Natural Deterrents for Rats and Mice

If you discover you have a rat or mouse infestation in your house, you will certainly want to get rid of them and prevent them from returning.  Rodents can gnaw and chew through wood, walls, and even the wiring of your home.  They also carry diseases, and contaminate any food they touch.  Rats and mice also reproduce at high rates.  Indoors, they can give birth to five or more litters per year, with five or more babies per litter.

If you don’t get rid of the rodents right away, you will soon have many more.  However, if you use poison to kill them, you will have dying rodents throughout your home, including inside your attic and walls.  Because of this, people have come up with a variety of ways to try to deter rats and mice from entering or remaining in their homes.  Some of these methods are covered below. 

Remove Food Sources

One way to keep rats and mice out of your home is to keep your house – especially the kitchen – clean.  Rats and mice will then have no reason to enter. 

  • Don’t leave food sitting out on counters or tables.
  • Tie up your garbage bags nightly.
  • Keep pet food in closed containers; do not leave them out in open bags.  Rodents have no problem getting into a bag of pet food.
  • Put your pantry items in plastic storage containers so that rodents can’t gain access to bags and boxes when hunting for food.

If there is nothing around for them to eat, they may look for a better food source. This is one of the most effective, natural ways to deter rats and mice.

Pets and Predator Urine

One way to deter rodents from entering your home, or to make them want to leave, is to let your cat or dog take care of the problem.  Cats are great hunters, and so are many breeds of dogs.  Shut your cat or dog in the room where the rodents are, and then let your pets earn their keep.  Even if no rodents are not caught, the mice and rats may turn tail and head for a safer location. 

You can also use the urine of rodent predators to deter the pests.  If you have a cat, sprinkle some used kitty litter where the rodents are entering your home and where they are nesting.  You can also put ammonia on a cloth and place it at a rodent entry point or near a nest.  The rodents may think it is a cat because of the smell. 

You can buy some types of predator urine in pellet form online and in stores.  Purchase one that is specifically made for deterring rodents, and place the pellets in infested areas.  The rodents may believe a predator is nearby and move to a safer location outside of your home. 

You can try these methods above, but they aren’t always effective.  If your pets consume rats and mice, they may also pick up diseases.

Peppermint Oil

Many believe that peppermint oil is a natural deterrent for rodents.  To use this method:

  1. Put peppermint oil on cotton balls or strips of cloth. 
  2. Place the treated balls or strips in areas of infestation. 
  3. Periodically freshen the balls/strips, as the smell of the peppermint oil will begin to dissipate after a while.

Though this is a natural method and many will tell you to try it, it does not prove effective very often.

Toilet Cakes

Years ago, people used mothballs to deter rodents.  However, once the harmful effects of mothballs were discovered, many switched to toilet cakes.  The deodorizers in toilet cakes are believed to radiate a smell strong enough for rodents to detest it.  To use this method:

  1. Place the toilet cakes where children or pets can’t access them, but where rodents will encounter them.

As with many of the natural methods, this one doesn’t have very strong effects and often does not work.

What Doesn't Work - And What Does

The reality is that rodents will learn to live with urine, peppermint oil, and toilet cake odor.  Unless a predator is actually invading their nest, the rodents will just be extra careful when leaving it if they sense a predator is around.  If the rodents truly find the odor of peppermint oil or toilet cakes that unbearable, (which is highly unlikely), they may just move their nest further away.  A little unpleasant odor is still preferable to being outside and exposed to predators. 

A cat or dog may hunt the mice, but most likely the rodents will be in your walls and attic, not nesting under your bed where your pet can get to them. 

In addition, while maintaining a clean home is always a good idea, rodents will find a food source somewhere; they are most likely entering your home for the warmth, anyway, not because they smell food.  Leaving food out in the open where they can easily get to it just makes it a little easier for them. 

You will need to trap the existing rodents. Trapping is preferable to spraying poison, because trapping doesn’t harm humans or their environment.  After trapping the rodents by one or more of a variety of methods, you can seal off your home from future infestations.  If you don’t prevent the rats or mice from entering your home, you could end up with another infestation.