I Smell a Rat

Last month I woke up in the middle of the night in sheer panic. A mouse was sitting in my hand.

I sat up and launched the rodent across the room before jumping out of bed, turning on the lights, and frantically searching my sheets for additional mice.

And then I looked around, rubbed my eyes and realized that the furry thing I felt in my hand—the thing I had just violently thrown against the wall—was Señor Peepers, the stuffed animal prairie dog I sleep with every night. His tail, it turns out, feels remarkably similar to a mouse—particularly when you are deep in your REM cycle and fresh off of an actual rodent sighting in your kitchen a week prior.

Feeling foolish, I scooped Señor Peepers up from the ground, climbed into bed and tried to focus my thoughts on happier things, such as pistachio ice cream and The Bachelorette. It worked that night—but four days later, poor Señor Peepers once again found himself face-first against the wall.

The lessons here are clear. No. 1, 26-year-olds have no business sleeping with stuffed animals. (Then again, stuffed animals are now fair game in presidential debates, so what do I know?) No. 2, rodents can cause apartment residents a lot of harm—both emotionally and physically.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), it is estimated that rodents are responsible for 20 percent to 25 percent of all home-structure fires of unknown causes because of their propensity for chewing electrical wiring and gas lines. The percentage of rodents caught masquerading as beloved (stuffed) pets is unknown.

Naturally, it is imperative that facility mangers take aggressive steps to keep rats, mice and other vermin out of their communities, says Missy Henriksen, author of “Pests Under Fire,” in the November issue of units.

According to Henriksen, the house mouse is the most common rodent reported in residential settings. To complicate matters, house mice can be particularly difficult to catch and remove due to the vast amount of hiding spaces in apartment buildings, the lack of consistent sanitary practices observed by residents and, for some, the lack of or failure to adhere to a rodent control program. House mice also breed quickly, creating the potential for a serious infestation. Other apartment dwellers include Norway rats and roof rats.

Such infestations are most common in the fall when temperatures drop and their natural food sources become scarce, but rodent activity takes place year-round, Hendriksen says. Frequently, house mice enter apartment buildings through gaps surrounding utility pipes or clothes dryer vents, ground floor doors left ajar, garbage shoots, and cracks and crevices larger than 1/4 inch.

Community managers are encouraged to rodent-proof their buildings by eliminating all possible points of entry, creating rodent-sighting activity logs, providing ongoing monitoring and installing circuit breakers that can detect potentially dangerous arcs in the wiring—caused by rodents—that could start a fire.

No need to stuffed-animal-proof your buildings, we are told.

For more, check out “Pests Under Fire” in the October issue of units, which mailed Oct. 11.