They might look cute and furry at first glance, but rodents in the home are serious business. Common household species of mice and rats not only wreak havoc on the house’s structure, but they also carry dangerous bacteria that can put your family at risk for allergies and infection. Even if you see a stray scurry across the floor or find a small amount of droppings, it’s time to take action. Because rodents tend to stay put once they find a comfortable place to live, the longer you wait to call in the pros, the bigger the infestation will grow.

How Do I Know If I Have a Rodent Infestation?

While it’s easy to tell the difference between tiny mice and their larger rat cousins, identifying individual species can be tricky to an untrained eye. Plain household mice, characterized by their short coats and lighter bellies, are some of the most frequently sighted rodents inside homes, but if you happen to live in a rural area, don’t be surprised if you come face to face with deer mice, nicknamed for their coat’s resemblance to the color of deer fur. Brown, stocky rats with shorter tails are likely to be Norway rats, while those found nesting high above the ground may be roof rats.

Of course, you don’t have to see a live rodent to know that you have an infestation. Droppings, unexplained noises, gnaw marks on furniture and greasy stains are all warning signs that you might be sharing your home with a pack of unwanted furry visitors.

How Do Infestations Start?

In search of heat, shelter and easily accessible food, rodents use holes along the foundation, walls, windows and attic to get inside. If not sealed, drainage pipes can also become entry points for rodents and other pests. Some species continuously migrate indoors all year long, while others arrive in colder seasons. Although taking preventative actions – like storing your food in airtight containers and keeping your home clean – can help, unless all entry points are found and sealed, infestations are likely to keep recurring.