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Keeping the Varmints Out of Your Kitchen

 by Cheryl Miller

No, I'm not talking about your spouse and kids. I'm talking about mice. Eeeek! One ran under my feet the other day and I felt like I was in a cartoon. I didn't jump on a chair, but I did have to catch my breath and put on my battle gear.

Because I live in an old house, I’ve been plagued by mice for many years. Each fall when I see the signs, I think ugh, here we go again. This newsletter is going to make it sound like I'm really interested in mice. I'm not. I'm just interested in living without mice. Working in the kitchen is a drag when there are signs of mice everywhere.

I’ve decided to get smarter this year about how I deal with mice. And because mice are a universal problem and can cause potential health risks, I thought you might be interested too.

How to Tell if You have Mice

  • Your cat stares into the corner for hours.

  • You see black “rice” on the counter tops, in cabinets, and just about everywhere.

  • There is one pinto bean on the floor which apparently fell from heaven.

  • You find a hole chewed in your Cheerios cereal box.

  • You think you see something running behind the stove out of the corner of your eye, but you dismiss it as just “seeing things”

  • You pick up your bag of rice to make dinner, and the contents pour onto the floor through the little mouse holes

  • You hear a high pitched squeak but dismiss it as just “hearing things.”

  • You see little piles of grains on your counters and shelves and more black “rice” everywhere you look.

We like to look the other way when we see these signs. At least I do because acknowledging them means baiting and setting messy, fussy, yucky traps. And then if I’m lucky, after a moment of silence it means putting the dead mouse in a little baggie and walking it straight out to the trash so it doesn’t stink up the indoor trash. Sometimes it means throwing the whole mousetrap away because it’s just too gross to handle or the mouse won’t “let go.” Is anybody else out there cringing and making a face besides me?

Why Wage War on Mice?

Besides the fact that mice are pests, there are other more serious reasons why we want to keep them outside:

  • They can carry disease and parasites.

  • They can damage your home and property.

  • They contaminate food.

  • They’re dirty. In a year, one mouse produces up to 18,000 droppings. And it will deposit hundreds of micro-droplets of urine every day as it marks its trails. For me that’s reason enough to make war on the cute little varmints.

Out of Denial and into Action

To help us get out of denial and act quickly, it’s helpful to read about the habits of mice and how fast they can get out of hand. For example, by the time you see signs of them, they’ve already gotten married, set up housekeeping and have found all of the sources of food they need.

Did you know that mice can breed 35 days after they’re born? No wonder they take over so fast. Although they usually live only about a year, if all their offspring lived and reproduced at a similar rate, one pair of house mice could produce a population of more than 500 mice in one year. This is a good reason to act quickly at the first signs of them.

More Mouse Facts I Found Interesting - skip down past the stuff about rats....to read about mice


Job #1 - Prevent Mice from Entering Your House

The best way to control mice is to prevent their entry. They can enter through very small openings (1/4 inch in diameter or larger). Popular entry points include foundations, around garage doors, utility pipes and wires passing into the house, and basement windows that do not seal correctly.

I've heard that they won't chew through steel wool, so I’m going to stock up on that and caulk this weekend. Any other tips for plugging mouse holes in and around the house?

More Prevention Tips


Tips on Successfully Eliminating Mice

  • Because mice have poor eye site, they run along walls. So put your traps perpendicular to the wall for better action.

  • Mice are curious and will notice when new things enter their environment. They will also ignore things that have been there a long time. So if you aren't catching mice, move the traps around.

  • Use more than one method - e.g., prevention, traps, sound devices.

  • Start early before they've had a chance to multiply.

  • Plug the mouse holes in and around your house.

  • Don't overbate the traps. The less bait you use, the harder the mouse has to work, and the more likely they are to trip the trigger. Suggested bait: cheese, bread and butter, small nuts, cherry pits, oatmeal, sunflower or similar seeds. Mixed peanut butter and oatmeal, gumdrops.

A Better Mouse Trap

I did a Google search on this term “building a better mouse trap” and 168,000 results came up. Popular subject. Yes?

In my local discount store I talked with a couple of other customers and the sales person about which products work best. I don’t use poison because the mouse can die between the walls and stink everything up and because one of my cats was poisoned by a neighbor’s poison stored in his garage. So I am interested in other products that work well.

I found a cool new trap by Victor that is much easier to set and bait than the old types I used to use. Here’s a picture of it:

You just squeeze one end to set or release it without having to handle the messy parts or snap your fingers off. I love that. I got a better deal at the discount store than the price listed here.

Here are various kinds of traps and how to bait them:


FAQs About Mice and Mousetraps:


Nontoxic Prevention

At the discount store I also discovered a variety of electronic devices that drive out pets by disturbing their nervous sytems. Shaped somewhat like a night light, they plug in near food or potential nesting material and emit a continuous high frequency -- unnoticeable to humans or pets -- that sends rodents packing. I bought two for about $18. They seem to work, but I did see one mouse the other day. After I wrote this piece, I heard that the mice get used to them and the traps stop working. Tonight I saw signs that this is true. Do any of you have experience with these devices?

To read more about them, go here:


Commercial grade devices:

Comments Please

If you have any bits of wisdom to share about controlling or eliminating mice, please email me and I'll share the tips with the rest of the group.

I’ve read or heard about using moth balls, sheets of bounce, Coke, or cakes of soap cut into slices and cubes. Do these work?


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