Skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch skritch
February 26, 2010 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I can hear mice in the walls of my apartment building. Is there anything I can do to make them go away?

I live in a pre-war apartment building in Harlem. Some mice have apparently decided that the wall between my bedroom and the living room is the perfect place to skritch around all night. The sound is driving me bonkers. Is there anything I can do to get them to go away?

The wall I can hear them in has furniture completely along either side of it (bookcases on one side, my bed on the other), but using a flashlight I can see that there are no mouseholes, so laying traps or poison wouldn't help. I have had mice before (in other apartments) so I know what to look for, and they aren't actually in my apartment—just in the walls.
posted by ocherdraco to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Captain Obvious: Call the super/landlord?
posted by jckll at 7:36 AM on February 26, 2010

Can't testify to how well these work or not, but there are wall plugs that emit ultra high frequency pitches (that you can't hear) that apparently drive little rodents crazy.

Other idea: mouse traps. They can't squeak if they're dead.
posted by DrDreidel at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2010

I'm not sure how effective the UHF things are for mice. We have one and we still get the occasional mouse, but our neighbours suffer more than we do, seemingly. In some ways it's better that they're skritching; if one dies, the smell can take a while to go away, particularly if they've been poisoned.
posted by tigrefacile at 8:31 AM on February 26, 2010

We used to have mouse skritching in the walls too - went away when we got a cat. This coincided with the start of a series of occasional mouse corpses on the bedroom floor.

If your lease doesn't allow cats, perhaps ask your landlord for permission to borrow one for a while - or just in general call to tell him/her about the mice and see what he/she says?
posted by altolinguistic at 8:50 AM on February 26, 2010

Hahahaha, I knew exactly what this was going to be about from the "skritch" in the headline (I have squirrels). I know well the sound of claws against plaster and lathe.

Because your walls are going to be real and thick material instead of the post-war paperboard variety, I think the most sustainable and effective solution is going to be to get the landlord/super involved, so that they can stop the mice from getting into the building altogether. They shouldn't have access to however they're getting into the wall space, probably a vent/crawlspace system leading to somewhere on the outside of the building. They'll probably use a combination of bait traps around the perimeter of the building, on the roof, around the gutters, etc, and then serious wire mesh that covers any openings so that air can get in and out but not animals.

I had Rat Patrol come out to my place on Long Island. The guy seriously knew what he was talking about (compared to about twelve other exterminators that I'd interviewed), and the city contracts them for subways, public buildings, etc.

But probably nothing you can do from your end (I've tried: screaming, getting a barking dog, pounding on the wall, blaring the television) will make any difference for more than an hour or a day at the most.
posted by thebazilist at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2010

Well, drat. I was hoping there would be something I could do myself. I'll contact the super, then. Thanks, folks.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:56 AM on February 26, 2010

I use the high frequency things in my house. They are more like flashlights, they only keep the mouse out of their broadcast area, not out of the walls. In fact I swear of the things work at all, they work to keep the mice IN the walls which does not really solve a problem for me.
posted by jessamyn at 8:59 AM on February 26, 2010

I hate to break this to you, but when I had my place rodent-proofed the guy who came out and plugged up all the possible entry points told me that, due to their small size, mice don't actually make enough noise to be heard inside walls. He said, if you are hearing that skritch skritch skritch sound, what you are hearing is either rats or squirrels. The pre-war apartments in NYC that I'm familiar with have walls thick enough for a bomb to go off without the neighbors hearing, so yeah I'd say you might seriously consider the possibility that you are hearing rats not mice.

Silver lining: a super might be inclined to pursue rats with more vigor. Most of the supers from the apartments I lived in when living in New York would have just shrugged off mice without bothering to do anything.
posted by ambrosia at 9:36 AM on February 26, 2010

Hmmm. I know there have been mice in the building, in other apartments; do rats and mice ever coexist in the same space?

I'd much rather they were squirrels than rats, but they don't sound like squirrels to me.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2010

I had a similar skritchy problem in the Boston area - there was a special mouse hangout in the wall of my bedroom (I'm pretty sure they were mice, one got in my bedroom, and they'd sneak into the kitchen from behind the oven) - my solution was a little destructive. I bored a hole in the wall near the offending area and used an eyedropper to drip in a few drops of ammonia. This would keep them away for at least a few months at a time. (also dropped a soaked cotton ball behind the stove and that helped too - no more droppings on the stovetops!)
posted by cindywho at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2010

Well, if you ever suspect they are making forays into the kitchen, you can make a practically free no kill trap. (Actually, it's kill optional, if you want them dead, you just have to do it yourself.)

This trap works very well on a high shelf, or on top of the fridge.

Get a bucket, like the kind you find with the mopping gear in stores. Just make it tall enough that the mouse can't hop out. Put a tasty treat in the bottom of the bucket. Peanut butter smeared on a cracker works really well. Also, some mice like black walnuts. Don't buy anything special for your mouse trap.

Finally, build a staircase to the bucket so that the mouse can climb up, hop into the bucket and enjoy his treat. I build these by stacking empty cardboard boxes of varying sizes against the side of the bucket.

Go to sleep. Do not get up 16 times in the night to rattle the bucket and peek into it, you will scare away any smart mice, and then you will only catch the really dumb ones. In the morning, you might have a mouse in a bucket. Leave the trap out for as long as you suspect you have a mouse problem.

It helps if the treat isn't so far down that the mouse looks down from the ladder and thinks in his little mousy head, "maybe it's not worth falling that far for a little nibble of cracker...." For this reason, I do not suggest a 5 gallon bucket. Again, you want to get all the mice over time, not just the dumb ones.
posted by bilabial at 10:20 AM on February 26, 2010

Yes, rats and mice can live in the same space.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:25 AM on February 26, 2010

Mothballs. They actually do what the high-frequency sound devices claim to but don't. Mice, squirrels, raccoons, whatever--they really really don't like mothballs. Works best in an entire attic where you can toss them around like grass seed and pour 'em down the walls from the open top, but they can be introduced into the walls through holes in the wallboard or plaster that are just a tad bigger than a mothball. Note where you hear skritchy-skritchy, drill hole, feed in some mothballs, plug hole with plaster crack-repair compound, paint over it.

Possible problem: you can't see where the mothballs are going after you feed them into the wall. It's always possible that the critter highway is on a ledge or pipe or something and the mothballs just bounce over this and stop only at the first real obstruction ten feet below. (You may, in short, be helping your downstairs neighbors with their skritchy-skritchy problem.)

Mothballs evaporate over time (obviously, that's where the stink comes from.) Great grandma replaced the mothballs in her woolens storage every year. So you may have to drill and plug more holes next year.

Risk: drilling into something in the wall that shouldn't be drilled into (e.g. wiring.)

posted by jfuller at 11:58 AM on February 26, 2010

This happened to David Mitchell, and he offers some ideas here.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:23 PM on February 26, 2010

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