To catch a mouse...
November 30, 2013 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Give me all your best tips for catching mice and making traps more effective. Creative ideas welcome, I just want these little bastards dead!

So we have mice. A lot of mice.

Background: I rent an old duplex that has been converted into a townhouse (so the apartments are now side by side, with an upstairs and downstairs each, instead of one apartment on the first floor, and one on the second.) We moved here this summer, our neighbors moved out in October. And it seems their mice moved in with us. This is a 100 year old house, with lots of ways for them to get in. I know we're going to need an exterminator. Am I right in thinking this is something the landlord should cover? She is notoriously slow about getting things done though, so I need some tips on trying to control these mice in the mean time.

What I've been doing: First, I cleaned out the cupboard where they seemed to be concentrated, but that seems to have been a mistake. Since I took away their food source, they've spread around the whole house, and we've started seeing them much more. We're tight on cash, but I bought a couple of glue traps, which I remember being effective when I was a kid and our cats brought mice into the house (yes. Backwards ass cats.) But these traps are not very sticky, and the mice have managed to get the bait (tried popcorn and peanut butter) without getting stuck. We also laid out a half dozen snap traps in areas we've seen them. But we've only caught one mouse. They are expert at getting the bait without springing the trap. We're using peanut butter, and I'm finding the traps licked clean and still set.

What can I do? Are there ways to make the traps more sensitive, places or ways to set them up? Any way I can utilize those glue traps or repurpose them? Household items I can use to catch mice? These things are driving me crazy. I hear them chewing and banging around at all hours. They are unbelievably loud for tiny little mice. They are in the walls and cupboards. To make things worse, we moved from a much larger house, so we have a lot of stuff around with nowhere else to put it, and still have some packed boxes from moving, so there are lots of places for them to hide. I'm trying to declutter as much as possible, and the kitchen is pretty clean and free of food for them.

Also, I am trying to avoid using poison because 1) I have a dog, and 2) I know what rotting mouse smells like, and I really don't want them crawling off into the walls and my things to die. I've heard about electrical zapper traps, and others, but they sound expensive, and I wonder how well they really work. I you have anything to recommend that is really effective, I'd like to hear.

So please, give me all your tips and tricks, and ingenious ideas to kill and/or trap mice effectively and cheaply! Thanks!
posted by catatethebird to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Make sure you are just doing a small smear of peanut butter not a big glob. I did a glob and had the same problem . . . they'd just be licked clean. But as soon as I started just doing a small dab and smear . . . DEAD.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:57 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

You want the traditional snap traps. Seems like the brand with the cheese-shaped plastic trigger (Victor) works MUCH better than the others. If you're really hard up you can reuse them, I guess, though I always toss the whole thing. They really haven't built a better mousetrap. Just put them where your dog can't get to them (behind furniture and stuff) but where they have room to catch. You have to practice to get them set up on a hair trigger. A little bit of peanut butter makes good bait. Make sure there's no other food they can pilfer instead. No crumbs, no dog food residue. The snap traps are cheap, so buy a lot. Nothing works better.
posted by rikschell at 7:01 PM on November 30, 2013

Also, the glue traps will often leave the mice alive for quite some time. Snap traps kill them dead.
posted by rikschell at 7:02 PM on November 30, 2013

This trap has worked great for me, for years. It is like a mouse hotel. They go in but can't get out.
posted by nogero at 7:02 PM on November 30, 2013

I had my first mouse last month and this trap did the trick in one night. I put peanut butter and some poison inside and tossed the trap the next morning, although I did have to use a flashlight to confirm it was in there. (Forgive me, I'm really squeamish!) The poison will stay in the trap as there is a lever inside that prevents the mouse from getting out once it is inside.

If you're less squeamish than me, you can reuse the trap. I liked that the dead mouse would be hidden and couldn't get out once it went up the ramp in search of peanut butter.
posted by icaicaer at 7:03 PM on November 30, 2013

Cats are really good at catching and deterring mice, if your dog will be amenable.
posted by bleep at 7:07 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have had great success with a Tin Cat. Unbaited, even. Set it along the baseboard like it tells you to in the instructions -- that part seems to be critical. It's a bit more of an initial outlay than the snap things but it's a much better investment.

I have mouse-appealing food permanently stored in plastic bins -- you might have to get used to that sort of dodge, as throwing out granola and cleaning up nibbled stuff gets old fast.

Your landlord's responsibility depends heavily on where in the world you live. (Here, it would be a landlord problem.)

Can you borrow a cat for a bit?
posted by kmennie at 7:09 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

They run along walls, so set up the traps against the wall. You want them perpendicular - so that the trigger/bait is against the wall. That way the mouse will run right over the trigger and blammo. The snap traps really do work best but nothing will work unless you find where they're getting in and plug up the holes with steel wool. Search the kitchen - they like kitchens - and plug up Every. Hole. You. See. That includes holes around drain pipes, like under the sink and gas pipes, like under the stove. If they get into the oven you'll have to replace it - they get into the insulation and pee and shit on it which totally destroys the oven; you will not believe the smell when you turn it on, bog of eternal stench is nothing on it - so move the range and plug any holes under it right away, as well as putting some traps there. Mice LOVE stoves. Once the holes are plugged you have a sort of more finite number of mice to deal with and the traps can really start to do their work.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:09 PM on November 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh and as for the landlord thing? Yeah, mine tossed a packet of snap traps into my mailbox and told me good luck. That was North Carolina; depending on where you live you may or may not have a better response.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:11 PM on November 30, 2013

Eponysterical solution's not working?

Seriously, though, do you have a cat?
posted by mahorn at 7:58 PM on November 30, 2013

Response by poster: I had cats but they went to live with my mom when I moved. I'm thinking about borrowing them back, never had mice at the old place. But I think the problem has gone beyond what a cat can do.

And I am just having no luck with the snap traps. Is there a trick to setting them to trigger easier?
posted by catatethebird at 8:06 PM on November 30, 2013


Once you have an infestation of this size, trapping/killing ALL of the mice is virtually impossible, due to their insanely fast breeding cycles. BUT, the good news is that there are these amazing supersonic rodent-be-gone devices - available at Home Depot, Lowe's, etc - for something like $15-20 for a set of two. They emit a high pitched sound (does not bother dogs/cats) that rodents find totally intolerable, which causes them to vacate the premises, usually within a few days to a week tops. You just plug this thing into an outlet and the nightmare is over!!

These devices have worked VERY well for me in several mouse infestations, when trapping/killing had failed miserably. Depending on the size of your house, it sounds like you might need one upstairs and one downstairs in each apartment. So they are a bit of an investment initially (compared to most traps) - but they are far cheaper in the long run since they are a permanent solution! And you never again have to deal with replacing/resetting traps, dealing with dead (or undead) rodents, etc.
posted by paigette at 8:09 PM on November 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've had really good luck with the Ortho Press n' Set traps. And as the name suggests, setting them is much easier than the cheaper snap traps.
posted by neroli at 8:41 PM on November 30, 2013

Put the peanut butter under the trap pan (trigger) or use bacon and hook it good so they have to tug at it.
I've had some luck with the bucket trap.
posted by 445supermag at 9:10 PM on November 30, 2013

Mice have poor vision and navigate more by feel and smell, that's why you need the traps along walls (they feel the wall and walk along it, feeling safe there). Even better is placing them in corners where 2 walls converge...that's where rodents like to hang out. More traps is def better and based on what you are describing, 20 - 30 is a reasonable number to use.

Small amounts of peanut butter are generally a good bait. On a snap-trap, a very small amount (2 pencil-eraser's worth) is plenty and is still lightweight enough to prevent false triggers.

Lastly, if you can manage it, reuse traps after catches as the first victim will leave a mouse-detectable aroma that will help attract the next customer.

(The Tin Cat referenced above is a good solution as it can trap multiples without "tripping." But, it will take several units spread around and can be cost prohibitive.)
posted by Exchequer at 9:32 PM on November 30, 2013

If you use glue traps check regularly and kill the mice. Although really, any no kill trap gets the same advice.

I used a 5 gallon paint bucket. Smashed it to bits. The bucket wasn't harmed.

As for entrance holes, those suckers can squeeze into an open Coke can.
posted by theichibun at 9:40 PM on November 30, 2013

You don't want those mice dead. You want them gone.

Peppermint soaked cotton balls keep them away. They hate that shit.
posted by notyou at 10:13 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am here to sing the praises of the electronic zapper thing. Kills the buggers dead, quickly. No blood, no poison, no mess. A little light tells you when there's something inside, you just pick up the whole thing and tip it out, you don't even have to look if you don't want to. Yes you have to plug up all the little holes to keep new ones from moving in.

For baiting the snap traps, I've seen suggestions to tie the bait inside a little bit of pantyhose, and tie that to the trap- the mouse will often get a tooth caught in the nylon, and trip the snap by pulling on it.

Good luck.
posted by ambrosia at 11:13 PM on November 30, 2013

Also: if they are making that much noise, it's more likely rats. Sorry.
posted by ambrosia at 11:14 PM on November 30, 2013

When I was a kid, my dad used ordinary spring traps, attaching hazelnuts on the little pointy thingy where (in Tom and Jerry) the cheese goes. That worked fine (from my dad's perspective). They have to work a little harder to get the nuts off, and wham.

The other way, obviously, is to fine-tune the trap, polishing and/or greasing the trigger mechanism so it goes off at the faintest touch, but not just by itself or when a bus passes by on the road.

Another trick that would have helped us with some smelly aftermaths on our attic would be to fix the trap to the floor with double-sided sticky tape or something similar. A sideways-hit mouse, stuck in the trap, might otherwise pull the trap into some dark corner to die (the mouse). Which happened to our mice rather disturbingly often. Not nice (for anyone involved).
posted by Namlit at 5:02 AM on December 1, 2013

I buy a dozen or so, put a small smear of peanut butter on the edge of the trigger metal (where it's most sensitive to force), and put them everywhere along the baseboards, under counter edges; outside and inside pantry closets.

Then I check all of them at least once a day.

If one works, I soak it in bleach water, and then rinse it in hot water, before rebaiting - mouse blood can't be a good smell to mice!
posted by IAmBroom at 4:15 PM on December 1, 2013

I got two mice once (no more than that, thank goodness) when the downstairs neighbors, who had a cat, moved away. I had never had mice before and was torn between guilt at plotting their doom and desire to have them GONE. I found these: PIC plastic mouse trap at the grocery store and they worked really well. The design is really easy to set up and has a sort of safety so you don't accidentally set it off while baiting or laying it. The plastic is sturdy and they're easy to empty and reuse (it's set up so that once it's been actuated, it's sort of like a clothespin and you can just squeeze the snap arm and let the mouse drop into the trash; you don't have to touch it).

I had to go away on a trip for a few days in between discovering the mice and having time to shop for anything and tried to rig up one of the bucket traps described here but didn't catch anything. It seemed more humane to dispatch them quickly rather than let them drown or slowly die with a glue trap. The snap seems quite strong (I usually heard a loud snap and then found it flipped upside down a foot away from the force of the spring). Overall, they work really well and I'm glad I went with these over the cheap wooden ones that come in bulk. I don't know if I'd feel differently if I had a larger infestation, though.

I've heard steel wool recommended as an unchewable substance which you can stuff into small holes to block them--you're supposed to try to block anything smaller than, I think, I nickel, or a dime, which is crazy small, I'm not sure how possible that even is. I baited my traps with Nutella (I had fancy spoiled mice, apparently), which was the only suitable substance in the house, and it worked--the smell was probably attractively sweet and nutty.
posted by spelunkingplato at 6:13 PM on December 2, 2013

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