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Ants in Your Pant(ry)? Mouse in Your House?

Issue 1|Winter 2024

Polite Ways to Persuade Uninvited Guests to Leave

“If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”

– Jonas Salk

It can be somewhat disconcerting to find that you’re sharing your home with a family of cockroaches or a scurry of squirrels, but that must never mean setting out cruel traps or poisons. Animals caught on glue traps struggle mightily, tearing flesh, breaking bones, and becoming more ensnared in the adhesive, only to die from shock, dehydration, or asphyxiation. Poisons cause slow and painful deaths, and snap traps can injure animals rather than killing them, resulting in prolonged suffering. Use these tips instead.

Find the ‘Front Door’

The first step is to grab a flashlight and try to determine where and how animals are entering your home. Thoroughly inspect your attic and eaves to find openings where squirrels or raccoons could be gaining entrance. Look outside, too: Overhanging tree limbs can provide easy access to your roof. Cracks in the foundation, gaps around doors left by worn weather stripping, and spots where cables run through walls all look like an open door to a rat or mouse. Mice can squeeze through holes the width of a pencil! Ants and other insects can fit through almost any small opening – from cracks around window frames to gaps behind cabinets.

Make Your Home Boring

Animals won’t stick around if they can’t find food, so keep counters and floors free of crumbs (don’t forget your toaster’s crumb tray), don’t let dirty dishes pile up, and store food in chew-proof containers. Seal trash containers (use bungee cords on lids), pick up your animal companions’ food at night, and never feed them outdoors. Put stoppers in drains overnight to stop roaches’ approaches.

Display this sign near trash bins and picnic areas. It’s available in the PETA Shop, or you can download it here.

Some deterrents are as close as your kitchen cabinet. Place a cinnamon stick, coffee grounds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves, or dried peppermint leaves near openings where ants are coming in. You can also squeeze the juice of a lemon at the entry spot and leave the peel there. Bay leaves, cucumbers, garlic, hedge apples, and catnip repel roaches. To encourage a speedy evacuation, leave on a bright light, and/or set out rags soaked in ammonia (which smells as bad to raccoons, squirrels, and mice as it does to us) in areas that animals frequent. Wait until the breeding season has ended before sealing up any holes so that you don’t inadvertently trap babies inside. You can then place one-way exit devices over the entrance points.

Grab Your Caulk Gun

Once the animals have moved on, seal the entry points using caulk (for small cracks), foam sealant, steel wool, hardware cloth, or metal flashing. If any babies remain, you’ll know, because a mother raccoon or squirrel will frantically attempt to regain entry if her youngsters have been sealed inside. Just reopen the hole to allow them to leave. Mice and rats can be caught in a humane trap during mild weather (check it hourly, because being trapped panics them half to death!), but don’t release them farther than a block away or they’ll have trouble finding food and shelter.

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