How to get rid of mice
May 12, 2006 8:39 AM   Subscribe

I've got a mouse problem in my house and I need advice on ending it once and for all.

We've seen evidence all over the house -- from the first floor up to the third. It's an old house and there are several gaps where mice could get in to the basement. On the inside, there's some openings from the basement up into the laundry room. I think sealing these up should help a lot. So job 1 is to fill these gaps -- what are the best materials (inside and outside) for filling so mice can't get in? On the eradication side, I've tried traps of various kinds and I don't want to have to deal with baiting them, hiding them, disposing of them, etc. I would rather use poison, which I can put in the crawl space under the laundry room. However, I've never tried it. I'm guessing I need to poison first, and seal later. True? How exactly do they die? I've heard they eat the poison and then go outside looking for water and die there. Will they even really do this? Or are they going to die in the house (basement, inside walls) and stink for a long time? How long do they take to die after eating the poison? How often does the poison have to be "refreshed?" Any brand/type recommendations? Thanks.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We had this problem last October, and our house is 110 years old. Ah yes, the scourge of stupid gaps and other shoddy carpentry work that creates a haven for rodents (and roaches). In our case I fixed it by cutting down some lumber to size and driving it into the gaps with a hammer. This solved the problem of mice running from the kitchen area and up the curtains into their nesting area (our stupid carpentry consisted of window frames with no top frame, which allowed passage into the house framing). Traps with fresh peanut butter every night solved the rest of the problem. I wouldn't try any other method... I'm skeptical that poison traps work.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:53 AM on May 12, 2006

Also for smaller gaps, use those $4 cans of expanding foam sealant... they're all over the place at hardware stores. They solidify rock-hard and have been successful at keeping squirrels out of a crevice that used to lead to a nesting area in our attic.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:56 AM on May 12, 2006

Cat (s).
posted by adamvasco at 9:06 AM on May 12, 2006

Haven't tried it my self, but I've had steel wool recommended to me for smaller gaps, and theoretically that makes sense to me (the same way it is uncomfortable to chew aluminum for humans, mice are unlikely to chew through steel wool.)
posted by jrb223 at 9:12 AM on May 12, 2006

The suggestions above for blocking are good.

Unfortunately, there is no more effective way to get rid of existing mice, except for traps. Poison takes too long, the animals die everywhere (not outside looking for water), and the mice will spread the poison around the house before eating it. Once, when trying to use poision, I found that the little bastards transferred the entire package into my boot overnight.
posted by lester at 9:27 AM on May 12, 2006

You need one of these! The ratzapper has been a godsend. I'm squeamish as hell and I didn't want to deal with glue traps or bloody mangled corpses, and I worried poison would lead to dead mice rotting in the baseboards.
I've convinced myself the ratzapper is humane, and it's great because you never have to see the dead critter: it blinks when there's one inside and you just pick up the plastic box and upend it over the garbage while looking away.
I thought I had one mouse - it's killed 6 so far. It's one of the only products I would go on TV to shill for for free.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:36 AM on May 12, 2006

Second the cats suggestion. We were infested with mice when we moved into our house in the country. We got two cats, and have not seen any evidence of mice in the house since (several dead "offerings" on the doorstep, though.)
posted by Neiltupper at 9:48 AM on May 12, 2006

I second adamvasco's suggestion. Our cat is a very active mouser, and has kept our old urban row house mouse free. The cat is not much of a pet, though, more like livestock--he'll accept a few pats on the head, but he's mostly business, and doesn't cuddle or play much. He's about half wild, and I think that's key.

Unfortunately, he's not a very discriminating killer. We've seen him with quite a few birds, and I'm sure he'd be happy taking on any other critter, harmful or not, that came into the alley.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:53 AM on May 12, 2006

You need a cat! Not all cats are mousers, though, but most barn cats are, or other cats that haven't always solely depended on humans with can openers. (See also MrMoonPie's answer above.)
posted by easternblot at 9:58 AM on May 12, 2006

Don't use poison. The mouse is more likely to die in the house, somewhere where you can't find it, but can smell it.

Maybe you can try this.
posted by hooray at 10:27 AM on May 12, 2006

I'll third or fourth the cat - this is what they're for, the reason people domesticated 'em in the first place: varmint control.

Just a regular 'ol alley cat (sometimes called domestic shorthair) will do, head down to the local animal shelter and pick up a solution good for years without poisoning your house up. If it turns out to be bit of a pet too, well there's a nice bonus.
posted by scheptech at 10:42 AM on May 12, 2006

I dealt with mice last fall, when they were coming inside in preparation for winter. For unimaginable reasons, not one homeowner in the past twenty-odd years has seen fit to fix this problem. It boggles my mind.

Anyhoo, I got low-expansion expanding foam and did a walkabout the house. I goosed every little crack with a gob of foam.

Problem solved, presumably permanently.

Prior to actually fixing the problem I was trying trapping. First I was humane and did trap and release. It was absolutely pointless to do so. Then I did glue traps. Finally, I went with the old-style snap traps, and they definitively work, each and every time, so long as one very carefully sets the trap with a hair-sensitive trigger.

Dead mice are the only good mice, at least when it comes to houses.

Show no mercy. And locate the cracks, or it will be a never-ending battle.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 AM on May 12, 2006

Exterminators used to use poisons that made mice crave water, but no longer. The poisons that they use now are anti-coagulants. Rodents bruise themselves constantly by squeezing through small spaces. The anti-coagulant prevents these bruises from healing and the cretins die of internal bleeding.

An exterminator will place "traps" (a misnomer) containing this poison in several places around the house. They will also place a powder containing the same poison near likely entrances and access points. The powder gets on the mouse, then the mouse licks it off during normal grooming.

You will occasionally have one die in the house and smell bad for a few days. Nothing you can do about it. However, you will be very thankful when the overall problem goes away.

I live in farm country, so a visit from the exterminator is a yearly chore. The occasional odor of dead mouse is vastly preferable to seeing a mouse running across the kitchen counter.

Get a cat (or two), or pony up for an exterminator. Humane traps don't work, in my experience.

Good luck!
posted by DWRoelands at 10:51 AM on May 12, 2006

I have a multi pronged approach to the mice that came with my 80+ year old house: cat, snap traps baited with peanut butter and steel wool, with steel wool being by far the most effective solution (although the cat is most excellent for moles in the garden, he's not so good with the mice in the kitchen.) Since I went through the kitchen and blocked up every single hole with steel wool, even the teeny ones around pipes leading to the basement, I've had far less mice. They don't like steel wool at all and it's cheap and easy. Word of warning on the poison thing: do not use poison if you have pets. Not only is there a possibility that they will eat the poison itself, but if they eat the dead rodents, they'll also be poisoned. I have a cat and a dog, so no poison, ever, in my house.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:02 AM on May 12, 2006

Don't use glue traps. They are teh meanzor, and the goal is dead mice, not suffering mice.

Snap traps don't always kill the wee mousies. In these cases, the following methodology works like a charm:

(1) Trap with mouse goes in bucket
(2) Bucket goes under running car's tailpipe
(3) Wee mousie dies very quickly and gaspily.

I have also employed the Shovel-Whacking Method. This didn't work well and only turned the mouse from trapped and injured to free and more injured. I still feel bad about the poor critter. So don't do that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:10 AM on May 12, 2006

Snap traps don't always kill the wee mousies.

true, but putting them in a bucket and running a car exhaust over them is a little complicated

fill the bucket full of cold water and dump the mouse in ... they drown fairly quickly

it is possible to rid a trailer, at least, of mice doing nothing but using spring traps ... it's best to put them in pairs ... often, mice get clever after awhile and learn how to set off the traps without getting killed ... but they always run away from the trap when it goes off and don't look where they're running

the traps can be reused for awhile, but eventually acquire a mousey death smell that may scare the other mice away

peanut butter captain crunch worked magnificently for awhile ... you may have to change the type of bait from time to time, as the mice do get wise ... but something different will make them forget

humane traps are an utter waste of time

if you use poison, the mice will die in the walls and stink

cats can be great, but the problem is that not all cats are good mousers and there's really no way to tell, unless the cat's been on its own, hunting for survival
posted by pyramid termite at 12:17 PM on May 12, 2006

I echo the thoughts above about not using poison. Tried this and a mouse died underneath an island separating the kitchen from the bedroom of our small studio apartment. It was the worst smell I've ever encountered. Our apartment was uninhabitable for about a month, but everyone we talked to kept telling us it would get better in a few days, to just wait a little bit longer. Finally (not being very handy ourselves) we had to hire a carpenter to remove the island -- turns out the thing had barely even started to decay. It took at least another week for the smell to go away enough for us to move back in.

One temporary stop-gap you might try . . . if you can find some holes in/around cabinets, etc., that the mice are crawling through (or might likely crawl through), fill them with steel wool. Mice can't chew through steel wool, and steel wool is malleable enough to fit into just about any crack or crevice.
posted by treepour at 12:57 PM on May 12, 2006

Cat. I'm in 110+ year old house and we were infested (would see two to three mice a day). There's no way to totally mouse-proof in a house this old. The posion was messy, expensive, and we have a dog. We also ended up finding dead mice in the cabinets and one even crawled into the oven to die. We baked a pie one day and the stench was unbelievable for a month! Had to get an entirely new oven because everything we cooked after that smelled like dead mouse.

The glue traps were horendous; nothing like being woke up in the middle of a night to a mouse's shrill scream or seeing them pull their own legs off to get free. We finally adopted from the humane society even though the old man hates cats. We went for one that wasn't cuddly, but immediately responded to us scooting a toy across the floor. He's perfect because we hardly ever seem him, he never jumps on your lap or expects to be cuddled, but I have not seen one mouse since his third day here. He's a short hair so there's no problem with cat hair either. (I would suggest a young (1-2 years old) male that you can neuter after he's developed his hunter instinct.
posted by Ugh at 1:45 PM on May 12, 2006

A couple of years ago, I had a run of mice my kitchen. They avoided the glue trays and every bait I could think of -- cheese, peanut butter, mayonnaise, buttered bread, chicken fat and pre-baited traps that supposedly contained pheromones. They ignored it all.

Finally, on one of the answer sites, I discovered the bait mice can't resist: CHOCOLATE.

The moment I got a Hershey bar and started putting little bits of it on the trap, the mice came running. I got two or three per night until they were gone.
posted by KRS at 1:45 PM on May 12, 2006

Get a cat.

(Egregious self-link to blog post about how adopting a cat ended our horrible mouse infestation.)
posted by enrevanche at 3:02 PM on May 12, 2006

(1) Trap with mouse goes in bucket
(2) Bucket goes under running car's tailpipe
(3) Wee mousie dies very quickly and gaspily.

That's not quite right.

(1) The ball drops into the bathtub and onto the springboard
(2) The springboard launches the diver into the tub
(3) The weight of the diver in the tub sets off the trap to cover the mouse

Trust me, I've been doing this for a long time, I know what I'm talking about.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 3:36 PM on May 12, 2006

Don't get a cat just for this. It's a large investment of time and effort for potentially little return. You have no way of knowing if it will catch mice anyways and even if it does it might not be able to get into where they are.

We had a good hunting cat growing up, lots of dead mice and birds, yet there were still mice in the house occasionally because they could go places the cat couldn't. So he could never get them all.

I have three cats*, all siblings that grew up together, all wild when I got them as kittens and all good hunters. But one catches birds (at his prime he caught at least one per day) and insects, one catches exclusively lizards and the other is a mouser (with the odd bird thrown in). The mouser is excellent, she cleans out all mice in the area every time we move house and we've never had any inside. But there is no way you could pick which cat catches what without seeing them in action, it's obviously not caused by genetics or upbringing, and they're very specific.

So even a cat that hunts (which many don't) might not work.

If you want a cat anyway then go for it. Put the time and effort necessary into giving them a loving home. But don't do it in the hope they'll solve your mouse problem, because they probably won't and a pet is a big responsibility. What will you do with the cat if it doesn't catch your mouse?

(*actually I only have two now, one died last year. But I had three for eleven years and the remaining two still hunt the same as always so the principle is sound)

Plug the holes as suggested above. Get some standard snap mouse traps and bait them with a variety of food until the mice start being caught. Get a pet only if you actually want a pet.
posted by shelleycat at 6:18 PM on May 12, 2006

Humane traps actually work just as well as kill traps, they just require more effort - you have to take the mouse far enough away that it can't get back. Of course, it seems possible to me that taking them that far away isn't very humane - they're probably going to die anyway in the new environment. I hope you like cats!
posted by pinespree at 9:40 PM on May 12, 2006

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