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How to Detect, Prevent, and Remove Mice from Your Home

Mice might be wild creatures, but they’re happy to take up residence in a home, especially if it offers easy access to food and shelter. They can appear any time of the year. However, autumn's cooler temperatures are especially likely to send them scurrying for warmer accommodations.

Whether the sight of a mouse makes you shriek or smile, please don’t make the mistake of ignoring them because mice are known to spread diseases and cause significant property damage. So how can you tell if there’s a mouse in the house, and what should you do about it?

Common Signs of Mice

Mice are shy and stealthy, but there are numerous ways to see, hear, and smell their presence.

Droppings - Mouse feces are small, black pellets that resemble tiny grains of rice. Before removing them, apply a disinfecting solution and put on protective gloves. Then, pick up the droppings with paper towels and dispose of them in sealed plastic bags.

Never use a vacuum to remove mouse feces since this could release harmful bacteria and viruses into your home.

Shredded materials - Mice will tear holes in paper, fabric, plastic, and other items and use these shredded materials to build nests, typically hidden in dark spots out of view. Check behind refrigerators, inside storage boxes, under furniture, and other hidden spaces.

Teeth marks - Mice chew on hard materials like wood, plastic, and cables to keep their teeth sharp. Since they can easily chew through the protective coating on wires, they can damage your electrical system or even cause a fire.

Bad odor - Mice leave droplets of urine as they travel, which accumulates over time and can cause a distinctly foul, musky scent.

Scampering sounds - Mice tend to be most active at night, so this is when you’re most likely to hear them moving behind walls, in the ceiling, or under the floors.

Prevention is the Best Strategy

When the temperatures drop, mice naturally search for warmer spots to survive winter weather. However, you can take several steps to reduce the odds that mice will appear in your home.

Boost your physical barriers - Mice are adept at squeezing through cracks as small as a quarter inch. So inspect your home’s perimeter for potential access points and plug them with an appropriate material, such as caulk, quick-drying cement, expanding foam, or balled-up steel wool.

Also, don’t leave windows and doors open unless your screens are snug and free of holes.

Eliminate food sources - Since mice will eat dry grains, nuts, cereals, pasta, and pet food, storing these and other tempting items in tightly-sealed containers is essential. Likewise, a trashcan with a snug-fitting lid will prevent mice from getting into your garbage and eating food scraps.

If you have pets, get them into a regular eating routine, so bowls of food aren’t left sitting out, especially overnight.

Remove mice-tempting clutter - There are many excellent reasons to declutter your home, including mouse prevention. For example, do you have any bags of old clothes shoved into an attic? How about an upholstered chair collecting dust in a basement storage area? Or, what about boxes of old magazines in the garage?

All these locations, and many others, are ideal spots for nest-building mice.

How to Remove Mice

For severe mouse infestations, consider hiring a professional remediation service equipped to address the problem quickly and safely. That way, you’ll significantly reduce your risk of exposure to hantavirus or other mouse-born diseases.

However, if you detect signs of mice early, there are various ways to remove them on your own.

Spring-loaded traps - Traditional wood-and-metal mouse traps are inexpensive and “instantly” effective, making them more humane than controversial glue trays. But snap traps do require steady hands. Some newer plastic models are easier to set, and removing a mouse from the trap without touching it is simple.

Electronic traps - These traps deliver a high-voltage shock that kills mice instantly, making them another relatively humane option. However, they are the most expensive alternative, and you still need to bait the traps and remove any mice.

Live traps - Reusable live traps will catch mice without killing them, so that you can relocate them outside your home. While this might seem the most humane option, remember that an “indoor” mouse may struggle if released into cold weather.

Baits and poisons - Refillable bait stations can attract multiple mice, typically killing them within two days of eating the toxic bait. In addition to a slower death, you probably won’t be able to find your victims. Also, the bait can harm children and pets, including cats who eat poisoned mice.

With any mouse removal plan, be sure to consider young children, pets, and other wildlife so unintended victims aren’t accidentally trapped, poisoned, or harmed.