How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Attic

How to Get Rid of Mice in Your Attic

The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

When the weather gets colder, mice start looking for a warm place to nest. Unfortunately, your attic is the perfect spot for them.

Mice can squeeze through the tiniest of openings, and once they're inside they're hard to get rid of. Not only are they a nuisance, but they can cause damage to your home by chewing on wires and insulation, and by spreading disease and contaminating food through their droppings.

If you think you have mice in your attic, there are a few things you can do to get rid of them. While getting rid of mice is no easy task, with a little patience and effort, you can mouse-proof your home this winter.

What Do Mice Look Like?

If you have mice in your attic (or walls), you're probably hearing them rather than seeing them. As you start investigating, you'll want to know what mice (and their signs) look like so you can positively identify the activity.

Mice and rats are easily confused with one another, but their difference is very important when it comes to pest control. Both of these rodents are nocturnal, meaning you're not likely to see them around in daylight. This makes spotting them tricky but not impossible.

Mice have the following physical traits:

  • Small and slender (adults are 5-6" long including their tail)
  • Pointed nose
  • Big ears and eyes
  • A long tail about the length of their body
  • Varied brown coloring

Mice also have small, sharp claws that make them very good climbers. Combine those traits with their ability to squeeze into small spaces, and it's easy to understand how they were able to get all the way up to your attic space.

A small brown mouse with large black eyes and large, round ears enjoys a meal of seeds and grains.

Dr T J Martin / Getty Images

Signs of Mice in Your Attic

The first and most telling sign that you have mice in your attic is the sound of scratching coming from the walls or ceiling. While hearing sounds isn't a guarantee of rodent activity in the attic, it can be an indicator.

Upon further inspection, look out for the following:

  • Mouse droppings (about the size of a grain of rice or smaller)
  • Small holes gnawed in the siding
  • Insulation pulled away from beams
  • Chewed wires (including electrical and internet issues)

If you think you might be hearing sounds in the attic, it's important to inspect and take a look before carrying out control measures. First, check to make sure there are no tree branches hanging over your roof that could be knocking against your home in the wind. Once that possibility is crossed off your list, start looking for the signs of an animal culprit.

Tip

The sounds you're hearing (and the time of day you're hearing them) can tell you a lot. If you're hearing these sounds in the morning or daytime, you're likely dealing with a different kind of pest, like birds, squirrels, carpenter ants, or wasps. Nighttime noises are more indicative of a rodent issue but could also be caused by the presence of wildlife, such as bats or raccoons.

4 Ways to Get Rid of Mice in Your Attic

Mice are one of the most common household pests, and they often take up residence in attic spaces. Follow these steps to ensure that you address your mouse issue from top to bottom.

Inspect and Identify

The first step in any good pest control program is to thoroughly inspect the premises, looking not only for mice and their droppings but also for other clues as to their comings and goings.

Before starting with your inspection, make sure you have the proper clothing and equipment, including:

  • Long pants
  • Long sleeves
  • Socks and boots
  • Nitrile gloves
  • A good flashlight

You may also want to grab eye protection and a respirator. Mice are very dirty, not only can they cause allergic reactions, but they can also transmit disease in their droppings. Mouse droppings are small and rough on both ends and look like tiny, brown grains of rice. Rat droppings are larger than mouse droppings and have a more rounded appearance.

When inspecting, start by walking around the exterior of your home with your flashlight and looking from top to bottom. Check along the eaves, roofline, and chimney for any gaps, and look around the foundation, too. Keep an eye out for shredded paper or plastic, or insulation that has been pulled out of place. This could indicate active nesting inside.

It is not uncommon for mouse issues to start in the crawlspace and move up to the attic via electrical wires and water pipes in the walls. If you're inspecting your home for mice in the attic, make sure the check the crawlspace, too.

Reduce Food, Water and Harborage

As you're inspecting, watch for potential food and water sources. Mouse food doesn't need to be appealing to humans, they'll happily eat from garbage cans or compost piles, as well as bird feeders. Bird feeders are a huge rodent attractant. If you don't want to get rid of your bird feeder, at least move it as far away from the house as possible. Understand that it will still continue to attract rodents, but moving it will discourage rodents from eating close to your home and hopefully deter them from getting too comfortable.

Once you've properly contained or eliminated food sources, it's time to look for water sources. Some of these water sources may not be removable (such as ponds, fountains, and other water fixtures), but a leaky hose or an irrigation system can provide adequate water for mice and other wildlife. Fix leaks as soon as possible and consider changing your watering times from night to early morning to avoid giving any nocturnal rodents their own drinking fountain.

Lastly, consider any areas up against your home that could enable mouse access. Start by looking around the foundation for dense vegetation, ground cover, and clutter. Even a woodpile up against the foundation of the home can encourage the presence of mice and other rodents, so move these somewhere else when possible. Trim back brush and shrubs, and ensure tree limbs aren't touching the house and providing easy climbing access.

Tip

Rodents love the dense cover that ivy provides, and if the ivy goes up the side of your house, rodents could climb up it and straight into your attic. If you have ivy along your house or up against your foundation, make clearing it out a top priority if you want to eliminate the presence of mice and other rodents around your home.

Properly Seal Holes and Gaps

Once you've inspected and removed conducive conditions that could attract the mice to your home, it's time to seal them out. It can be tempting to use a can of spray foam for this job, given how cheap it is and easy to use, but spray foam is NOT your friend when it comes to rodent issues. Rodents have sharp teeth that can munch through spray foam like popcorn, no problem!

Pack small gaps along the roofline, foundation, or chimney tightly with steel wool or professional excluder material. You may want heavier-duty work gloves for this job, as these materials can prick you.

If you're dealing with a more significant gap or hole that needs sealing, use 1/4" steel mesh or metal flashing, cut it to size, and then screw it into place. Sealing holes this way may seem more expensive and time-consuming in the short run, but don't think the rodents won't be back! Our homes are very appealing to rodents, and these solutions will stay in place longer while providing better protection.

Place and Check Traps

Once entry points have been sealed, there's a possibility that mice are now trapped inside, unable to escape through their old exit holes. You'll need to place traps to help eliminate any mice left behind inside.

Trapping is a multi-part process. It's not as easy as simply placing traps; you'll also need to check and empty them. If you're using snap traps, it's very important that you've identified the presence of mice with 100% certainty. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. If you're dealing with mice but place rat traps instead, the rat traps will be too big and will not effectively capture mice.
  2. If you think you have mice, but they're actually rats, using mouse traps could make your problem much more difficult to control long term.

Rats are very trap-shy, and mouse traps are not big enough to trap them, but they will definitely scare the rats. This is not good, as rats are smart and will then know to stay away from traps in general. This is what pest pros call "trap shyness," and it can create very difficult-to-control rat situations.

If you are truly unsure if you're dealing with rats or mice, you could call a professional to help, or you could opt for the less humane rat glue trays. These will trap both rats and mice, and in situations where mice are present, multiple can be trapped on one tray as opposed to one mouse per snap trap. This means less trap-checking for you! Just keep your nose open for any funky smells, and be sure to dispose of trays if a smell issue does pop up.

Tip

When placing snap traps or glue trays, they should be inside the attic or crawlspace, not outside, and it's imperative to ensure no pets or children can gain access to them. Otherwise, they can create a very sticky, uncomfortable mess.

What Causes Mice in the Attic?

Considering mice are one of the most common household pests, it's no surprise that they pop up in attics and crawlspaces all over the world.

Mice are attracted to attics for a variety of reasons. For one, they offer a safe, warm place to nest and raise their young. Mice are also attracted to the abundance of food that can be found in our homes and garages. With easy access to other areas of your home using wall voids and utility lines, mice can get around and find food pretty discreetly. Consider the following food and nesting sources:

  • Stored boxes of cereal
  • Pet food
  • Bird seed
  • Other stored food or grains

While an infestation of mice can be a real pain, remember: they're looking for a place to call home, too. By taking steps to seal up entry points and remove food sources, you can help deter mice from setting up camp in your ceiling and walls.

How to Prevent Mice in the Attic

To prevent mice from getting into your attic, take the following steps:

  • Perform regular inspections of your home's exterior, attic, and crawlspace
  • Keep an eye out for droppings and signs of nesting
  • Reduce and remove possible food and water sources
  • Eliminate hiding places, especially up against your foundation (wood piles, clutter, dense plants)

When to Call a Pro

If rodent control isn't a DIY job that appeals to you (or if you're afraid of ladders or small spaces), don't be afraid to call a pest professional for help. They'll be able to help you identify what pest is present and what steps you can take to keep them away for good.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Diseases Spread by Rodents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  2. Controlling House Mice. University of Missouri Extension