Morris: Rats not welcome here

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 19, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

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DEAR JOAN: Using noise machines inside my roof area has eliminated the roof rats pretty effectively, however, they have not been effective in driving the rats away from beneath the house and inside the walls. We have had to resort to traps as the most humane way, we hope, to eliminate the problem.

Is there another way to eliminate the rats without killing them or having them suffer? We have pets and an 8-year-old daughter, and we are concerned about diseases being spread through feces, bites and the like, as well as damage to our vents that have been repaired twice in the past two years. Our pest control company says that, realistically, traps are our only option to eliminate our concerns.

Please advise. We hate to kill anything but feel our first responsibility is to our child and pets.

Pete Raykovich


DEAR PETE: I have an unspoken agreement with the roof rats I encounter. I’m willing to look the other way when I see them in my backyard, but I’m not going to tolerate them in my house or in my tomato patch.

The best method to keep rats and other wildlife out of your space is through exclusion. It’s also pretty difficult to manage.

Rats can collapse their rib cages, allowing them to squirm through a hole no bigger than a quarter. Trying to find every nook and cranny they might

get through is difficult, and by completely sealing your house, you may create an environment that is too airtight, leading to mold and an unhealthy, smelly environment.

Patch where you can, install strong but small mesh screens over vents. Clear places outside and around the house where rats may build nests. We’re talking wood piles, ivy and under decks.

Next, remove food sources. Stop leaving pet food outside, if you are. Stop feeding the birds for a while. You may even have to remove fruit from your trees.

It’s a long process, but, eventually, the rats will move on to more rat-hospitable locations.

If you do decide to exterminate them, do not use poisons. These are just as deadly to your daughter, pets, raptors and other wildlife as they are to the rats, and it is the cruelest of methods.

The most humane trap on the market, perhaps, is a rat zapper. It operates on batteries and looks like a small black mailbox. You bait it with peanut butter and when the rat enters, it touches a metal plate that electrocutes it instantly.

DEAR JOAN: I was told that raccoons carry some kind of a parasite in their droppings. Once the droppings dry out, the parasite becomes airborne, and we can breathe it in. Is this true of the raccoons that we have in the East Bay? There are lots of raccoons in the Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood area. Should we be concerned and, if so, what should we do?

Linda Jaime


DEAR LINDA: You are wise to be concerned, but using common sense can greatly reduce the possibility of being infected. Raccoon feces may harbor the eggs of Baylisascaris roundworm, and it can spread to humans if they swallow the eggs. This happens most often when someone puts a hand to their mouth after touching the droppings. The eggs can become an airborne threat when the dried, but it is less common.

Avoid digging or playing in raccoon latrine areas, and never handle the feces with bare hands. Always wear gloves when working in the dirt.

Joan Morris’ column runs five days a week in print and online. Contact her at; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

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