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Photo of hole in wall where rodents can enter

Rude Guests in the Attic

Of all the unwanted pests one could have, rats and mice are some of the worst!

They can damage your house, spread diseases and even start a fire. These rodents enter homes looking for food and harborage and generally fall under three main species.

• Norway Rats: Most common along the coasts and waterways, these rats thrive on garbage that is not stored properly. They can burrow and often dig in rubbish and debris, sometimes damaging building foundations. They are reddish-brown and heavy-set with a blunt muzzle and their long tail is equal to their combined head and body. Adults weigh 3/4 to 1 pound.

Photo of a Norway Rat

Photo of a Norway Rat by Ed Freytag, City of New Orleans,

• Roof Rats: These pests are not afraid of heights, nesting in attics, rood spaces, palm trees and up in trees. They are destructive to citrus because they can live in the trees and feed on the fruit. For homeowners they can be quite destructive in attics, gnawing on electrical wires and rafters. This rat prefers vegetables, fruits and grains, but they aren’t too particular about what they eat. Color ranges from black to grizzled gray to tan with a light belly. The tail is longer than the combined head and body. Adults weight from ½ to pound.


• House Mice: These small invaders normally live outdoors in fields but will occasionally move into houses to live behind walls and cabinets. House mice are brown to gray in color with the tail equal to the body length. Adults weigh about 1/2 ounce.

Photo of a house mouse

Photo of a house mouse by Ed Freytag, City of New Orleans,

There are several ways to prevent problems with rodents.

Patching and sealing any points of entry around a structure is important- rats can squeeze through cracks ½ inch wide; mice, ¼ inch wide. Any place a pencil can be poked, a mouse can go. Ventilation pipes, dryer vents and air vents under soffits are all popular points of entry. Sanitation in the yard is also important. Eliminating excess brush, rubbish, and especially fallen fruit will make your property lees interesting to rodents. All rats and mice need access to water, so reducing any standing water in your yard is important and will help to reduce breeding spots for mosquitoes also.

Featured image courtesy of Liz Kasameyer, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health,