Preventing Rats and Rodent Infestations
Rodents like rats and mice can ruin food and damage property. Rats and mice have similar features with mice generally having larger ears, light brown to dark grey fur with a lighter colour on their belly and can often be found in urban areas. Rats are larger than mice but prefer living in damp areas like crawl spaces or building perimeters.
Both rats and mice can:
- Carry and transmit disease
- Carry fleas or ticks which can harm pets and humans
- Contaminate food with their hair, droppings and urine resulting in food poisoning
- Cause fires by gnawing on electrical wires or damage to buildings by chewing on insulation, siding and drywall
Rats may be living nearby in fields and parks, along creek banks and other water ways, on farms, or in a neighbour’s cluttered backyard or basement. Rats are active at night and may be unnoticed during the day.
When rats are seen regularly on properties or in yards, they are commonly there because there is some type of food source. Most of the time, there is simply untidy waste areas within about a 50 to 75 m radius of where the rats are found.
Rats and mice are not known to have caused human rabies in North America. For more information on rabies, visit Rabies Control and contact Health Connection (1-800-361-5653) if you want to report a rodent bite.
Rodent Prevention and Control
The most effective and economical long-term solution to get rid of a rodent problem (and prevent it from happening again) is to use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. There are also steps you can take to help prevent rodent problems.
Signs of a Rodent Infestation
Rats and mice are most active at night, so it can be hard to spot them. But there are signs to watch out for, including:
- Seeing live or dead rodents
- Damage to goods and structures
- Droppings and urine stains
- Burrows, holes or nests
- Runs and tracks
- Chewed food packages
- Noises, especially at night
- Avoid touching dead rodents, droppings, or urine with your bare hands. Wear waterproof rubber gloves and a dust mask or use a shovel
- Clean and disinfect waterproof rubber gloves according to manufacturer/product instructions before reusing
- Never sweep or vacuum dry droppings. The dust that is raised can cause illness. Dampen droppings and debris with a solution of bleach and water before wiping up
- Put the dead rodent or its waste in a doubled garbage bag
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling
- Wash exposed clothing thoroughly after clean up and separate from other laundry
- Follow local municipal waste disposal guidelines
- Keep gardens clean and tidy. Cut tall grass and weeds back from your house and in your garden
- Do not plant flowers and shrubs close to your house and ensure there is about eight inches of space under plants
- Remove any discovered nesting sites in unused clutter around your house, garage and sheds
- Important: when cleaning up rodent nests and droppings, wear protective equipment such as gloves and a mask to prevent possible infection
- Remove unused piles of lumber, old tires and old structures from your property
- Do not store old furniture and cars outside
- Store firewood, lumber and garbage cans off the ground
- Keep all garbage in rodent-proof containers, metal or plastic, with tight-fitting lids
- Properly maintain compost and keep it away from the house. Consider a metal mesh between the soil and composter. Avoid putting oily or fatty food waste, eggs, or milk products in the composter
- Remove fallen fruits and nuts in your garden
- Provide bird feeders with trays and clean spilled seeds often
- If you have a bird bath, keep it clean
- Do not leave pet food outside overnight
- Keep your kitchen clean. Store dry food and dry pet food in metal or glass container
- Keep doors closed
- Cover ground floor and basement windows and all vents with metal screening or steel mesh
- Repair cracks in cement footings and foundations; seal any openings larger than ¼ inch. A rodent can squeeze through a hole the size of a nickel!
- Build sheds on concrete slabs
- Inspect your house to ensure there are no holes around central heating pipes and plumbing pipes
- Equip floor drains and sewer pipes with tight-fitting grates that have openings less than ¼ inch in diameter
- Correct leaky taps and pipes and faulty drains. Eliminate other sources of water available to rodents
- Stuff steel wool around pipes before caulking and plastering
- Several types of traps are available on the market. Carefully read the instructions before purchasing and setting traps
- Do not place traps near children, food preparation areas and pets
- Check traps daily to remove dead rodents
- If the infestation is out of control, call a pest control company
- If applying pesticides without the assistance of a pest control company, use the product safely and follow the label and manufacturer’s instructions. Visit Health Canada’s Use Pesticides Safely site for more information
- If trapping does not get rid of the rodents, try baiting stations (small trays with rat poison). Allow three to four days for rodents to become comfortable with baits. Use strong-smelling sticky foods like peanut butter, bacon grease mixed with oats or raisins to attract them
Taking additional action
Homeowners should contact a private pest control service for issues with rodent infestations, if needed.
Local property standards departments of your Town or City are responsible for the enforcement of private property offences, such as yard maintenance issues, to ensure residents maintain their property.
Please see below for Property Standards information of each municipality in York Region:
- Town of Aurora
- Town of East Gwillimbury
- Town of Georgina
- King Township
- City of Markham
- Town of Newmarket
- City of Richmond Hill
- City of Vaughan
- Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville
Rental Apartments or Multi-Residential Buildings
For issues in apartments or multi-residential buildings, tenants should speak to their landlord, building owner or property management first to resolve an issue with rodents.
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, it is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain rental properties. This means taking action to control pests (like rats), as well as complying with existing property standards related to health, safety, housing, and maintenance, under municipal by-laws or provincial maintenance standards.
Under the Ontario Condominium Act, condominium boards have a legal responsibility to maintain their property. If you experience a rodent issue at your condominium property, it is recommended that you notify your condominium board and property management.
Food Premises/Schools/Institutions/Hospitals/Child Care Centres
York Region Public Health investigates complaints related to rodent infestations in food premises, including schools and institutions, hospitals and child care centres. Under the Ontario Food Premises Regulation, it is responsibility of a food premise to protect the premise against the entry of pests or any conditions that can lead to the harbouring or breeding of pests.