HOW TO CATCH A MOUSE

They’ve always arrived without invitation. Roaming around as if they pay the mortgage, eating stuff I leave on the counter, going to the bathroom behind the stove.   I’ve spent a lot of time researching how to get rid of my family members but neither poison, bait or traps work.  They keep showing up.

I rarely invite anyone over to my house and yet there always seems to be someone here.  They usually have a fork in their mouth.

So it should come as no surprise that my latest houseguests, an extended family of wildly erratic mice that I assume rolled in on some kind of low rent party bus, also arrived without a single invitation from me. Which makes sense since this is more of a hotel to them than someone else’s home.  I mean, you don’t wait for The Hilton to invite you over.  You just show up at the hotel and start dropping towels on the floor.  Of course, you’re generally expected to pay for your stay but things are clearly different in the mouse world.  For one thing they have no pants in which to store currency.

I figure this particular mouse family has probably been vacationing at Hotel Bertelsen for over 1,784,392 generations.

Over the course of my 17 years or so here, I’ve had to evict mice every few years.  It’s not that I’m afraid of mice or even all that bothered by seeing one skitter across the foyer, followed by a pouncing cat.  I just know the kind of damage they can do.

Mice like chewing on things: wood, wires, food, cushions, heirloom vegetable seeds lovingly gathered and carefully stored in paper envelopes for future generations to come.  Also noses.  I have no actual proof but if presented with a nose I’m sure a mouse would chew on that as well.

If you have a mouse problem and a pantry with flour, sugar, cereal, chocolate or really anything that isn’t protected by a layer of titanium and Gorilla Glue, a mouse is going to find it and a mouse is going to feast and fecal on it.  You may or may not realize this before you make a batch of flour and chocolate filled cookies. So getting rid of mice for me isn’t an Eek a mouse situation so much as a health and bakety issue.

Last week I told you about the basics of my infestation and capture methods.  Today I’m going to let you know about all the little things you can do to help increase your chances of actually catching mice and ensuring they leave this world with a quick and humane kill.

I’m talking about how to properly bait and set regular wood, snap traps here since it’s the most affordable and widely available choice. They also work great if you use them properly.

how-to-set-a-mouse-trap

 

The other thing you need to know is if you plan on visiting my house and eating my food you’d better be wearing pants and please pick up your towels.

43 Comments

  1. KATHLEEN H says:

    My parents had a summer cabin in the woods with a little very basic guest cottage. I would visit on weekends and sleep in the cottage….to the dismay of my mother, I’d throw out the sleeping bag on top of the groovy madras bedspread and lie down to study my collection of Winterlamd posters.

    Returning on weekend I was distressed at the stench in my pad…sniffed around, and found that my sleeping bag had an odd hole in it. So did the bedspread. And the mattress. And beside these holes a rotting mouse corpse. I had crushed the little thing sleeping on it as it tried desperately (one would guess) to chew its way out of the layers of suffocation I presented. Then it perished.

    I patched the sleeping bag, still have it with the flower child daisy sewn on, and the madras bedspread still has the mouse hole.

    Yep, that was 50 years ago this summer!!! going to India tomorrow (daughter is getting married in a big fat…..Indian wedding) somI plan to return with a new madras bedspread!!!

  2. Valerie says:

    On we go with mice things. Apart from a wide variety of traps and peanut butter it is essential to purchase COARSE GRADE steel wool. I know there are those who use the spray insulation to plug holes where you think mice are getting in but curiously mice will eat that as well as sleeping bag stuffing, insulation on appliances and chords and of course all manner of food stuffs. They often come in where it is warm so around pipe holes that come in from the outside and dryer hose exhaust areas are open doors. There are often small holes in dryer hoses that you really have to inspect to locate. You may have to replace the entire hose. These critters can wedge themselves to amazing thinness to arrive. Plug all holes with the steel wool and use the end of a flat head screw driver to fill the opening……really pack it in tight. This will last about two years and will have to be repeated then as the steel wool rusts and will disintegrate. Purchasing live type traps is only an encouragement to these critters to come back again for seconds.

    • Fred says:

      U can buy Stainless or Brass/Copper wool.

      Also I’ve been spraying ammonia on the foundation…was doing it every 2-3 weeks and didn’t catch any mice inside. Then I stopped spraying and they started again.

  3. Fred says:

    I use 1/2 a peanut, wear laytex gloves but still put a smear of Peanut butter to hide my sent. I have all food in containers. They seem to all go to one drawer in the kitchen and that is where I leave the trap, I catch about 1 every 2 weeks or so. I live on a farm so there must be millions of them out here.

  4. Constanze says:

    As my mum used to say “13 millimeters are enough for a mouse to get in”, and they always did in our old house.
    She put out mouse traps, but not with peanut butter, but with nutella XD
    We somehow found out that this was way more effective than cheese or anything else we tried. Maybe our mice weren’t clever enough to lick it off the trap without springing it XD
    (We also had a cat, to keep them at bay though ^^)

  5. billy sharpstick says:

    but I wear a kilt!

  6. Louise says:

    I have some real horror stories about rats. But trigger warning for . . . lots of stuff!

    I live near a large field and a couple of rats found a way in during the winter. I opened my laundry closet to find one standing on top of the dryer, level with my chest. I was about 6 inches away and it stood up on its hind legs and chattered (swore?) at me, then jumped down at my feet. I managed to sweep him out the kitchen door and thought my problems were over. Ha! He came right back in through the dryer hose hole. My husband was overseas so I knew it was up to me.

    These were genius rats and they managed to eat the bait without snapping the traps. In desperation, I finally bought glue traps. (Hey, I had my 3 yr. old to think of!) I heard one get stuck (bumping around) late at night. I couldn’t let the poor rat suffer by just leaving it in the trap, so I decided to drown it in a bucket of water. I picked up the trap with some tongs and dropped it into the bucket and . . . the damn thing floated! So I took the tongs and pushed the trap down, then turned my head away, not wanting to see the poor thing’s end. I remember thinking, “I wonder if I’ll faint for this first time in my life.” And then I almost did, because the rat’s tail snaked up out of the water and wrapped around my wrist! Ugh! But I couldn’t let go and have the trap float to the surface, as that would just prolong the animal’s suffering. So I had to hold it like that for, I don’t know, hours! The horror, the horror . . . !!!

    Late on a different night, I heard another rat bumbling around where we had our computer. My son had left a drawing on the floor near where all the wires were and I saw that the rat had actually moved one of the wires under the paper. Thinking that he might have chewed it and how dangerous that was, I leaned down and picked up the wire, but found . . . I was holding the rat by its tail! Eeeek! I dropped it and grabbed my trusty tongs, then bent down and picked the rat up by its tail again. I must have held it at the wrong angle (horizontal), as its tail broke off right where I was holding it. The rat hit the floor, bounced loose from the trap and scurried off into the dark living room. I remember feeling the cold sweat break out all over me as I looked at the tail I was holding and saw the blood well up. Ugh!

    The only thing I could think of to do at that point was to leave the front door open all night to the cold and hope the rat ran out and that none came in. I slept in the living room to keep guard for burglars, hoping that rat wouldn’t wreak revenge on my sleeping form. The rat apparently decided this was a hostile environment and he was gone by morning.

    Three things came about because of this. 1. Rats don’t come in my house any more, either because I’ve learned about blocking access with steel wool or because the word has spread among them that this is the house of horrors. 2. I spent the big bucks to get the rat trap that electrocutes them with 2 D cell batteries. 3. I have very little fear of anything, as I’ve been through hell!

    • Teri says:

      Great stories. got more than a few myself but will spare you all.. except to say: We get tougher with the rat and mice killing, the more damage and smell we discover. I have no qualms about getting rid of rats and mice, and by ‘getting rid of’ I mean killing them. Wish it wasn’t necessary, but those critters can reproduce at a frantic pace, and it is a battle that must be fought constantly on a farm…. even a small one.

      😉

      • Louise says:

        Thanks for thinking they’re great stories. I was afraid they were both too long and too horrible. But I know there are some some people on here tough enough to take it and actually enjoy it – obviously you’re one.
        Come on; share one of your horror “tails!” Please?

        • Teri says:

          er – my first rat-event that didn’t en-tail a dead rat in a trap was a live rat caught by its tail. I discovered that I could stomp on it (ewwwww) to solve the issue. Rat in the Chicken barn – one of many that have driven me mad. The best tails (sik) are when our dog, Skye, stands beside a pile of wood or a folded tarp with her tail wagging a particular way. If we can uncover the rat and it runs, Skye will chase it down and get it. we all call “Go! Skye GO!”. All she does is catch and kill, then walks away looking sheepish. or dogish. All who live and work on our small farm have learned that if she is telling us there is a rat somewhere, there is a rat there. and if we help her to rat it out, she will chase it down.

          • Louise says:

            Yes, I know some people stomp on rats or mice that get caught in glue traps. I didn’t think of it at the time. I’m sure it’s much kinder than drowning the rat, as it’s faster, but I’m not sure I could do it. However, I *could* put it in a heavy paper bag and drop a brick on it! 🙂 (You can see I’ve given this way too much thought!)
            Life is tough. We have to be tougher! (((shiver!)))

            • Teri says:

              well, a sticky trap like what you had would NOT be an invitation for a bootheel. or not for a boot you ever expect to walk with, again! LOL (or erk)….. shovels work, too (love the paper bag idea – makes the shovel usable afterwards). I think we should all live in concrete bunkers with no rat or mouse entrances, myself, but since I live in a 90+ year old farm house I guess I shall remain commited to traps, boots, and (sadly) poison. (only the kind that won’t kill the eaters of the dead, though)……

            • Sarah says:

              you might drown the mouse in vodka. Then it wouldn’t really matter how long it takes. In fact, if given a choice of my own demise I would probably be drowned in vodka.

      • Sarah Walker says:

        Oh Louise! You poor thing! You have given me nightmares and I have dealt with many mice in my time living in an old farm house!

        • Sarah Walker says:

          My funniest mouse story was the time I was sitting in my living room and I heard a clackity-clack on my hardwood floors coming towards me. I couldn’t for the life of me think of what could be making that noise until I saw a mouse running across my floor with a snap trap caught on his tail. He was running around the house trying to figure out how to get it off!!

    • Kelly says:

      Oh, you poor thing, that sounds just awful. I would have left! Sounds like me last summer when the army worms hit…husband gone ALL summer working and me to deal with it, badly. But rats are far worse yet! Horrible things!

      • Louise says:

        Karen, maybe you could have a special post for all of us to tell our worst stories about things like this. What about it, Karen? With your horror stories about fly-strike (aka “maggot butt”), the readers here have already shown they can handle it!

    • Elaine says:

      Omg! You are one tough lady, Louise! I’m barely choking down my breakfast as I read this … the tail wrapped around your wrist??!! Then the other tail episode??! I think I would have fainted! My hat’s off to you!

    • Karen says:

      oh my god. ~ karen

  7. Ella says:

    If you catch a deer mouse (common in Ontario), proceed with caution and do NOT vacuum the poop up as this could cause you to disperse the dried urine into the air. The Deer Mouse can carry the Hanta virus which was the exact cause of death of a woman in Orangeville several years ago. Here’s a link to a pic of a deer mouse – so cute with bigger eyes and ears and white tummy – but could be deadly.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peromyscus

    • Louise says:

      Man, I’ve been paranoid about that since it first showed up in the 4 Corners part of the U.S. I live in California and we’ve had several cases here (and some deaths), notably in the National Forest Campgrounds in San Bernardino.

  8. Ella says:

    Just as a caution – make sure you wear gloves and a mask when cleaning up mouse poop, use hot water and pure ammonia or bleach to clean up the fricking mess and then follow up with surface disinfectant. Toss any utensils or small appliances that cannot be sanitized. Err on the side of caution. Hanta virus is spread by inhaling the airborne dried urine of carrier deer mice so no sweeping or vacuuming of turds. I have caught several deer mice over the years and I am still here so just be careful 🙂

  9. Eileen says:

    Renovating my basement shortly after buying house meant pulling down one of those nasty compressed sawdust tile ceilings…and about 200 lbs of mouse poop. Apparently the house had had ivy on one side, which had grown through the joint between foundation and siding and into the ceiling space for about 10 feet (in the dark!!!)—providing leafy highways for the critters. Didn’t know about the dangers of the turds, so we just swept them up…guess we’ll all die horrible deaths one day soon (this was 17 years ago)….
    An exterminator told me to go around the entire house, esp. where foundation and siding meet, or at any other junctions, and force in strips of hardware cloth (wire mesh), folded to L-shape. Secure with silicone caulking. And caulk anywhere strips don’t fit. I also used the steel wool in smaller openings I thought might be vulnerable. Have had little trouble (knocking knocking knocking on wood!!) since then. And when I did think I heard some, I put cotton balls soaked in mint essential oil in the area, and that seemed to do the trick. Meecies not big on minty fresh air!

  10. Deb J. says:

    Years ago we shared a cottage with my inlaws. My MIL was pretty aware of mice & kept things in tins and jars. But one spring we arrived to find the critters had somehow managed to pry the lid off the flour canister. The whole cottage looked like someone had taken a powder puff to it. It was pretty funny but did put a dent into one’s ability to pretend the mice hadn’t really been everywhere ?

  11. Elaine says:

    I read the funniest story in a column by the brilliant journalist Mary Schmich. A reader wrote to Mary and said his wife only wanted to use humane traps to catch mice. But in order to determine if they were repeatedly trapping the same mouse, the husband had to spray the mouse’s hind end with fluorescent spray paint. The husband said he never recaught the same mouse because he thought the mice died of embarrassment from having an orange behind!

  12. Ev Wilcox says:

    About 10 years ago, give or take, we had a mouse problem. As I had had pet mice at one time, it was very hard for me to kill the little guys. So I didn’t, until the small problem became a big one. Our house is 210 years old, so there are a LOT of points of ingress. So I began trapping them, using the normal everyday wooden ones. When I got one, I would call the outdoor kitten that had adopted us, and he got the mouse. All were happy. About 18 times, I am embarrassed to say. Now we have 2 adult outdoor cats who we love dearly (and they actually love us back!), and have only an occasional mouse. Which I trap. Sigh….

  13. SuzyMcQ says:

    We had a pesky mouse for the last few weeks who kept licking off the peanut butter from the trap. While your suggested trap looked interesting, Karen, the idea of keeping a trap, rather than tossing it in the trash was prohibitive. One of your readers suggested glueing a peanut to the trap and covering it with peanut butter. Voila, dead mouse. Many thanks, as he had evaded death at least four times!

  14. Heather says:

    When I was a girl my dad always put peanut butter in a cut off piece of one of my Mom’s old pantyhose and tied it on the trap. He never re-baited and it got them every time! They’d pull on the pantyhose and snap!

  15. richard cranium says:

    Rolling can bucket trap works every time.
    5 gal bucket filled 1/2way with water (indoors) or water & antifreeze (garage).
    Get a soupcan, drill both ends & drain. (Used pop/beer can works too, more fun use tools)
    Smear drilled & drained can with peanut butter.
    Put rod, skewer or dowel thru can.
    Lay can loaded rod across bucket.
    Build ramp so that the disgusting rodent(s) can access the ‘rolling can’
    Rodent will smell the PB, climb ramp, jump on can, teeter, then roll off into bucket & drown.
    Sometimes I add cashew pieces to the PB to up the ante.
    6 mice in 1 night in my garage
    YMMV

    • Louise says:

      THAT is a great idea! And wow, 6 mice in one night – that’s impressive!

      My son left the toilet seat up one night and in the morning I found a rat had drowned in the toilet. I guess he couldn’t scramble up the sides. Although I left the toilet seat up in both bathrooms after that, we didn’t catch another. Your idea sounds much better!

    • Stephanie Hobson says:

      Nice name. Lol.

  16. These comments confirm what I have always suspected.

    The women who read Karen’s blog are the bravest, most intelligent, strongest and fearless group of women on the planet, each of whom possess an extremely sharp sense of humor in addition to a witty sense of the macabe! I can also intuit that every one of you is down right gorgeous!

    I’m proud to be among you ladies!

    Thank you, Karen, for being our ringmaster. We couldn’t do this without you.

  17. Jody says:

    Quick story…my elderly father lives in a porous old house and gets mice in as well. One night instead of leaving his hearing aid in the kitchen drawer as usual he left it on the kitchen counter. In the morning only half of his hearing aid was there. After much searching he found the other half under the stove burner. A little mouse chewed through the wire and dragged one end away. I didn’t know mice had a thing for ear wax. Gross.

  18. nancy says:

    I don’t like poisons…too many coyotes, hawks and owls are at risk here in Marin County, CA if they eat a poisoned rodent. But I think traps are humane..snap, and it’s curtains! When I worked at The Home Depot, I discouraged poisons..what I found out was that many people are afraid of setting traps. So I would open a package of mouse or rat traps, demonstrate how to set it and then spring it. A how-to lesson took the “Boo” out of traps. I sold a ton of rodent traps in 10 years.

    • Louise says:

      I have a story about poisons that should curl your hair! My sister moved into an old house in a rural area. She and her husband had a new baby, so money was a bit tight and the rent was low. They soon found out the house was infested with mice, so they put out poison. They put it under the house, behind the fridge, and made sure it was in places inaccessible to the baby.

      One morning they woke up and walked into the living room to see that their baby had managed to crawl out of the crib for the very first time. He was chewing on something and my sister bent over and said, “What you got there, fella?” To her horror, it was a dead mouse and the baby had chewed its head off. They had to rush their baby to the hospital and explain he had eaten a poisoned mouse! GAWD!

      Who was it that said Karen’s readers have a touch of the macabre? LOL!
      Gross stories; I got a million of them! 🙂

  19. Furry little bastards! And my pugs are completely useless, they wouldn’t chase a mouse if their lives depended on it (though they would probably fight them for the peanut butter.) Our 1895 Victorian attracts it’s fair share of meeses. I stole a trick from another blog that works great for easy disposal if you don’t mind tossing out the “used” traps (and believe me I do not mind!) Take a brown paper grocery bag, open it up, cut mouse holes on the sides along the bottom, set it along the wall where the dastardly critters roam and put your bated trap in it. When you’ve caught the bugger, just toss the whole bag, no muss, no fuss.

  20. SeaDee says:

    Fun to hear everyone’s mouse-in-the-house stories!

    I had to put out traps a couple months ago for the first time (well, the first time I actually heard them scurrying around my kitchen). I baited the traps with a couple shards that remained from the large Hershey’s chocolate bar the first little critter chewed through.

    As I didn’t want to actually touch (or see) the catch, I put the set trap in a brown lunch bag. All I had to do was close up the bag and put it in the trash.

  21. TucsonPatty says:

    I just had a genius idea, and it worked!! The one lone I-don’t-know-how-it-got-into-the-house little bugger would keep eating the bait and not setting off the trap. I chewed a piece of gum just long enough to get it soft, but still lots of smell and flavor. I then smushed the aforesaid piece of gum onto the bait hook, then smeared it with peanut butter. Violà! I caught him/her after chasing it for 12 days. Ick! Now where is all the dang fecal matter?? I baited and set the trap inside a bag, so I could then wrap it up and toss the whole thing into the trash. Thanks for that hint!

  22. Marilyn says:

    Once in the trap, I don’t even touch the traps when I collect them. I scoop up the mouse, trap and all, with a gloved hand and a plastic bag over it, and throw the entire mess into the garbage. I won’t risk any type of contamination, and for sure, I do not remove the mouse and try to wash the trap (like I used to).

    Karen, your advice to wedge a peanut into the trap is the best. I caught 4 mice in the last 2 days, and you are right when you say, peanut butter goes rancid quickly.

    Your blog is absolutely the best.

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