Ridding Your Residence of Roof Rodents

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy flickr
With the onset of winter come cooler temperatures.  While we in Florida fare far better than those who live farther north, even we see nights where the temperature falls below freezing.  To us this means dealing with higher electric and gas bills when our heater fires up more frequently.  One of the conveniences of modern society is no longer having to brave the elements or even stoke the fireplace to stay warm when its cold out.  Our forefathers and mothers would have been green with envy.  Of course, it isn’t only our ancestors who would be jealous about the ease with which modern society stay warm and comfy.  There are still those less fortunate that envy our warm, snug homes.  I’m not speaking of the homeless.  I’m talking about roof rodents.

Four-Footed Freeloaders – When the temperature drops, the incidence of four-footed freeloaders invading our homes increases dramatically.  While everything from raccoons to feral cats have been known to take up residence in attics, by far the most common furry squatters are squirrels and rats.  Usually the first sign of furry interlopers is the pitter patter of little paws over your head.  Once inside your home, roof rodents waste little time in setting up housekeeping. 

How do they get inside? – Rodents have amazing teeth.  If you think that termites are bad news when it comes to the damage they can do to your home, insects don’t hold a candle to rodents.  Rats and squirrels can literally gnaw their way through shingles, siding and aluminum.  The reason they do so is because your warm, dry attic is the perfect place to nest for the winter.  The problem for homeowners is that once inside, roof rodents can and will use your attic as a home, a larder a latrine and eventually a nursery.  Unless these furry intruders are evicted posthaste, they can cause thousands of dollars in damage.    

Image courtesy flickr
That isn’t Santa coming down your chimney. – While most four-legged interlopers burrow into the attic, there are other second-story intruders that prefer to gain entry to your domicile via the chimney or through one of the roof vents that lead into your home.  Once inside, these break-in artists may pop out of your fireplace or duct-work to make themselves at home in your home.  If you leave food and water out for your cat or dog, they’ll help themselves to it.  Or they’ll climb onto or under your furniture to find a comfy place to rest.  Sometimes squirrels get trapped in a flue or the chimney itself.  If that should happen, you probably won’t know about it until you detect a nasty odor emanating from your fireplace weeks later. 

The Garage of Eden – An even better place for a four-legged freeloader to camp out than your attic is your garage or garden shed.  To a feral cat, rat, squirrel or raccoon, a garage or shed is a veritable garden of Eden.  Not only is it far less likely for their presence to be quickly detected, but garages and sheds are chock full of nesting material.  Nothing feathers a nest better than shredded cardboard which most garages contain in abundance.  If you keep your water heater in the garage, don’t be surprised to find a furry squatter camped out next to or underneath it.  I once opened up a gas grill that I kept in my garage only to find it stuffed with shredded cardboard and plastic bags.  It took me a few moments to realize that a rat had set up housekeeping inside my barbecue.

How do you get them out? – While some people choose the DIY route when it comes to household pests, I recommend you hire a professional to trap and remove four-legged freeloaders.  Not only do cornered animals tend to strike back at their tormentors, but their scat can prove toxic.  That means if you don’t have the proper clothing and respirator needed to deal with the aftermath of a furry home invasion, you could wind up getting extremely sick.  Rat urine and droppings have been known to harbor hantavirus, among other pathogens. Squirrel droppings contain leptospirosis, which if touched can produce flu-like symptoms in humans.  Raccoon scat is particularly dangerous, since it can harbor both roundworm eggs and giardia, both of which can be inhaled.  Whatever the four-legged intruder that has taken up residence in your attic, shed or garage, eliminating the menace is no job for an amateur. A pest control bill is a lot less than a hospital bill.

Image courtesy Pixio
How do you keep them out of your home? – As Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  When it comes to keeping critters out of your attic, garage and garden shed, there are steps you can take to secure them.  The first step to putting out a No Vacancy sign is to make it difficult for intruders to gain access.  In some cases, this means trimming back branches that provide a ladder to squirrels, cats, rats, and raccoons.  It also wouldn’t hurt to top off your chimney with a vent cap that allows the fireplace and heater to function properly without rolling out the welcome mat for furry pests.  In particular, if your home has been previously targeted, you need to determine how the animal got in and shore up your home’s defenses.  Sometimes this means nailing up a strip of chicken wire to keep little teeth from gnawing thorough shingles or flashing.

The chase is on. – We all remember the squirrel in the Christmas scene from the Chevy Chase's movie Christmas Vacation.  If you come home or wake up one morning to find a squirrel racing around your home, the trick to getting it out is to avoid chasing it.  In the first place, anything with four-legs can outrun anyone with two.  Not only will you run yourself ragged trying to chase the furry intruder down, chances are you’ll do more damage since squirrels can run, jump and climb onto furniture with ease.  Also avoid siccing the family dog on the interloper.  This could result in your dog getting bitten by a cornered animal.  The best way to get a squirrel out of your home is to block it in a room and open the window or any door that leads outside.  The squirrel will eventually find its way out.  I once discovered a fully-grown possum rooting around in my garage.  The solution was to peel a banana and lay it on the driveway.  It didn’t take the possum long to decide the dinner bell had been rung, which gave me time to close the door behind him.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on homeowner's insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at left.


  1. The only thing than finding a critter in your home is to find a snake curled up under the hood of your car.

  2. We live in Florida and critter abound in all neighborhoods. These tips are great for taking control.


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