black light. Dried rodent urine will appear under these lights. But be careful, some cleaning supplies such as bleach and detergents will also fluoresce under these lights.

If you suspect a rodent problem in your home, begin by looking for these 5 signs. If these signs have confirmed your suspicions, the next step will be calling a professional exterminator or pest control agency. They will evaluate your situation and be able to give you a more accurate evaluation of the possible rodent infestation. 

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