What you need to know about mice in your home (and how to get rid of them)
TORONTO – Mice may look like cute, adorable creatures, but the reality is they can be full of disease, do damage to your home and generally do not make good roommates. Here’s what you need to know about them and how to get rid of them.
They can make you very sick
While the common house mouse is not as dangerous to your health as a deer mouse, they can still spread disease, such as hantavirus, salmonellosis and listeria through their urine, droppings, saliva and nesting materials. These diseases can be deadly, and if you have a major infestation in your home the risk factor of catching one increases.
They multiply fast
No home ever has just one mouse and don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise. Mice can breed year-round with one female able to produce five to 10 litters per year. With an average of six to eight babies per litter, a family of six mice can multiply into 60 over the course of three months.
They can destroy your home
It might sound overly dramatic saying a mouse can burn your house down, but the bottom-line is they can. Mice love chewing on wires and when they are in your walls and attic — with full access to your household electrical wiring — you better believe they are nibbling away. They do this to keep their teeth short as well as to gain access to places the wires may be blocking (such as the hole a wire runs through). Once a wire becomes bare the chance of it sparking a fire increases. According to the Illinois Dept. of Public Health, 25 per cent of all fires attributed to “unknown causes” in the U.S. are most likely started by rodents.
They will always find a way inside
Mice can fit through spaces much smaller than they appear (think the size of a dime). Holes and cracks in your foundation and outer walls are prime entry points, as are doorways and areas around windows, chimneys, roof vents and wherever pipes and wires enter your home. They can also jump, climb and swim, making it nearly impossible to prevent them from getting inside.
They will eat anything
As mentioned above, mice will chew and eat through anything. They especially love grains and can make their way through a box of cereal or crackers without much effort. They also eat between 15 and 20 times a day and will make their nest near a food source (think your kitchen or pantry). The health department for the Region of Durham, Ont., says mice contaminate about 10 times more food than they eat. Eating food that a mouse has contaminated is a surefire way of contracting a disease from them.
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Signs you have mice
If you have discovered mouse droppings or nesting material, heard noises in your walls or attic (mostly at night), or have seen signs of food packaging being chewed, you most likely have mice in your home.
Cleaning up after mice
Because of the risk of disease associated with mice, cleaning up their nesting or spots they have defecated and urinated on is a process that should not be taken lightly.
Vacuuming and sweeping mouse droppings is a big no-no as it can release more bacteria into the air and the dust can make you very ill. Always wear a mask and latex or vinyl gloves while cleaning up mouse-infected spots. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends spraying the area with a commercial disinfectant or mixture of bleach and water and letting it sit for five minutes before using paper towels to wipe the area clean. Once you are done, put the dirty paper towels into a plastic bag and place them in your outside garbage. You should then clean and disinfect the entire area.
Food items that have been chewed through should be immediately thrown into your outside garbage.
For more on the proper way to clean up after mice, visit the CDC’s website at cdc.gov.
How to get rid of mice
Once you detect you have mice it’s best to deal with them right away so the chance of damage and disease spreading become less of a concern.
The most common DIY methods of ridding your home of mice are snap traps and poison pellets or bait stations. Traps should be set and placed in areas around your home where you have detected mice. For best results, forget the cheese and use a piece of cracker with peanut butter in the trap. Check the traps daily and wear a pair of vinyl or latex gloves to release any dead mice trapped. Dead mice should be put in a plastic bag and placed in the outside garbage immediately.
NOTE: If you have children in the house place the traps in areas they cannot get to.
Poison pellets and bait stations can be placed inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets, attics, basements, and anywhere else you have detected mice. Most poison pellets and bait stations for mice are safe for household pets and children but use caution and follow the directions on the package.
Ultrasonic sound devices, such as the PestChaser line from Victor, use an electronic tone that creates “intensely stressful conditions for rodents” in turn forcing them away from your home. These come in different sizes depending on whether you want a single room or an entire floor of a house or apartment covered. The sound that is emitted can only be heard by rodents and won’t bother you or your pets.
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If you have a big infestation or find traps and poison are not working fast enough, call a pest control company to come in.
Prevention is key to stopping mice from continuing to get inside your home. Checking the perimeter of your home and sealing any holes or cracks, as well as clearing away any piles of wood, leaves or other debris near your foundation walls, will make it more difficult for them to gain entry. Caulk around doors, windows and wherever wires and pipes enter. Check your roof and roof vents for damage or holes and fix as needed. Keeping your gutters clean is also helpful.
Inside your home, store your dry goods (including cat and dog food) in hard plastic or glass containers with a tightly sealed lid. This will ensure your food does not get contaminated and help cut down on the risk of contracting a disease. Take garbage out frequently and don’t leave open food out on your counters as this can also attract mice.