When someone mentions the word ‘mouse,’ you automatically think of those cute cartoon adaptations, Mickey, Minnie and Jerry that filled your childhood with fun and laughter.
However, having mice, along with rats, as guests isn’t all fun and games?
Not only will they burn a hole in your wallet or purse 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 usually consists of these small 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, but rather 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 them down. This keeps them 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. Keeping them in tip-top condition is imperative.
FACT: rodents such as rats and mice spend ⅕ of their lifetime grooming themselves?
What Can Rats Chew Through?
Due to how a rat’s jaw is structured, they can gnaw and chew their way through almost everything very efficiently and forcefully.
Rats are known to chew their way through wood 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, right?
Whether it’s your HDMI cable to your TV at home or the ethernet cables running to your servers in your office, rats and mice will chew and gnaw at anything.
The main risk that comes out of 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 shortcuts, resulting in blackouts and other electronic related issues.
Pipes made from PVC such as drain pipes and indoor plumbing are also at risk from rodents chewing at their infrastructure.
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, cozy 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 – your home!
One of the major negative impacts of rodents nesting in your car, asides from the increase in feces, is the damage they will cause. Your car is a playground for teeth maintenance for rats – all those wires, plastic, and upholstery for them to gnaw at to keep their teeth in check.
Repairing the damage caused by rodents to one of these items can cost you a ton of money, especially if it has gone unnoticed for quite some time.
Rodent Borne Diseases
Aside from the damage rodents can cause to your home, along with the financial ramifications this causes, 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 that of 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 which rats are known to 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:
For those of you unaware of how the black plague started it was through the fleas using black rats as a host, rather than the rats themselves.
What Diseases do Mice Carry?
Just like rats, mice are also known to carry and spread 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 Rodents?
As already discussed 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?
That’s a good question. There are a whole range of different ways in which you can catch the diseases discussed above. These are as follows:
The main instigator to spreading 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, and in particular kitchen cupboards, pantries, and anywhere else which could be a food haven.
The issue here is that rodent droppings play host to 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 preventive measures. If handling rodent droppings is a must, and cannot be avoided, then you should always wear a tightly fitted OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) approved respirator with functioning cartridges as well as rubber gloves. Once the task has been complete 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 urinate everywhere! And will often go out of their way to urinate in certain places.
However there are reasons why rats and mice do this:
- To identify one another – a new smell of urine could mean a new rodent has entered the area
- Signal if a female is ready to mate – Female rodents will release a specific scent in their urine when they are ready to breed.
RODENT 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, the side effect is, just like rodent droppings, it is one of the main instigators of spreading harmful diseases, especially leptospirosis and lymphocytic choriomeningitis. Both 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.
Touching a Dead Rodent
You can also catch one of the diseases that rats and mice carry by touching one that is deceased.
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 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 and viruses mentioned in this blog. Coming into contact with these is a big no no, as it could make you seriously ill!
If you 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 bear hands!
- Wear old clothes – for the same reasons as above. Once the task is complete dispose of said clothes.
- Wear a tight fitting HEPA 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 by being bitten by one. The deadly diseases which they are known to carry can be found within their saliva which gets transmitted through a rat or mouse bite. There is even a specific disease called ‘rat bite fever’.
Rat Bite Treatment
In the event you are bitten by a rat, or mouse, follow these steps to treat it:
- Control any bleeding by applying pressure to the wound, or running the area under a cold tap until the bleeding has stopped.
- Once the bleeding has been controlled 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.
It is advised that you visit your doctor as:
- You might have had one of the diseases mentioned above transmitted to you.
- The bite might be quite deep in which case stitches will be needed.
Rat Bite Fever
Rat bite fever is an acute illness caused by the bacteria transmitted by rat urine and being bitten by a rat, and it is rather terrible.
There are two different types of rat bite fever you can catch. These are:
- Streptobacillary rat bite fever
- Spirillary rat bite fever
Each type has their own symptoms but there are some crossovers.
Streptobacillary Rat Bite Fever
This is commonly found in the United States of America.
The symptoms of this nasty disease differ with each person. However the most common symptoms include:
- Inflammation around the open sore
- A rash around the area that appears red or purple in color
- Muscle aches
- Swollen joints
- Skin irritations like ulcers and inflammation of hands and feet.
The symptoms will come and go over the course of a few months. If you have been bitten by a rodent and experience any of these symptoms then it is crucial that you contact a doctor immediately.
Spirillary Rat Bite Fever
Compared to streptobacillary rat bite fever, spirillary usually appears in Africa, but has shown up in other parts of the world.
Symptoms of spirillary rat bite fever usually include issues with the lymph nodes. If you have contracted this disease your lymph nodes will often swell or inflame and you’ll see it around the neck, groin and underarm.
These symptoms usually appear within two to ten days of contracting the disease. Like streptobacillary rat bite fever, spirillary usually starts with a fever and then progresses to a rash that appears on the hands and feet. From there the rash will appear all over the body but rarely causes joint pains.
To keep rats and mice out of your home, follow some practical prevention tips!
Want to know more about rats and mice? Then follow the #RodentRebels on their latest adventures.