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little mouse(TNS)—If I’ve learned anything over the last 33 years of homeownership, it’s that animals that exist happily outdoors three seasons of the year will try to find a warm space indoors in winter.

Over the years, I have found squirrels in the attic and a stray chipmunk in the basement.

When my family lived in a more rural environment, field mice could be found in kitchen drawers most winters, enjoying milk crackers—remember those?—and anything else in an easy-to-chew-open wrapper.

Mice, rats and even raccoons can take up residence inside homes when the weather turns cold, according to the folks who make Bobbex-R, an animal repellent.

Emphasis is on all-natural products that repel, rather than kill, without polluting the environment.

A single rodent in a home can quickly turn into an infestation, damaging walls and belongings and exposing your family to allergens and disease.

Removing an infestation can be costly and time-consuming, so it makes sense to be pro-active and try to prevent pests from coming inside in the first place.

Before the weather gets much cooler, take a look around your home to find any potential entry points and plug them. Remember, mice may be able to get in through openings as small as one-quarter inch wide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends looking for entry points around doors and windows, pipes throughout the home, fireplaces, attics and crawl spaces, vents and drains.

You can do the job yourself or hire a professional to help pest-proof your home.

I have used repellents in the past that included some sort of ingredient that the targeted rodent didn’t like. Cinnamon and garlic are two that I recall.

Now, what I do instead is trim back shrubbery and dead plants from around the house, including leaves that can hide the invaders from view.

Any foundation cracks I see are caulked. In some cases, especially when I am air-sealing spaces that might be used as a transitway, I use foam insulation that expands as it cures.

There is no sure-fire preventative, but try anyway.

©2015 The Philadelphia Inquirer
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