Rodents are among the most successful mammals on earth. They are highly adaptable and utilize sophisticated behavior patterns to avoid danger. Rodents can be traced back 2-4 millions years ago. There are two main types of rodents, the first being commensal rodents, which are house mice, norway rats and roof rats. Second are, field rodents and those are voles, deer mice and pack rats. Rodents are closely related to and sometimes get confused with shrews and moles. 

Rodents are able to reproduce quickly as well as colonize on many different land masses. Their ability to adapt so well is because of their association with humans. It makes survival easier with warmth, cover, food and nesting material. 

Rodents are considered disease vehicles as they harbor and rapidly transport diseases. Over 10 million people have died in this century alone from rodent based diseases. The help of modern sanitation, antibiotics and rodent pest management have made these diseases not as dangerous as it was a hundred years ago. Though disease prevention is better today, things like allergens, food poisoning, rabies, plagues and more can still happen when surrounded by rodents. 

Though rodents pose such a threat to human health, they can actually be a benefit to human kind as well. Rodents are good for scientific research, ecologically and for literature, mythology and history. 

Mouse
mice and rats.
Rat

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Signs of a Rodent Infestation

There are few ways to tell if you have a mouse or rat infestation in your home.

Believe it or not, a mouse can fit into a hole that is 6-7mm big. That is the size of a normal sized pen. A rat can fit through a hole that is 20mm big. This makes it very easy for a mouse and/or rat to find comfort in your home. 

Gnaw Marks:  The meaning of the word rodent is “to gnaw”. Rodents gnaw as much as they do because their incisors are growing constantly. At a rate of .3-.4mm per day. If you find gnaw marks, its probably from a rodent. Those gnaw marks can be either rough or smooth. Rats have been known to gnaw through materials such as plastic and lead. 
Droppings: Droppings is another way you can tell if you have an infestation. The droppings are shaped like little rods with a pointed end. They are dark in color and are either soft and moist or hard and dried.
Oil Rubs: If you are seeing oily rub marks along walls or floorboards, its probably rodent related as well. They leave these oily tracks as they scurry about.
Burrows: Rodents will create little burrows to sleep in and generally use things around the house like insulation to make their burrows warm and cozy.
Urine: If you smell a strong odor of urine, you may have a pretty hefty rodent infestation. Their urine odor is distinct and it is used to communicate with other rodents.
Damaged Goods: If you’re finding damaged goods like cereal and seeds, you have a rodent that is helping itself to your food supply.

General Biology, Reproduction and Behavior

Rat Biology, Reproduction and Behavior 

Rats do not typically live long in the wild, only 6-12 months. If a rat has a good living situation such as in a home that provides food and water, they will live a little longer. Female rats tend to live longer than male rats. A female rat will have 3-6 litters in her life time. Of those litters she will birth 6-12 young at a time. The gestation period is 21-25 days and she is able to be impregnanted again just hours after giving birth. Peak time for litters to be born is May and September. Litter sizes and survivability depend on food supply, climate, etc. The young are born pink, blind, and naked at birth. Within one week fine hairs start to appear all over their body. Their eyes open at 12-14 days and they become sexually mature at just 3 months old. 

Rats are opportunistic omnivores. This means they consume foods as they encounter them and will even cannibalize other rats if needed. Rats feed at dusk and at dawn and need to consume 10% of their body weight daily to survive. If food is abundant, rats will avoid new foods. To rid of a rat infestation by baiting or poisoning, the homeowner must get rid of their main source of food to attract the rats to the poison or bait. Rats must drink water on a daily basis to survive and will establish their home near a water source. Rats have an excellent sense of taste. Rats can identify substances, such as rat poisons, after just a little taste of it. They also have an excellent sense of smell and touch. This helps direct them to food sources. Rats have strong teeth that allows them to chew through objects like glass, wire, lead and more! 

Rats are responsible for the spread of the “Black Death” or the bubonic plague. Fleas are primarily responsible for the spread of this to humans, but fleas were originally infected with the plague by feeding on rats. 

Norway Rat

General Appearance: large, robust

Weight: 7-18 ounces

Snout: blunt

Ears: Small, covered with short hairs

Tail: dark above and pale under

Fur: brown with scattered black

Sight: poor; color blind

Excellent smell, taste, touch and hearing

Mouse Biology, Reproduction and Behavior 

Mice are the number one rodent pest in most parts of the world. They are extremely common within cities and towns, but also live as field rodents away from buildings. Sometimes mice get confused as young rats. The mouse is the most intensively investigated of all the mammals. 

Mice can breed throughout the entire year. It has been found that low temperatures equal fewer offspring and smaller sizes. The gestation of a mouse is 18-21 days. 2-13 babies are born in a litter. They are born small, blind, pink and naked. After 2 weeks their eyes and ears open and a fine hair starts to cover their body. After 21 days they are covered in hair and start eating solids. 42-60 offspring are born to one female mouse per year. It is common for mice to have a community nest where several females will share a nest site. The lifespan of a mouse depends on the living conditions such as food, temperature, etc. 

Mice are erratic nibblers and will make many trips to retrieve small amounts of food. Mice consume 10% of their body weight and are known as opportunistic omnivores. They will develop preferences where food is widely available. Unlike rats, mice can survive long bouts without water. They obtain much of their moisture needed to survive from the foods they consume. 

Much of the behavior of mice depend on food, population and complexity. 

House Mouse

General Appearance: small, slender

Weight: .4-1oz.

Snout: pointed

Ears: large, some hair

Tail: uniformly dark

Fur: light brown, light gray; smooth

Sight: poor; color blind

Excellent smell, taste, touch and hearing

Rats and mice are a major prey species. Predators look to them as a food source. And because of this, rodents have developed anti-predator strategies. Their senses play a huge role in this. 

Rodents have very poor vision. A rodents vision is adapted to night time. They are excellent at detecting movement far away and are able to distinguish different shades of light. 

A rodents touch and smell compensate for their poor vision. These two senses are the most important and useful senses for rodents. A rodents fur has specialized hair that has a touch feed back system that alerts them to avoid dangerous surfaces. This is why rodents travel along walls. By using their sense of smell, rodents can explore, locate and identify food, other rodents and animals. Rodents secrete pheromones as a way of marking new objects, as well as for feeding and mating. This plays a major role in communicating with each other. 

Rodents have sonic and ultrasonic hearing. New sounds serve as a warning to them and they also acclimate to sounds over time. 

Rodents use their sense of taste for locating and sampling food. This a very well developed sense for rodents. This helps them detect contaminates and chemicals in foods.

Rodents have excellent athletic abilities. They are fast, great climbers, jumpers and swimmers.