Rodent Infestation


I clean and repair foreclosed homes for a living, so I’ve seen my share of rodent infestations, but this home was so horrific I had to shower at least four times after I got home from work.

Cleaning foreclosed homes is not the dream job, I’ll admit, but at least it’s a job.  Like many people, I worked in the construction business for a long time until the housing market dropped.  When I’m not repairing foreclosed homes and cleaning them, I’m a flooring guy.  I lay carpet, hardwood floors, tile and vinyl.  I’m used to the muck and guck of ripping out old floors and finding everything from pet urine to bugs underneath.  So, you’d think I wouldn’t be as disgusted by the remnants of a rodent infestation as other guys.  Usually, that’s true, until I got to this house.

When I arrived, it was obvious from the exterior that the home had been abandoned for a while.  The lawn was seriously overgrown with weeds, the tree out front was dead, and untrimmed bushes practically hid the front door.  Abandoned homes don’t usually stay abandoned for long.  Wild animals nearly always move in, attracted by a warm, protected shelter and any food source they can find within.  Trash, old food, and bugs are plentiful inside some of these abandoned places, so I often have to deal with getting rid of a rodent infestation.

I think I actually gasped when I walked into this place, though.  The place was covered with hard little black pellets.  It looked like a raisin processing plant had exploded in there.

Rat eating a baby bird
Rat walking around with it’s prey.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

Most times, you can tell when a home is infested with rodents, because rat droppings or mouse droppings will follow a trail.  Rats like to stay up against walls, feeling their way along the wall with their whiskers, so they’ll leave rat droppings in a little trail.  The kitchen counters in this home had the tell-tale rat trail up against the wall, but that was just a small portion of what I saw.  The entire floor, all counter surfaces, the stove, the oven, the refrigerator and every cabinet was covered in rat droppings.

I moved through the home, investigating the living room area, the bedrooms and the bathrooms.  I could actually see little clouds of dust rise up as the nastiness crunched under my feet.  Fortunately, my training had kicked in before I had even walked into the home, and I’d put on my respirator and protective clothing and gloves.  I carried my camera with me and snapped pictures to send off to the bank that handled the foreclosure and their property management division.  I suspected this property would probably be condemned, and had to document everything carefully for insurance and everyone else who would have to get involved.

I have to admit, I was extremely relieved I didn’t actually see the rats.  I had no idea where they were hiding, but there had to be hoards of them.  Only a serious rodent infestation would do that to a house.  I ripped off my respirator as soon as I got back to the safety of my truck, and carefully removed the protective gloves and clothing, disposing of them safely in a plastic bag.  Then, I made the call to the property management company so they could decide what to do next.

No matter how many showers I took and how often I washed my hands, though, it was days before I felt clean again.

What to do when an animal is inside the wall

mouse removalIt seems like it starts out of the blue.  Just as you’re drifting off to sleep, you hear a noise in the wall.  Almost as soon as you notice it, it’s quiet again, and you start to wonder if you imagined that little rustling, bumping noise in the wall.  You turn over on your side, and there it is again!  Bumping, scraping, possibly even chewing.  You turn on the light and look around and there is nothing out of the ordinary in your room.  But, if you get very still and listen very hard, the noise in the wall soon starts up again.

Your mind is still exhausted from a day of hard work, and scenes from ghost movies bubble up in your memory.  Quickly, you reject the idea that these noises are paranormal.  Unfortunately, they are all too real, and you’re going to have to do something about it.  But, what do you do when an animal is inside the wall?

Late at night, you don’t want to do anything at all.  You wish you hadn’t heard the noise, and could blissfully and naively let sleep overtake your senses.  Every time your mind starts to drift towards dreams, though, the awful thought of an animal living in your wall, just next to your sleeping head, pokes your consciousness awake.  You know it won’t do any good, but you slap the wall hard, hoping the animal inside the wall will be frightened enough it will leave your house for good.  Before long, the chewing sound is back.

It feels like the animal in the wall is taunting you, saying it knows you won’t do anything right now.  This is now its home.  It can feed, breed, defecate and urinate wherever it pleases.  If it wants to chew on a wall joist, gnaw a hole through the drywall or even nibble on electrical wiring, it will.  You wonder what damage it’s causing.  You wonder if you’re breathing in animal shed hairs or parasites.  You wonder if it’s gotten into your stuff.  Worst of all, you wonder what type of animal is it?

Do you have a solitary snake that’s slithered up through a tiny crack and climbed up the inside of your wall?  Probably not, not with the nibbling sound you’re hearing.  Maybe there is an entire rat nest in the wall, and rats are running rampant all through your home, getting into who knows what.  Maybe it’s even a raccoon in the wall, or baby raccoons in the wall.  Could you possibly have bats in the wall?

Sighing, you know you won’t have much sleep tonight.  You turn on the light and grab whatever electronic device is nearest to do some research on the internet.  Unfortunately, you don’t get many definite answers, just more questions.  The thought of crawling around on the inside of your home, armed with nothing but a flashlight, and coming face to face with some animal in the wall is too horrific to dwell on.  No, there is only one solution.  You get the number for the best pest control or exterminator or animal trapper in your area.  Let a wildlife control specialist go toe to toe or paw to paw with whatever animal is inside your walls.  No more sleepless nights with an animal in the wall and an overactive imagination.

Rodent Removal Service

how to get rid of mice

“Sweetheart, you’re just going to have to trust me.  I’m getting rodent removal service out here today, and I have washed and cleaned your dance clothes already.”

“No, Mom!!  I can’t wear my costume ever, ever, ever!!  A mouse went pee-pee in it and you can’t wash that out, Mom.”

Mom spoke with more patience than she felt, but she could easily see where this conversation with her six-year-old dancer was headed.  “Emmy, we don’t have another costume for you.  Trust me, I’m the Mommy.  I have washed and bleached your costume, and it’s clean enough for you to wear today.  Please put it on now, or we’re going to be late.”

“I just can’t wear it, Mom!!  I don’t want to go to practice if I can’t wear my costume.  It’s not the same.”

“But, you CAN wear your costume, honey.  It’s clean now.”

“But, what if another mouse already peed in it after you washed it?”

“It’s been in the dryer ever since I washed it last night, so you’re safe.”

“How can you be sure a mouse didn’t get in the dryer?”
Mom felt the patience slipping away.  She had to admit to herself, she would probably have felt the same way at that age.  They had found the mouse in amongst the clean clothes yesterday when it jumped out at her as she pulled items out to fold.  She considered herself the kind of woman who wasn’t afraid of anything, much less mice, snakes, rats or spiders.  But, when a mouse jumped right out of the clean clothes hamper and over her hand before it streaked across the floor and disappeared under a counter, she couldn’t help but let out a screech and knock over the entire hamper of clean laundry.  Heart still beating, she’d used a broom handle to “stir” the clothes to make sure the laundry held no more nasty surprises, and washed and bleached the entire load immediately.  Unfortunately, when she’d explained to her daughter why she was re-washing her dance clothes, her daughter apparently vowed she would never wear them again.

She was expecting the rodent removal service to arrive any moment, and since she had to take her daughter to dance practice, her oldest son was going to wait for them and show them where the mouse had disappeared.  She hoped the rodent removal service would quickly get rid of the mice and effectively block up their holes, making sure mice didn’t get back in the house.  Of course, if her daughter kept this up, she might not ever have to take her to dance practice again.

It was another twenty minutes before she could convince her daughter of the sanitary condition of the clothes.  She had to explain how bleach works, how the washer works and the effectiveness of laundry detergent before her daughter dubiously gave in and changed into the costume.  She just hoped the rodent removal service was effective enough she would never, ever have to have this conversation with her daughter again.

Rodent Control

I began my career in rodent control as a 12-year old kid trying to make a few bucks to fix up my bike just the way I wanted.  Mom and Dad believed if I wanted something really badly, I had to find a way to pay for it, and today I’m happy they taught me the importance of self-reliance.  I’m not sure how happy Mom was that I chose to make that money through rodent control, though.  She was more than concerned over my safety and health, but after Mom’s long lectures, Dad’s lessons in trapping rodents and exterminating rodents, and many promises and reassurances from me, I was finally able to start my business.

Mom had hoped that I would’ve earned money through babysitting and lawn mowing, but my friends and I saw a real need for rodent control that summer.  For some reason, as the snows melted that spring, voles, mice, rats, gophers and moles were out in force.  It seemed like the whole neighborhood was fighting off rodents.  I’d heard Dad complaining about it loudly enough when he discovered trails of dead grass snaking through the yard.  Our lawn looked like a roadmap of seemingly random vole trails.  Mom and some of her friends were chatting over coffee one spring morning, alternating between horror stories of mice in the pantry or rats in the walls, and sharing ideas on how to get rid of mice and the best ways to exterminate rats.  We lived in a nice enough neighborhood, so no one understood why we were under attack that year.

So, my friends and I walked around a few neighborhoods, offering rodent control.  Our nose for business steered us right to easy money.  Fifteen cents for each mouse or rat we caught, twenty cents for each vole, and a whopping thirty cents for catching gophers or moles.  We experimented with all different kinds of bait, traps, techniques, and yes, rat poison.  Mom put a stop to us using the poisons, though, until the following year when I could prove I was wise and mature enough to use it safely.

We went inside people’s homes, crawling around on the floor to find mouse holes or rat droppings.  We’d set the traps, come back later to get rid of dead mice or dead rats, set more traps.  When we stopped catching rodents from that hole, we’d block it up as best we could.  If rodents came back, so would we.

The best part of the job, though, was rodent control out in the yards.  My friends and I would scout through the lawn looking for vole holes or vole damage.  Gopher holes and mole mounds were easy to spot.  We got to spend our summer afternoons together outside, under the warm sun, joking and laughing and catching voles, trapping gophers or getting rid of moles.  We’d earn a few cents each time and go home tired, happy and a little bit richer.  By the end of the summer, I got my bike fixed up just the way I liked, and my friends and I were talking about how we could expand our business.  We took care of my neighborhood’s rodent control for years after that, and I got a real sense on how to run a business and have fun at the same time.

Rat Droppings

Rat droppings just do not belong in your office’s break room.  I work in a typical office, filled with cubicles littered with pictures that remind each employee why they’re working so hard to bring in a paycheck.  Some hours of the day are fairly quiet, the sound of keyboards clacking and phones ringing fill the air.  Some hours of the day are pretty noisy, as co-workers socialize briefly before passing files onto someone else and sit back down to a fresh stack of their own.  Occasionally, someone tells a pretty raucous joke, or a highly-entertaining story about the weekend, and laughter circulates.  Certain days of the month are more stressful, when business normally picks up and deadlines loom.  Those are the days when people are more likely to snap at each other or pick up an old bickering conversation.  But, most of the time, it’s not a bad way to spend the days, weeks and months in order to pay for homes, cars, groceries and occasional vacations.

Our office doesn’t have an office administrator or office manager.  We’re all expected to keep our workstations clean and pick up after ourselves.  But, when there’s something bigger that needs to be repaired or maintained, the unspoken rule of the office is:  The person who complains is the person who maintains.  So, everyone pretends they don’t notice the air conditioning is broken so they don’t have to be the one to contact the repairman, oversee the work, and submit the paperwork.  Eyes are averted when the office refrigerator is opened, because no one wants to be the one to admit it really needs to be cleaned out.

I just about gagged when I noticed rat droppings in the break room, though.  It was impossible that the three other people who previously occupied the room failed to notice the black, round pellets scattered across the floor and one of the countertops.  I faced a dilemma.  Do I turn a blind eye, and tell myself that someone must have spilled their raisins?  Do I break out the gloves and cleaner and pick up the mess, keeping silent about the problem?  Or, do I take the proverbial bull by the horns, and take on the responsibility for getting a rat exterminator out to the office, getting nothing but paperwork and hassle for my effort?  The boss would probably also make me send an email around to my co-workers letting them know we have now attracted rats to the building, and making them empty food out of their desk drawers.  Yeah, that’d make me real popular.

But, rat droppings!  You can’t just let that slide by and hope the problem goes away.  Rats could be scurrying all through the walls right now, waiting for us to turn off the light so they can scamper out and run all over our desks, spreading diseases and filth.

I sighed as I realized I couldn’t just leave rat droppings in the break room, nor could I ignore the rat problem.  I definitely needed a raise, though!

Pest Removal

As a teenage girl, I loved my job at a cute clothing store in the mall, except for inventory and pest removal day.  Sure, most of my paycheck ended up going towards clothes that we sold in the store, but that was completely worth it to me!  I got a great employee discount, and my money would have been spent on clothes, anyway.

The very worst part of the job was inventory.  Every few months, we had to go in extremely early on a Saturday morning so we could check off every item the store owned, clear out shelves to prepare them for the next line of clothes to arrive, and clean out the storage room.  It was a long day, boring, and full of hard work.  And the storage room was awful.

The room was windowless, lit with bluish fluorescent lights, and packed with boxes, unused hangers, clothing racks and dusty shelves.  We called it the dungeon.  Over the previous months, we used it as a dumping ground for whatever we didn’t want to take care of during our normal shifts, and inventory day was payback.  We sorted, we cleaned, and we were always on the lookout for spiders, bugs, or worse, mice or rats.  Pest Removal just wasn’t included on the job description when we’d applied as sales associates.  But, there we were, mouse traps, rat poison, and fly swatters close by as we sorted, folded, and discarded everything that had been tossed into the dungeon.  Once the place was cleaned up, we’d set out the rat poison near suspected rat holes and place a couple of mouse traps in the corners of the room, just to be on the safe side.

Of course, we always had to give the new girls a bad time.  In the days leading up to inventory, we’d tell them horror stories of a mouse that ran over someone’s foot, or the biggest spider we’d ever seen.  Inventory Day, we’d rig it up so plastic rats would be pulled across the floor with a string, or throw a toy spider into someone’s hair.  Didn’t I mention that it was a long and boring day?  We had to break it up somehow!

One Inventory Day, we all arrived, as usual, in our sweats and hair pulled back into ponytails, ready to get dusty, filthy and be bored to tears counting and sorting.  We got our initial assignments from the store manager, and headed off to our respective jobs for the morning.  I was unfortunate enough to get stuck in the storage room right away, bypassing the lesser evil of clearing off shelves in the front.  I got ready to break down the empty boxes so I could stack them up and take them out to the dumpster, and grabbed a box from off the top of the pile.  I pulled it towards me and pulled out the box cutter, just as I became aware of the awful rustling noise coming from inside the box.  Startled, I dropped it on the floor, causing a couple of the flaps to fall up and out, giving me a great view of the box’s interior.  To my disgust, it was filled with wriggling little pink bodies of mouse babies amongst shredded material and cardboard that served as their nest.  My screams brought every girl into the back room, most of whom ran right back out as they realized what they were seeing.  To this day, I can’t open an empty box without shuddering.  Pest removal is something best left to the professionals, not a teenage girl working at a clothing shop.

Dead Rat

rat removal

A dead rat was certainly not something I expected early in the morning as I stumbled through the house as quietly as I could to get to the gym and back before the kids woke up.

I had started a new exercise regime, hitting the gym or running on the nearby park trails.  With small children, a regular exercise routine was challenging, to say the least.  I’d tried popping in an exercise DVD or two, but the little ones thought it was a game.  They’d sit on my stomach as I tried to do sit-ups, run between my legs when I tried yoga, and I won’t even go into the trauma of kick-boxing.

Rat grin
Rat staring at you.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

Desperate, I was determined to get back in shape, whatever it took.  So, I went to bed pretty early each night, much to my husband’s chagrin, and woke up in the wee hours of the morning.  I snuck around the house, getting running shoes on, locating my MP3 player and filling my water bottle before tiptoeing out the front door and down the driveway.  For over three weeks, my new routine was working.  My husband was home, asleep but home, in case the children woke up early, but usually I was back just as everyone was waking up.  I’d then make breakfast, shower, and be ready for the day.  I was overjoyed and starting to see some success on the scale.

And then, the day of the dead rat.  I kept the house dark as I got ready to go running, because I knew every inch, every step of my home.  I skillfully remembered where toys had been carelessly left the night before and kept myself from loudly kicking toy cars and trains across the floor.  I would usually remember the last place the children were playing with my MP3 player, and could find it even in the darkness.  But, when my shoe-clad foot stepped on something unusual in the kitchen, I couldn’t figure out what it was.  It had some give, but there was a soft crack as my full body weight bore down on it.  I took two steps to the pantry, figuring I’d turn the pantry light on and partially close the door so I could determine what I’d stepped on without waking anyone up.

I turned on the light, stepped out of the pantry and closed the door half-way.  I looked down at the floor, and my mind couldn’t process what I was seeing.  Was this a child’s doll?  Some leftover food that had fallen on the floor during one of my husband’s late-night fridge raid?  In the partial shadows, I could see something glistening around it, but just couldn’t quite figure out the mysterious shape and substance.

Stepping closer, I stooped down and got really close.  My hand automatically reached out to scoop it up, but luckily my brain stopped my hand before contact was made.  “Dead Rat!” my brain screamed, and I jerked back.  My daily efforts of maintaining complete silence in the early morning hours paid off, and I’m proud to say I didn’t even shout out.  Instead, I yanked off my shoes, scooted back across the floor and sat there until my hands stopped shaking.  My mind raced, and I decided I would take care of calling in a professional rat exterminator, because where there’s one rat, there’s probably more.  I also decided to let my husband sleep in a little before making him clean up the mess.