Putting an End to Amazing Mouse Adventures in Your Home

Who would have thought that typical house mice with their big brown eyes, dainty, pink feet and twitching whiskers could be so extraordinary?  At just a few inches high, they can jump several times their own height.  No wonder they can raid a kitchen pantry in no time!  Mus musculs can also squeeze through incredibly small crevices to enter your home.  Their powerful, sharp teeth can make quick work of electrical wires and cords.  Perhaps one of the most extraordinary ‘super powers’ of this small mammal is its reproductive capacity.  At just 2 - 3 months of age, house mice can reproduce and give birth to eight litters each year producing a total of 30 - 35 pups annually.  That quickly makes for a house full of mice!  From their ancient origins in Asia, mice have hitched rides in the food stores of human travellers as they crossed the globe on ships, on horseback and in rail cars.  Almost anywhere the tiny mice landed, they thrived.

Today, mice cause millions of dollars in damage to farmers’ harvests and food in restaurants, stores and personal residences.  These creatures contaminate much more food than they actually consume.  Part of this contamination is the spread of serious diseases.  When people walk on floors that are contaminated with rodent urine, they can contract leptospirosis, an infectious bacteria that imbeds itself in vital organs.  Mice can also carry the hantavirus, which is spread through contact with rodents or their droppings.  The hantavirus can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, an often-fatal lung infection in humans.

All year round, your home is a comfortable haven for mice where they are safe from birds, and racoons and other predators.  Your home is even more attractive during the colder months when mice seek shelter from the elements.  Chilly nights are often the time that homeowners hear mice scurrying within the walls or across the attic floor.

If you see the signs of an infestation in your home, take these precautions when cleaning:

  • Since hantavirus can become airborne, wear a dust mask when cleaning up mouse droppings.
  • In high-risk areas such as a mouse nest, wear a particulate respirator available at most hardware stores or hire a pest control company. 
  • Ideally, clean up contaminated areas using a wet method (to avoid airborne dust) and add bleach or other strong disinfectants to the water.
  • Wear latex gloves when disposing of dead mice.
Preventing an infestation requires a dual approach.  Begin by removing easy food sources.  Although grain and seeds are staple foods for mice, they are adventurous eaters who will devour almost anything.  They especially enjoy foods that are high in fat and/or sugar such as cookies, nuts, chocolate and, of course, cheese!  While cheese and other refrigerated food will be fine, items in cupboards and on shelves and countertops should be in sealed containers.  Metal, glass and even hard plastic containers with tight-fitting lids are the best ways to store food since mice cannot gnaw through them. 

If you and your family make bulk purchases then store them in the basement or garage, be especially careful.  During the weeks in storage, mice can leisurely nibble their way through the packages to enjoy a bulk-sized meal!  A large box of cereal can feed an entire mouse family for the winter, ensuring that they all survive to breed.  With this in mind, it is wise to store anything edible in durable containers.

Did I mention mice also have a good sense of smell?  Mice can smell crumbs on the floor and dirty dishes in the sink so reduce the temptation by cleaning up quickly after meals.  Pet food also makes a tasty meal so, when possible, remove leftover food once your pet has finished eating.  Also, be sure to keep garbage, recyclables and compost items in containers with tight-fitting lids. 

The second step in preventing an infestation is to seal up any potential entrance to your home.  Mice can squeeze through an opening as small in diameter as a quarter.  Make a careful inspection of your home then use chalking to seal up any crevices and cracks that mice may use as entry points.  Steel wool is useful for sealing larger gaps. 

Outdoors, mice will create natural nesting sites in almost any dry crevice such as the hollows of trees and under large stones.  They will also take advantage of any human-made shelters including piles of newspaper, dense landscaping and stacks of firewood next to the home, especially if the areas are protected by your roof’s overhang.  Trim bushes and keep your yard free of clutter and piles of leaves.  Ideally, keep your firewood off the ground by using an elevated frame and leave a gap of several centimetres between the wood and your home.  This will make the log home less welcoming for mice and other pests such as termites and carpenter ants.

Mice are cute characters in cartoons but are less so in real life!  These steps can help to protect your home and your family from the nuisance and danger of rodents.  If all else fails, try adopting a cat from the SPCA to help to keep your home mouse-free.

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