Q: I suspect some sort of rodent has moved into my apartment. What should I do?

A: From sea to shining sea and around the globe, rodents can be found foraging anywhere there’s an ample supply of food, water and shelter.

What should you do? First, confirm your suspicions by watching for classic signs of active rodent activity. According to the Citizens for New York City (www.citizensnyc.org), a non-profit advisory service, there are several signs of active rodent infestation.

The most obvious is actually seeing the offending rodent. Usually found under the cover of darkness, a fleeting glimpse can present itself when a light is turned on. Another obvious sign of rodent activity is rodent droppings, which resemble black rice or dark pellets, often found under drawers or behind furniture. Rodents can be found in basements, attics and between the walls. Their favorite place to forage? Where they can find their favorite foods, including peanut butter, chocolate and cereals. Nuts and grains are a tasty treat, too.

Surprisingly, mice can squeeze through a hole as small as 1/4 of an inch, or about the size of a dime. Rats and mice prefer to enter a home through holes, not open spaces, running along or behind the walls, ceilings or under floors.

How to keep rodents at bay? “The best way to get rid of rats is to get rid of their food source”, explains Peter Kostmayer, president of Citizens for New York City. “It’s better to avoid plastic trash bags and instead place trash in garbage cans with lids at the curb,” Kostmeyer concludes.

Both landlord and tenant play a role in rat and mice prevention. For landlords, fixing dripping or leaky water sources, such as faucets, are a must. Sources of standing water must be eliminated, too. Keeping common areas free of debris, especially piles of wood or newspaper, is important. Trimming excess foliage, especially thick ivy, is needed to eliminate any nesting opportunities.

If your landlord balks at helping with rodent problems, remind him or her that prevention is less expensive than hiring exterminators and dealing with city inspectors.

On the tenant side, prevention is important, too. Start with how food is stored, especially cereals and candy. Boxed cereal should be emptied into plastic containers with tight fitting lids. Ditto for the chocolate goodies. I had a neighbor who loved to tuck snacks in her dresser drawer. In the night, mice snuck in and snacked, too.

Do not keep any food, including fruits or vegetables, in open or accessible areas. Put away your leftovers in the fridge, not on the counter. Keep pet food put away at night, including open bowls, to eliminate the midnight buffet for visitors.

Houseplants should not be left standing in pools of water, a tempting drink. Empty trash often and keep a tight lid on rubbish at all times.

Rodents love cozy places to nest, so don’t provide shelter. Stacks of newspapers, magazines and clothes are an open invitation to furry guests. If you do discover droppings, wear gloves and use an antibacterial soap to eliminate. Using soap eliminates their ability to navigate along their own trail, a favorite method of rodent travel.

Entry is tricky. Since rodents can squeeze through tiny holes, a walk-through of the unit is important. For tenants, obvious areas such as windows and doors can be checked. If an opening under a door exceeds 1/4 of an inch, a sheet metal “kick plate” can cover the gap. Windows that don’t close all the way should be reported to the landlord. Holes in floors, especially dark places such as closets or laundry areas, should be checked. Behind ovens and refrigerators or inside cabinets are inviting and should be investigated, too.

For foundation, roofing or attic areas, ask the landlord to check for openings. Don’t climb on the roof or crawl under the place looking for trouble. Holes have to be properly plugged–not by stuffing in a rag, but with heavy gauge wire mesh pushed into the hole, topped by spackle or any suitable hardening sealant.

What if your landlord is indifferent to a rodent problem or refuses to step in? First, send a written request letter, specifying the problem, including signs of rodent activity. Be sure you’ve complied on your end, keeping food and debris out of the picture. If a timely response is not given, a call to the local health department may bring results. Keep in mind that pests are a curable problem, and the right combination of prevention and treatment should abate your concerns.

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