Birds, squirrels and other woodland creatures make for cute, fuzzy animals (especially in fairy tales). Until they end up in your chimney, that is.

Unless you’ve been hearing unexplainable scampering of little feet or the fluttering of bird wings, the thought of one of those warm little animals in your chimney probably hasn’t crossed your mind. But if you have heard those noises, please don’t ignore them.

Why, you ask?

One word: Parasites.

Parasites are most likely invading your home, traveling on those poor stuck creatures. In other words, there’s a good chance your neat and tidy living space is now crawling with mites, ticks, fleas and other pesky pests that bum rides on the coats and skins of those cute, fuzzy animals.

Pretty gross, right?

And, we haven’t even talked about the fact these same animals can block your chimney and prevent it from venting properly.

Most believe that animals can get out of a chimney once they enter, but the truth is, most birds, squirrels and other animals die in chimneys once they get in because they can’t get back out. Or they might decide it’s a great place to set up shop, building nests and creating other obstructions. .

And the cost of removing animals is much greater than the cost of preventative tactics. So how do you prevent them from getting in?

The answer to that question is easy: Get a chimney cap. A chimney cap with a wire mesh is small enough to keep out smaller critters like bats and birds while still allowing smoke and other combustion products to escape through the top. Chimney caps are one of the best ways to prevent animal blockage because it also keeps debris and water from dropping down the flue.

So the next time your professional chimney sweep comes over for an inspection (which should take place annually), have them install a chimney cap for good measure. Each year, your technician will look at your cap and mesh to make sure it’s still working properly to protect you and your family from animals and those parasites.

Don’t have a chimney sweep? Find one here.