Rodent Round-Up

Fall brings the pitter patter of unwanted feet.

Every fall we get dozens of visitors at our place, all intent on eating us out of house and home. The field mice, red squirrels and occasional rat open doors we can’t see and pile in for the party. What to do?

Actually, that should read – what to do if you don’t have a cat? Cat owners rarely have trouble with rodent infestations. Here at Poodle Palace, we have to depend on other means of defence.
Red squirrels, as we quickly found out, are incredibly destructive and can chew through many obstacles to trash your house. Live traps and relocation may seem humane, but that approach just leaves the territory open for the next squirrel. I’m pretty sure it’s also illegal to relocate wildlife. We finally won the squirrel battle by sadly cutting down the critters’ food supply, a nearby black walnut tree. Lesson one – remove potential food sources and nesting areas that are near the house or garage.

Apparently a rat can fit through holes the size of a quarter. Mice can make themselves dime-sized. Our house must be like a giant Swiss cheese, full of coin-sized holes and smelling of breakfast. We just can’t keep them out. A mouse even found its way into my husband’s car leaving tell tale bits of chewed paper on the seat. The car was in regular use and no doubt Mickey Mouse visited Toronto at least once.

Not having a cat, we have relied in past years on poisons, carefully placed where the dogs cannot get at them. In Canada, most rodent baits available to consumers are poisons that cause internal bleeding. Unfortunately, vets often have to treat dogs that have eaten the stuff, sometimes bags of it. There is a small, but real concern about cats eating mice that have been poisoned – called relay toxicity – so if your pets hunt, don’t use rodenticides around the property. It’s vital that your vet knows what kind and how much of a toxin your pet has eaten if they are poisoned, so always keep packaging just in case.

Since our clinic cat Clinck started spending weekends with us, the poisons had to go. Clinck’s habit of swallowing anything smaller than a golf ball takes him out of the picture to clear our cluttered storage room of mousy friends. Still, the mice might wander into Clink’s territory, so I worry about that relay toxicity issue. Out come the traps.

It seems no one has succeeded in the search for the “better mouse trap”, so we stick with those old wood and spring affairs with an assortment of cheesy, nutty, sticky baits on them. They are safe and effective, although I cringe whenever we find a victim. Sure wish the ultrasonic repellent things worked.

Most people hate killing, but when rodents get into your home, with health and property damage at stake, the options are limited. Whatever method you choose to remove the unwanted visitors, be sure it’s safe for your family and pets.

For an excellent article about pest control, see Rats and Mice: What are they? on Health Canada’s website. Another Health Canada advisory covers the risks posed by Hantavirus in Canada. Information about rodenticide poisonings is available from the Pet Poison Helpline.

If your pet ingests toxic bait, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital
November 2012 – Trenton, Ontario