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How to Keep Mice Away This Winter Without Hurting Them


Mice are highly misunderstood animals, and this sad truth means that every year humans use careless and often ineffective measures to eradicate mice from their homes.

Contrary to popular belief, these little animals are as intelligent as dogs, able to empathize with one another and extremely organized and tidy. While most people associate mice with disease, they’re actually far less likely to transmit parasites and viruses than household pets like cats and dogs.

Natural deterrents can discourage mice from settling in your home, but when those fail, kind methods allow for proper removal without the need to kill or harm that mouse in your house.

Fun Facts About Mice

Mice are often unfairly portrayed as dirty rodents, but they are actually fascinating, gentle creatures. For instance, mice:

• Can recognize their given names and respond to humans calling for them.
• Communicate with one another vocally beyond the auditory capabilities of human ears.
• Use facial expressions to convey moods.
• Designate areas or compartments within their homes for food, shelter and toileting purposes.
• Typically stay within 3 to 8 meters from their nest, even when searching for food.
• Can fit their bodies through holes as tiny as dimes.
• Utilize their whiskers to determine temperature changes and to detect smooth and rough textures.
• Have excellent balancing abilities and can even scale vertical structures if the surface has enough gripping texture.
• Symbolize discovery, organization, wisdom and scrutiny in Shamanism.

Inhumane and Ineffective Measures

Unfortunately, humans often perceive mice to be problematic beyond what they actually are, and this can result in a panic that leads to wanting to euthanize the animal through common products such as glue traps, mouse traps and poison. These measures are extremely cruel, often leading to slow, agonizing deaths.

To make matters worse, these methods don’t do anything to control the rodent population in the long run. In fact, they tend to only make matters worse. When a mouse is killed, this simply means more food for the remaining mice. And well-fed mice lead to more abundant breeding.

Natural Deterrents

Perhaps the most effective way to rid your home of mice is through the use of natural repellents. Keeping your home free from food debris, crumbs and loosely bagged food is a must in order to deter rodent inhabitation.

Keep countertops clean and ensure that both regular food and pet food are kept in strong containers that can’t be chewed through easily by hungry mice. Tightly seal trash with taut lids, don’t leave pet food out at night and keep your landscaping orderly with no appealing hiding spots. Fix any holes or cracks within the home with a sealant and insulation, and use ammonia-soaked cloths to repel rodents.

Humane-Trapping Methods

If any mice linger after these deterrents are used, they can be humanely trapped and released with live cages, such as this humane mouse trap recommended by PETA. Insert a bit of appetizing peanut butter at the very back of the trap to allow mice to fully enter without getting their delicate tails caught in the trap door.

A makeshift trap can also be created using DIY methods. For instance, placing some peanut butter inside of a small trash can is an easy way to encourage a mouse to jump inside. Stagger a stack of books along one side of the bin so that the mouse can enter. Once inside, he’ll be unable to jump back out.

After the mouse is trapped, place a towel over the top to keep it calm, and then release the animal within 100 yards of the trapping site. Taking mice further away often results in their deaths, as they’re unfamiliar with the area and less likely to find food and water sources quickly. 

* Remember to check the trap regularly, as these traps can cause mice distress and dehydration within only a few hours. When unable to check traps at this rate, clean them with a mild bleaching solution, which rids the trap of lingering food scents and discourages mice from entering.

Mice are intelligent, gentle and often very clean animals that simply aren’t the threat that humans typically perceive them to be. Utilizing kind measures to keep them outside of your home is an ideal way of respecting these creatures and showing them needed compassion. 

Image by Mark Bray

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

7/29/2016 6:03:17 PM

Humans, why kill other animals when there are alternatives? For example, sterilization and disease immunization of rodents would help levels of threat. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. Specially when there is money and preconceived notions involved. After all, it is way cheaper and faster to kill. Comments in here of, how old the person writing this post is, or, either us or them (the rodents) - are callous, selfish and in fact, quite childish themselves. Humans lacking a higher level of reasoning, like any other animal bound only to their own survival instinct, are just as expendable. That is, are the first to go 6" under when a calamity strikes.

12/19/2014 8:05:34 AM

Where is Mark from. NOT THE COUNTRY and maybe not this world. Mice cost farmers and food suppliers Millions every year. Spoiling grain. What they do not eat they pee on. Being raised on a farm during the 50s and 60s it was a battle on going. When the grain was empty there was buckets of poo in the bottom. Beebe guns in the empty ben helped. Want to go natural get a cat. We kept barn cats. It helped a lot. We made sure there was fresh milk out for them twice a day. The cats were healthy and the mouse problem was better. Do not want to talk about rats here.

12/18/2014 5:45:36 AM

I read this article to my husband who sat and laughed and asked, "How old IS this person?" Every 2 sentences of the text he said, "You gotta be kidding me!" I agree with BikerLady007, it's us or them! I don't care if they are wise, neat, or organized, they've organized their army and trying to take us out! They eat half a kernel and poop and pee on the rest of the bag, rendering it unfit for human consumption. They ate through the door on my bedroom!!! No food back there, EVER! They eat through the walls, through solid wood cabinets, through steel wool, through poison blocks like it was candy, and thrive. Traditional traps, live traps, sticky traps, we caught 27 one winter in this brick on a slab with no entry points! We finally had to quit the poison food rations we were supplying to their superarmy, and after at least a couple of generations worth of traps, brought our cats in the house despite cat allergies. That little female cat was dedicated! We are down to only one mouse left in here after all the other babies got caught, and not a pregnant female, so only that one and no more babies. If he only chewed the escaped pieces of noodle that fall down into the stove, it would still be bad enough. But he's got to chew the wood nonstop. One of these days I'm taking all the dishes out to the top of the popup camper, leaving the cabinets all open, and lock the cats up in the kitchen for a few days with only water. Seriously, I'm absolutely floored at the tone of an article like this? Grew up watching those poor innocent little fashion-conscious mice that would sew the dress for you with the help of bluebirds, dincha? Had to hide and run for their lives from the wicked evil LUCIFER cat and evil stepmother! Got news for you. Even my children poo-pooed that part of Cinderella! They know first-hand what a MESS only a couple of mice will make of your pantry floor when they chew through not only plastic or paper or cardboard, but also through heavy duty plastic garbage cans, not to mention the sewage they leave in place of your expensive food stores, or the damage to your home structure. I don't know where you grew up, but we don't all live in Disney Land.

12/15/2014 9:18:14 PM

Have to agree that tea tree oil can be effective but also, a cat! We live in the mountains, 4 acres of hardwoods on the side of a mountain. Our cat killed a few and it seemed like the word went out.

12/15/2014 10:28:07 AM

I use tea tree oil as an effective repellent in my kitchen cabinets. I just put a few drops on a cotton ball in a small yogurt container and I haven't had a mouse in the kitchen since.

12/8/2014 12:11:22 PM

You're kidding right? I live on 5 acres - rural Vermont - as soon as the weather turns cold, the annual battle is ON!! They want in - I want them out!! I've used mesh screening with expanding insulation on top - I've caulked every teeny tiny opening I can find - trapping can make a difference - if you use enough traps and bait them as soon as you empty them until there are no more mice! The first year I lived here - they got into the insulation around my oven - I hadn't used it during the summer - it was too hot. Imagine my horror when I went to bake a batch of cookies and had to fumigate the house!!! The absolute cheapest gas stove I could find was over $600- and that was out of the question - I had to order over $100- of replacement high heat insulation from the manufacturer and take the stove apart and try to put it back together again. It was a nightmare! They got into my heating ducts - so every time the heat came on - hot air was blowing over their feces into my living space - risking hanto virus - which is fatal by the way - It doesn't matter how clean I keep the place - the battle starts every single year - I tried humane - it failed - they poop - they breed - fast - they are fine outdoors - but NOT in my house thank you very much!! I'll kill every last one of them - deter them with peppermint - trap them - stomp on them - crush them with a broom! it's me or them! There are plenty more to take their place

11/26/2014 10:32:36 AM

Mice are very smart. 100 yards is not enough. I caught a mouse once in my pantry using a clear plastic humane trap and sent him outside. Caught another mouse three more days in a row. Put green feed coloring in the trap and set it out again. Sure enough, released a green footed mouse the next day and the day after that, caught a mouse with little green paws. Was probably catching the same mouse day after day! Too cute! Never had another mouse after that.