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Animals very commonly live inside the attics of homes and buildings. Thus, they often die inside the attic. If that happens, you're going to end up with a terrible smell inside your house. The interesting thing about a dead animal in an attic is that the odor is actually usually stronger inside the house than in the attic itself. This all comes down to air flow. The attic is usually well-ventilated. But the stench of the dead animal collects and lingers in the house below. The smell is usually strongest in the room below the exact area where the animal died.
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Removing a dead animal from the attic or crawl space is often tricky for three reasons.
First, the particular area of the attic where the animal died might be very hard to access. Not all attics are easy to crawl around in. Some are very tight, and have inaccessible areas. Architecture varies. The animal may have died at the very edge of the attic, or worse, in a cathedral ceiling or some other spot. If it's inaccessible by a skinny human such as me, I sniff out the exact area, and cut a hole in the ceiling, and remove the animal that way.
Second, the animal often dies burrowed under the insulation. That makes it hard! Hard to sniff out, and of course impossible to see. I like to wear a respirator in attics, so that I don't breathe too much fiberglass dust, but when there's a dead animal in the attic, I'm forced to sniff a lot of fiberglass. Now I have a lot of it in my lungs.
Third, attics are well-ventilated, so it's often hard for the odor to accumulate in one area. It's often better to narrow down the attic area while INSIDE the home, where the odor molecules linger. Then I can focus my search on that area of the attic.
If you've put rat poison in your attic, then I guarantee that you have some dead rats or mice in your attic and walls - perhaps several. So I have some work to do.
Once I remove the dead animal(s), I mop up any bodily fluids and maggots, I remove any soiled insulation, and I spray down the area with a special enzyme-based cleaner that destroys biohazard waste. The removal of the dead carcass is 90% of the problem, of course, and if you let the house air out after that, (opening windows helps) the odor will be gone very quickly. If you don't remove the dead animal, the horrible stink will remain in your house until the animal completely decomposes and gets eaten by maggots, and the whole process will take a little more than a week with a small animal like a mouse or rat, and over a month with a big animal like a raccoon or opossum. I do recommend that you have the animal removed. The bad smell will go away within an hour. For more information about dead animal removal from various areas, read the below articles.
Dead Animal Removal
Bad Smell in House
Dead Animal in Wall
Dead Animal in Chimney
Dead Animal in Duct or Vent
My name is David, and I am an expert on dead critter carcass extraction from homes and buildings. If you have a deceased animal in your house, I can remove it. If you don't live near me, click on my home page, and I have listed hundreds of wildlife removal companies who specialize in dead wildlife body removal, odor control, waste removal, and deodorization.
Dead Animal Email Sent to Me: Hi, I hate to bother you, but I read your website about finding dead animals in attics, and wish you were located in my area. My exterminator smelled a dead animal when he went into the attic. I had a professional animal control person in to locate it, but he was unsuccessful. He said it would eventually turn to bone and fur. We do not smell it in the house although, I am not totally convinced of that. I occasionally get a whiff of something. Coincidentally, we have been missing one of our cats for over 2 weeks now. She disappeared the day I had a contractor working in my attic. The cat was able to climb a bunkbed ladder so we suspect it might be her in the crawlspace. Do you have any suggestions on how I might start a search myself? I was planning to go rafter by rafter and use some type of probe to feel around the blown in insulation. I would appreciate anything you might offer. Regards, Liz
My response: Who did you hire? Any professional wildlife expert worth his salt should be able to find the animal. I guarantee that I would! The key is to just sniff, sniff, sniff, and not give up.
Dave - I have a foul smell coming from my ceiling fan in the 2nd floor power room. I went into the attic, pulled apart the 3" flex off the fan and found nothing, no droppings. The smell is still in the air at the center of the powder room. I know its there but can't find the carcass. The home is 8 years old and only one tree reaches the roof line so I am guessing its a squirrel in a wall. Before I start cutting gaping holes in the drywall around the powder room, any tips of words of advice. Any thoughts are much appreciated. Can the smell make the family sick in any way? If I just let it go and deal with the smell, how long will it last. Thank you if you get the time. Dave
My response: The smell won't make you sick, but it will last a long time if you don't remove the dead animal. Don't bother cutting holes in the ceiling or walls until you know exactly where the dead animal is located. To find out, you have to sniff like a dog against all the ceiling areas.