Once mice get into your house – the pantry, attic, dog/cat food, etc. – getting rid of them can become a Herculean task.
But how do you go about preventing mice infestations? That’s what Pest Strategies is here for.
In this article, you'll find:
- What attracts mice to your home
- Why mice seem to be everywhere
- The best ways to keep mice away
- 5 of the best ways to get rid of mice that have found their way into your home
Keep reading to learn all about the different ways to keep mice away from your home, or use the table of contents below to jump to a particular section.
What Attracts Mice in the First Place?
If you leave out anything that has an odor, mice can smell it from blocks away. They’re excellent jumpers and climbers, so if there is only one small hole into your house, you’re not safe from their inquisitive little noses. They’ll find it and get inside.
So, what attracts a house mouse in the first place? Your leftovers. This includes pet food that's left out! Any food source that's left out is really a banquet for these critters. Put everything you can into the fridge, freezer, or store food in air-tight containers.
If they can get to your food sources anyway at all, either by hook or by crook, they’ll pig out (to mangle a metaphor) and their subsequent release of pheromones will signal other mice to come running too.
Why Are Mice Everywhere?
Mice are some of the most successful animals in the world. They can live in all sorts of environmental conditions, temperature variations, and climates, from the fjords of Norway to the equatorial jungles of Africa, on every continent on Earth. They’ve infested ships since ancient times and the pauper’s tent as well as the King’s palace.
Read Also: What are good mouse repellents?
Mice also breed like there’s no tomorrow. They give birth 5-7 pups per litter, who grow quickly. The females are often sexually mature by the time they’re 30 days old.
They can even become pregnant while they’re still nursing a previous litter. These basic facts of biology lead to explosive population growth.
Where Do Mice Come From?
Mice have an extremely keen sense of smell, allowing them to track odors to their source from immense distances. Once they find a food source, they release pheromones which inform other mice of their find, essentially ringing the dinner bell for them.
That’s why there’s no such thing as “one mouse.” Where there’s one, there’s another.
How Much Do Mice Eat?
The population growth can only take place in areas with a plentiful supply of food. They are omnivores, eating both plants and meat, so anything in your garbage can is a four-star meal for them.
It doesn’t take much either, about half a teaspoon of food a day is all they require. They only need about 1/5 of an ounce of water per day and they can get most of that from their food.
5 Ways To Keep Mice Away
Below are the five ways to keep mice away from your home and fix your mouse problem.
You should use the first method as well as with at least 2-3 of the others. It’s what we call a layered defense and it’s the best method we’ve discovered to keep mice from gaining entry into your home.
- Bait Boxes
- Snap Traps
- Essential Oils
Exclusion is exactly what it sounds like, you physically exclude the mice from your home. With a different pest problem, you could typically fill small holes and cracks with caulk, but mice are trickier.
The problem with mice is that their front teeth never stop growing, leading them to constantly gnaw on things. Since mice are able to chew, they always have easy access to your house.
The only way to exclude them from your house is to present them with something they can’t chew through.
Hardware cloth, made of galvanized steel mesh, is the only thing, aside from steel wool, that will be impervious to their constant chewing. You have to be careful though, mice only have one bone in their entire body – their skull. The rest of their so-called bones are actually cartilage.
If they can get their head through a hole, their entire body can squeeze through it too. For practical purposes, any hole big enough for a #2 pencil to fit through, is big enough for a mouse to squeeze through.
For exclusion to work, you have to plug every single hole in the house with steel wool or hardware cloth. They’ve been known to pull steel wool out of their way so be sure you anchor it with a staple gun or something.
Start at the foundation of your house and work your way all the way around it and up the sides to the eaves, then up to the peak of the roof. Don’t skip a single inch. In the attic, you can plug the holes from the inside by stapling or nailing the hardware cloth over the holes.
If your house has a pier-and-beam foundation, you’ll have to wrap it with hardware cloth then sink the bottom edge of the cloth 5-6 inches in the ground to keep them from burrowing under it.
Before you do, crawl under the house and put hardware cloth over every hole and gap you can find. You won’t be able to get all of them (it’s just the nature of the beast under houses) which is why you also need to wrap the foundation with the cloth.
2. Get Rid of Mice With Decoys
Mice are food for a wide range of predators, so installing decoys to scare them away is a good strategy. Predators don’t stay motionless in the same spot for days on end though, which is why most people don’t have good success with them. People put the decoy out then forget about it. The mice soon notice that the decoys don’t move and within a couple of days they realize they’re fake or harmless and proceed to ignore them.
Those people just wasted a bunch of money doing it that way.
The cheapest and easiest decoys to get and use include coyotes, foxes, hawks, and owls. One of each would be ideal, but you should have at least one bird predator decoy and at least one ground predator decoy. Here’s why.
Successful decoy use mandates that you move the decoys every day. Find several different places around your yard where an owl or coyote might hide, then randomly move the decoy from one location to another each day.
You should also alternate different decoys, using an owl decoy one day and coyote or fox decoy the next. This constant movement and alternation will help keep the mice convinced the decoys are real and they’ll head for somewhere safer.
3. Bait Boxes to Get Rid of Mice
Bait boxes are small boxes that have a tunnel-like entrance and exit in them, along with a central cavity to hold the mouse bait. Mice follow the smell of the bait into the box, eat some of the bait, then go off and die. Since the boxes are too small for any other animals (or children) to get into them, they prevent accidental poisoning from taking place.
Mouse baits are anticoagulants, blood thinners. Many people take blood thinners to help with their circulation but in bait form, the concentration is much higher and the mice essentially bleed to death internally. Most pest control agents for insects are harmless to humans and pets, but mouse bait is different.
Baiting is intended to work on mammals and therefore it is dangerous for people. One block of mouse bait has enough blood thinner in it to kill a 50-pound dog or a small child.
If a child or pet manages to get hold of some mouse bait and eat it, call your physician and get them to the hospital right away. Be sure to tell them specifically which active ingredient is in the mouse bait.
Some of the more popular ingredients are:
- Warfarin; an early, 1st generation anticoagulant
Place the boxes along the perimeter of your property, along the fence line is best. You want the mice to find the bait boxes as far out from your house as possible. They’ll be more likely to investigate them and eat the bait out there than when they get up close to your house and smell more enticing odors coming from your garbage or kitchen.
Always wear disposable latex gloves when you’re handling the bait and the boxes, especially if you smoke. As noted earlier, mice have a very acute sense of smell and they’ll be alarmed by the smell of cigarette smoke or human hands. If that happens they’ll ignore the bait boxes.
4. Snap Traps Kill Mice
The old standby, the snap trap, generally has a good track record but if and only if you use them correctly. Too many people don’t.
Mice are very small and can be gentle nibblers, especially if you put a big gob of peanut butter on the mouse trap. It’s distressingly common for them to eat the bait right off the trap without triggering it. When that happens, all you’re doing is feeding the enemy. Don’t.
The correct way to bait the trap is to smear a light coating of peanut butter on the trigger. It will have just as much smell as a big dab of peanut butter but it will require the mice to aggressively lick the trigger to get it. When they do that . . . SNAP! One dead mouse.
Read Also: What are the best snap traps for mice?
Put them under leaning boards or tangles of roots, back in the bushes, or tight areas where other animals, pets, and children can’t reach them. Make sure they are up against the fence, the trunk of a tree, or something similar.
If you find oily patches low to the ground on wood or walls, those are rub marks where they’ve rubbed against it and oil from their fur has left a stain. Put a trap there.
As with the bait boxes, put them along the perimeter of your property and always wear disposable latex gloves with you handle them. Check the traps on a daily basis. If a trap doesn’t catch anything for several days in a row, you’ve probably got it positioned somewhere outside of their normal pathways. Wash it off, re-bait it, and put it in a new location.
5. Using Essential Oils Keep Mice Away
Essential oils such as peppermint oil sometimes work by hurting the sensitive nostrils of the mice. The smell is too sharp for them and they try to avoid it. In this sense, essential oil acts as a repellent. This is a game of percentages though as some mice will brush right on past it and some won’t.
For the best results, spray the oil along areas where mice are prone to make their trails; next to walls, fallen logs, fences, tree trunks, and flower bed borders.
DIY essential oil spray repellent only last for a few days then you have to re-spray. You also have to re-spray after every rain. The good news is, it’s cheap. Put a few drops of oil in a 32-ounce spray bottle of water and shake it up. Then spray to your heart’s content.
Using essential oils is one of the natural methods that can be used. Effectiveness will vary, but this is a great option if looking for more natural and less harmful solution.
Say Goodbye to Mice
Surround the perimeter of your property with decoys, bait boxes, traps, or essential oils, then use hardware cloth on every possible entry point on your house that you can find. Rest assured, you won’t find them all.
They’re just too small. That’s why we recommend a layered approach using several different methods simultaneously. It will give you the best results.
Learn More About Mice
Curious about other mouse-related guides and articles? Take a look at our other guides to help you handle your pest problems.