Mice in the house

Mice might be cute in a cage, but they are nearly the most disgusting creatures on earth to live with. There was a good reason for the old saying "build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door." I've been looking for that door too. Fortunately it's easier electronically.

Some of life on this planet is ugly, but still needs to be dealt with. Mice.

I recently spent time sharing a large old house with 5 other people, and with mice. The basic situation was bad. Mice were in the very low crawl space over the ceilings that I was not going to enter, and they were in some of the walls. At night you could sometimes hear a handymouse working on the carpentry part of one of its projects.

There were 4 entrances to the house, all at ground level. It was in a warm area where foundations, basements, and steps up to the door were not used. Two of the entrances were sliding glass doors from bedrooms, and both of those people liked to leave them open most of the time, including at night. Mice could stroll in from the back yard.

No one had been trying to control them. I bought some traps and got to work.

Mouse trap choices

One of the cheapest and most efficient choices is the spring loaded Victor mouse trap. It's the graphic at the upper right.

The major advance for these traps is the "Swiss cheese" plastic trigger. It is scented and doesn't need bait. When I had used peanut butter for bait on the old traps, I once found ants carrying it off. (sigh)

It took a couple of minutes to learn how to set them well but it is worthwhile. These traps were steady and reliable and did most of the clean up.

  • Pro - Simple and effective trap that most people will understand. The quick kill is humane.
  • Con - You don't ever have to touch the dead mouse to get it out of the trap, but you are still too close to it for some people's comfort. If that's the case, the rod that holds the spring down is behind the trap when it catches something. You can just pick the trap up by that rod and drop the whole thing in the garbage. They are some of the cheapest traps you can get. Some people might consider them disposable.

There were frequent catches and we began seeing mice much less often. But then it became obvious that some mice knew about the spring traps and would not go near them.

I was impressed. They seem to be evolving faster than we are. Over the next few weeks, I got several different kinds of traps.

One that helped was the Mice Cube reusable, humane mouse trap. I only set one out where I would see it often. It is a live capture trap. I did not want to mouse to suffer in a small space. I was also worried that the mouse could possibly open the door from the inside if it had enough time, but that didn't happen.

I dropped a small piece of cheese in the back of the trap, then set it down and put a couple of crumbs at the bottom of the door. To get at them, the mouse has to lift the door a little. It's an appetizer, and with the door lifted, the smell of the bait will be strong.

  • Pro - simple, smart design. It is nearly transparent and it is easy to see if you've caught anything. It is simple and easy to dump or release the mouse without contact.
  • Caution - I was worried that with enough time inside the trap, the mouse could learn how to lift the door with a claw. This might be just theoretical because it didn't happen to me.
  • Con - There are 3 small holes in the door of the trap, but not much air circulation. The bait isn't exposed to the sense of smell as much as it is in most traps. Adding the bit of bait at the bottom of the door helps this.
  • Another Con - These traps are difficult to clean if the mouse has left a mess. Only one end opens, which means that it is difficult to use peanut butter if that is your favorite bait, and get it in the back of the trap.

The trap that was most effective at this point was the Kness live capture tip trap.

I'm grateful for it. It is a beautiful piece of work.

You put the bait in the top end. The trap is light and you don't want to use too much. Peanut butter or cheese the size of an aspirin is plenty. With a heavy slug of bait, the trap can tip if the mouse just brushes the outside accidentally.

What worked best was putting just a couple of crumbs of cheese at the entrance as an enticement. The rest goes at the top end.

  • Pro - The door latches from the outside, where the mouse has no chance to get it open. It is a live capture trap and it is easy to dump or release the mouse without contact if you want to do that. Ingenius and well designed. It is easy to see if it has caught something because the door is closed.
  • Another Pro - Both ends of the trap open. This makes cleaning easy, and lets you put peanut butter in the back of the trap. Mice also seem to like the dark tunnel. This trap was set in the same area as one of the mice cube traps (above) and so far it has caught more than 3 times as many mice. When the snap traps don't do the job, This is by far my favorite trap to use.
  • Caution - This is a light trap. Using too much bait can cause it to tip if the mouse brushes the door on its way into the trap.
  • Cons - It is about 3 times as expensive as the basic Victor trap.

Traps you don't want

By far the worst was the Tomcat snap trap. It was so bad I think people should be warned about it. I loaded the bait cups of 2 traps with a cheese dip which was about as sticky as Cheese Whiz. The next morning the bait cups were cleaned out so well that you couldn't tell anything had ever been in them. Nothing was caught and they had not been set off.

I checked the trigger and it was very stiff. Not all mice will even have enough weight to set it off. I returned them for a refund and included my unhappy comments.

Since typing that, I saw a video of a mouse climbing right over the trigger and out the other side of the trap. It was supplied by one of the people reviewing the traps at Amazon. Now do you believe me? :)

Another bad choice is the sticky glue type of trap. They catch the mouse live and you have to take care of killing it yourself. If you are away or don't notice that a mouse has been caught, it might have time to work free. One mouse chewed the upper parts of a trap and littered the glue floor with the pieces. That seemed smart and might have helped because it did get free.

Glue is not a permanent bond with skin. The outer layers shed. Even when people have body parts stuck together with crazy glue, it just takes time before they are free. When the mouse works the stuck part, it can get the job done faster.

There is another problem with glue traps if you have a cat. If a mouse is caught, the whole trap is then baited for the cat. Veterinary hospitals often have to free cats from the sticky mouse traps. They use vegetable oil to do it, just in case this happens to you.