The dog's dish was empty this morning. It was full of kibble when she followed me to bed last night. It's a sure sign that our "favorite" winter visitors found a new way in and had themselves a little party while we slept.
I think mice are quite adorable, but the thought of them scurrying around my house after dark, tucking away bits of dog food for the long cold nights ahead makes me a little uneasy. After all, a breeding pair of mice can easily produce 20 or many more babies in a very short time and once those babies start breeding... well, you get the picture.
So, did I set traps and put out bait? No. Aside from the fact that anything that would harm a mouse would also harm my small dog, I prefer not to kill the little vermin for both humane and practical reasons. Killing mice won't get rid of them for long (when animals are killed, more will move in to use available resources) and can actually result in a temporary spike in the food supply, causing remaining rodents to breed.
In my case, I followed a likely trail of mouse droppings to a wider-than-usual opening near the dryer vent and packed the gap with steel wool. That, combined with removing the food source for a few nights should take care of the problem - but if it doesn't I'll try one of these other natural solutions:
Take down the "Welcome" sign. Mice only need a little bit of food and nesting material to make themselves at home. To discourage mice, remove all food sources by storing grains, pet food, and other dry goods in metal containers. Make sure mice won't find nesting material by storing all soft, fluffy material like fabric, rugs and blankets in heavy plastic or metal boxes. Mice will even chew up cardboard, paper and lightweight plastics to make nests, though, so be sure you don't leave any lying around.
Seal all possible entries. It's pretty cold outside right now, so it's easy for me to move around the house and check for air coming in through small holes or cracks. Mice can get through very tiny holes (if the head can get through, the body can). Caulk, board up or poke steel wool into openings to keep mice from getting back into the house.
Peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, pepper and cloves. Mice are said to hate the smell of these. Lightly soak some cotton balls in oils from one or more of these foods and leave the cotton balls in places where you've had problems with mice. Another option is to make cheesecloth sachets from dry cayenne, mint, and whole cloves and leave them in places where mice tend to hide, such as under beds and corners.
Place tubs of used kitty litter around entrances to the house. I can't attest to the success of this one as I don't have a cat, but it makes sense that at the smell of cat urine, mice would and clear off in a jiffy.
Ammonia smells like the urine of a possible predators. Fill caps from plastic bottles with ammonia and leave them out anywhere mice might be tempted to enter, such the pantry or under the sink - just be sure to place them out of reach of pets and children.
Try a humane trap. There are traps that catch the mouse in a box. The mouse can get in but not out. This can be a humane way to catch mice, but once you catch them you will need to release them at least 1 mile from your home, perhaps a heavily wooded area to give them somewhere else to go. And be sure to check the trap at least once a day as mice will die if left in it more than a day or two.
Zap with beeps. There is an electronic unit that emits a beeping sound that mice hate. I've found that the effect wears off over time, but initially mine was very effective at keeping mice away. This sound is not a hazard to dogs and cats. The units can be bought at hardware stores for about $30.
Have you survived a mouse invasion? What tips can you offer for keeping them away?