12 Common Questions and Answers About Mice in the House

Mice can get into homes and become a real problem - building nests, contaminating food, causing damage, and spreading disease. But to get rid of them, you need to understand what they do and what they like. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions -- and answers -- about mice.

  • 01 of 12

    How Do I Know If I Have Mice?

    Three mice in mouse hole
    Tom Mareschal/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

    Although the most obvious sign is that you have mice in your house, of course, seeing live or dead mice in your house. But there are plenty of other signs that can tell you that a mouse infestation may be building. These include: 

    • gnawed holes in stored foods, piled papers, insulation, etc.
    • food scraps or wrappings left behind, especially in out of the way places (or in a shoe, which this author has actually seen occur!).
    • excreted droppings - 1/4 - 1/8 inch with pointed end or ends.
    • rodent hairs.
    • runw...MOREays - narrow pathways where dust and dirt have been swept clean, grease marks are noticeable, or urine trails can be seen under black light.
    • nests or piled nesting materials.
    • skittering on hardwood or laminate floors
    • the rank odor of a large infestation.
  • 02 of 12

    How Do I Know If It Is a Mouse or a Rat?

    Common Rat
    Rats are much larger than mice. Keven Law 2009

    Mice are much smaller than rats. Mice are about 2 to 3 1/2 inches in length – plus another 3 to 4 inches of tail. The most common rats in the U.S. are the Norway rat and the roof rat. They will be about 14 to 16 inches in length, with tail length varying by species.

  • 03 of 12

    What Do Mice Eat?

    Mice most prefer to eat cereal grains and plants, but they will feed on almost anything.

  • 04 of 12

    How Long Will a Mouse Live?

    A house mouse will rarely live more than a year in the wild, but in a protected environment with food and water (like a house!), it can live up to three years.

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Why Do I Keep Finding Shredded Paper and Black Rice-Like Things?

    House mouse mus musculus
    House mouse in its nest. Liz Bomford/Photodisc/Getty Images

    It is very likely that you have found a mouse nest. A mouse will build its nest from about any soft material or finely shredded paper. And the little black "rice" is most likely mouse droppings.

  • 06 of 12

    Where Should I Put Mouse Traps?

    Traps should be placed where the mice are. If you have found any signs of mice – shredded paper or cloth, droppings, urine stains, gnawed items – place the traps in those areas. Traps are available from home and garden stores or even some grocery stores. Many can be reused, while others are intended to hide the trapped mouse from view and be used only once.

  • 07 of 12

    I Know I Have Mice, but My Traps Aren't Catching Them!

    Mice are very curious and will investigate new things. So, if mice are not caught within the first days of trap placement, the trap is probably in the wrong place and should be moved. Place the trap where any signs of mice are seen, or where food or water is available.

  • 08 of 12

    What Is the Best Bait for Mouse Traps?

    Mouse Trap place near a hole
    Contrary to popular belief, cheese is not the best bait for traps. Michael Cogliantry/The Image Bank/Getty Images

    Contrary to popular belief, cheese is not the best bait to use in traps. Peanut butter can be very attractive to mice, but it needs to be replaced if it gets too dry or hard. Other good options are bacon, nuts, dried food, and sticky candies. The bait should be securely attached to the trap trigger so the rodent can't simply pluck it off and walk away.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    I Think I Have Mice, but I Never See Any. Why?

    Mice are nocturnal creatures, so they are most active from dusk up 'til morning light. They don't usually like bright lights, but a mouse may sometimes be seen during the day, especially if its nest has been disturbed, it is seeking food, or there is a large infestation.

  • 10 of 12

    Why Are One or Two Mice a Problem?

    In a single year, one female mouse can breed up to 10 litters of 5 to 6 young. These 60 offspring can begin to reproduce themselves in as little as six weeks. So within months, you could have a huge population of mice.

  • 11 of 12

    How Do Mice Get in My House?

    A mouse can slip through holes and gaps as small as 1/4 inch - much smaller than appears possible. And if it's not big enough to squeeze through, the mouse can gnaw it until it is big enough. Mice also can jump 13 inches high and can run along wires, cables, and ropes. Because they are excellent jumpers, swimmers, and climbers, mice can climb even rough, vertical surfaces.

  • 12 of 12

    What Can I Do to Get Rid of Mice in My Home?

    House mouse eating grain
    Eliminate mice by placing traps or bait where they are known to travel.

    There are a number of methods of control, including traps, baits, rodenticides, and professional control. (Please see the linked articles for more information on each of these.)