Dear PoP – The Mice are Menacing

Mouse hunt #1, originally uploaded by mcentellas.

“Dear PoP,

I wonder if you would get a discussion going on your site about mice in apartment buildings around the local neighborhoods. My wife and I live in an apartment building and recently our digs have become infested with mice; for six to seven weeks now, the little critters have run amok and torn into, among other random items, a cereal box and a fresh tomato. The runts are getting braver and coming out more frequently and out of more unpredictable places (the other afternoon, one little guy jumped out of the dishwasher and onto our dog’s back before performing a somersault-landing and sprinting away to safety in a water heater closet. We’ve tried everything to get rid of the runts (i.e. traps–first, the snap traps and then the less humane glue traps, putting steel wool in the holes, and conducting immaculate house cleaning routines). All attempts have failed. It is unclear that the management company has responded appropriately given the level of infestation (we know other building tenants are experiencing the same problem). We are curious how prevalent such mice issues are for other D.C. residents? And we’re also very interested to hear about other people’s experiences. For example, what they do to rid themselves of mice and how do their landlords/management companies respond, etc.? If there is a reader that knows tenants’ rights and can speak about whether a tenant can break their lease if there is a persistent and serious problem that remains unresolved by management, we’d like to know that, too.”

Back in June ’07, I revealed a dirty little secret – we all currently have or have had mice in the past. For me the only thing I was able to do to deal with the problem was to get a cat. (Ed. Note: My cat, Dingo, has been ruled ineligible for the coolest pet in PoPville contest by an independent panel of advisors.) Before I got a cat I used traps that would catch them but there seemed to be a never ending supply of reinforcements. Since I got a cat I’ve never seen one or evidence of one since. I did, however, also have some outdoor spaces patched up. However, I live in a house. If I lived in an apartment building I would definitely request exterminators from the building management. Some advice was given here. But what do you guys recommend for one facing this problem in an apartment building?

46 Comment

  • If there’s major construction going on anywhere near your building, that could be pushing mice out of their usual homes and into yours.

  • Ditto on them cat, though he does not like to eat the butts, so occasionally my wife and I have to clean up a bloody mouse butt. He’s a good boy!

  • The only thing that worked for me was poison — the little green pellet kind.

  • I live in the middle of a block of row houses – probably like a lot of folks reading this. We have mice in our walls and ceilings. I’ve never seen one in my apartment (the building is a condo, a row house, with 5 apartments). A friend of mine is an exterminator and he confirmed that it was mice and he also said it wasn’t worth doing anything about it. He said that the floor joists from the houses overlap so the mice have a clear path from one house to the next. If there are mice in one building, there are mice in all of them. The mice have never been too bad but you do hear them at night in the winter scurrying around and it is annoying. I’ve learned to live with it. Mice do chew on things, and most home owner’s policies exclude coverage for fires caused by rodents.

  • Old fashioned snap traps, covered in a little glob of peanut butter, were the only thing that worked for us. We tried the poison, but listening to them chew on the little green blocks all night (it was a studio apt) was a little unnerving.

  • Peppermint oil works to keep them away for a bit, otherwise I’m with Jimmy D- good ol’ fashion snap traps and peanut butter. Never gonna get rid of them, but at least you can keep them away!

  • For the 1st time in the 3 years I’ve owned my rowhouse, 2 weeks ago, a mouse! The cat killed it before I even knew it was here.

  • Ratzapper!

  • ugh, you almost have to go to war. I used poison outside my house, and the abandon house next door. Glue traps and poison in the basetment, with peanut buter and snap traps everywhere. Eventually i pulled my appliances out, and trim, and parts of the wall and patched around the h2o and electric lines. Steel wool and pourable concret (premix try home depot) are great for holes.
    You cant get rid of them unless all of your neighbors do, so think of it as management. I have two cats now as well, no verdict on their hunting skills. The cat urine probably helps more. Another thing to keep in mind is mice love tunnels. So if you are feeling really advanced (or war -like) get one or two feet of 2″ pvc pipe and glue it in an area where there are a lot of droppings. Then get some powdered poison and put it in the pipe. The mouse will run through the pipe and clean itself thus ingesting the poison.
    If you have small children, then forget about most of the above.

  • We have mice and we just use the snap traps. I think the neighbor in the basement apartment just got a cat so I will be curious to see if that keeps them out of the house all together or if it just moves more of them upstairs.

  • Might I also suggest that smaller dogs might be an option? I have two terriers, a Westie and a Cairn, and we’ve never had a rodent issue. I know for a fact, from when we take them up North to visit family, they will go after mice with as much gusto as squirrels. Enough gusto to dig holes if necessary outside. They were actually bred to chase vermin so why not let them do what nature intended?

  • We have a three-unit row-house condo building. We use poison in small bait stations inside and large bait stations (for mice and rats) outside the building, as well as regular spraying for roaches and other bugs, and an exterminator comes quarterly to spray and refill the bait stations. WELL WORTH THE MONEY. I hate the poison but it’s the only thing that has worked. If there is a “good” thing about it, it’s that it makes the mice thirsty and drives them outside the building in search of water, so they don’t die inside your walls (dead mice truly stink!).

    It’s really important to control mice and rats, IMHO, not just because they’re a fire hazard but because they are extremely efficient carriers of disease. You really don’t want them in your house.

  • When the rowhouse next to ours was serving as an illegal rooming house for a dozen or more single men, there were some mice. But the kitty killed them before they could settle in; after a few, just his presence seemed to suffice. We never found so much as a nibbled cereal box.

    (Vote Colby! He’s cute! He flies! He keeps the beasties away! And he doesn’t even eat his kills… he leaves the whole thing for US to eat, because he loves us so much!)

  • My former house had a mouse issue which was solved by getting a cat (it was a great excuse to have a pet although the lease didn’t support it). We used a few types of traps and sticky pads. We never got a mouse with a trap/peanut butter combo but the sticky pads with PB were somewhat useful. However, if a mouse was caught in the middle of the night they were able to squirm around and eventually free themselves before we were able to properly dispose of it.

    I would recommend using the poison method or getting a cat or a dog as suggested above…

    Good luck!

  • One thing that works is to catch one or two mice in a trap, whatever trap you can get to work, then burn them in the room where you think the mice are hanging out. The smell is horrible and you’ll have to freshen up the room after, but the smell also scares the shit out of the rest of the mice, you’ll only have to do it once. We actually cooked the trapped mice in a frying pan and ate the meat, but I acknowledge that we’re a little weird.

  • Hey 10:03… have you seen the movie Never Cry Wolf?

  • we had 3 baby mice in our apt in logan circle and our cat was the one that found them and got rid of them right away. we had an exterminator came and he determined the mice were in our apt for one day and our cat got rid of all of them. he put down poison, and he havent had a problem since.

  • any opinions on the ultrasonic rodent deterrents? – i bought a few from target a few days ago but would love to hear what others think about them (I hate the idea of poison but I live next to an abandoned rowhouse and I’m sure that’s where they’re coming in from).

    Also, anonymous 10.03am: *speechless* Really

  • 10:03 LOl, good stuff. I actually left one impaled on a toothpick in the middle of the kitchen. To server as a warning to the other mice. beheading them and tossing them back under stove works well too.

  • I used snap traps and PB and it was working well for a while, prob. caught half a dozen mice. But lately it stopped working. I would put the trap with PB in places where I know for sure the mice are but no catch. Is it possible that the PB I used is old and dries fast so it doesn’t smell attractive anymore?

  • I find drawing a quartering the little bastards and sending the parts to the corners of my empire, er row house quite effective at keeping the restive peasants, er mice, at bay!

  • @ Anon 10: I would be interested to hear how those ultrasonic things work but a word of warning about them.

    Do not buy one if you have pets. Your pets can hear it/exposed to it and it can cause hearing damage over time, and they dont get the luxury of leaving the area like the mice do.

  • Keep in mind when setting traps that mice have a super keen sense of smell and can smell your human sent from your hands and fingers on the traps as you set them. Wash your hands well and put on kitchen gloves before setting the traps for better impact.

  • A friend gave me an ultrasonic deterrent after I mentioned I had a mouse. I plugged the deterrent into the wall that my kitchen counter was up against. Two days later – I see the mouse running across the counter, past the ultrasonic deterrent! Concluded that either they don’t work at all or that they don’t work once the rodent is in the space (?) Ended up using the green pellets and never saw the little guy again. Oddly enough still have the deterrent plugged in…

  • I would use the poison outside, but am worried about cat eating a dead or dying mouse. Is my concern unfounded?

  • I find the ultrasonic deterrants do not work either. I have been using snap traps because they don’t seem to care that we have dogs in our house. Because of the dogs we can’t use poison and I refuse to use the glue traps. I mean what do you do with the mice when you catch them on the glue traps? So I opted for the quick death of a snap trap however, one night I came home to find one in the snap trap…very much alive. Some how it had managed to only get his arm caught in the trap and when I moved the table it was behind to get it, the thing looked up at me and PEEPED then sighed. I almost lost it. Thankfully I live with a roommate who was able to put it out of its misery for me. I have since bought the traps that are the no touch snap traps. They are encased and pretty narrow so I think it will ensure that the trap snaps the spine like it should and not flip in the air snapping at whatever.

    Sounds like the best defense is a cat.

    anyways, good luck getting rid of them.

  • I heard that the smell of a dead mouse serves as an alarm for other mice to stay away from the area. But I remember seeing on one of those home improvement channels the rat guy who said the smell of dead mice/rats attracts other mice/rats. Does anybody know which is true?

  • I have several ultrasonic devices… 2 in the basement, 1 in the kitchen, & one by the front door. I have to say they work extremely well. We have not seen mice in years (we purchased our home in 2004). We have 2 dogs – a corgi mix and a rott mix and they are totally not bothered by these things. Before we purchased these (from amazon), we tried sticky traps, steel wool and had an exterminator come out many times… NOTHING WORKED! It was very frustrating! Now – my father in-law, my parents and best friend swear by them. They all keep one in their garages. Which were major trouble spots for them.

    They are not that expensive…give it a shot! I swear you will be amazed!

  • I got one as a gift from my cat not long after moving into my house Such a treat! Such the proud (if a little grossed out) mom…..

    The next time he caught a live one and decided it would be a good toy. I sort of felt sorry for the mouse. Luckily I caught it before things got messy.

  • – By far the best invention ever! I’m not sure about dead mice as a determent, unless you shrink their heads and stick them on poles all around the perimeter of your village.

  • The burning of mice and scattering their ashes is an old farmer trick. I know not-so-old farmers who still do it to keep the rodents away from the barns.

    Theres’s another old farmer trick, but it’s so awful I can’t even bring myself to type it. I tried. Can’t do it. Just awful.

  • I work with rats (in a research lab). A colleague brought in some of the ultrasonic deterrent things one day to see if they actually work. We brought out a rat and put it in front of one of the devices. Turned it on and off several times. No reaction whatsoever. The rat just sat there scratching his balls like usual.

  • Try peppermint oil (not the extract) on cotton balls ans stuff them in cracks along the wall. Some folk do not like to use glue traps, but they work great. Also, mop your kitchen floors with pine soil, the smell irritates their noses. Moth balls are good also. If all else fails, keep a broom in every room and exterminate them whenever you seen them scurrying around. That ratzapper is cool too, I purchase a couple of them from Logan Circle Hardware.

  • is anyone else a bit disturbed that our neighbors are setting dead rats/mice ablaze and keeping their scorched bodies in their homes? hmmm.

  • I’ve encountered this situation before as well. The most effective and humane solution I have utilized is the Smart Mouse Trap:—H

    I suggest putting a little food inside of the trap with a bottle cap of water. Be sure to check it everyday and when you catch one of the little fellas, just bring the trap outside and release him/her into some bushes away from the building.

    Glue traps are indescribably cruel. The mice get caught in them and then chew their own limbs off to get free. Snap traps break their necks. No need for any of this. The mice are just looking for a safe place to live and eat.

  • “No need for any of this. The mice are just looking for a safe place to live and eat.”

    Can’t we all just get along? LOL

  • Wow. Just wow. I have cruel neighbors!! Nothing wrong with it, just amazing at the lengths you’ll go to to get rid of mice! (cooking and eating them? seriously?) I lived with mice for 3 years up in philly (along with roaches, blech) and our exterminator had one of those steel boxes to trap the mice… Problem was we never knew a mouse was inside until it started smelling 🙁 I’ll never use one of those again. I have glue traps down in my apt now just to be on the safe side, but I have yet to catch anything. I was mainly doing it to see if I had roaches – they get caught in them too. I’m a ridiculously clean person and I hate having messy neighbors – they are the bane of my existence!

  • Also, I should mention that the best way to avoid these conflicts with mice is to use spray foam and fill every crevice in your house or apartment that the mice could be crawling through. Holes around radiator pipes coming from the floors, holes in cabinets or under the sink (kitchen and bathroom) and anywhere else you can think of. When we first moved in to our house in Petworth, there was evidence of mice everywhere. After filling all of the holes around the house, we havent seen one (or the traces of any).

    Anonymous- We certainly can all get along! If you were a mouse or rat that was going to endure a torturous death because a human didnt know how to relocate you humanely, you wouldnt be LOLing! (And rats can laugh, btw–

  • We have mice at the office. First I found chewed-through plastic bags and droppings. This morning I was moving stuff around in my closet and saw one scurry away. Then we noticed the smell, and sure enough, one was in the sticky trap.

    Ugh…I shouldn’t be reading about dead mice while trying to eat my lunch.

  • @ Justin — you can’t release them “away from the building,” because they’ll find their little furry way right back in. They are very resourceful and know their neighborhood. You need to take them two or three MILES away before they don’t come back. (I tested this once by dabbing nail polish on one that I’d caught. Released him outside; kept catching him inside.)

  • While visiting a girlfriend in Leesburg we heard the trap snap…I reached around the stove to retrieve it and found a MOLE in it!

  • I recently had a mouse visitor. I put the snap traps out like I did the last time (2 yrs ago) I had mouse visitors, but this little guy was evasive – somehow eating the peanut butter off the trap without setting it off.

    My dog was totally oblivious, and I was frustrated at the lack of killing. Then my friend’s cat came to stay with us for a few days. He dove off the couch into the kitchen one night and after a few minutes came back with the mouse in his mouth. I was super excited until I realized that the mouse wasn’t dead. The cat was just playing with him. Dropping him, letting him try to get away, and then catching him again. The mouse was still too fast for me to grab (or more precisely smoosh with my shoe), but seemed to have sustained some injuries. While the last I saw of him was scurrying away into the hall storage closet, and I’ve yet to find a mouse carcass I also have seen no further evidence of further mouse visitation.

    And, as much as I’d like to be all humane and even think they’re kind of cute… sorry, eff that. Mice are disease carrying vermin and are a public health problem. And releasing them outside isn’t an option. At best it relocates them to your neighbor’s place, and at worst, they’re back inside yours. No thanks.

  • Justin – I can hear the rats laughing at night… mocking me…

  • I’m with Giant Squid-

    If you hate cats like me, get a Westie. Mine killed 13 mice last December-January. Unfortunately they don’t eat them, they just crush them and leave the bones and blood all over the floor. My dog has the weird habit of then rolling in the dead bodies and growling.

  • As an exterminator once told me, if you can see one mouse there are probably 72 in the walls you can’t see. once you see a single mouse it’s much much too late. poison early and often.

    People who trap mice don’t understand that they’re trapping the mice that are pushed out of the nest. the smart and fleet mice are inside the walls and you’ll never find them.

    If you have mice you also have rats. rats will attack you.

    Anyone who is living “with” mice is inviting rat attacks on babies:

    Anyone who allows mice to live with them has the blood of these attacks on their hands.

  • We just had a scary mouse morning earlier this week.
    One dead in the downstairs bathroom, one dead by the cat food bowl.
    Thirty minutes, there was one running in the foyer.
    (This wall in the morning between 7 and 9 am).
    I’ve never rushed to get out of the house so quickly on a Monday morning!
    As I was leaving, one ran out from the stairs and behind the radiator by the front door.

    We have three(!) cats and a dog, so poison is out of the question.
    We set traps that night, but none have been triggered.
    My guess is that once two died a quick death at the hand of our cats, the rest will stay away.
    Fingers crossed.
    Oh, and AACCCKKKK… GROSS!!!!

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