Mice, those tiny, cute little rodents, are one of the most common house pests in the world. However, despite their diminutive size, they are also one of the most destructive and deadly.
Mice’s teeth are like our finger and toenails; they never stop growing, and they are very hard. Mice have to chew constantly to keep their teeth from getting too long. Surprisingly, they can chew through walls, insulation, electrical wires, PVC plumbing, and even gas lines. It’s estimated that rodents are responsible for as many as a quarter of all residential fires because they chew through electrical wires.
As cute as they are, mice are notoriously dirty. Mice mark their territory by urinating and defecating. They also eat approximately 15 – 20 times a day, which is why it’s common to find mouse droppings in pantries, pet food stations, and other areas of the kitchen. If any of the food you feed your family comes in contact with the droppings, there are as many as 35 potential health problems, including:
Salmonella causes fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 1.3 million Americans are infected every year (although not necessarily by mice), more than 26,000 need hospitalization and 420 Americans die.
The Hantavirus is most commonly spread by deer mice, not the more common house mice, but you could be at risk if you live in a rural area. According to the CDC, the Hantavirus is an airborne virus that’s spread through the dust stirred up as humans and animals walk through dried urine, feces, and saliva. In addition, because the incubation period is one to eight weeks, infected people might not associate the illness with mice.
The Hantavirus starts much like the flu, with fevers, aches, and chills. About half of patients can experience abdominal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea. If not treated, it can lead to coughing and shortness of breath as the lungs fill with fluid. Approximately 38 percent of infected people die.
Fortunately, reports of Hantavirus infections are rare. As of 2019, only 816 cases have been reported in the United States since 1993. All of them were west of the Mississippi River, most notably in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.
Unlike the Hantavirus, LCMV is most commonly spread by the common house mouse. In blood tests, as many as five percent of urban residents show antibodies to LCMV, although most likely never had symptoms.
For those who do develop symptoms, the initial symptoms typically start about a week to two after exposure and can last a week. Symptoms can include fever, exhaustion, lack of appetite, head and muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. Although less common, other reported symptoms include a sore throat, cough, chest pain, joint pain, salivary gland pain, and testicular pain.
The most severely inflicted can go on to experience more serious illnesses such as meningitis (stick neck, headache, fever, etc.), encephalitis (confusion, drowsiness, motor abnormalities, and/or sensory disturbances, or meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and meninges). In addition, some patients may experience increased fluid on the brain or heart and inflammation of the spinal cord. Fortunately, death is rare.
Most people first realize that they have a mouse infestation when they see the droppings resembling small black rice grains. Before removing them, you should wear gloves and a mask.
You might see mouse tracks if you have an area such as a garage or near a cat’s litter box. If the tracks are from mice, you’ll likely see droppings nearby.
Mice like to nest in warm secluded places such as drawers, pantries, and cabinets. It’s not uncommon for mice to nest in clothing. Mice, much like birds, use fibrous materials to build their nests. So if you see piles of shredded paper, cardboard, or insulation, especially if there are tell-tale droppings, there’s a good chance you have a mouse infestation and a pretty bad one. Mice can start reproducing as early as six weeks old, and each female can deliver up to 10 litters a year, each with as many as 14 babies. So you see how mouse infestations can get out of control fast.
Mice may be tiny, but they can make a lot of noise, especially when there is an infestation. Listen for scurrying and scratching noises in the walls and crawl spaces, as well as high-pitched squeaks. Mice are most active at night.
If you see a mouse, it’s rarely alone. So it’s best to take action even if you think your mouse was just escaping the cold or a predator.
The best way to handle a mouse infestation is to make your home inhospitable.
Mice are experts at finding the smallest entryways into homes. Take a thorough walk around your home to check for cracks and holes, no matter how small. Caulk or fill the gaps. Add weatherproofing strips along the door frames. There may be some holes, such as vents, that can’t be filled. In those cases, use steel wool. While mice can chew through almost anything, they can’t chew through steel wool.
Mice are on the constant hunt for food. Even tiny crumbs can attract mice. Ensure pet food and pantry foods are well-sealed in air-tight containers. Thoroughly clean after cooking or eating, and regularly take out the trash. It is important to note that having mice doesn’t mean you have a dirty home. Warmth, shelter, and water might be enough to attract mice. Food simply acts as another incentive.
Don’t get angry at your cat if you have a mouse infestation. Surprisingly, many cats aren’t hunters. However, if your cat is a hunter, it may have been the cause of the infestation, as some cats bring field mice inside as trophies.
Even if your cat is an indoor cat and a hunter, keeping ahead of the rodent’s exponential reproduction rate is a big ask for a single feline or even for multiple cats. Also, cats can become infected from some mouse-borne illnesses and expose the humans in the household. Mice also carry ticks, fleas, and other parasites.
Naphthalene, the insecticide used in mothballs, may deter mice in large enough quantities. However, naphthalene is also highly toxic to humans and pets.
Some natural oils such as cayenne pepper, cloves, cinnamon, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil might help deter mice. Still, there’s no scientific evidence they drive the mice away from their comfortable new homes.
There are several ultrasonic mouse repellents on the market. The devices, powered by batteries or electrical outlets, emit a high-frequency sound too high for human ears. Studies show that mice don’t like the sound, but they get used to it after a while.
The idea behind a humane mouse trap is that a mouse enters a baited chamber, and the door shuts behind it. But, unfortunately, humane traps aren’t always effective, and when they are, there’s always the problem of figuring out where to release the mice, so they don’t come back.
The spring-loaded mousetrap, then called the Little Nipper, was invented in 1897 by British inventor James Henry Atkinson. Today’s spring-loaded trap doesn’t look much different from Atkinson’s. The trap works, especially when baited by peanut butter instead of cheese, but since hundreds of mice might call your home theirs, it’s inefficient. Also, because the spring-loaded trap kills mice, it’s considered inhumane, although it kills them quickly. Removing the mouse means handling it. Unless you wear gloves and a mask, you may become contaminated.
Glue traps use bait such as peanut butter to attract mice to the trap. When the mice walk on it, their feet get stuck by an adhesive. Glue traps are considered incredibly inhumane as the mice die very slowly. As with spring-loaded traps, glue traps force you to handle the mice.
Poison is by far the most effective DIY option, but it may be too effective. Mouse poison can kill pets, even when you keep it out of their reach, and children if the traps are within their reach. Mouse poison is designed to kill the mice slowly, so they carry it back to their nests. However, they often don’t make it that far and die in walls or even out in the open. Pets could eat poisoned mice, potentially poisoning themselves. Even if mice escape pets’ mouths,
It is tempting to attempt to eradicate your mouse problem yourself, but there’s no shame in enlisting help. Professional exterminators are by far the most effective and efficient way of getting rid of a mouse infestation. So how do exterminators get rid of mice?
Before killing the mice, a professional will examine the home for tiny entry points. A mouse can fit through a hole that’s as small as a quarter-inch. Pest-control experts are trained to find holes you might miss. When they find potential mouse entries, they seal them off.
Once all the entryways are sealed, if your infestation is small enough, pest-control experts place traps near mouse nests, attics, crawl spaces, etc. They never place traps where pets or children might have access. Typically, they’ll place a dozen or more traps of different kinds throughout the house. Traps might require multiple visits from the exterminator.
Bait stations, like traps, attract mice with food, but instead of trapping the mice, they poison them, sending the mice scurrying back to their nest to poison the rest of the mischief (yes, that’s one of the words for a group of mice). However, humane and green pest-control companies do not generally use bait stations.
With nasty infestations, pest-control experts may turn to fumigation. Unfortunately, fumigation is an expensive last-resort measure since it’s highly poisonous to everyone in the home and requires that people move out for several days. Afterward, everything needs to be cleaned, including dishes and exposed clothing or linens. The treatment is so extreme that many places don’t allow residential fumigation.
Once the mice are gone, an exterminator should fog your home with a green disinfectant designed to kill any viruses or bacteria left behind in the droppings.
Because mice breed so quickly, there’s not much point in getting rid of part of the infestation. So instead, find an exterminator that takes your family’s safety into account while eliminating all the mice. Here’s how to find a good exterminator:
If you have a mouse infestation, it might seem as though nothing will get rid of the little buggers. For a safe, humane solution, contact Nathan Green Pest Control. Inspections are free, the pricing is clear from the start, and our treatments are safe for your family and pets. We don’t just eliminate the mice; we make sure they don’t come back.