3 tips for keeping your home rodent-free (© Karen Beard/Photodisc)Click to enlarge picture

© Karen Beard/photolibrary

When it comes to dealing with rats and mice in your house, the best offense is a good defense. "Ideally, what you would like to is make it impossible for them to enter your house, and they'll move on," says Richard Bell, the vice president of government affairs and technical services for Arrow Exterminators, which has 53 offices, primarily in the Southeast.

Many Web sites, including that of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explain what to look for and what to do.

Here are three key tips:

1. Make your lawn inhospitable to rats and mice. How? By cutting back vegetation that gives them shelter and food. Trim shrubs and trees that are next to the house to leave a significant gap between them and the house. (Rodents don't like to be exposed.) Trim trees so that the lowest branches are at least 18 inches off the ground. To discourage roof rats, create a gap of at least 3 feet between tree branches and the roof of a house or garage. Also, of course, seal your trash cans, says the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.   

2. Seal the entry points. Some mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime, and rats can get through holes the size of a half-dollar. Inspect your home's exterior, using steel wool, metal sheeting, caulk and/or hardware cloth to seal spaces around exterior vents and pipes, advises the city of Cambridge, Mass. Make sure all screens are in place.

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Cover chimneys with a spark arrester, advises the University of California's Integrated Pest Management Program. Install a "sweeper" that seals garage doors and other doors to the home. Remember that not only pets can use doggy doors.

Rodents will also burrow underground to gain access to a home. You can stop them with a trench of pea gravel.

3. Take away the grub. Put all foodstuffs — that includes dog food — in metal or glass containers. Just placing food up high in the pantry isn't enough; mice can crawl up even vertical surfaces that have a texture.

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