Advice for fighting mice?

brown mouseSebastien emails:

My tenant downstairs is victimized by one very persistent mouse. We have tried poison traps, glue traps, good old fashioned spring-loaded-*smash*-in-your-face mousetraps, to no avail. Either this mouse is a mensa-certified mutant, or I'm doing something wrong.
In any case, it has to go (please). Besides carefully storing food away, I'm considering an exterminator or letting my tenant adopt a cat; pets are a responsibility, but she would like to have one and found a feline online that could be a non-carpet-destructing mouser.
Any recommendations on exterminators? Or "exterminator vs. cat, the smackdown"?

The Capital Region has a lot of old buildings. And old buildings very often have mice. There's gotta some serious collective wisdom out there for dealing with the critters.

So, any tips or suggestions for Sebastien? Please share!

photo: Flickr user coxy


I'm dubious of the assertion that there's only one mouse, typically in a city multiple-apartment dwelling if there's one there's several (or soon will be). Which is why I've always found poison is the only way to go. You just have to leave it somewhere you know they go and be patient. It can take a few weeks to "work."

But if your tenant wants a cat anyway, just let her do that.

btw, how sure are you about the alleged continued existence of this lone mouse? Sounds like a good story to get your landlord to loosen up and let you get a cat.

Your best bet is a cat. As far as pets are concerned, they are not high maintenance. Mice and rats are far more intelligent than most people give them credit for. Remember, it's cold outside and they want to be in your warm house as much as you do! It's a matter of survival for them, so don't underestimate their resolve to share your living quarters and food. The best deterrent is to have a natural predator in the house that will devote his/her time to ridding your house of vermin. Mice carry salmonella and tapeworms, which can be transferred to humans through their droppings (which they don't leave in the toilet, rather in your cereal box!). They are not only a nuisance, they are a health risk. Get the cat and let nature take its course!

loosen up, frenchy. let your tenant get a kitty. :)

A little mouse in a cape just ran across the floor!

Don't get an exterminator, it's a waste of money. Get a cat or borrow a friend's. Our cat has caught 7 this fall/winter. We like to think of her scratching a mark into her litter box for each one killed, kind of like the Air Force does on the side of their planes. Also, peanut butter on a glue trap works pretty well. But don't use chunky, not even mice eat that crap.

even if the cat doesn't kill the mice, it will scare them away (though this may be into your cat free apartment upstairs). if that happens, you could just borrow the cat for a few days and the mice will get the idea and leave the house.

Many years ago in college when my buddies and I got our first apt on western ave we decided to get a cat. She caught a mouse within 10 minutes of me bringing her home. She earned her spot in our house real fast. Cats are better company than mouse traps too.

I agree, there is definitely more than one mouse. In my experience the only way to get rid of them is the poison. Some people complain that if the mice die in your walls then it will smell but I never had that problem at all.

@jackers: there might be more than one, actually my tenant just told me it could be the case. I've just never seen more than one at the same time. Would you believe me if I told you I'm not exactly the best at making the difference between two supersonic rodents? Being the über-organized and clever overlords that they are, it's likely they would assign a different mouse volunteer each time, I guess that's what you are saying. It's not a multi-apartment, it's a house, I'm upstairs, she is downstairs. The mouse has ventured upstairs but not since I have stashed my precious bread in a cabinet out of reach. Poison is what we have tried first, for a couple weeks. Then glue for a week if I recall. Then the nasty mousetraps. Yes, I do believe of the existence of that mouse. Not only do I trust my tenant (she is a good tenant), but I doubt she could fake that much screaming when she sees one, it's quite the high pitch :)

@karen: guys, I love cats. I'm very open to a cat :) The no-pet policy was more towards dogs, it's not a big apartment. I'm a bit concerned about the smell and the potential destruction, but I think a new carpet is kinda overdue anyway, at some point. More seriously, I'm not just 100% certain it's the solution, that's why I'm asking for feedback; some cats just don't care about mice, or are declawed. Can you correct me on that? At least that's what I heard (yes, friends, that's why I've been asking about renting your cats lately, if you were wondering).

@SPH: Peanut butter we tried. I'm telling you, this mouse is cleaver. I think a few people on my street will get back to you about this heroic cat of yours. Does she take credit cards?

The old fashioned mouse traps have always worked for us. Bait them with peanut butter and place where the walls meet the floor for maximum effectiveness.

My two cats don't seem interested in killing mice. They will sometimes trap one under the sofa which allows me to catch it, but cats aren't 100% effective. They're great for plenty of other reasons though. :)

I have a dead mouse inside my wall right now. I won't be using poison again. I think the smell is almost gone, but it wasn't pleasant.

Old fashioned traps with peanut butter for bait have worked best for me.

i don't know about cats not caring about mice. most if not all do... unless they're super old. or real, real dumb.

but man, oh man, you're going to get the animal activists going with that declawing comment... most people see it as cruel. (not my parents though. they declawed poor daisy. no wonder she hissed at everyone.)

Sticky and snap traps didn't work when I had mice, and I don't have room for a cat and didn't want to buy poison. So I just carefully examined every square inch of space and spray foamed all the holes (there were a lot but most of them were in obvious spots like behind the oven).

Yeah, a declawed cat probably isn't the way to go-- and declawing is sick and wrong anyway-- don't agree? Have someone chop off your finger tips (under sedation of course) and see how it feels after.

If a cat is ignoring mice it's probably because it is grossly overfed and too lazy to move. If you need a crane to pick up your cat, you need to cut back on the feeding. Seriously though, cut back and you'll notice an immediate change in the cat's interest toward mice.

"one mouse"
"have only seen one at a time"

their entire existence is living in numbers and living in secrecy. you have a mouse problem, there's no possible way there is one mouse. the real way to fix it is to get rid of left out food, seal everything in an air tight containers etc.

poison is the WRONG way to go. if you ever sell the building or someone has a cat after you use it, all animals will eat it and die. this happened to a friend of mines richardson ground squirrel and she was devastated.

I've never been more proud and disgusted than when my 12 year old cat killed a mouse recently. It was her first kill, and despite being a little long in the tooth, she pulled it off like a natural.

We tried blocking any small holes (a mouse only needs a space the size of a dime to get into your house), serious traps, hippie traps, that fool sonic thing, and cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil. Oh, I also saved the cat's fur after brushing to stuff in the corners of the attic.

Nothing worked until she finally just went in for the kill. Haven't seen a mouse since then.

This is completely and utterly gross, I know, but my colleague swears by the bucket and peanut butter method. Basically, he rubs PB around the inside rim of a (deep) bucket that's filled with water. Apparently, mice can't swim, so they go for the snack and then drown.

Torturous, perhaps, but so are those snap traps!

Oh, the irony in Google Ads.

I agree that you should let your tenant get a cat. But if you do decide to try traps again, don't use peanut butter as a lure. An exterminator once told me that little bits of mushed up snickers bar is absolutely the best lure for mice. And I will say that it did work.

Oh, I meant to add: If you decide to try a mouse trap again, put the PB *under* that little piece of fake cheese. They will work hard to get to the treat and then get caught in the trap. Once I started do this -- tucking the PB in the nooks and crannies -- I caught my mice.

This trick involves making a couple of small holes in the wall, but also repairing a few holes while you are it.

Where is the mouse coming in from? Check windows to make sure they are shut/sealed. Check under the sinks. Are the pipes going into the wall with a HUGE gaping hole around it? Buy STUFT spray foam to seal it up. Or use steel wool to fill up the space. Check the sides of the cabinets on the floor, behind the dishwasher or refrigerator. These are common places holes tend to exist that go unknown to tenants and landlords alike.

About creating the holes, create a few inconspicuous holes (like behind the fridge or microwave). The purpose is to drop a couple of mothballs down the hole then seal it up with vinyl tape. The purpose of the tape is so you can remove it in a couple months and drop another couple of mothballs. Mice hate the smell/chemical, and yes, it is poisonous to animals including humans. As long as it's contained in the wall, a mothball or two won't do you any harm.

If you can block the mouses entrance points, it will move on. The mothballs will deter them for the long haul in general. (There are forums where they said peppermint oil on cotton-ball work just as well, but I didn't find it to work well enough to justify the cost of the oil - - mothballs are cheap.)

I had one last year and used those humane sound things. You plug them in an outlet and they trasmit a noise that only mice can hear that drives them away. I was skeptical and still not totally convinced but the idea of killing them was really upsetting for me. I haven't seen one in the house since. Pretty sure it just drove them out of the house to the barn in the backyard where the neighbors cat hunts them down (not so humanely). Tell your tenant to put one of those where she usually sees it and then let her get a kitty already! :-)

I hate to say this Seb -

I lived around the corner from your current location, and knowing where you, your tenant might need to become very good friends with vermin.

Otherwise, I remember stumbling upon a mouse problem in my house... Turns out one vent wasn't totally screwed on correctly - I'm pretty sure it stopped their entry. So it could be more of a house issue then a trying to exterminate and kill issue. I have a feeling that with your area it would be better to look into preventing them from coming in then total extermination.

@WendyV: Nice. If only Sebastien was trying to DNA type his mice.

If you want to go the exterminator route, Hudson Valley Organic Pest Control. For a DIY option get Final Blox on ebay or Amazon. It works so much better than the stuff at the hardware store. This bait works as an anticoagulant. Mousey eats bait, gets super thirsty, then goes outside to die.
I've had to deal with rodent infestations twice and this stuff did the trick both times. Good luck!

Sebastien, not all cats are into chasing mice. I have two of them catches mice very efficiently, and the other one gazes at them with total indifference. It's hard to tell which one you're going to end up with. Wert's comment is accurate in many cases I'm sure, but my one cat was never interested, even when he was young and fit. He just looks at them and goes, "meh."
That being said, there are loads of cats out there that need homes, so opening up your doors to one would be a nice thing to do, regardless of whether they actually catch anything. :)

Thanks guys.

On that "declawed" argument: let me close that Pandora's box right away. Guys, I'm not from here. I've heard of enough declawed cats lately that I had the feeling this was pretty common in this country. I was raised with (by?) cats, and none of them were declawed. I wouldn't do that to my cat personally, and wouldn't of course ask my tenant to have her cat declawed, that's just wrong. To reiterate: I made the assumption that cats available for adoption could be declawed already. A vet friend just told me that it doesn't really matter: "declawing a cat doesn't stop it from being able to kill something necessarily. they kill with their teeth and back legs, not front claws. although the front claws might help them snag the mouse. a determined cat wouldn't let that stop it."

@andrew: I do get rid of left out food and hide the rest. I'll help my tenant do the same (i.e. more cabinets?). Not sure how a pet could eat the poison years later, it's really localized, in a box, that I got rid of. But point taken.

@Kerosona: "cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil". What do you mea... no wait forget it :)

@Kristi: peanut butter and water bucket? I wouldn't be surprised if that mouse could swim. I swear I saw a tiny Speedo on the street last Saturday. Peanut butter under cheese? Do I need to convert my house to a 3 stars restaurant now? What about a back massage too? Kidding. Noted.

@AJP @Bill @Lola: I can't spray-formed all the holes, my house is built on holes:) I think the mouse is coming from the air vents, i.e. the interface between the pipes and the floors. It's an old house. Spray foam and mothballs? Noted. That being said, if I ever have moths one day, do I use mouseballs?

My roommate and I had this very same problem about a year ago now. The mice were indestructible and had very large appetites. We decided to go the "cat route" and found a very sweet 13-year old feline on craigslist that needed a home. Well, it turns out that while she doesn't do much more than eat and sleep on the radiator, just her presence was enough to scare the buggers away for good. A whole year later and now we have a 14-year old mouse repellent who likes to cuddle! What more can you ask?

One more vote for "let her get a kitty." I dealt with mice for 2 years. Got cats, haven't had to deal with them since.

I'd suggest looking in Craigslist or going to shelters and looking specifically for a cat that is called a good mouser.

We actually managed to get rid of our mice entirely, as opposed to keeping them at bay. We knew where they were coming from, and we used duct tape to direct them into the traps and poison. For a week or so there we had a pretty high kill rate with the snap traps, fortunately they are cheap.

Remember to set the traps perpendicular to the wall, with the kill zone against the wall.

We have had luck with the electronic mousetrap and the box says it "meets international humane kill standards". It's basically a little black box that you bait with peanut butter and put batteries in it. When little mouse feet make the connection on both the front plate and the back plate, the mouse gets electrocuted and a light goes on the trap, telling you that you need to empty out a dead mouse.
We have also used the noise emitting thing and stuffed steel wool in any gaps because the mice can't chew through it like than can with other material. They can come up through amazingly small openings.
In the end, our best defense against mice is our cat and we know when she is on the hunt because she will patiently wait for the mouse to emerge.

The answer is obvious: rent Rob Madeo's cat.

I had really bad mouse problems in my old apartment. While we had some phenomenally smart mice, I never found one that wasn't susceptible to a wooden snap trap. Sometimes it takes multiple tries, and sometimes it takes multiple traps lined up next to each other, but a trap smeared with peanut butter will get them all in the end.

Also, a warning to S: I lived on the second floor of a duplex. My downstairs neighbor had two cats, so the mice all found a way upstairs to me.

3 years ago, I spotted a mouse. That very afternoon, I went to the shelter & adopted a cat (domestic short hair). Haven't had a mouse since. Well, except for the occasional dead one she leaves me.. eek!

No poison in the environment, a cat gets a home, and it's way cheaper than an exterminator. Triple win!

Give DefCon Pest Control a call. They are a local family business and much cheaper than the bigger companies. I had a bad mouse problem last year about this time and they got rid of the litttle buggers fast and efficiently. Very professional from start to finish. They also located the area where the mice were entering the home and repaired it for me as well!!! You can get in touch with them at:

I have a cat for rent... if Lucifer can't take care of your problem I'm not sure what other biblical cat character could. I'll even give you the special price.

i happily co-exist with the mice in my apartment(s). they don't bother me, plus one day i'll need them to help me get ready for the ball so i can dance with the prince.

Went to Menands shelter last year to get a cat because of a mouse problem. Cat caught one of the mice the first night and the rest of them ran away a few days later. We believe we have some mice that came back this year in the basement, but Gomer is on the prowl and waiting for one of those buggers to show it's tail!!!!!

Another vote for a cat! We have never had a mouse problem in our humble abode in the country since we adopted our cat. Adopted him at 4 months old and now at 14, he is still the hunter he was as a mere babe. He killed a mouse in our basement a few days ago. Now that he's old, he's too lazy to deliver his prize to our feet so he leaves them where he kills them. Which is fine with me!

I had a cat once who was so lazy that he actually watched the mice steal his food and store it under the chair he seldom left. Then I had a Maine Coon who caught 4 mice within a week of being at my (what I thought was mouse-free) home. Depends upon the cat, but way better companion than a mouse trap. If you think her screaming is high-pitched now, wait until the trap actually snaps! EEEKKK! EEWWW!!

My dog caught a huge roach recently!

I've had problems with mice in my house and I've used old-fashioned mousetraps with much success -- probably a dozen the past few years (thanks crumbling foundation mortar!).

My trick is that I close the trap with a double peanut shell with the peanuts still inside. Just make a small crack on one end of the shell with your thumbnail and slip it onto the little pointy part of the plastic flap. Then insert the metal release wire/rod into the top part of the shell to hold the trap closed. Sometimes the shell isn't strong enough to hold the trap shut, so watch your fingers! When the mouse tries to take the peanut away or munch on the shell, splat!

Another vote for "let her get the cat". If her cat ends up being like this one :
I also offer my cat for a rental. She will stalk them for days if needs be, and she does not disembowel them and leave a mess. I'm dead serious, and you know where to find me.

Who are you kidding, you will never get rid of mice in center square. Get a habitrail, and pick out some names.

when we were looking at the house we now live in we opened a cupboard in the basement and there was a little mouse, totally casual, looking at us like, what? there was also a dropped ceiling that the previous owner had let become a mouse freeway--he would just put poison in the ceiling panels and that led to ICK--dead and petrified mouse bodies falling out when we took the ceiling panels down (wearing haz-mat suits).

The old timer home inspector told us the only way to get mice is to use the snap traps--catches the mice out in the open and kills them instantly (a little more humane than their struggle on a glue trap) and then the mice aren't rotting behind walls or within ceiling panels. Also make sure ANY (even tiny) holes, access to outside, openings etc are sealed, closed, blocked off etc around the foundation of house or building. We did all of the above and within weeks caught two mice and that was the end of it.

And yeah, there's no such thing as ONE mouse!

Another suggestion is to take a cereal box, cut the large front piece off of it and turn it into a long 4 sided tube (fold in half the long way, then fold each half in half, and tape the edges together). Take a wheat thin with some peanut butter on it and put it on the end of the tube and balance this tube on the edge of the counter so it's just barely stable enough to stay on it without falling off. Put an empty trash can underneath the tube and you are guaranteed to catch a mouse everytime. They see the wheat thin with PB on it, run into the tube, and the tube, mouse, and wheat thin all fall into the garbage can. I caught 3 like this in my basement last year. There is the manner of disposing of the live mouse after of course though. You have the option of releasing them back into the wild or trying to figure out a humane way of killing them - you could always start with a bunch of water in the bottom of the trash can and eventually they'll get tired of swimming.

If you try poison get the big chunks. The poison won't kill them right away. Mice will move and store food for later.
I once opened my kitchen drawer and little bits of poison spilled all over. I have cats and I was frantic trying to get the poison bits up for there safety. The cats by the way could never close the deal with mouse, cats need to be trained my mom, it's just a little grey play thing.

I know it's wrong to promote my business in a comment -- and it's also bad form to flog my blog (ahem), but here goes nothing:

I had what I though was one invisible ninja mouse in my house. I was seeing the leavings and never saw the mouse, for weeks. I had tried laying out one snap trap where I saw the droppings with crunchy peanutbutter and that trap was cleaned out 3-4 times without snapping closed. I upped the fight by putting 5 traps interlaced with the bait pans (crunchy peanutbutter again) in the center. The result was two dead mice that next morning. Since then, three more mice have died and I found the using pairs of traps will get a faster kill. It seems the little buggers get brave after cleaning out one trap and then get sloppy with the 2nd.

I've left a single baited trap out where I can see the if the amount of peanutbutter on it changes. The trap is in a spot where I've gotten other mice, and so far, no more mice. I am seriously considering a cat though, but it sucks that I am allergic to them and not going to shell out the loot for a hypoallergenic cat.


My folks got one of those newer high-frequency anti-mice devices at the local hardware store. It was about 30 bucks, but it totally took care of their mouse problem. It also doesn't bother other animals (like their dog).

And to think I was laughing at my sister for being the cat lady of Virginia. Maybe I should borrow a couple of hers until my mice are scared straight.

I have the electronic mouse repellant thing, but I can't really say if it's the reason I haven't seen one around here lately.

Couldn't resist veering off-topic to put the mouse problem into perspective - at least we don't have elephants:

"A herd of drunk elephants have killed three people and destroyed dozens of homes during a four-day rampage in India."

Thanks for all the answers. I figured I would give a quick follow-up.
Meet the adorable Charlie, the new addition to our household. My tenant seems really happy with her new cat and we are pretty confident it scared the rodent of Hell away... to my apartment upstairs. So there's that. Working on it :)

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