I was going to write about keeping mice as pets – and there’s nothing wrong with that, they make a good starter pet, low maintenance, small, quiet (mostly), and are entertaining to watch, and while mice for pets are bred in captivity and are used to humans, wild mice are something else.
Someone likened them to typical teenagers - undeniably nocturnal and enthusiastic eaters who will devour anything!
As vermin, they are unwanted guests in your home. A single nest could contain over 20 mice, and can become a severe problem, bringing diseases in with them. Plus the mess. Mice mature in less than 35 days, and can produce offspring within 60 days, so keeping on top of an infestation is important. Your first hint will be droppings, small and black, the size of a grain of rice. Bad smell is another hint - mice communicate with urine, and a dominant male mouse may mark his territory with thousands of microdroplets each day. Mice will live no more than 30 meters from their homes, so you can be sure they aren’t far away if you find any evidence.
They will eat any food consumed by you and your pets. And not just content to live in your cupboards, oh no, they will get behind baseboards, in through tiny holes you didn’t even know were there, and will look for somewhere sheltered, warm and dry to make a nest – that cupboard full of last year’s receipts will do nicely, thank you very much.
They will get in your car, and maybe your first hint of a mouse in your car might be the morning it won’t start. They will eat through wires to keep their teeth sharp, and apparently some wires are coated in a soy-based product instead of plastic, so wiring becomes even more attractive. I have had mice in my car – they can get into the engine compartment very easily – and they were ripping out the insulation in the bonnet of the car, leaving shreds of fabric behind. A friend left his car standing outside for some months, only to find a whole family must have moved in and had a field day in the boot and engine, with damage so widespread it was irreparable.
How to get rid of them?
So the problem is, how to get rid of them? Well, firstly don’t leave food sources easily available, sealing everything in plastic or glass containers will help. Check around for likely entrance points and block any holes, even a screw of wire wool or chickenwire will help. Keep your paper and cardboard for recycling outside.
For a humane way of repelling them, try essential oils, as mice have a very strong sense of smell, and hate the aroma of peppermint oil, cayenne, pepper, and cloves. Soak some cotton balls in any of these, and place them anywhere you’ve had problems – like under appliances or in the backs of cabinets. Toothpaste, bleach, and vinegar will also work.
Another method is to make a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water, and spray around the perimeter of your house, as well as in any indoor access points. Re-apply any natural deterrent you use at least once a month. You can also try fabric softener sheets stuffed into entry points to stop mouse traffic immediately, but be aware once the smell has faded, the sheets make good mouse bedding! Ultrasound devices are said to be good deterrents, plugged in around the house, and are safe for pets and children.
Next are traps and poisons – efficient and effective, but less humane. Traps mean you will have to deal with disposing of dead bodies, and if your infestation is widespread, several traps will be needed. The downside is the safety of your pets or young children, so make sure they are set well out of reach. There are numerous poisons available, liquids, granules or sachets, where the mice eat the bait and die back at their nests, but again care should be taken on where the bait is placed so your pets can’t get hold of it.
If all else fails – get a cat!