You have your suspicions… maybe you’ve seen some tiny droppings here and there, or heard little rustling noises when you enter the kitchen. Mice! But how can you be sure? Are the mice in your attic? The basement? So, how do you get rid of mice? Fear not. Although a mouse infestation is a challenging situation, it is not an unsolvable one, and you’re already on the right path simply by reading this article.
Check out the signs…
In addition to those tiny droppings—resembling grains of black rice—you might find tooth marks of a similarly tiny size on papers, books, wood, cloth, or wiring insulation. Mice are chewers—finding 1/8”-wide tooth marks on these materials is a sign of their presence. You may find little holes in food bags, too, such as bags of bread or pet food. Or, you may discover a small cache of food bits tucked in one of your canvas bags in a closet. Watch your dog or cat, too. If your pets take excited interest in a wall, closet, or corner of your stove or refrigerator, they are not crazy. They’re onto something… like mice, taking refuge in your home.
Clean up the attractants…
So, how did you end up with these unwelcome houseguests? You’d be surprised how much edible food—for a mouse—is left around in relatively clean homes. Solving the problem is a multi-step process—first, you’ll need to eliminate the attractants. Here are some of the most important places to focus your attention:
- Crumbs! Look under the toaster and in its catch tray. Wipe the counters down thoroughly before bed—marble and patterned countertops hide a lot of crumbs. Clear the table you eat at completely and wipe it down, too.
- Birdseed! It gets spilled in sheds and garages and near back doors, drawing mice close to your home, and then into it, when they find any tiny entryway.
- Dry Pet Food! What? Yes, your pets need to eat what they want before bedtime so you can take up their dishes and wash them out. Leaving them down overnight is an inviting all-night café for mice.
- Any Food Not in Metal or Glass! Ridiculous, you say… what am I supposed to do with my pantry full of packaged foods? Bin it! Obtain some tight-sealing bins from a hardware or container store and organize your dry goods into labeled bins. An added advantage is gaining a tighter grip on what you have, saving you extra trips to the store for unnecessary purchases.
While reorganizing your food, be sure to throw out any food if it is even faintly questionable that mice have gotten into it. This is a mandatory for your health.
Modify the habitat and hiding places…
Now, for the other aspect of attractants—cover and shelter. Start with the outside of your house. Trim back flowers, bushes, or other vegetation so they are at least 18” away from the foundation. Examine the foundation for tiny openings or cracks. Mice can enter a hole as small as a dime—so you must find and make note of holes as small as that for when you move on to doing the exclusion (next section!). Look around utility pipes and wires where they enter your home—often there are mouse-worthy gaps there. Look for holes in deteriorating siding. Try sprinkling baby powder or white flour along the inside perimeters of walls and thresholds. The next morning you may see some tiny tracks, guiding you to the areas of concern.
Close up the entryways…
Having now identified the types, number, and nature of potential entryways the mice are using, you’re ready to head to the hardware store (or to round up your own supplies, if you have these things on hand). You’ll need copper wire mesh for small openings that are not around electrical wiring (consider pan scrubbers as a handy option), along with caulking or expandable foam insulation. Larger openings should be restored with materials matching the original ones or sealed off with heavy wire mesh with openings no larger than ¼”. Attach these materials firmly, as edges can be pried up, creating openings and defeating your otherwise good efforts.
What about live traps and lethal control?
Even though you’ve cleaned up and sealed up (both are essential to any long-term success in getting rid of mice), there are still likely to be some mice present. So, what do you do with them? First, you rule out using poisons and glue boards to get rid of mice. They are exceedingly cruel and there is no way to be certain that children or pets won’t encounter them accidentally, before, during, or after their use in your home.—
Your remaining options are live traps and snap traps. Neither is likely to end well for the mice—obviously not the snap traps—but even the live traps may lead to death for the captured and released mice. But, at least these methods are less inhumane than poisons or glue boards. We suggest trapping and relocating as a last resort option. The bottom line is, once you have had to take such steps to trap mice, be sure to maintain your home’s exterior and the sanitation aspects mentioned, so that you won’t have to resort to such measures in the future.
Some mice may carry diseases like Hantavirus, Salmonellosis, or even bubonic plague, which can pose a risk, however low. These diseases are beyond the scope of this article, and if you have questions or concerns about them, seek the guidance provided on the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.