They might be cute, or they might be big and ugly. Their incessant need to chew, however, is not helping your home. Rodents can do serious damage to your woodwork, wallboard, insulation and siding. The mess they leave in your kitchen cupboard is frustrating. With the costs of food going up, you can’t afford to fork out for your furry friends’ dinners as well as your own.

When Is It a Problem?

Tackle the rodent issue as soon as you spot signs of their encroachment. Don’t wait until you find yourself leaping onto a chair to avoid that rat racing across the kitchen. At that point, you’ll be waging a war rather than just defending your borders.

If you’ve copped on to the presence of critters early enough, you may be able to use non-lethal force. It may be a matter of blocking their entrances and encouraging them to go elsewhere. Fill any holes they might be entering through and caulk cracks. Screens and steel wool (which can’t be chewed through) are good deterrents.

If you have children or pets you may want to try natural rodent repellents. Some people suggest putting cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil near openings and in areas rodents frequent. Others swear by keeping little bowls of black pepper near food areas. Bunches of mint and/or lavender may be another way to deter them. Another solution is an odor based repellant. These use the odor of predatory animals to frighten rodents off.

Want to Be More Humane?

Keeping in the humane vein, live traps can be effective. This is the case only if you take your unwanted tenants far enough from home that they can’t find their way back. Also, be aware that rodents spread disease. You may want to think about this before you go ferrying them around town. The regular, lethal traps are probably a safer, more effective choice. Think about the placement of your traps. Most rodents have poor eyesight and keep close to the walls, only venturing into open space when necessary so set your goods in their passage, not in the middle of the room.

For others who want to keep their hands clean, or who have a reoccurring rodent issue, getting a cat can be an excellent solution. But remember, not all cats are born mousers and you may inevitably need to step up your game. Depending on where you live, you may want to reinforce the perimeter of the property by building nest boxes to attract natural predators such as barn owls.

At the End of Your Rope?

When all else fails (or if you haven’t the patience to wait that long), it’s time to turn to poison. The nature of rodents means that they will eat a little, wait and if they don’t get sick, return for another meal. Prior to using a poison, you may want to leave out regular food for a few days, so that the rodents learn to trust the food source before adding poison.

There are many reasons you may not want to use traditional anticoagulant poisons, the main ones being that the poison can cause toxicity in children and other animals. Unintended death is a possible outcome depending on the type of poison and how quickly the patient is treated – be sure to keep the poison out of reach of family and pets. Some animals can get secondary poisoning by eating the poisoned rodent. This can happen when the toxic rodent goes outside to die. If you have other pets and children you should be careful that they aren’t in contact with the bait or the deceased animal.

The Battle Has Been Won

When you have finally won the battle, try to avoid round two. Make an effort to keep food stored in sealed containers and be aware of pet food, composts and other possible lures. Use bird feeders that recapture any unwanted seed, rather than allowing it to become snack food for unwanted pests. By removing the food incentive you can forgo inviting those rascally rodents for a return visit.