While they might look cute and cuddly in the pet store, a mouse infestation in your house is destructive and costly. To make matters worse, it seems that not only are mice infestations becoming more common, but the mice themselves are also becoming bolder.
While mice might not be as scary as their larger rat cousins, their presence of a mouse in the house is still enough to send shivers down people’s spines. Forget the stereotype of a woman standing on a chair screaming at a tiny, harmless mouse; in reality, the presence of mice in your home poses a serious risk not only to your health but also to your property.
Here in the UK we have several varieties of mice that are fond of sneaking into the house. The most common mouse that you could encounter is the aptly named house mouse, mus domesticus, and the long tailed field mouse, apodemus sylvaticus, which is more common in rural areas. The biggest difference between these two mice is the colouring: the house mouse is grey-brown, while the field mouse is a chestnut brown with a white tummy. A slightly rarer breed is the yellow-necked field mouse, apodemus flavicollis.
Problems associated with mice in the house
Can a mouse cause a fire? Believe it or not, but one of the most dangerous risks of having mouse problems is fire caused by chewed wiring. can happen. Not only do mice carry parasites and diseases, but the damage that they do your home can be more than just cosmetic. A determined mouse will chew on plastic, wood and electrical cables. While this damage is bad enough, damage to your home wiring can lead to more than just a power outage – sparks caused by exposed electric wiring can cause a fire!
Mice can also cause damage to food and other delicate items and have been known to cause major damage by burrowing through wooden walls or soft spots in your home’s structure and can give gardeners nightmares by eating new shoots and sprouts.
It’s not only the physical damage caused by a mouse that is dangerous. Mice in your home can lead to an increase in harmful bacteria, putting your family’s health at risk. While mice spend large amounts of time cleaning themselves, they are still likely carriers of parasites and diseases. These are most frequently transmitted by contact with faecal matter, but they can also be transferred through contact and bites. The most common diseases are leptospirosis, murine typhus, rickettsialpox, tularaemia and lymphocytic choriomeningitis.
As horrifying as these diseases sound, transmission to humans is relatively rare, and in the event of transmission, the diseases are very rarely life threatening. Nevertheless, any bite should be treated seriously and you should seek medical attention immediately.
How to identify a mouse infestation in your house
The phrase ‘as quiet as mouse’ is true, especially when it comes to mice invading a house. Initially mice infestations are so unobtrusive that it is often only once they have established a nest that they begin to be noticed. Aside from them being so quiet, the reason why mice are initially overlooked is because they are nocturnal and will often only emerge at night.
Signs of a mouse infestation in your house
If you suspect you have problems with mice in your house, the most common signs to watch out for include:
- Mouse droppings. Mouse droppings resemble small brown or black pellets or tiny grains of rice. A single mouse can expel approximately 40-60 pellets each night, which quickly adds up if they are not noticed early. The most common place that mouse droppings can be found in your house include warm areas such as around the boiler, in roof spaces, underneath the kitchen sink, or behind cupboards. The build up of mouse droppings can create a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Noise. While mice are generally quiet, you may still hear them scurrying through the house, in the walls or in the roof.
- Bite marks. Mice will continuously gnaw on objects to keep their teeth healthy. This means that they will often gnaw on whatever is available to them whether, it is wood, plastic, books, furniture and even piping and cabling. Mice are exceptionally agile and can crawl through tiny holes and up surprising angles. What makes it difficult to identify gnaw marks is the fact mice often gnaw objects in places that are hard to inspect often, such as behind cupboards, inside furniture, in roofs or underneath the floorboards
- Burrows and nests. Like the covert damage they cause, mice burrows are not always easy to spot. They are often well hidden or in places that are difficult to inspect. Don’t expect the cartoon mouse hole in your skirting! The burrows or nests are most common in warm dark places such as in walls, underneath the house and in the attic. If you have a garden shed where you store animal food or products, this can quickly become a prime location for mice, especially if it is on a raised platform allowing them to create burrows underneath.
- Smell and stains. Anybody who has every kept a domesticated mouse as a pet will know that mice produce very pungent urine which they use to mark territory. Mice will also leave dark grey smears across surfaces they walk on. This is caused by the dirt and grease in their fur being rubbed off against the skirting, walls or the floor.
The best ways to get rid of mice
The best way to get rid of mice in your home is to prevent them from nesting in the first place. A few simple precautions that will make your house more mouse-proof include:
- Keeping your home in tip-top condition, so regularly inspect your home for cracks, holes and mouse-sized gaps. Remember, mice can get in through holes as wide as a pen.
- Ensure that water and heating pipes are well sealed and aren’t leaking.
- Avoid cluttered gardens. Overgrown areas in the garden are ideal places for mice to breed.
- Keep the kitchen clean and always pack food in airtight containers.
- Ensure that kitchen scraps are disposed of properly.
- Avoid leaving excess pet food lying around once pets have finished eating.
Should you find that mice have made themselves comfortable in your home, don’t fret because getting rid of the problem isn’t impossible.
How to catch a mouse in your house
There isn’t a trick to catching mice; all you really need is patience and luck. There’s a variety of mouse poisons, humane mouse traps, mouse repellents and assorted deterrents that are effective at controlling mice populations in the home.
- Mouse poison: There are a variety of highly effective mouse poisons. However, in many cases mice will return to their nests to die and as such their bodies can be difficult to find and remove.
- Mouse repellents: There are a number of mouse repellents on the market, including electronic repellents and ultrasonic repellents that emit a sonic frequency that is inaudible to humans or which create an electro-magnetic field that will drive mice away
- Humane mouse traps: Bait boxes are humane mouse traps that allow you to entice mice into the trap. Once mice are in the trap, a trigger closes the door and the mouse can’t escape until you take it out into the country and release it safely far away from human populations. Note: Always speak to your council before releasing mice back into the wild.
- Lethal mouse traps: If you’re not squeamish about killing mice then you can opt for the famous snap mouse trap, which is highly effective and because death is sometimes instant, it can be considered more humane than glue traps.
If you don’t have a taste for exterminating mice yourself, or you’ve already tried everything you can think of to get rid of your mouse problem, call in professional exterminators. They have the equipment and the knowledge to hunt down the infestation at the root and completely eliminate your problem.
Mice and insurance
A final thing to worry about when it comes to mice is their effect on your insurance. Some insurance policies may cover damage caused by domestic animals, but won’t cover damage by vermin or wild animals, so always check the details of a home emergency policy before buying.