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What is the most humane way to kill pest rats and mice?

Article ID: 139
Last updated: 08 Dec, 2010
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There are a range of different poisons and traps used in Australia for controlling rats and mice. The RSPCA is concerned that many of these methods are inhumane and involve a long slow and painful death. The following information provides advice on how to reduce the chances of mice or rats causing a problem in your house or surrounds, and where control is necessary, it outlines the most humane methods available.

Live traps

The use of live traps is a popular choice for many people who do not like the idea of killing mice and rats but want to remove them from their home or property. However, the humaneness of live traps depends on how frequently the traps are checked, the design of the trap, and whether food, water or nesting material are provided to avoid starvation, dehydration or cold stress. Live traps must be designed to avoid injury during closure and when the animal is trapped inside. Check the trap mechanism and ensure that it will not catch the tail or limbs of the animal when it closes.

Live traps must be checked every morning and any trapped animals humanelly killed or released into a suitable location. Animals must not be left to die slowly in the trap. Unfortunately, the available evidence suggests that the survival rate of relocated animals is often very low - releasing animals into a new location is therefore not likely to be a more humane alternative to killing them.

Snap traps

A more humane and faster method than live trapping and killing is the use of a well-designed snap trap. These come in different sizes that can be used for either mice or rats. You need to choose a reliable and well-designed trap which ensures that the animal's head is fully inside the trap area when the trap is triggered and can be consistently set and reset. When designed and used properly, snap traps ensure a quick death to the mouse or rat and can be reused:

When setting the trap you should:

  • Place the bait only within the marked bait area and keep the rest of the trap clean of any food matter. This will reduce the likeihood of the trap closing and injuring the animal rather than killing it. You can use a variety of baits including peanut butter, dried fruit and bread. The bait should be changed regularly to keep it fresh.
  • Place the trap at right angles to a wall or other solid object with the bait nearest to the wall and in a place that provides the rodent with a path to the trap.

All traps must be checked every morning and trapped animals checked to ensure they are dead. If any animals are trapped and injured, they must be humanely killed (with a rapid, heavy blow to the head) and the trap should be discarded and replaced by another type of trap. It is important to use an effective and reliable snap trap that kills the animal instantly.

Other methods

Where infestations are bad and you need to consider using methods for killing mice and rats, the RSPCA recommends that you use a method that ensures a quick and humane death. Many people use a rodent bait to kill unwanted pests. Often people choose this type of bait as the rodent goes off somewhere else to die and in most cases there is no body to have to deal with. These baits contain chemicals, called anticoagulants, which cause the rodent to die by slowly bleeding to death internally. This form of killing is not humane as it causes great suffering to the rodent which takes a long time to die. In addition, the poisoned body of the rodent can present a risk if it is eaten by other animals such as native birds.

Suggestions for mouse and rat proofing your home

Houses that are located close to bush or parkland or other open spaces are prone to mice infestations. In older buildings where there may be cracks or loose bricks, problems with mice and rats are also common. There are a number of things that you can do around the home to reduce the chances of mice and rats getting into your house and or sheds. Many of these tips are easy to do and don’t require expensive materials.

  • In your cupboards and pantry, store opened food in metal, glass or heavy duty plastic containers with tight lids.
  • Don’t leave extra pet food out, store it in a secure container. Also remove any uneaten pet food so that it doesn’t attract mice and rats.
  • Sweep up food remains, litter and other rubbish inside and outside your home.
  • Store rubbish in metal or heavy plastic bins with tight lids.
  • Place rubbish outside on the morning that it is to be collected; don’t leave rubbish bags or bins on the footpath overnight.
  • Remove weeds and debris near buildings and in yards; don’t give mice and rats a place to hide.
  • Make sure that you have screens on your windows and check the windows and screens for holes.
  • Keep outside doors closed; use metal trim to prevent rodents from gnawing and entering underneath.
  • Inspect your basement, garage and house for cracks and holes; seal them so mice and rats can’t come through the holes.
  • Don’t provide hiding places for mice and rats. Store materials such as firewood, garden supplies on raised platforms with an open area underneath. Remove unused materials and junk.

Further information

1. A detailed report on the humane control of rodents is available from the UK based Universities Federation for Animals Welfare (UFAW) website:

www.ufaw.org.uk/documents/GuidanceonhumanecontrolofrodentsFeb2509V19.pdf

2. Mason, G.M. & Littin, K.E. (2003) The humaneness of rodent pest control. Animal Welfare 12: 1-37

This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person’s unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
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Also read
document What household dangers must I protect my pet from?
document RSPCA Policy G1 Humane killing
document What garden dangers must I protect my pet from?

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