Ah, the humble mouse is an interesting creature. I find it so interesting that such a small creature can insight such a variety of reactions from any human it encounters. Reactions vary from jumping on the closest chair screaming to the adoption of a new pet ideology. Personally, I had not had much to do with mice, until that fateful evening when I came face to face with my soon to be a nemesis, Charlie the mouse, and yes, there was screaming involved!
Once I had met Charlie, I became curious about this creature and found out some interesting facts. These tiny creatures have been written about throughout history and in various lights. The ancient Egyptians feared then as the creature of doom, and ruins have been found with stones covering up potential mouse entry points in the walls. Indonesian mythology saw them as protectors of rice crops and even today you will find Indonesian farmers feeding the mice.
Roman history denotes the mouse as brave and mighty, as seen in the fable ‘The Lion and The Mouse’ where the mouse saves the lion.
They are the second most successful mammal on the planet (after humans) largely due to being highly efficient breeders. A female mouse lives for about a year, in which she can breed up to about 12 times due to the gestation period being only 21 days. The litters range from 3 to 14 pups, making each female a breeding machine.
I decided a combination of research and expert advice was needed to conquer this problem. After asking around for local knowledge, I discovered many friends and neighbors had their own unique method of ridding the rodents, including my neighbor, John, who says the mice don’t dare come near his house anymore as word has spread amongst the mouse community of his efficiency in ridding rodents.
I spoke to several heavy hitters within the industry and asked them an array of poignant questions to nip this potentially dangerous plague in the bud. The professional advice from Steve at Total Exterminating Services and Troy from Viking Pest Control was paramount in my efforts and a valuable professional point of view.
Table of Contents
How do you know if you have mice?
After that first meeting, I began to see the signs everywhere. Little gnaw marks started to appear on wooden surfaces, some furniture even had chomp marks. Several cardboard cereal boxes in the pantry had tiny holes, and there were a few droppings scattered around each morning.
My children started complaining about being disrupted in the night by strange noises in the walls and roof. However, the most prolific sign was the smell. We don’t have any pets, but there was a constant urine smell present in the house.
It was official, Charlie had seen me as an easy target and moved his family into our house.
Why are they a problem?
Apart from the chewing of some of my wooden furniture, I was curious as to the threat Charlie’s family posed on my family. Was it necessary to eradicate them or was it possible to live in harmony, as one big mammalian family?
It didn’t take me long to decide Charlie and his cohort had to go, this little guy is not the nicest house guest. Mice are predominantly omnivores, however, their preference is plant matter. They are certainly survivors and will eat literally anything if they are at risk of starvation. When I read that part of their diet was eating their own feces, coupled with the number of diseases they carry, the thought of them gnawing into my cereal boxes made me ill.
Further research sealed Charlie’s fate upon finding out how much destruction a mouse can inflict upon your house. Gnawing through wires, insulation, wood, cloth, and even books. They could cause fires, destroy stored items in the attic or even make a nest in the upholstery of my antique armchair.
Operation extraction of Charlie had officially begun, this was war.
DIY Methods To Get Rid Of Mice
There are copious amounts of tips and tricks that have been handed down through the generations to help eradicate or move a mouse family along. Some natural using things you would find around the house, some quite technological. From chemicals to humane or gruesome techniques, some have been proven and others are a little farfetched. Below are tools, tips, and techniques I researched through my plight in the war against Charlie.
Dare I say it, but I thought a cat would be the most effective tool in the fight against mice. The truth is a little grayer as it depends on the cat and how enthusiastic they are towards a mouse midnight snack. All my cats in the past have been far too satisfied cuddling up on the bed to be a mouse killing machine. However, with the right cat, they can be an effective tool.
Cleaning the house, and I mean disinfecting the kitchen and any other areas you think they scurry, should be your first course of action once you find out you have a mouse problem. Mice are territorial creatures and have no bladder control, therefore urinate all over their (your) turf to discourage other mice families from intruding.
Removing the potentially disease-carrying urine and replacing it with the smell of peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, pepper or cloves (which are smells the mice detest) can work for short periods of time according to Steve from Total Exterminating Services. By soaking cotton wool in one of these scents and placing it in a confined high traffic mouse zone, like under the kitchen sink, can help start your mice packing their bags.
An obvious method but often missed is the removal of their food source. As mice need to eat 10 to 12 times a day, removing the food will send them to find new food, in another house. Mice can chew through wood, cardboard, and paper and then use these products to create their nest. They can even infiltrate thin plastic, so you need to contain your food in hard plastic or metal boxes to prevent the mice from snacking.
I threw out all my existing cereals which were laden with mouse saliva remnants and bought lockable plastic tubs to place all grain-based food inside. It was a little annoying but worked a treat. The same action should be taken for any pet food lying around the house or garage.
Locating and sealing any entrance points is your next step in defeating this little critter. However, as they can maneuver through the tiniest of spaces this is no easy feat. Mice can fit through a gap the size of a dime and contort themselves almost flat. This makes any house infiltration quite a simple task. Installing under door strips can help block your doorways. Self-adhesive strips are an easy solution such as the 3M Adhesive Door Sweep.
Once the doorways are sealed, you need to focus on any small gaps found in walls or under sinks. John, the self-proclaimed ‘Mayor of Mousetown’, advised he owes his renowned DIY mouse extraction skills to one main tip. He blocks any entry point with steel wool. The wool expands to fill the gap and the mice can not eat their way through the steel.
Another natural tactic that I tried was ammonia. I placed old bottle caps filled with ammonia at suspected entry points. The theory behind this technique is to emulate the smell of cat urine. There were several recommendations among my research to place cat litter trays at the entrance points, like giant billboards announcing ‘cats live here, enter at your own risk’!
As I didn’t have a cat, I opted for the ammonia option. This worked for a short period, however, Charlie called my bluff quite quickly. This option may work in confined spaces, short term. Be warned, this method requires diligence to avoid children or pets accessing the ammonia. Place the bottle caps well clear of areas easily accessed by your loved ones.
My fight continued and my next course of action was to head outside in an attempt to block the house. By removing shrubs and bushes that the mice use as a gangplank into your house you can discourage access. Mice are amazing climbers and can jump one foot, so make sure to cut those bushes down enough to make a difference.
By removing debris and leaves piled up in your yard, you not only look super tidy but you’re also eliminating the material mice used to create their nests. Wood piles, cardboard, newspaper, and leaves are precious commodities in the mouse world and Troy from Viking Pest Control recommends you remove them from around your house to discourage these guys. Similarly, bird feeders attract rodents as they are an easy food source, especially during winter. This leads mice near your house with a bird feeder can lead to them exploring further once the bird food has been consumed.
One of the easiest methods of removing mice is the installation of an ultrasonic pest repeller. The theory behind these plug-in devices is through omitting a sound greater than 20,000Hz, the adverse effect on the mice translates to them leaving on their own accord. No traps, no poison, they just leave. Sounds promising if you pardon my pun, but does it work? This is a hot topic among the pest control gurus at the moment and there are many opinions.
Steve from Total Exterminating Services is of the opinion that these devices can work if operated correctly. He advised me that the device should be used for periods of a week at a time and placed close to the entry point. The mice tend to get used to the sound, rendering it ineffective. Steve recommends alternating the device, turning it on for a week then off for a week and so on. When purchasing an ultrasonic device, ensure you check the product reviews. I used the T3-R Triple High Impact Mice, Rat, Rodent Repeller which had great reviews and was good value for money.
A rodent strobe light repellent is another humane deterrent for mice. It sounds like you are setting the stage for a mouse rave, however, by placing the lights in the problem room the mice are deterred and will either move out of your house or to another room. There are a few issues with this method, one being it is very annoying having strobe lighting on in your house all night, not to mention the electric bill.
When you have tried all the above preventative techniques and the mice have resisted your gentle push, it’s time to bring in phase two, the trap. My war with Charlie was ramping up at this stage and things were about to get serious, enough Mr. Niceguy, Charlie had to go. When laying traps, the placement is vital to their success. Mice have pore eyesight and tend to scurry along walls and shelves, so you need to place the traps in these positions.
Humane traps are a nice idea as you don’t kill the mouse, just trap and relocate. The traps are generally larger and less discrete than other traps which may make them difficult to position. Bait is added inside the trap and once the mouse walks into the cage, a sensor triggers the door to close, trapping the animal inside. Releasing the mouse is another issue as you will need to take it over a mile away to avoid its return.
Another trap alternative is the sticky trap. They are very easy to set as the mouse runs across the cardboard and is glued to the surface, unable to escape. Personally, the thought of waking to a frantic mouse desperately trying to gnaw off its own feet to escape makes me ill, however, these single-use traps are popular and easily accessible.
The most well-known mouse trap is the snap trap due to it being cheap, easy to set and effective. Within this group there are different styles, however, the general premise is the mouse eats the bait and the devise snaps closed around it, generally killing it instantly. The trick with these traps is to use enticing bait which is changed regularly. Suggestions from the experts include the traditional cheese, peanut butter or chocolate syrup. They are economical as the trap can be used multiple times and effectively depletes a population.
A more expensive trap is the electric trap. The trap lures the mouse inside then gives it a fatal shock, killing it quickly. The unit is larger than others, runs from batteries and is quite safe for pets and children. There is a light that indicates if there is a mouse caught.
Commercial Methods to Get Rid of Mice
My war against Charlie and his family subsided slightly through my use of the above methods, however, after a few weeks of trapping mice, I decided to call in the experts. Tim from Terminix recommends trying the DIY techniques first and if they don’t work, then call in the exterminators.
Professionals can have a greater impact on a mouse population due to their experience and access to stronger products. Like the DIY traps, exterminators also use traps, however, they can use a higher potency of bait which has a more profound effect. They also utilize their experience in setting traps in strategic positions and can give you advice on how to keep the mice away once eradicated.
Poisoning mice sounded a little daunting to me when first proposed as a solution. Called rodenticide, this method is the most effective of all eradication techniques. The mice are poisoned and crawl off to die, there is no smell in 99% of cases, and it can kill multiple mice simultaneously. Great care needs to be taken when using rodenticides as not to poison pets or children, and we recommend this technique only be implemented by a skills professional.
Charlie proved to be a worthy adversary. However, in this battle, humans remained victorious, and I won my house back.