Sometimes rats and mice can discover paradise near humans. Container gardens, especially those with birdfeeders, can invite these little rodents. Our job as balcony container gardeners is to be stewards to nature, so natural remedies for ridding ourselves of unwanted creatures are always better than traps and poisons. Here are some hints that you may have a rat neighbor and some ways to drive that neighbor away.
Cats. If you have a pet cat, your first sign may be that your cat is fascinated something in the balcony garden. If there is a window there, your cat will be staring out of it at nighttime. Your cat has better hearing than you and can hear a rat scurry across the balcony garden's floor, but you might be able to hear it too. Rats are nocturnal but can be up during the day, so you may be able to hear rustling outside or see something gray scurry across the garden floor.
Dug-up containers. Rats will dig in your plant containers looking for food. Rats can be your friend if you have a snail problem. One sign of rats in the balcony garden is empty snail shells laying around. The rats will dig up snails and eat them for you. Unfortunately, though, this means that your plants may get damaged from the digging, and you will find potting soil on the balcony floor.
Missing birdseed. If you keep containers of birdseed outside, make sure that they are closed tightly and will not attract rats. Remember that rodents have powerful teeth and can easily chew through plastic containers.
Rats can multiply quickly and become a problem, and they are carriers of disease. If you’re working in your balcony garden and they become scared, there is a possibility they can bite you. Pet cats should not be allowed to catch rats because they could carry disease that can be transmitted to your pet. The best thing to do is eliminate anything on the balcony garden that rats may find attractive. Keep the garden floor swept and clear. Fallen uneaten seed for wild birds can attract rats. Make sure you have no area that the rats may call home. A birdhouse that’s not in use makes an excellent home, and rats will pack the space with twigs and other comfortable "bedding." Be careful with anything that they could possibly be using as a home, and make sure there are no animals inside before you pick it up.
If you keep your balcony garden clear and take good care of your container garden, rats should not be a problem. Just make sure to keep up on your container garden chores and keep an eye on your garden. You don’t want to be surprised one day with a rat friend living in your balcony garden!