Is there really a mouse?
April 3, 2015 7:51 AM   Subscribe

My SO recently heard some type of disturbance in the kitchen in the middle of the night and thinks we might have mice. If the traps haven't worked, is that sufficient proof there aren't any mice?

I've put out sticky traps, small mouse traps with attractor drops, and a large box that is advertised as being for both mice and rats. This box is the kind that comes with large rectangular blocks of bait.

Nothing has been touched. Should we switch to food? It has been a couple of days with no activity. Is it safe to assume there aren't any mice? I need something definitive to reassure my spouse or we might end up having to move.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Most common evidence of mice beyond noise or actual sight of them: droppings and gnawed food. Droppings look like fat chocolate sprinkles. Gnawing is self-evident, especially on packaged food. Rats leave bigger droppings, more like raisin-size. Rats may also chew on electric wires, as do squirrels.
posted by mareli at 7:56 AM on April 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Have you found any pantry items (bread, noodles, etc) disturbed/chewed open/eaten?

Have you found any mouse poop in corners or cabinets?

Do you have dogs or cats?
posted by Billiken at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2015

The trap that has never failed for me is this one. Downside: have to do what you will with the mouse afterwards.
posted by supercres at 8:01 AM on April 3, 2015

No mice in traps is DEFINITELY NOT proof that you don't have mice.

Source: lived in a house with a major mouse problem, very rarely actually caught one in a trap.

But yeah, there were definitely signs of mice, they got into our food and left droppings.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:05 AM on April 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Switch to food. Mice love peanut butter
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:08 AM on April 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

They may also be living in your dishwasher insulation. You may want to pull it out and check.

Moving over mice is kind of an overreaction. You can coexist with them peacefully by sealing cracks, storing food in plastic containers etc
posted by asockpuppet at 8:09 AM on April 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Peanut butter is the best bait, but please throw away the glue traps. They are cruel and inhumane.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:28 AM on April 3, 2015 [19 favorites]

Random noises heard infrequently is not a very good sign of mice in the first place.

If you've got nesting mice, you should be able to hear scratching at just about any time when the room is quiet, more so at night.

If you have no poops, no nibbled corners of boxes in your pantry, it's probably something other than mice.

You might have (or had) something passing through in the walls, or under the floor if you have that kind of architecture, or incipient plumbing/sewer issues that are just reaching the "odd noise" stage, but I've never had mouse noises that *didn't* pretty quickly escalate to undeniable mouse evidence.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:31 AM on April 3, 2015

You could also try borrowing a cat. My landlord at my old place did this (he lived in the above house, I lived in the basement apartment) and we got 3 mice in about an hour after over a month of empty traps.
posted by capricorn at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2015

Definitely change baits to something like peanut butter. Also trap placement makes a big difference. Don't put them down on the middle of the counter like in tom & jerry cartoons. You want them right up against the wall in front of big appliances. Mice are little and timid and don't like to run through the middle of the room, they stick to the wall edges.

And yes, the glue traps are horrible for everyone involved, throw those away. Snap traps are the way to go.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:38 AM on April 3, 2015

We had a mouse problem a few months ago and put out like 20 traps (the old-fashioned snapping kind). It took a few weeks of putting the traps out and re-applying peanut butter to catch them but we caught 3 and haven't seen or heard anything since (we did see them scurrying across the floor, aieee)

The times the traps worked best was when two were put right together, nose-to-nose - that is, where the bait goes, next to the other one's bait trap, on the short side, and then in a tight spot. Those little motherfuckers managed to lick the peanut butter off any trap that had a free side (like if it was just up against the wall). But the ones I put behind the refrigerator were successful.
posted by sutel at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2015

Mice also like cured sausages, like Slim Jim.
posted by H21 at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2015

You can call an exterminator to come out -- you can usually find one who will do a free inspection and bid on any removal/closing up of holes. That way you get certainty -- they know what to look for, where to look, and what tools to use (i.e., they'll get up in the attic, examine the outside of your house, etc) to find whether there are rodents or not.

But yeah, I've seen mice and rats walk around traps and take food off traps without getting caught. I've also had mice/rats in a couple of places without any visible signs until all of a sudden there were -- once in the attic (only heard scrambling/scratching noise) and once in the walls (thanks to upstairs neighbors; again heard scratching, but only when they made it through the wall and I saw one in the living room did I know for sure we had an infestation. No droppings in the kitchen, no obvious food being eaten except the houseplant they killed.
posted by katemonster at 9:06 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I need something definitive to reassure my spouse or we might end up having to move.

That's irrational. I'd wager that most houses have had mice at one point or another. I grew up in an 80 year old house and mice and ants and roaches were just occasional facts of life. You kill them and you move on.

Mice are actually pretty smart about not getting trapped in traps. But if you haven't found any mouse droppings, I wouldn't worry. If you have, yeah, use food and make sure the traps are near baseboards.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I need something definitive to reassure my spouse or we might end up having to move.

What? No. Mice are a solveable problem in most cases. Worst case you call an exterminator and they will kill 'em all. I have mice in my walls but my basic trick is keeping them IN the walls and then they don't poop in my kitchen. You have to sort of think about what the issue is.Noise in walls/ceilings could be a few different things: squirrels, raccoons, bats, mice which all have their own method of getting them out of there (or leaving them there and learning to live with it).

For me the big thing (in addition to traps) was closing up little places where they could get in and out. Mostly holes in the floor where the baseboard heating went in and out. Also closed up all my food tight (and cabinets) and made sure there weren't little mouse stairs to get them from counters to other places (one of them crawled up my apron to get into a tiny hole in my cabinet!) and then put out traps with peanut butter along walls where they would likely be noodling around.It might take a little bit but that should handle it if you actually have mice. If you are in a multi-unit location keep in mind that if you are successful at getting mice out of your place they will likely just move next door, which is sort of the good news and the bad news. Also effective: cats!
posted by jessamyn at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2015

Here's the secret to snap traps: bait with peanut butter, bacon grease or a cut up sliver of marshmallow. Really wedge it into the little slot where the bait goes. BUT DO NOT SET THE TRAP TO SNAP! Repeat the bait and not setting several times. Then, do it all again, but SET THE TRAP. Mice are conditioned to an easy safe food supply, and have no reason to fear the trap. Plus, if you are somewhat handy with pliers, you can adjust the traps to be super sensitive so they go off with barely a touch. Watch your fingers, if you do this!
posted by LaBellaStella at 9:20 AM on April 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Go to the lowest cupboards you have, those dark out of the way ones you never enter, pull everything out, look for mouse poop. Behind the fridge is another great spot. Do the same thing in your pantry. If you have mice/rats you will have mouse/rat poop. No poop, no mice, spouse reassured.

Sticky traps are too easy to avoid unless you put on a major through way, and are horribly cruel, and now you have a trapped screaming mouse if you thought spouse was freaked out about mice before hand screaming mice will not help. Old fashioned snap traps are the easiest way to deal with mice, put them in the dark lurking areas, use peanut butter. PB is hard to lift off the trap so the mouse is usually located for a quick death. Also what LaBellaStella said above. Tiny little field mice might not set off a normal trap.

Go around with steel wire & spray foam & fill any possible entrance holes, around pipes under the sink is a prime entry point.
posted by wwax at 10:18 AM on April 3, 2015

I just thought of another place they love: your stove! And the best/worst way to find out if they've been in there is to turn the oven on. If it stinks they've been there. If you can pull your stove away from the wall look for shit behind it. Also lift the top off, the big metal piece that the burners sit in. If there's shit there you are probably fucked.
posted by mareli at 10:45 AM on April 3, 2015

I want to second what jessamyn said up there. I've been racking my brain to remember anywhere I lived that didn't get mice at some point, and the only thing I've come up with is an apartment that had cockroaches. I get mice here every now and again, as do all of my neighbors. You do want to deal with it, but it's not the end of the world or a reason to move. I don't think we have any in the house right now, but they do come and go every now and again.

When they come around, we set out snap traps with peanut butter, and do a little extra cleaning to check for poop and other evidence. A friend of mine also recommended using cooked meat when the peanut butter doesn't work, but I haven't had to try that one yet.

We also checked the perimeter of the house and filled in a few little cracks in the walls where they were getting in the last time, and then stuck some cotton balls with peppermint oil on them around, and it cleared up pretty quickly. (I do not know if the peppermint oil actually works, but I already had peppermint oil and cotton balls, so I figured it was worth a try for a belt-and-suspenders approach.)
posted by ernielundquist at 11:29 AM on April 3, 2015

My never-fail trap setup is to pop a bag of microwave popcorn, eat half, set the half-empty bag in a corner of the basement, and set two traps in the opening of the bag. This is more successful than our two cats. Mice can slip into tiny, tiny cracks, so expanding foam spray everything.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:41 AM on April 3, 2015

You could also have voles in the house. We get the critters in out home every once in awhile, and they are pretty good about not going near mousetraps, no matter how they are baited. When we get them, it's normally one or two. My cat and I have been quite effective in cornering the critters and getting them out of the house. Wear leather gloves.

As far as I know, voles aren't are destructive as field mice can be. Still, it's not a good feeling to have little critters scampering about.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:05 PM on April 3, 2015

Just as a heads up we once thought we had a mouse problem in a ground floor apartment we lived in. It was not a mouse. It was a squirrel coming in our bedroom window and making its way to our kitchen where it would jump on the counter and lick our dirty dishes. When we chanced upon him he scrambled out of the place so fast he left claw gouge marks in the floor, walls and window sill.
posted by srboisvert at 12:57 PM on April 4, 2015

Have had several mousies here and the Have-a-Heart traps filled with hard dog food and peanut butter have proven irresistible to them. We take them out to a big field several miles away and release them.

(Please no one tell me that's a bad idea. We couldn't figure out what to do with them and didn't want them to get chomped on by our dog (she thinks little critters are fun toys. BLEAH!)
posted by Mysticalchick at 1:43 PM on April 4, 2015

To prove/disprove mice existence: dust some flour on the floor where you think they might be walking. You'll see prints in the morning.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:21 AM on April 6, 2015

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