Tactical nuclear strike is the NEXT option
January 27, 2011 8:31 PM   Subscribe

I hear the pitter-patter of little feet. No, there's no BabyCres on the way. Rather, we have mice, or some sort of animal, in our ceiling. Halp.

We live in a rental house, two stories plus basement, with no roof access. We hear animal sounds from our upstairs ceiling, but during the winter, they're pretty incessant. Running, chewing; it's hard to tell what they're doing sometimes. No joke-- it sounded like they were playing soccer at one point: multiple sets of feet chasing something that rolled.

For what it's worth, the noise is really the only quality of life issue. No food invasion, no feces, no rodent sightings, and no holes in the ceiling or walls. I'm a heavy sleeper, so I'm inclined to let them be until it gets warm, when we'll only hear movement on rare occasions. Mrs Supercres wants them gone ASAP, so here we are.

Since it's a rental, we'd normally just ask the landlord to call an exterminator. The problem is that we have a dog that he doesn't know about. We're operating on the "better to ask forgiveness than permission" idea, but we're still not keen on him coming over to check it out himself and finding her. Besides, she (the dog) flips out when she thinks the house is being invaded (e.g., when the mail comes through the slot), so if there's something we can do without bringing a stranger in, especially when we're not home, that would be preferable.

Speaking of the dog, we know that barking doesn't deter the rodents, as previous Ask responses have suggested. The dog has gotten better since I posted this, but there are still periods of barkiness that don't seem to be doing anything.

So yeah. What can we do, ideally without doing damage to the house? (Other people have suggested mothballs or ammonia-soaked cotton balls inserted through a hole in the ceiling. I'm hesitant to drill in a conspicuous place, and I feel like we'd need multiple insertion points.)

Is it worth bringing out the extension ladder and going up to the roof when the snow melts? What would I even be looking for, and what could I do if I found an entry point? Should we call pest control and try to bypass the landlord? Will pest control even be useful, or will they just lay down poison until we have rotting corpses in the ceiling instead of paw sounds?

Or should we just live and let live?
posted by supercres to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
I once lived in a place where squirrels got into the attic. Get your landlord to call pest control and put out (live) traps (or whatever method pest control thinks will work).
posted by axiom at 8:36 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: Is it worth bringing out the extension ladder and going up to the roof when the snow melts?

Yes! Or even before, and using a broom to clear the roof. When this happened to me, there were rats that had climbed up a tree and onto my roof, then gone through the steampipe and into the walls, where they began to nest and make all kinds of noise.

Two old-fashioned wooden traps baited with cheese did the trick within a day. No poison was necessary.

I cut back the branches of the tree in the backyard to discourage any future rodents looking for a home.
posted by xenophile at 8:40 PM on January 27, 2011

If you're talking snow, I suspect it is squirrels. Your best bet is to find the access to the attic (there has to be some way to get up there...check in the closets for a trap door), and set some live traps for them. You'll also want to find the access point outside the house.
posted by HuronBob at 8:47 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: There's no attic. They're living in what's probably a 6-inch space between the ceiling drywall and roof, populated by light cans and ceiling joists. Certainly no access point or I'd just go up there and initiate chemical warfare- the aforementioned mothballs and ammonia.

They're especially loud as soon as it gets cold, around Halloween; I don't think it's any worse since it started snowing in mid-December or so. Squirrels are plausible, though I sometimes hear rodent-like squeaking.
posted by supercres at 8:56 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: ouch... with just the small space, you're not going to live trap them easily, and just putting poison up there will leave you with a bit of a problem if they don't decide to march to the cemetery to die, spring will be a bit stinky for you.

Since the dog is the issue, I would call a pest control guy to get some advice on this... better to pay that fee than get thrown out because of the dog.

Be aware that the pest guy may do some drilling, etc to remove them... there may be no way to hide the access from your landlord..

Squirrels can be noisy little critters... you could be hearing them...
posted by HuronBob at 9:06 PM on January 27, 2011

Do not use mothballs or ammonia, it will completely stink your house out. Trust me, I speak from bitter experience.

What you need to do is find the access points they are using to get into the attic space, and block them off with fine mesh. If you do it during daytime, the rats (assuming they are rats) will likely be out and about, and you won't trap any inside.
posted by Joh at 9:48 PM on January 27, 2011

We had a mouse come in through our dryer vent from an outside wall. A screen had fallen off and it came flying out into the basement when the dryers lint screen was taken out for cleaning. They come in out of the cold as the weather gets colder looking for warmer shelter. What if you cut a small hole in the ceiling ( and repair later) and place a trap up there? Maybe nearest where you hear them. Peanut butter works well. Also, I think they sell poison that is made to kill them, but not leave any smell after they die. They say that if they get their heads through a hole, they can squeeze the body through. Good luck.
posted by Taurid at 10:34 PM on January 27, 2011

We use Warfarin - available at any hardware store. It dries them up, so no rotting/stinking when they die. Works perfectly in our old, holey house.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:57 AM on January 28, 2011

Best answer: Running, chewing; it's hard to tell what they're doing sometimes. No joke-- it sounded like they were playing soccer at one point: multiple sets of feet chasing something that rolled.

This could very likely just be mice. I was astounded at the amount of similar noise coming from our bedroom ceiling from one mouse, who had slipped into the area via a broken floorboard on our third floor. It sounded like a couple of small children were up there. One trap fixed the problem. (Not before the mouse scared the living er..nightlights out of us by peeking at us from the hallway ceiling; it stuck its little head out of a not-yet-patched hole from a removed light fixture.)

Anyway, once the snow melts, it's worth it IMO to take a look with a ladder to look for an obvious entry point and pack it with steel wool. If there's no living-space invasion, I'd probably not bother spending any PITA-tenant-points on it with the landlord.

Squirrels used to get into my grandparent's attic, in my experience they made more scratching noises than pitter-patter.
posted by desuetude at 3:47 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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