Help me trap the craftiest mouse
December 9, 2021 3:57 PM   Subscribe

We have a mouse problem. Specifically, ONE mouse is haunting our apartment. Help!

Hello all. Let me preface my question by saying please skip this one if you don’t want to hear about mice or trapping mice.

We have a mouse problem. More specifically, we have one mouse that will not fall for any trap and is crafty as hell (I’m 99% sure this is the same mouse, based on its behavior). We’ve seen this mouse almost nightly for going on maybe two months, and we’ve tried the following:

Glue traps (I KNOW, they’re so bad, but this was out of desperation)
Two types of snap traps
A bucket trap with a ladder
Poison bars (something DID nibble the bar but I think we may have had a second mouse that later died from this… yet to be located)

For bait, we’ve tried:
Peanut butter
Steel cut oats (it loves these but avoids them on traps)
A small piece of dried pasta

I even tried mixing a bit of the poison bar (carefully, with gloves) with a bit of scrambled egg (something I noticed they would eat from the floor). No luck. Maybe not enough poison to do damage?

I’ve been cleaning the kitchen floor very thoroughly lately, in the hopes that this mouse will not find any free dinner hanging around.

The other night, I set my iPad up in the kitchen and filmed for 9 hours overnight. The mouse was just chilling in the kitchen, exploring everything and avoiding every trap, all night long. I figured out where it typically comes out (there’s a space under the sink). So currently, we have a line of glue traps there, as well as across both doorways into the kitchen. Effectively the mouse can’t go anywhere in our apartment except the kitchen at this point.

It seems that this mouse is very aware of the traps, whether or not there is bait present. It will sniff around the traps but avoid them otherwise.

Please assume that we aren’t able to solve this with the help of the landlord. Our goal is to catch this particular mouse and then move on to preventative measures. We are both allergic to cats but could MAYBE swing borrowing someone’s cat for a night. This would be a last resort but I will consider it if it’s the best plan of action.

This mouse has made it into my dreams. I need it gone. Any tips?
posted by sucre to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Borrow the cat. Ideally one that is a known murderer. If you happen to be in Northern Virginia, I have a little murderess who would enjoy the midnight snack (she is low key terrifying but I love her very much).
posted by nancynickerson at 4:10 PM on December 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

You could try funneling the mouse from the space under the sink directly into a trap. Or you could put traps on the floor right along the walls or base of cabinets where they like to travel.

These Better snap traps have worked for me. Try mixing equal parts peanut butter and oats. Good luck!
posted by scrubjay at 4:12 PM on December 9, 2021

Buy some steel wool from the local hardware store for a couple bucks. Medium is good.

Move appliances from the wall and fill any gaps behind with steel wool. These would be gaps between baseboard and wall, and gaps around any lines running through the wall.

Do the same for the spaces underneath the kitchen sink, particularly around drains where there may be gaps leading behind the cabinetry and wall.

Repeat for spaces inside floor-mounted kitchen cabinets, which may have false backs with large gaps.

Look everywhere along the walls leading to or around the kitchen for any holes of any size larger than a pencil diameter. Fill them up.

The idea is to prevent access from behind the wall. You have holes large enough for mouse ingress. Fill them up and the mouse and friends will move along.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:17 PM on December 9, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Get an electric shock trap and leave it out, baited but not turned on, for a few days. Use bacon, jerky, anything fairly pungent. You want the mouse to get used to the trap. After a few days bait the trap and turn it on. It kills quickly and humanely.

(I say this to spare you some agony: you really, really, really do not want to use the glue traps, no matter how desperate you are. However bad you think it is, it’s worse and you will be haunted by visions of terrified animals in pain that are in said condition because of you. Speaking from experience.)
posted by corey flood at 4:28 PM on December 9, 2021 [12 favorites]

Can back up up corey flood's recommendation for the electronic traps. I use blue cheese in mine.
posted by kate4914 at 4:35 PM on December 9, 2021

If it's out and wandering around, chances are there is more than one mouse -- sorry. They tend to venture into the open much more frequently when they feel crowded by other mice. If they're not keeping close to the baseboards and/or avoiding you, there's something going on moreso than just one intrepid mouse. I would hire an exterminator.

Also, it's not a genius, they just don't like new things very much, and they don't like things that smell of human very much (and they have a great sense of smell).

Handle everything with gloves. Try putting a few piles of oats near an unset trap. Then if those are eaten, add some to the trap as well. Then if those are eaten, set the trap and do the same thing. This kind of step-by-step desenstization can sometimes get them to be a bit more brave.

And don't move the traps once they're there. They will get used to them more over time and maybe even explore them if you leave them undisturbed long enough.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:01 PM on December 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

Also here to mention the RatZapper (and knockoffs). I've had luck with various bait types (including TomCat gel attractant) but I think my highest score aside from the gel has been small wedges of orange. I think the mice are often pretty thirsty and of course the smell carries well.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:02 PM on December 9, 2021

I've had a big mouse problem in the past year, due to some nearby barns being removed for new housed just up the road. The most successful trap for me has been one of those long 'humane traps' where you put bait at one end, and the weight of the mouse as it enters is triggers the door to close at the other end. I caught every mouse (6 or 7) that way, and released them in countryside a few miles away. Be glad you don't have a rat problem. A rat got into our house shortly after the mouse issue, and it rattled around under floors and inside walls for a month or more. Destroyed a carpet, broke a dishwasher, chewed through electrical wires, and one day covered an entire wall in blood (no idea what happened). Eventually we used poison and it died somewhere in an inaccessible roofspace, and has been adding a pleasant odour to parts of our house for a number of weeks.

But anyway, baited (crackers and peanut butter) human traps worked for me.
posted by pipeski at 5:15 PM on December 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Fourthing (?) a RatZapper/electric trap. They're far more effective than glue and snap traps and infinitely more humane. I lived in a place with a mouse problem and with a single trap we got 14 in a day--every time we emptied it we'd put it down and another mouse would run in.
posted by Anonymous at 5:18 PM on December 9, 2021

If you use the glue traps, put them in a row to block the whole doorway.
I had a mouse, well mice over the summer that for whatever reason only ever got trapped in the snap traps by accident ( always found them in the morning alive caught by a leg.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:41 PM on December 9, 2021

Best answer: It’s a bit morbid, but try a leetle piece of meat in a trap.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 7:55 PM on December 9, 2021

was just about to say that--they like raw warm hamburger and things like that
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:26 PM on December 9, 2021

OK, just don't with the glue traps. Obviously they're not working, you need a totally different approach anyway, so just relieve yourself of the potential horribleness. Put them away and move on, and I'll be much more inclined to help you. Me and a bunch of other people.

Plus, they'll be in your way when you work on this plan:

You know where the mouse is coming out? That's great! All you need to do is:

- Figure out where you are going to release her, and when. It's Friday, so if you can drive out to "the country" over the weekend, awesome.

- Make an attractive mouse hideaway box that you can close easliy. See if you can figure out how to make a dark, low, homey-to-a-mouse wooden box with an inviting, small hole that's easy to cover. Put some straw or loosely wadded tissue/toilet paper in there, make a little internal wall she can go behind once she's in there, etc. If you can, make it, and especially its entrance, similar to the gap under the cabinet she's entering already. Make sure the entrance hole is at ground level.

- Put your awesome mouse hideaway somewhere you know the mouse will walk, but far away from her cabinet home. Maybe a corner with barriers around so that it's the only safe-looking place the mouse can get to from that area - block off other exit routes, but leave it mostly open (this will make sense later). Make it an obvious place for the mouse to run to when she gets scared, and have something very ready to hand to block the hole once she's inside - a hinged cover, a wooden block that's generously sized.

- Stay up late. Watch for your opportunity: you want to surprise the mouse when she's closer to your new hideaway box than to her cabinet, and you want to get between her and the cabinet, so that she'll naturally run into your hideaway box.

- I think you can see where this is going: she runs into the box, you gently walk up to the box and close it up, and now you can deport the mouse. Take the mouse to the country or a park or something; probably the rats there will not make her life easy, but she has a chance, and if she gets eaten, she's at least helping whatever creature ate her.

This probably sounds far fetched, but I have made it work with squirrels and other creatures (snakes, for example). Give the creature a place to hide, and then make it want to hide, and things will pretty much go according to plan. You don't have to terrify the creature, just motivate it.

There were a bunch of wooden boxes for sale at, I think, Home Goods. If you used something like those, you'd need to glue small pieces of wood (e.g. shims from Home Depot) over the grip holes that are already there.
posted by amtho at 11:37 PM on December 9, 2021

We had a mouse issue towards the end of our stint in my last apartment. The best thing that worked was a whole bunch of humane traps, with peanut butter as the bait. I also followed the advice of an exterminator who said to place them along walls (he said mice typically prefer to hug walls or corners when they were moving around, so place your traps there). But we put down a shit-ton of them - we knew the general area they were coming out, and put FIVE down there.

But - even better than that would have been if we could have gotten behind the cabinet where we knew they were coming out of and been able to block the hole. If you know where they're coming from and get at the wall there itself, give it a look. Mice can get through holes the size of a dime. So any cracks or holes you see there need to be plugged. And they can be plugged with some things you can get at any reasonably-stocked grocery store:

* copper scrub pads,
* peppermint tea bags, and
* Duct tape. (Okay, for that you may need a hardware store.)

The peppermint tea bag is there because mice don't like the way peppermint smells. Stuff that in the hole you find first. Then stuff in some of the copper scrub pad - mice don't like chewing on copper. Then cover things over with duct tape, or even better, a scrap of wood nailed over the hole.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:01 AM on December 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

We had mice living under our stove for a while, venturing outside at night to eat cat food. (The cats, apparently, did not see a problem with this.) I had a friend staying with me at the time who worked in a mouse lab, and was very familiar with mouse behavior. She took on the challenge of evicting said mouse.

The trick was to leave the trap (literally a box-with-stick Looney Tunes contraption) out but not rigged to drop for several nights, with food under it, and remove the other food. The mice wouldn't go near it at first. But after a night or two they started investigating, then started eating the food, then started eating it reliably. One night my friend just stayed up late and waited for the mouse, pulled a string, and suddenly we had a mouse in a box.

I think you could probably use this strategy with other kinds of traps: just leave them out but unarmed for a while, to get the mice used to their presence. Once you notice the bait disappearing overnight, you can arm the traps.

And yeah, just hard pass on the glue traps. Unless your idea of fun is seeing how many blows with a hammer it takes to kill a mouse, which I have been told on good authority can be more than one. No, thanks.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:09 AM on December 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

The only traps that have worked for me were these humane traps. I baited with peanut butter, put them right align walls/next to doorways, and fairly quickly had captured the mice.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 9:51 AM on December 10, 2021

Seconding the traps that whisk(e)y neat links to above - these are the exact ones we used in my own apartment and they worked very well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on December 10, 2021

I leave the doors open in summer and mice came in and it was not a good time. They also invade my car. You almost certainly have mice. Set out a lot of traps all at once, baited with peanut butter; it's smelly and irresistible. Like, 16 - 20 traps, various types. I have some of these, they are quite effective and it's easy to eject the body and reset the trap quickly; so effective that I seldom need to re-bait them. And I use classic cheap wood and metal traps. They will smell your scent, so wear gloves and don't handle the traps much. They likely move along baseboards; I find doorways effective.

I put a cardboard box on its side with a couple baited traps and some peanut butter in the box; that was reasonably successful, placed near a china cupboard they hung out under.

If you find their food source, deal with it. They are diligent, and will make food caches, some of which may be difficult to find. Food caches allow them to live in walls or elsewhere and not come out f they feel it's not safe.

The shop has been unsuccessful at finding the mouse access to my car; that's another story.

I searched the house and found caches of food and unpleasant evidence of mice in my pantry area (bag of rice unsecured, rice moved to storage places, they also found the dog food, the dog is sadly no longer with us), in upholstered furniture, and in the empty space under kitchen cabinets I caught mice for several weeks, they moved around as I found their nests, and now I believe they are gone. No more new smells or food caches. I left baited snap traps in a few areas that people can't easily set off with toes.
posted by theora55 at 11:02 AM on December 10, 2021

They Sucked His Brains Out has the right answer.

I'm going through this right now - I'm doing a steel wool/expanding foam combo. I'll just let you visualize what it looks like done by someone who has no idea what they're doing. When they say 'practice before using expanding foam' they are really not kidding.

You can also do caulk mixed with steel wool, try just steel wool, etc. Just steel wool has worked for us in at least one instance.

Not that there aren't still a ton of mice around - just that they're not eating the toilet paper under the bathroom vanity, or, I kid you not, pooping in the spoon rest.

They're in the basement, eating the back-up cat* food, as god intended.

*insult to injury, but whatever
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:58 PM on December 10, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the tips!

We ended up purchasing one of the zappers. Set it up the first night with a small slice of jerky outside the trap (gobbled up). Set it up the second night with the jerky just barely inside the trap (gobbled up). The trap was off for these two nights. Third night, baited the trap fully and turned on. No luck. Ended up putting some bait inside the door to the trap on the fourth night, to backtrack a bit. No luck. I wore gloves during all parts of setup.

I’ve been filming the kitchen overnight on my iPad. The mouse will be out, meandering around, avoiding all traps we have set up. So maybe it’s cat rental time?

And trust me, I know how bad the glue traps are. I prefaced this question with it. At this point, the glue traps are only up to prevent the mouse from leaving the kitchen.

TBD what our next plans are. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences!
posted by sucre at 10:16 AM on December 16, 2021

Best answer: sucre, sometimes it takes a few days for mice to fully trust a trap. Even with the 10 humane traps I had set up and baited with peanut butter (which everyone assured me was the #1 best bait) it still took a week before they caught something.

I'd give things at least a week, maybe two, before you abandon the trap you have.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on December 16, 2021

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