National Home Inspector
As much as homeowners enjoy the shelter and comfort of their home, mice, rats, and other rodents do, too. Not only do rodents make a mess, they can carry and spread diseases, contaminate food, and cause property damage.
The first step in keeping rodents out of the home is prevention. Rodents commonly enter homes, garages, sheds and other structures through small cracks and openings. Even a dime-sized hole is large enough for a mouse to get through. Common entry areas include behind stoves and refrigerators, around where water pipes enter the home, attics and crawlspaces, basements, and laundry drains. Outside the home, look for openings around windows and doors, gutters, and places where wiring, plumbing, and gas lines enter the home. Small holes can be stuffed with steel wool, which rodents cannot chew through, and caulked into place. Larger holes may require patching with metal, hardware cloth, or lath screen.
Removing food sources is another key to prevention. Pantry foods should be stored in metal or heavy plastic containers with tight fitting covers. Food-soiled cookware and dishes should be washed and kitchen surfaces cleaned soon after use, and pet food should not be left out overnight. If food waste is kept inside, it should be stored in a metal container until it can be disposed of outside in a rodent-proof trash can. If homeowners enjoy feeding wild birds, feeders should be located away from the house as spilled bird food is a real treat for rodents. There are bird seed mixes available that have been treated with hot pepper - unappealing to rodents and other mammals but birds are unaffected by it.
If rodents are present, it is extremely important that they be removed properly prior to sealing holes and gaps. Snap traps are the most effective method of catching rodents; follow the manufacturer's instruction for best results. It can take several days for rats to respond to a baited trap. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, snap traps are preferable to live or "humane" trapping, which can cause stressed rodents to urinate and increase possible exposure to disease. Once a rodent is trapped and killed, it should be wrapped in newspaper and disposed of in the trash. Any rodent - dead or alive - should not be handled with bare hands; use disposable rubber or vinyl gloves. Rodents are carriers of Hantavirus and other viruses and bacteria that can cause serious, even deadly, diseases in humans. A person can become exposed to Hantavirus while sweeping or cleaning up rodent droppings as particles become airborne and are inhaled. In addition, fleas, mites, or ticks may be present on the rodent, providing an additional carrier for the spread of disease.