RATS and mice can make great pets. Some people really enjoy sharing their homes with these interesting creatures. However, if you’re not so fond of them, and do not want any uninvited tenants in your house, now is the time to act.

Autumn is often the time of year when problems with rats and mice begin. Once the temperature drops, rodents start looking for easier sources of food and shelter.

Tell-tale signs of a mouse infestation are black, rice-shaped pellets in your home. Rat poop is much bigger. The pellets are fatter and have rounded ends. There may also be scratch marks, gnawed wood or holes in walls. Sometimes, scuttling and scratching sounds may be heard at night.

Householders can reduce the likelihood of rodent infestations by taking the following measures:

  • clean up food scraps from your house or property;
  • keep opened food in kitchen pantries in glass, metal or plastic containers with lids;
  • tie garbage bags securely and remove them from your property or place in plastic bins with lids;
  • don’t leave rubbish bags sitting on the footpath overnight;
  • seal any holes on the outside of your house;
  • have screens on windows.

Botanical extracts have been used by some people to repel rodents. It is known that rats and mice do not like peppermint oil, so it is sometimes used as a repellent near openings such as vents and doors, as well as other problem areas.

When it comes to dealing with unwanted rodents, traps are considered more humane than poison, as long as they are well-designed, inspected daily, and the trap is used properly.

Glue traps are illegal in New Zealand and must not be used. Likewise, any method that involves drowning must not be used, as drowning an animal is a prosecutable offence under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

The use of poison to kill rodents can result in long, painful deaths and is not considered humane by many people. There is also another obvious risk when used in the vicinity of pets, wildlife and children.

Symptoms of accidental ingestion of rat poison in companion animals or children may include: lethargic movements, difficulty breathing, coughing, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, nosebleeds and visible blood in urine or stools.

If you suspect poisoning in an animal or child, seek veterinary or medical assistance immediately. Take the packaging of the poison with you if you can, or try to find out what the product is called. This will help your health professional determine the appropriate treatment. Time will be critical. Left untreated, rodenticide poisoning can kill.

Dogs and cats should never eat the dead bodies of rats or mice that have died from poisoning, as they can become victims of secondary poisoning.

If you’re concerned about the safety of dogs, cats, wildlife or children, chemical solutions for rodent control should be your last resort.

animal welfare
by Carey Conn