8 Signs You May Have Mice

Do you hear suspicious scrabbling behind your walls? Are you finding questionable black pellets in the basement? Does your pantry have a sharp, musky odor? Chances are you have a mouse in the house—or many mice, as a single mouse rarely stays single, and one female mouse can produce as many as 10 litters in a year. Mice are born about 20 days after mating and are capable of reproduction within two months. Because of this procreation proliferation, mouse infestations can rapidly escalate beyond a homeowner’s control, posing a hazard to food stocks, electrical wiring, and even your health, because mouse droppings carry harmful bacteria, diseases, and viruses. Even small numbers of mice can cause large problems, so it is important to recognize and attend to an infestation as soon as possible. Read on for a few telltale signs of a mouse problem.

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  1. Icky Droppings


    Mouse feces are found in areas where mice are most active, near feeding, breeding, and nesting areas. Droppings are black, cylindrical in shape, and between three to six millimeters (about 1/4 inch) in length. Mouse droppings resemble small grains of rice and are commonly mistaken for cockroach droppings. Always wear protective gloves when disposing of mouse droppings; in heavily infested areas, also wear a respirator. Don’t sweep or vacuum the droppings—disturbing them could release bacteria and virus particles. Droppings should be carefully picked up and disposed of in sealed plastic bags.

    Related: Allergy-Proof Your Home in 7 Steps


  2. Noises in the Night


    Strange scratching or scrabbling noises in the walls, especially at night, are another sign of mice. Mice are excellent climbers and jumpers, and are capable of fitting through openings much smaller than their bodies; they can use the spaces in between joists to travel from one part of the house to another. Mice are typically nocturnal, so you will probably hear them only at night.

    Related: 7 House Sounds You Never Want to Ignore


  3. Rodent Roadways


    A regular pattern of dirty smudges along floors and baseboards could be a sign of mouse traffic. Mice tend to run along walls and follow the same route night after night. Over time, the dirt from their fur and feet will create a distinctive streaking or smudging tracery along the path. You may also find small patches of urine or droppings along the route.

    Related: 8 Dangerous Secrets Your Home May Be Hiding


  4. Holes or Tears in Material


    If you find unexpected holes, tears, or signs of gnawing in bedding, clothing, insulation, fabrics, or other materials, it is a good bet that mice are present. Mice use shredded materials to build nests, which are usually located in dark corners, drawers, cabinets, or storage boxes, or behind fridges and other large, seldom-moved appliances. Mice will often chew small holes in the bottom of drawers, cabinets, and furniture and fill the holes with shredded material.

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  5. Teeth Marks


    Mice have teeth that grow continuously, so they need to gnaw on hard, inedible materials, including wood, plastic, cables, and electrical wiring, to wear them down. This makes mice a serious fire hazard, as they can chew through shielding and wiring, which can cause shorts, power outages, equipment damage, or fire.

    Related: 8 Warning Signs of Dangerously Outdated Electrical Wiring


  6. Foul Smells


    Mice have a distinctive, musky ammonia smell that smells like stale urine. This odor can be particularly noticeable in enclosed areas, such as pantries, cabinets, or drawers. The smell may also be evident along baseboards and walls where mice frequently travel; the odor helps them establish and mark their territory.

    Related: 7 Super Simple Ways to Make Your House Smell Fresh


  7. Disappearing Food


    One adult mouse can consume between three and four grams of food per day, and mice like many of the same foods we do: cereals, grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, meats, chocolate, and candy. Mice especially like foods that are high in fat, such as bacon, cheese, and butter. They'll make up to 30 visits a day to an identified food source, such as a pantry or cupboard. Strange holes or tears in packages are indications that mice may be raiding your pantry. If you think you've been sharing food with mice, throw it away—food that has been contaminated by mice may cause dangerous illnesses in humans, including salmonella, hantavirus, and fever.

    Related: 14 Instant Fixes for a Total Pantry Makeover


  8. Unwanted, Dead or Alive


    Finding a dead mouse in the house—or, heaven forbid, seeing a live one—is a sure sign that you have a problem. Seeing a mouse out and about during the daytime can indicate a particularly heavy infestation, one that might require the services of a trained pest-control professional to eradicate.

    Related: Time's Up: 9 Things to Repair in Your Home Before It's Too Late


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