When someone mentions the word mouse,you might automatically think of those cute cartoon adaptations that filled your childhood with fun and laughter. However, having rats and mice as guests this festive season is definitely NOT going to be fun and games. Not only will the damage they cause burn a hole in your wallet in terms of repairs, but they can also cause serious risks to your health.
A key indication you might have a rodent problem, whether it be rats or mice, is the damage they leave behind. This is usually caused by these pests gnawing on anything they can get their teeth into.
Do mice chew wires?
Yes! And so do rats. But why?
Well, that’s a good question. It’s not because they have a huge craving for rubber and/or plastic and metal. Instead, they do it to stop their teeth from overgrowing. Unlike humans, rodent teeth don’t stop growing. Rats and mice need to constantly gnaw and chew on objects in order to wear their teeth down. This keeps teeth at a suitable length, allowing them to carry on with their day-to-day activities. Rats and mice use their teeth on a frequent basis, so keeping them in tip-top condition is imperative.
FUN FACT: Rodents such as rats and mice spend most of their lives grooming themselves.
What can rats chew through?
A lot! Due to how a rat’s jaw is structured, they can gnaw and chew their way through almost anything very efficiently and forcefully.
Rats can chew their way through wooden structures like door frames, baseboards and wooden beams. The reason behind this is to not only to keep their teeth in line but also to get to new areas which are either a potential nesting environment or a mecca for delicious food. Although rats and mice are very nimble and can squeeze through the tiniest of gaps, sometimes they will come across gaps through which not even they can fit. When times like these occur rodents use their versatile teeth to gnaw at the fixture to make the gap big enough to squeeze through, talk about persistence!
Whether it’s the HDMI cable to your TV at home or the ethernet cables running to the servers in your office, rats and mice will chew and gnaw through them all. The main risk arising from this nasty habit is the potential fire hazard it causes. Exposed wires are never a good thing, especially in areas such as the kitchen and bathroom where there’s often a lot of water or condensation. And as you know water and electricity is never a good combination. On top of this damage, they can also produce electrical shorts, resulting in blackouts and other related issues.
Pipes made from PVC (such as drainpipes and indoor plumbing) are also at risk from chewing rodents. There have even been some cases in which rodents have been able to chew their way through lead pipes and concrete!
Cars provide a great nesting area for rats. They are warm, cosy and sheltered from the elements. On top of this, if your car is parked in an attached garage, it gives them easy access to the holy grail of all rodent feeding areas in your home! One of the major negative impacts of rodents nesting in your car, aside from the increase in faeces, is the damage they will cause. Your car is a playground for rodent teeth maintenance.All those wires, plastic, and upholstery for them to gnaw on to keep their teeth in check. Repairing the damage caused by rodents to one of these things can cost you a heap of money, especially if the damage has gone unnoticed for quite some time.
Aside from the damage rodents can cause to your home and the financial ramifications of that damage, these home-dwelling pests can also cause a serious risk to your health. Over the last 10 centuries, more lives have been taken as a result of rodent-borne diseases than in all the wars ever fought.
What diseases do rats carry?
It is estimated that rodents carry around 40 diseases which are harmful to humans. The most common diseases rats can carry are:
- Murine Typhus
- Bubonic Plague
- Rat-bite fever
In their book Parasites of Wild Brown Rats, Webster and MacDonald discuss how they found that brown rats were infected with 13 different endoparasitic organisms and zoonotic agents, with some rats having up to 9 infections simultaneously. On top of these diseases, rats are also known to carry fleas, lice, and mites. The black plague actually started through fleas using black rats as a host, rather than by the rats themselves. You can read more about these diseases in one of our previous blog posts: Diseases spread by Rodents.
What diseases do mice carry?
Just like rats, mice are also known to carry and spread a range of different diseases. These can include:
- Murine Typhus
- Rickettsial Pox
- Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis
- Lyme Disease
- Hanta Virus
- Food poisoning organisms like E Coli, etc.
How can I catch a disease from rats and mice?
As mentioned above, both rats and mice play host to a whole range of different pathogens and viruses that can be extremely harmful to us. But how do you catch one of them? Another good question. There are many different ways in which you can catch the diseases discussed above. These are as follows:
Rodent droppings are a key factor in the spread of rodent-borne diseases. Compared to us humans, rodents aren’t exactly toilet trained. They have a nasty habit of leaving their droppings anywhere they please. Kitchen cupboards, pantries, sinks, and other similar locations are at risk. The issue here is that rodent droppings play host to a range of dangerous diseases. Think of rodent droppings as disease sponges, waiting to find a host to latch on to.
Under no circumstances should you handle any rodent droppings without taking the correct protective measures. If handling rodent droppings is inevitable, then you should always wear rubber gloves, and – preferably – a face mask. Once the task has been completed be sure to dispose of the gloves away from the home, preferably in an outside garbage can.You should NOT try to vacuum or sweep the soiled area as this can help disperse the viruses into the air, causing a huge health threat to the whole family.
Just like their droppings, rodents leave urine everywhere! Rats will often go out of their way to urinate in certain places. However, there are reasons why rats and mice do this. These are to identify one another a new smell of urine could mean a new rodent has entered the area, and to signal if a female is ready to mate. Female rodents will release a specific scent in their urine when they are ready to breed.
FUN FACT: When rats and mice urinate on the same area multiple times the build-up of pee and dirt creates small pillars which look a lot like stalagmites, although not as big. If you have spotted this in your home then you definitely have a rodent problem.
Although there is some reasoning behind rats and mice urinating everywhere, like rodent droppings, urine is one of the main instigators of spreading harmful diseases. Two main diseases spread through rodent urine are leptospirosis and lymphocytic choriomeningitis. These both include flu-like symptoms but if left unattended can lead to more serious life-threatening illnesses. These diseases can be caught through direct contact with rodent urine or by inhaling dust which has been contaminated by rodent urine. Do not, under any circumstances touch rodent urine unless you are wearing the proper protection. In cases like this, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Contact Rentokil Pest Control if you suspect there are traces of rodent urine on your property.
Touching a dead rodent:
You can also catch one of the diseases that rats and mice carry by touching a dead rodent. If you have spotted a dead rodent in your home the safest option is to contact a pest control professional to get it removed. Touching a dead rat or mouse will allow the fleas and lice to attach themselves to a new host, YOU! On top of this, a dead rodent is like a giant petri dish for all the harmful and deadly pathogens mentioned in this blog.Coming into contact with these is a big no-no, as it could make you seriously ill.
If you do have to remove a dead rodent yourself then you should follow these safety precautions:
- Wear rubber gloves. This keeps your hands clean and stops viruses from spreading. NEVER touch a dead rodent with bare hands.
- Wear old clothes for the same reasons as above. Once the task is complete dispose of said clothes.
- Wear a tight-fitting face mask. This will protect you from inhaling any of the harmful bacteria floating around in the air.
- Use disinfectant. Spray the dead rodent and the area around it with disinfectant before and after the removal. This will help kill off any germs before you touch it.
Rodent bites and scratches:
Another way in which you can catch a disease from a rodent is through a rodent bite. The deadly diseases which they are known to carry can be transmitted by their saliva. There is even a specific disease called rat-bite fever.
In the event that you are bitten by a rat or mouse, follow these steps to treat it:
- Control any bleeding by applying pressure to the wound. You can also run the area under a cold tap until the bleeding has stopped.
- Once the bleeding is under control, clean the bite with soap and warm water thoroughly. This includes the inside of the wound. Be sure to rinse all the soap off as this could cause irritation later.
- Cover the wound with a dry, clean dressing. You may want to apply antibiotic or antiseptic ointment to the area beforehand.
- Consider visiting your doctor as you might have been infected with one of the diseases mentioned above. Additionally, if the bite is deep, stitches may be needed.
To keep rats and mice out of your home, read our previous blog posts: How to get rid of rats and mice or How to get rid of rats the natural way, or visit our website for more information on rodent prevention
If you are struggling to manage a mouse or rat issue in your home, reach out to your local rodent control experts at Rentokil Pest Control.