In my adult life, I’ve been lucky enough to have dealt with mice only twice. The first time, I learned that mice can, in fact, fly. I turned on my kitchen light and watched in horror as a mouse squeezed through the bars on my bird’s cage and launched himself across the room. The second time, a mouse family decided to move into our house as we were moving out.
Here’s the deal, unless you’re incredibly lucky (see my first mouse story) one mouse is never just one mouse. A female mouse can have a litter of 3-14 baby mice, about 10 times a year!
When dealing with a mouse infestation, you’re going to need to formulate a plan, act quickly and prepare to avoid future infestations. And no, burning your house down to collect the insurance isn’t a plan. I will share how to deal with a mouse infestation and soon enough, your home will be mouse free!
Find Out How They’re Getting In
First things first, confirm you actually have a mouse problem and if possible, the scale. Chew holes, mouse dropping and scattered food are all good signs you’ve had a four-pawed visitor.
Next, look for signs of entry. This may be tiny gaps and spaces in your home for wiring and plumbing. You may find small chew holes in walls or fabrics.
No matter where you find they’re getting in, you’re likely to encounter a blackish oily residue around the area. You might think this is just dirt or mud, but it’s actually a residue from the mice themselves. This residue will stick around and let other mice know where to get in. Clean these areas thoroughly with soap, water and a disinfectant.
Once you’ve found how they are getting in, you need to patch, repair, or block that access point.
Pro Tip: don’t use spray foam fillers, this makes the perfect cozy bedding and nest, ensuring the critters will return.
Figure Out How You’ll Get Them Out
Now that you know how they’re getting in, figure out how you’ll get them out. While there are lots of options, essentially, it boils down to two methods: kill or no-kill.
The choice comes down to your personal beliefs and the scale of your issue. A few mice may feel like an infestation but may be easily live-trapped while a true infestation will require more drastic measures.
Lights Out Mice
This would be your classic snap trap in all its disguises (quick-kill, no-show, etc.), electric traps and glue traps. The latter is considered to be unnecessarily inhumane and not recommended, even by those using the kill method.
These traps can be highly effective when used appropriately. This means baiting them correctly and placing them correctly. Traps should be set at night, within range of their suspected nest and within their scavenging path.
Placing traps where you’ve found mouse activity is always the best place to start. You’ll also want to set many traps. Exactly how may will depend on the scale of your infestation.
Issues with these traps include incomplete extermination, which is most people’s worst nightmare. You may also fail to trap one at all if you choose a bait that doesn’t tickle the little critters' fancy. When you’re successful, quick disposal is important. A delay in clean-up can lead to the spread of disease.
You might also be interested in: How to Get Rid of Mold [And Identify it]
Catch and Release/Repel
If you can’t stomach the thought of killing these tiny, uninvited guests, humane traps or repellants might be your best option. Essentially, you trap the intruder (or intruders) and take them to a place you deem more suitable or use a product, usually safe for kids and pets, that will repel them from an area.
Humane traps allow you to deal with your mouse problem without having to kill anything. In the case of repellant products, they can actually keep you from even having a problem, and there are lots of DIY options using ingredients like peppermint oil and camphor.
There are some issues with the catch and release model.
Most importantly being that it might not be effective for your problem. This is a hard solution to scale for a true infestation. Second, it might not actually be that humane. You’re moving the mouse to an unfamiliar location without a nest, bedding material, food or water source.
I would like to think the forest creatures would take the city mouse into the fold and everyone would sing songs about togetherness, but this may not be the case.
Can’t I just get a cat?
The short answer is no; you can’t JUST get a cat.
Unless deprived of a primary food source, most house cats are not interested in hunting on the scale it would require to eliminate an infestation. Cats are, however, excellent deterrents, as mice won’t find your home as tempting or safe with a cat on the scene.
You’re Going to Need Bait
Traps need bait. And in the case of mice, the bait may surprise you.
Like most people, your first thought might be cheese, but you’d be wrong. You should be thinking: peanut butter, mice like high protein snacks. They go bananas for the smell and its sticky texture means they can’t take it and run. Peanut butter also works great to lure mice into humane traps.
Other great options include:
- Hazelnut spread
- Bedding materials
Be sure to only use a small amount of bait. Overloading the trap can cause malfunction and the bait to be swiped.
No matter which method you choose, make sure traps are not within reach of other animals or children, especially if you chose to use poison or other baits that may be tempting.
There are plenty of mouse and rat poisons on the market. These need to be handled using extreme caution due to the risk of exposure to children, wildlife and pets. Using a professional exterminator is recommended when poison is your chosen method.
If using a kill-style trap method, disposal is critical. The CDC recommends wearing rubber, latex or vinyl gloves and cleaning the surrounding area with a disinfectant.
Cleaning rodent-infested areas post infestation is vital. Literally everything the mice touched has to be disinfected. Wear a mask and when possible, soak areas before cleaning so as not to inhale any dust particles containing mouse urine or droppings. Ventilate areas for at least 30 minutes prior to beginning your cleaning. The CDC has extensive resources on cleaning after an infestation and is a great resource.
If you still see signs of mice after repeated attempts at trapping or whenever there are signs that mice have entered heating/cooling systems, it’s time to call a professional.
Life After Infestation
This is not an exercise you are going to want to repeat so now is the time to consider how to keep this from happening again:
- Make sure small holes and entry points are patched
- Keep food in sealed containers - including pet food
- Clean the residue of past infestations
- Keep large animal feed stored securely
- Keep compost bins at least 100 feet away from your home
- Consider no longer using bird feeders
- Keep nesting materials like hay at least a foot off the ground
No matter how you choose to deal with your mouse infestation, you need to act quickly.
Make sure you clean as you go and wear gloves. There is no Pied Piper to lure away your mice with a magic flute; this one is up to you.
My birdseed eating mouse was dispatched the next night via a no-show snap trap. My mouse family was left per our property manager’s instructions. I choose to think they were all humanly removed, happily living with the singing forest creatures, but I guess we’ll never know.