Solved! What Does a Dead Mouse Smell Like, and Does It Mean an Infestation?

Many people only realize they have a mouse infestation when one dies. Here’s what a dead mouse smells like and how to get rid of dead mouse smell.
Danielle Fallon-O'Leary Avatar
Dead Mouse Smell


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Q: Recently, there has been a strange smell coming from one area in our home. It’s rancid, almost like rotten cabbage, and getting progressively worse each day. Could this be dead mouse smell?

When mice get into a home, they can bring all sorts of problems with them, from exposing residents to bacteria and viruses to the smelly decomposition process once a rodent dies. You will want to be on the lookout for rodents before they start stinking up—and overtaking—a home. Below, learn what a dead mouse smells like and how to get rid of mouse and rat infestations in a home.

A dead mouse smells rancid—or like rotten cabbage.

Dead Mouse Smell

When a bad smell randomly starts in a home, that can be a tell-tale sign that a dead mouse is present. But what does a dead mouse smell like, exactly? Usually, it smells of rotten cabbage or decay. The rancid odor of a dead mouse is distinct—if it smells unlike any scent ever smelt in that area of the home, investigate further.

The odor will start randomly and grow stronger over time.

It can take time for residents to notice when a rodent dies inside. The smell of dead rats or mice comes about seemingly randomly and worsens, becoming more pungent over time. The odor can last upwards of 2 weeks or more before the carcass dehydrates and stops emitting smells, but it can be very unpleasant for the home’s occupants in the meantime.

Getting rid of the smell means getting rid of the dead rodent that’s causing it.

After determining the smell in a home is indeed a dead mouse, the next step is finding its source. Use the strength of the smell to detect where the dead mouse may be, then remove it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, if the dead rodent is in an inaccessible place, such as behind a wall, the options may either be to wait out the smell or put holes in your home to reach the source of the odor.

Look for other signs of rodent infestation in the home.

Be on alert for signs of a rodent infestation throughout the home, such as mouse feces, teeth marks on hard surfaces like cables or wood, or scratching or scrabbling noises at night.

Another telltale sign of a rodent infestation is a musky ammonia smell, a distinct odor present in mouse urine. If this smell is present in your home, particularly in enclosed areas such as cabinets or drawers, there may be an infestation.

Dead mouse in the house?
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A decomposing rodent body can be harmful to your health.

A decomposing rodent can be harmful to those who live in the home, as it emits bacteria, viruses, and airborne agents that can make their way into humans’ lungs, skin, and digestive systems. Rodent waste can continue hosting viruses for weeks after the rodent has died, while the decomposing carcass can lure other pests like raccoons or maggots that burrow inside, bringing more health risks.

To reduce these risks, bust out the bleach. You may wonder, “Does bleach repel mice?” Although it isn’t a great repellent for mice, bleach can sanitize exposed surfaces to lower the likelihood of disease—and to reduce the dead mouse smell.

Dead Mouse Smell

Mice and rats aren’t solitary creatures, so one dead mouse likely means there are more nearby.

When there’s one mouse in the house, there are likely more behind the scenes, as mice reproduce up to 10 times per year, with litters of 6 mice or more at a time.

Mice and rats are nocturnal creatures that avoid high-traffic areas to stay away from predators, meaning if you see a mouse scurrying around the house, it may indicate a larger infestation.

Find trusted local pros for any home project

Hiring a pest control professional can eliminate the dead mouse smell and prevent any future infestations.

Some residents try to take matters into their own hands when dealing with mice. They might look at what home remedies kill rats instantly, then attempt multiple solutions—some of which may not work. However, calling in a professional to assess the situation and stop an infestation can save homeowners time and money in the long run.

A mouse can fit into holes the size of a dime. With the help of a pest control professional, those tiny entry points can be located and sealed up, ensuring mice can no longer enter. A professional knows how to get rid of a mouse infestation, so they can efficiently and quickly locate problem areas to remove rodents in the most humane way possible. Turn to some of the best pest control companies such as Orkin, Terminix, Erlich, and more—these professionals are well-versed in eliminating both a dead mouse and a growing mouse problem.

Opt for preventative measures to keep mice out of your home.

Because a rodent can chew through everything from drywall to electrical wires, it’s wise to take preventative measures to ensure a home is safe, including storing food in sealable containers and keeping floors and counters clean. Unknowingly sharing food with rodents can expose residents to harmful bacteria and diseases.

In addition, you can try home remedies to get rid of mice such as setting up traps and baits, spreading used cat litter near the exterior of the home monthly as a deterrent, and (for those without children or pets) using rodenticides to keep pests at bay. Hiring a professional pest control expert can also help you put effective preventative measures in place.