It’s cold and blustery outside, and that means you need to bundle up, shovel and salt the driveway…and deal with that mouse in the house.
The truth is, mice start moving indoors in the fall, so if you’ve got a family of mice living rent-free in your home, chances are, they first started moving in sometime around October.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your mouse problem under control. Here’s why you might need Vancouver pest control this winter, what you can do to keep mice out, and how to deal with a problem when it arises.
What Attracts Mice?
The first step to dealing with any pest infestation is preventing one from happening. With that in mind, let’s talk about a few things that draw mice to your house faster than the Pied Piper.
Open Food Sources
The #1 culprit in any mouse problem is almost always food. Specifically, tasty open food sources that scream “Free buffet!” to all the critters on the block.
Despite what you see in cartoons, cheese isn’t actually a mouse’s first choice in delicacies. Mice actually like to eat fruit, seeds, and grains.
Sound like anything you keep unsealed? Like, say, your favorite cereals, oatmeal, rice, or fresh fruit?
That said, mice are omnivorous and inventive, so a mouse in your house will eat almost anything it can get its paws on–dog food, candy, and even (if food is particularly scarce) other mice.
Open Water Sources
Of course, mice don’t just have food on the brain. Like most animals, they’re also thinking about water sources.
Mice in the wild will find ponds, rivers, and streams, but mice in a residential neighborhood have it easier–all they have to do is find an open water source in your home.
Like, for example, your pet’s water dish. They don’t even have to climb to reach it.
You can’t eliminate pet water bowls (Spot needs water, too) but you can make it less attractive by getting smarter with placement. Make sure your dog has fresh water when playing outside, and bring the water dish indoors with you when they’re done. Empty out water bowls at night so mice won’t have an easy resource while you sleep.
However, as previously noted, mice are inventive. So when it comes to food, they won’t just be interested in your fresh groceries. They often go for a less appetizing food source: your garbage.
Remember, mice are foragers by nature. When they’re hungry, they’re not going to be all that picky if food is readily available.
In fact, humans are the perfect companion species to mice in this regard. We’re not particularly good at cleaning up after our meals–we tend to leave a lot of food debris and scraps in our trash after a meal, tasty tidbits that mice will happily take advantage of.
Clutter and Crumbs
There’s a reason why you always see dirty, cluttered, unclean houses filled with mice.
Mice thrive in messy human houses. They love clutter, and they especially love the crumbs that come with an unclean house.
This is for two reasons. First, all those tiny morsels that a human wouldn’t notice can add up to a tasty lunch for a mouse. Second, clutter and debris are perfect for a mouse to set up a nice, quiet nest and start having mouse babies.
Warmth and Shelter
Of course, the fact that mice find these handy boxes, nooks, and debris in your house is an added benefit for them. They could make a nest in the walls just as easily.
The immediate attraction for a mouse looking in on your warm, cozy home is, well, the warmth and coziness.
Mice will be most attracted to your home in cold winter months. They know it’s an easy food source, and it’s pre-made shelter against the elements.
There’s also some evidence to suggest that pregnant female mice are more likely to find their way into your house. As with many mammals, pregnant females instinctively seek out a safe shelter to hide and gather food without much risk of predators.
That’s bad news for you because if a pregnant mouse makes her nest in your home, you could be dealing with a full-blown infestation in no time at all.
Lack of Predators
Alongside the attractiveness of pre-made shelter is one simple fact: in the wild, mice have to worry about natural predators. Your house, on the other hand, is conveniently designed to keep wildlife (include natural predators of mice) out.
The obvious answer to Jerry taking up residence is to introduce Tom, as cats are natural predators to mice. Some breeds are known as good mousers.
However, you shouldn’t introduce a cat to your house simply to keep mice away. Even cats from famous mousing breeds may not have good hunting instincts. It’s best to try to keep mice from getting in at all.
If you have a cat to help catch them, this is a fringe benefit (for the cat, at least–you probably won’t enjoy it when they leave a dead mouse at your feet to teach you how to hunt).
Why Has a Mouse Moved into Your House?
All of that tells you why mice are attracted to houses generally, but it doesn’t tell you why a mouse moved into your house specifically. Mice are among the most common pest infestations in Washington, but not every house has them.
Here are a few reasons you might have a figurative neon sign reading “Mice Welcome!” over your house.
You Didn’t Keep Up with Landscaping
You might roll your eyes at your in-laws’ disdain for your landscaping abilities, but the truth is, your lackluster landscaping schedule may be contributing to your pest problem.
Picture this: you’ve got a lovely row of bushes close to your house. They’re quite attractive during the warmer seasons. Except, you haven’t exactly raked the leaves in a while.
Those leaf piles, especially close to your house, are a mouse magnet. A mouse seeking entry into your house has an easy hiding place while they search for a way indoors–you may never even see them.
To keep this from happening, all vegetation should be at least two feet away from your house, and you should always keep the weeds trimmed and the ground cleared so that mice don’t have a hiding place.
You Haven’t Rodent-Proofed Your Exterior
Of course, it’s not enough just to take away a mouse’s hiding place. You also have to remove their avenues of getting into your house in the first place.
Have you checked on the state of your weather-stripping lately? What about any cracks between the building material?
If you haven’t checked (or done any repairs lately) then those issues can easily become an open door for rodents to slip through.
Identify Your Rat or Mice Infestation
Sometimes, though, all your best efforts still can’t keep the rodents from finding their way indoors.
If it turns out that you do have a pest infestation, it helps to know what kind of rodent you’re dealing with. This will help you set traps accordingly and check the right entry points to keep them from finding their way inside again.
Here are a few of the most common mouse (and rat) species in Vancouver, what they look like, and how to tell one infestation apart from another. Remember, some of them might look cute, but they’re actually dangerous to have in your house.
Common House Mice
The most common culprit in a mouse infestation is the common house mouse. It’s also the mouse species you probably picture when you imagine a mouse.
That’s because house mice (as the name implies) are mice that most commonly live near humans. They’re typically grayish-brown or black and about six to seven inches long from nose to tail tip. They have large ears, a small, slender body, and fine fur.
They tend to eat plants, insects, and any meat they can get. Unfortunately for the humans they live with, house mice also reproduce often, with litters of 3-11 young after a gestation period of 18 to 21 days (do the math on how many months are in winter and you’ll be horrified by how many potential litters one female house mouse could have).
These are the kind of mice that usually leaves rice-grain-sized droppings for you to find, dark brown and with pointed ends. This type of mouse also likes to gnaw through wood, asphalt shingles, and soft mortar.
Less common in the city of Vancouver (but still a potential problem for homeowners), are deer mice, so called for their resemblance to deer.
The mouse’s upper body is gray to reddish brown, with a white underbelly and white legs. It has prominent, leaf-like ears like a baby faun and big eyes–the perfect animal for kinderschema, the same human psychological phenomenon that leads us to think big-eyed, fat-faced babies are cute.
They might look cute, but they’re actually quite dangerous–deer mice are often carriers for the hantavirus, a disease with a serious impact on your lungs.
Rats might be something out of your worst nightmare (or a Halloween horror movie). Unfortunately, rats may be on the rise in Vancouver.
Roof rats, also called black rats, are the most common rat species in Vancouver. As their name implies, they usually have sleek dark gray or black fur, with large ears and a tail longer than their bodies and heads put together.
Before you get worried, you won’t mistake a roof rat for a house mouse–including their tail, roof rats are nearly twice as large as house mice, ranging from 13-17 inches long and weighing 8 ounces (compared to the house mouse average of ¾ of an ounce).
They reproduce less often than house mice (four to seven litters per year compared to eight for house mice), but they also have more young per litter (6-12 on average).
As their name implies, roof rats are climbers–given the choice, they prefer roof and attic spaces. So if you see one, make sure to check these areas first.
Norway rats aren’t quite as common as roof rats, but they’re still a common pest for Vancouver homeowners.
These rats are distinct from their roof-dwelling cousins because they’re wider than roof rats and brownish-red in color, with eyes and ears that are small relative to the size of their heads. They’re also bigger and wider than roof rats, weighing about 10-17 ounces. Their tails are shorter than the length of their bodies, but they’re still about 12-18 inches long.
Unlike roof rats, Norway rats are ground dwellers. They like moist conditions and tend to live close to the ground level in crawl spaces and burrows. If you see Norway rats in your home, check your basement first for any further signs of infestation.
Where Mice Get Into Your House
Now that you know the types of mice and rats that might find their way into your house, it’s important to know where, specifically, they might find entry into your home.
The truth is, mice don’t need much to find an entryway into your home. It might not seem like a mouse could fit into a narrow crack or an opening under your door, but that’s because you’re applying the logic of human anatomy to mouse anatomy.
Mice can fit through small spaces because of their size, but that’s not their only advantage.
There’s a myth that says that mice have collapsible skeletons and another that says they don’t have collarbones. Neither is actually true. In reality, despite appearances to the contrary, the only limitation on the size of a hole a mouse can fit through is the size of its head, as a mouse’s head is actually the largest part of its body.
So: if a mouse head can fit through a gap, the rest of its body can follow, which is why mice can fit into spaces only a few centimeters wide.
Knowing that, let’s take a look at a few common places mice use to get into your house.
Gaps Between Building Materials
A common culprit in mice infestations is gaps in the building material that makes the exterior of your home.
One of the most frequent entry points? A gap between bricks and soffit. Even in new houses, such gaps show up all the time. A few other common gap-entries include:
- Gaps between the roof and soffit
- Gaps between the siding and foundation
- Gaps between the roof and fascia
Remember: mice are excellent climbers, and they only need a few centimeters of clearance.
Weep vents are a common structural design feature, and they serve a clear purpose: they allow any water that somehow found its way behind the brick to escape into the open air. This also airs out the wall to keep the structure dry.
Unfortunately, mice are experts at taking advantage of weep vents.
They can’t be sealed completely or you could be facing water damage. You can cover them, but mice can chew through plastic coverings with relative ease.
Mice and roof rats that make their way to your roof can have a field day with entry points.
A favorite access point for roof-dwelling rodents is the plastic and aluminum vents on your roof. In fact, in many cases, all that stands between a mouse and your attic is a thin bug screen–one that a mouse has no qualms about chewing through.
If you have a chimney, this is another easy entry point for mice. After all, they’re excellent climbers–what’s a downward crawl through a chimney to a mouse?
To that end, make sure to invest in a chimney cap to keep them out, and make sure to check it regularly to ensure there aren’t any gaps.
HVAC and Utility Lines
We weren’t kidding when we said mice are inventive.
Utility and HVAC units often have to pump exhaust outside the home. To do this, pipes and vents are run through exterior walls. This means that builders have to cut holes to allow for heating, air conditioning, water, and electrical lines–and they often cut them too big just to be safe.
That’s all the leeway a mouse needs to get from the outside of the house to your exterior wall. And once they’ve made it that far, they can climb along the pipes and lines to go all throughout the house, all while using the same set of pre-cut holes.
It would be brilliant…if they weren’t wreaking havoc on your house.
Door and Window Frames
Of course, sometimes, mice don’t need to be all that inventive to find a way into your house. Sometimes, all they need is a gap between your door and the floor–if it’s two centimeters or more, they can probably make the squeeze.
Any doors that hang unevenly, or that hang too high, are perfect doors for a mouse to slip through. Don’t think that weather stripping will necessarily save you either–they can chew through loose rubber weather stripping fairly easily, which is often how mice get into your garage.
Ways to Rodent-Proof Your Home
As the old cliche goes, the best offense is a good defense. That applies to sports as well as mice infestations.
If you want to keep mice out, the best place to start is blocking off the areas of your house that mice would find attractive. Here are a few key tips to keep in mind.
Seal Points of Entry
To keep mice out, start by removing their way in.
As a rule, you’ll need to seal off any entry point that’s ¼ of an inch or larger (a mouse’s head is the largest part of its body, but then again, it doesn’t have a very large head). Obviously, not all entry points can be sealed (like weep vents and utility lines) but you can eliminate opportunities.
Check any door and window screens for gaps. If your window screens have any tears, make sure to replace them. You should also check your siding for any gaps, and make sure to seal any cracks in your foundation. If there are gaps where your pipes enter your home, fill them with caulk (and make sure to check and refresh the caulk).
Seal Your Food (and Your Pet’s Food, Too)
Mice, much like humans, are hungry. They’re worried about where their next meal is coming from.
Make sure to send a loud and clear message that there won’t be any dinner service at your house.
You should aim to keep as much food as you can in sealed, airtight containers (especially things that mice like, such as cereal, rice, nuts, or fruit). And don’t forget about your pet’s food, either–mice are equal opportunity eaters, so your pet’s food should also be stored in sealed containers.
You should also make sure to regularly check for any crumbs on the floor and under appliances like the oven, fridge, and dishwasher. Keep your countertops and floors clear of residue, too.
Your wood-burning fireplace is a delight when the winters get cold and the nights grow longer. Unfortunately, the stockpile of wood you keep on hand is also a beloved hideout for mice and rats.
This is for much the same reason as leaf piles near your house–it’s close to the ground and easy for rodents to hide in, which means they can search for access points without you ever seeing them.
To prevent this, store your firewood away from your house, and make sure it’s elevated at least 18 inches off the ground. Rodents can climb, but they’re less incentivized to use your firewood as a hideout if it doesn’t get them entry into your house.
Call a Pest Control Company
Finally, if all else fails, make sure to call a pest control company.
They’re experts in dealing with infestations like this, so they know where to look to handle those pesky rodents. An exterminator is also far more efficient in killing your pests than the traditional bait-and-trap method.
Got a Mouse in the House? Need a Vancouver Exterminator?
Have you got a mouse in the house? Have you got several mice in the house?
If so, it’s time to call a Vancouver pest control company. That’s where we come in.
If you need our help dealing with your pest problem, don’t wait. Click here to get in touch.