Mouse Problems in Houses

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Pet mice can be cute, but wild mice are problematic.
Pet mice can be cute, but wild mice are problematic. (Image: Mice, rodents image by Yodanet Company from Fotolia.com)

When mice make their way indoors, their presence becomes a pain in the neck that may seem inescapable. In the United States, most problems with mice in homes involve either deer mice, house mice or white-footed mice. Mice reproduce rapidly, so leaving a mouse problem unchecked can cause an explosion in population and result in even more damage. Mice leave telltale signs around a home when present, some of which have unwanted results. Once mice have been removed, steps should be taken to ensure that they don’t return.

Signs of Mice

Most homeowners realize their home has mice when they spot mouse droppings around. The Family Education website notes something called “urinating pillars” that mice sometimes create. These pillars consist of dirt, grease and urine and usually have trails of urine leading up to them. If wires, books, boxes of cereal or other surfaces have gnawed edges, there may be mice present. Some homeowners find the actual nests that mice make within a home. Mice make nests from various materials, such as shredded paper, insulation or other fibrous material. House mice may have a strong scent of musk that you may notice. Mice tend to not show their faces during the daytime, so sounds of scurrying or squeaking within walls at night could indicate that mice live within.

Dangers Posed

Mice chewing through wiring create electrical fire hazards. While superficial and structural damage to your belongings can be annoying, having mice in your home becomes a more serious problem where health is concerned. Mice crawling around food leave traces of urine and excrement, contaminating the foods you eat and potentially making you sick with food poisoning. Mice, along with the parasites that attach to them like tapeworms and ringworms, carry diseases that can put your and your family in danger. Certain types of mice, such as the deer mouse or white-footed mouse, carry the hantavirus, which can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Lyme disease can also be spread by fleas traveling on mice.

Removing Mice

Mice usually live within walls and in attics of homes, and removing them involves understanding mouse behavior. Mice usually stick to the sides of areas, close to walls, so many homeowners opt to lay traps there. Mice can be trapped using a trap that snaps closed or with a sticky glue trap. If a snapping trap is used, bait the trap with things like peanut butter or bacon to entice the mouse into the trap. Rodenticides can also be placed close to the areas of a suspected mouse nest. Sometimes homeowners prefer to avoid killing the mice; with a live trap, a mouse can be caught and released without harming it. Care should be taken with placement of traps and rodenticides because pets or small children could inadvertently be affected. Sometimes, a mouse infestation may be too much for a homeowner to handle and professional exterminators must be called in.

Prevention

Mice take any opportunity given to enter a home. Look for any cracks, holes or gaps through which a mouse can slip. Mice can work through even the tiniest of openings usually, so seal anything greater than ¼ inch. The Illinois Department of Public Health suggests using steel wool and caulking compound. Store your food in airtight glass or metal containers to keep mice from sniffing the food source out. Keeping a home spotless may not completely prevent mice from invading, but cleanliness does cut down the chance of them sticking around.

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