3 R's of Controlling Rats, Mice and Other Rodents

A few species of rodents such as mice and rats pose threats to property and human health. Rodents are controlled to prevent diseases in other animals, humans, and farmed livestock. This can also help protect biodiversity and prevent damage or loss of stored foodstuffs and growing crops. It can prevent structural damage to installations and property.

You have to consider if control measures are really required. Having rodents in food preparation sites isn’t acceptable, but many people may tolerate the presence of these animals in a garden shed. If it’s necessary to kill or capture the animals, you should try to use techniques that reduce the risk of distress to them.

Rodent control may only be required when there’s a combination of conditions that negatively affect human interest. Controlling the population of mice or rats shouldn’t be considered as a standard procedure that must be undertaken regardless of the situation.

Due to its possible impact on the welfare of animals, you should carefully consider whether rodent control is really needed or not. You have to respect the welfare of these animals by refining control methods to reduce unnecessary suffering such as pain and fear. No more animals than required should be affected to achieve your goal.

The 3 R's in Achieving Successful Rodent Control

The 3 R’s of rodent control are replacement reduction and refinement. These are guiding principles for the ethical use of any animal in research and testing.

Replacement involves using methods that replace or avoid the utilization of animals in research. Refinement is all about using methods that improve animal welfare and minimize or alleviate potential distress, pain or suffering to the animal used. Reduction pertains to methods that reduce the number of animals utilized per study.

The 3 R’s encourage animal testing alternatives and aim to enhance scientific quality and animal welfare when it’s impossible to avoid the use of animals. 


Methods that partially or completely replace the utilization of animals should be considered, explored, and implemented where applicable. Before considering the use of any animal, all existing data applicable to the proposed objective should be assessed.

Replacement methods that should be taken into consideration include the use of:

  • Chemical and physical analysis
  • Epidemiological data, simulations
  • Cadavers, clinical cases
  • Non-sentient organisms
  • Inanimate synthetic
  • Mathematical and computer models
  • In vitro systems

Opportunities to replace the utilization of animals should be reviewed throughout the project’s duration. The result of the review should be applied, where applicable and relevant, in existing projects and considered in preparing future projects.

Replacement strategies include tissue slices, subcellular fractions, tissue culture, cellular fractions, and perfused organs.


Reduction involves using the minimum number of animals to satisfy excellent statistical design and to accomplish the proposed objective.

Using very few animals may invalidate the result of the experiment and lead to wastage of animals. Reduction in the number of animals utilized shouldn’t lead to greater harm such as distress and pain to the animal used.

The advantages of reusing animals should be balanced against unpleasant effects on their welfare. The individual animal’s lifetime experience should be considered as well.

Activities that involve the utilization of animals shouldn’t be repeated between projects or within a project. This is only possible if such activity the project’s design or purpose needs it. It can either be in forms of sound experimental design, corroboration by another or the same investigator or statistical analysis.

The parties involved should take all possible steps to minimize factors that can affect the experimental results’ variability or are not included in the project’s experimental design. This includes using any animal of known behavioural, genetic, and biological background.

Reducing experimental variables may lead to reduced use of animals. It’s also important to manage animal breeding to reduce or avoid the production of surplus animals. A new animal line shouldn’t be made if the investigator has access to a similar suitable line of the animal.

The great reduction may also occur by choosing the right research planning and performance strategies or through careful analysis and design of studies. Those who are doing the experiments may control the variation among the animals utilized in studies. The availability and development of computers have made it possible to use large sets of data in statistical analysis and reduce the number of animals used.

Animal use may be completely avoided by using studies that have been previously published. Doing so prevents unnecessary replication. New statistical analysis strategies and modern imaging techniques also allow a reduction in the number of animals used such as by giving more data for every animal.


Refinement involves taking the necessary steps to protect and support the well-being of animals. The efficiency of methods for protecting and supporting the well-being of animals should be reviewed throughout the duration of activities and projects.

The result of the review should be applied in existing activities and considered when planning future projects and activities. The length of activities shouldn’t be longer than necessary to meet the project’s objective and should be compatible with protecting and supporting the well-being of animals.

Refinement also encompasses contingent or indirect harm associated with transportation, breeding, husbandry, and housing. Those who use and care for animals have to make sure that they’re proficient in the procedure they do. It is advisable that they work under the supervision of someone who is fit to perform the procedure. They also need to make sure that the procedures are done competently.

Refinement techniques include proper analgesic and anesthetic regime for pain relief, non-invasive methods, and provision of housing appropriate to the animal and environmental enrichment. All of these should meet the behavioural and physical needs of the species such as giving nesting opportunities for rodents.

Animals may also be trained to willingly cooperate with procedures such as blood sampling in order to reduce stress.

Should You Do it Yourself or Hire a Pest Control Company?

If you have a rodent problem, you need to decide whether you will do the control measures or hire a pest control company.

Don’t set traps without making proper arrangements for handling rodents that have been caught alive in your traps. For instance, you need to make plans for release if you can’t humanely kill them.

If you can’t take whatever action may be required to deal with your pest problem, it’s better to hire a pest control company. Look for one that can humanely get rid of these animals. You can discuss humane and proper methods with the pest management company.

Make sure that they’re proficient in the strategies they recommend to use. Ask them how humane the selected method is. Don’t forget to discuss advance arrangements for animals that must be humanely dispatched such as those dying due to rodenticides or wounded but alive in a trap.

Ask who will deal with such cases. Will the pest controller take care of it? Don’t forget to ask about the arrangement for rodents discovered “out of hours” in the weekend or evening.