Keep those mice OUT.
November 10, 2006 2:25 PM   Subscribe

There are lots of old mouse-trapping threads, and I'd be happy to get more advice on how to trap mice, but what I really want to know is how to keep them from coming in in the first place -- any suggestions?

I know that they come in through holes, and I live in an old building where there are probably tons of holes that I can't even see, so as much as I would like to, I don't think I'd be able to patch those up. I take out the trash pretty much every day, and try to keep the kitchen spotless. There's no food lying around - everything that is out is either in boxes or plastic bags. I live on the top floor of a building that I'm sure is full of other tasty apartments (and I'm in a corner, so my place isn't even on the way to other places), so I just can't figure out why they keep coming back. Any suggestions on how else I can try to keep them away?
posted by echo0720 to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get a cat. Contrary to popular belief, cats aren't good so much because they kill mice, but because they keep them away.
posted by TonyRobots at 2:34 PM on November 10, 2006

I can't do cats -- major allergy issues, unfortunately.
posted by echo0720 at 2:36 PM on November 10, 2006

a dear friend, who is full of redneck remedies, told me this method when a past office of mine developed a mouse problem: catch one, incinerate it in a coffee can, and spread the ashes around your perimeter.

too gruesome for me--i called an exterminator. when he arrived, i ran the idea by him: though he had never heard of this method, he remarked that once he uses a trap that kills a mouse he cannot reuse it because mice will avoid it, regardless of the bait. he supposed that the smell of death was a strong deterrent. maybe mouse ash is similarly deterring.

anyhow, good luck
posted by mdpc98 at 2:41 PM on November 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Look around water pipes for spaces - mice can squeeze through really small spaces - and plug them up. An oldtimer's trick is to use steelwool or brillo pads because the mice can't chew through them. Use a knife or screwdriver to shove a bunch through the openning. If you are concerned about drafts, you could also use some spray expanding foam, but if you use it alone the mice might just chew through it.

As for the cat idea, when we lived in an old farm house during an exceptionally bad mouse year, the two cats we had sure liked to play with mice, but didn't actually kill or eat them, so they didn't help much. Unless the cat is raised as a hunter you can't count on them to really do anything, and they sure didn't scare off the mice by just being there.

wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 2:52 PM on November 10, 2006

My girlfriend and I are dealing with this currently (the back of our 'loft' is *inches* from a svenhard's bakery). We're planning on going the steel-wool route (no traps/poison because we have a pug).

FWIW we usually see (well, hear, and see their poop later) a *lot* less of them if we've cleaned up all the kitchen crumbs and put everything away.

I'll let you know how it goes.
posted by fishfucker at 3:34 PM on November 10, 2006

In my experience a mouse population obeys Fick's law of diffusion even if in an area of low concentration there is nothing for them to eat. Some of them are probably gathering nesting material, too, so even if the goodies are absent they may be picking apart your down comforter or sleeping bags for the fine fluff therein.
posted by jet_silver at 3:59 PM on November 10, 2006

I'll second putting all food away. The less that's there for them, the less reason for them to come in.
posted by twirlypen at 4:43 PM on November 10, 2006

I'm going to third steel wool.

You might want to check in the vicinity of your radiators for gaps, because that was how they used to get into my dorm room. There are similar gaps in the ancient house I live in now, too. Then stuff 'em full of steel wool.
posted by anjamu at 5:00 PM on November 10, 2006

Paper boxes and plastic bags are not good defenses against mice; mice can chew through both. Screw-top glass jars or ceramic jars that seal with the rubber ring and metal clamp are best, for things that can be transferred into them.

In a building with other apartments, you may be at the mercy of your neighbors. But you can at least be sure the mice aren't getting into your food when they do come looking.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:25 PM on November 10, 2006

Thank you for all of the suggestions, I know there are water pipes in my bedroom wall because it always sounds like its raining when I wake up. That is also the same wall that the radiator is on, so anjamu could be right about that. Also -- can mice chew through tupperware?

As I write this, there is a mouse squeaking away in my kitchen. This is the first time I've heard one - normally I see them scurrying by or just the poop. This is very frequent squeaking and is freaking me out. What if this is the mouse mating call? Or the mouse "hey come over i've having a party" call?
posted by echo0720 at 8:13 PM on November 10, 2006

Hypo allergenic Siberian temple cats.
posted by hortense at 9:49 PM on November 10, 2006

No idea on the sounds, but yes given enough time, rodents will chew through Tupperware.

I don't know what the relative hardness is of rodent tooth, but basically anything that you can scratch with a penknife, they can chew through if they're sufficiently motivated. The question is would they bother go chew through your Tupperware given all the other food options probably available to them? No idea.

You might want to consider one of those ultrasonic pest deterrents. I got one ages ago (I think it was from Brookstone or The Sharper Image) and it did a good job chasing away some squirrels from our attic -- I have no idea if mice are more or less affected by ultrasonics than squirrels, but you might give it a shot. Just keep it away from any domestic animals, unless you want to chase them away too. (Our cats did not like it and avoided the room where it was if it was on.) I have seen a lot written that these devices don't work, but they did in my case. We put the thing in the attic right near where we thought the squirrels were staying, and they moved on. YMMV and all that.

We have cats, and have never seen any mice. Can't say the lack of mice is due to the cats (they mostly kill chipmunks and moles, rarely mice), but I'm not complaining, either.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:35 PM on November 10, 2006

I live on the top floor of a building that I'm sure is full of other tasty apartments

If any of the other tasty apartments have mice, they will periodically wander round all the other apartments checking them out. This is a drawback of apartment/flat/tennament living - if one person "has mice", everyone does. If there's no food around in your place the mice shouldn't linger for long. I have setlled for a policy of peaceful co-habitation with mice as long as I don't hear/see them too regularly. If I do, then it's invariably because I've left some food out.

Top mouse tip: It is possible to accidently shut a mouse in the room with you by closing the door when it's exploring. If this happens, it might sound like you have a massive mouse party going on as the mouse tries to escape. This can be extremely irritating when you're trying to get to sleep. Solution: before you start the long, drawn out process of Mouse Hunting, try leaving the room with the door open for 5 minutes and see if the noise stops.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:43 AM on November 11, 2006

I have a rat. I also now have a large bag of soiled cat litter (no solids) from a friend of mine I plan to use to mark my territory, in the hope that the scent of two big kitties convices old ratty to move on. I'll keep y'all informed of the results.

posted by Jilder at 3:32 AM on November 11, 2006

There's nothing like plugging holes with steel wool. Our mice seemed not to be at all bothered by the ultrasonic devices we bought.
posted by teleskiving at 9:50 AM on November 11, 2006

For what it's worth, a mouse can get through a gap at the bottom of a door that is no higher than a pencil's width. That is to say, if you can slide a pencil into a gap, a mouse can squeeze through.
posted by kc0dxh at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2006

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