Why rodents infest older homes

Older homes can be charming. Full of architectural details, they offer unique features not seen in newer homes. However, the same appointments that give older homes character can also leave them susceptible to a myriad of pest issues. Unfortunately, rodents infest older homes.

The reality is, when it comes to older homes, history tends to repeat itself. This includes past pest history, especially when dealing with ongoing rodent issues. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for rodents to infest older homes. In addition to rats and mice, older homes are often magnets for termites, carpenter ants, stinging insects, birds, and wildlife. 

A southern historic home with a two story porch stands proudly among the old oak trees.

Older and wiser…

Any home can encounter occasional issues with mice and rats, but older homes face a unique challenge that newer homes don’t face. With older homes, come wiser rodents. These are not your run of the mill rodents. These rodents have been taught by generations before and they’re becoming smarter.

Rodent colonies in older neighborhoods have well established burrows, emergency exit routes, and vetted pathways. They even know which homes offer the easiest access to the resources they need – food, water, and shelter. And, when they encounter an object that looks out of place, such as a trap or bait station, they avoid it. These rodents have marked their territory and can be difficult to eradicate, especially using DIY methods. Unless the entire colony is removed, the problem will persist year-after-year.

Grey mouse wandering through an older home on a light wood floor.


Don’t let generations of rodents infest your older home. Enjoy all its charming qualities for years to come with help from our pest control experts. Get a free quote today.

Why do rodents infest older homes?

Contrary to popular belief, rodents do prefer to live outside in their natural habitat. However, when their habitat lacks the resources they need to survive, they begin to seek it elsewhere. 

Factors that may be driving rodents into your home include the following:

  • Freezing temperatures
  • Heat waves / drought
  • Natural disasters
  • Land development
  • Lack of resources outside
  • Ample resources inside

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, currently 49.59% of the U.S. and 59.3% of the lower 48 states are in a drought, impacting water supplies, agricultural crops, and vegetation – a stark reality for residents living on the West Coast. As a result, rodents relocate to areas that offer them the resources they need.

Even with little vegetation for harborage, mice can live in leaf piles, compost bins, junk piles, etc. Roof rats can nest in untrimmed trees, especially palm trees. Reducing clutter in the yard and maintaining the landscape are key for preventing rodents from living on your property.

If you’ve eliminated access to food and water, but you still have rodents living in your home, they may be getting it elsewhere. Mice will travel up to 30 feet and rats may travel over 100 feet from their shelter for food and water. Water sources may not be obvious and may include things such as sprinkler systems, ornamental citrus trees, and condensation from air conditioners.

Don’t let their size fool you

Mice can easily wiggle their way through a hole the size of a dime and a gap ¼-inch tall. Rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter and a gap ½-inch tall.

When sealing up holes, cracks, or gaps, use a rodent-proof material and waterproof sealant or caulking for additional protection. Ensuring the repaired surface is smooth, will make it more difficult for rodents to gnaw on it. Despite the fact that rodents have incredibly sharp teeth and can gnaw through concrete if they choose, any exclusion efforts will help.


IT MAY NOT BE RODENTS: If you see extensive gnawing around the exterior of your attic in the fall, squirrels may be to blame. Contact a wildlife expert for help.

3 expert rodent control tips

  1. Survey the area to determine where rodents are coming and going. The rodents you’re trying to exterminate have likely lived in your home, surrounding structures, and connecting sewers for generations and know the area well. Once you’ve identified the natural foraging and traveling behavior of your intended target, you will see much better results.
  2. Effective trap selection and placement. Instead of placing set traps around a room’s perimeter, place unset traps near areas where there are visible grease marks from where a rodent’s fur rubs, urine from marking their territory, and anywhere that there’s dark shadows – these are high activity areas. By pre-baiting and placing unset traps near high traffic routes for at least 3 days, rodents will become familiar with them and begin to trust that they are harmless.
  3. Be creative! Rodent control takes time. Incorporate different types of traps (plastic and wood) and bait them with different foods. Adding a baited set trap to the center of pre-baited unset traps can also prove to be an effective strategy.
Pest Technician wearing blue gloves places a rodent trap in the mulch outside of a white brick home.

Protect your family’s health and safety

There are significant health risks that come with rodent infestations. Through direct contact (bite, urine, dropping, carcass) and indirect contact (cross-contamination of food and surfaces, airborne bacteria and viruses, secondary pests), mice and rats are known to spread over 35 diseases, including hantavirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, murine typhus, plague, Leptospirosis, salmonellosis, and rat bite fever.

Besides impacting your health, rodents can do significant damage to your home, costing you hundreds of dollars. Born with a natural instinct to gnaw on things, you could be living with a potential fire hazard should one gnaw through your electrical wiring. Another costly behavior is if they begin to burrow under your walkway, concrete parking slab, patio, or porch, weakening the overall structural integrity of the surface, which results in cracking and erosion.

Don’t let rodents infest your older home with Western!

Rodent activity extends beyond structural damage and the threat of disease. Living with rodents can cause lasting emotional damage: fear, anxiety, and loss of sleep.

One of the most effective ways to prevent rodents from entering a building is exclusion – sealing up any entry points where rodents can get in. For some older structures, this can be ongoing, especially when structural shifting makes more cracks and gaps. 

Get expert advice now. Western’s rodent control technicians can quickly and effectively take care of your immediate rodent control needs and offer solutions for preventive efforts. Contact us today for more information and a free quote.

Emory Matts, BCE

As a technical service manager for Rentokil since 2016, Emory supports rodents in the US and Canada. Using his vast knowledge of varying rodent behaviors and control methods, he oversees quality inspections, pest identification, data analysis, product evaluations, training, troubleshooting, and audit support. He is also a regular contributor and subject matter expert for multiple publications.

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