Mouse in the House

11 November 2011

Monday morning, 5:30am:  I am sitting in the kitchen “mainlining” a cup of coffee when a very small scratchy noise attracts my cat’s attention.  I don’t hear it but I can tell from her reaction that we have trouble.

Emmalina (also known as Emmy) is in hunting mode, completely alert, ears pointed forward, stalking the heat vent under the kitchen table.  I put my head under the table and now I hear it too.  Aaarrrggg!  There’s a mouse in the ductwork.

I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this.

Emmalina had been giving me hints about this critter for more than a week.  She spent extra time in the basement and came upstairs wreathed in cobwebs with that hunting glow in her eyes.  I suspected she was tracking a mouse so I laid traps (safely out of her reach) where I thought a mouse might be, but I never caught anything.  Neither did Emmalina.  Instead she stared at the ductwork crisscrossing the basement ceiling.  I was too dense to figure out why.(*)

All of this transpired while the weather was warm and the furnace was barely running.  This morning the temperature is near freezing and the heat is on.

Warm air wafts through the kitchen.  Emmalina pauses to sniff the air.  Scent of mouse?  Fortunately I can’t smell it… yet.

So now what?  Should I seal the outside of the house with the mouse indoors?  Is it wise to put peanut butter laiden traps inside the vents?  Can I lure the mouse out of the vents… and how?  Will it die in the ductwork and make the whole house stink?

This is an opportunity for crowdsourcing.  Dear readers, your advice?  (NOTE IN 2018: No need for additional comments now, folks, but you’ll enjoy the old ones. Read on.)

(photo by Kate St. John)

(*) Dec 2018:  In 2011 I didn’t know that mice use ductwork like highways the way squirrels use wires.

26 thoughts on “Mouse in the House

  1. I think the first thing to try is going around the house, removing each of the floor vents, and setting a trap inside. This only works as long as the vents don’t go straight down.

    Check them everyday and make sure you wear gloves if you find anything (ick).

    If they do go straight down then try calling a heating repairman for advice.

  2. Kate, you have a problem. You have a conducive environment; but you have a cat who has intuitive abilities to catch and kill. Actually, I would suggest removing the cover where the cat hears the rodent and let the cat get at it. She will wait till the animal comes up. Of course, you can ignore this and get an exterminator, if the animal dies and you detect a smell. It will probably just dry up.

    We had a regular food supply of rodents for our cat but the groundhogs took over the nest and drove the rats out. So the groundhogs are a protected species here/


  3. Last year my cat (Mae) was up on kitchen counter beside the stove and neither she nor her brother have ever climbed up on tables or counters so I chased her down (argh!!–shoulda known!). Next day I was in kitchen and saw this very tiny critter scamper from behind the stove around the perimeter of kitchen floor (behind refrig where it evidently retrieved a little nesting material). I lifted stovetop same day to clean and lo and behold a “NEST”! was near the back burner!! We bought a “Mouse Control Kit” by Tomcat which contained snap traps, glue traps and gel mouse attractant and what we used — 1 live-catch mouse trap. Besides the gel we placed a bit of peanut butter in the back of this trap and in 2 days had a little mouse. We also used this trap in basement one day and placed the mice in field way out back behind the yard. I would recommend this kit to anyone/everyone.
    Tomcat Mouse Control Kit (not expensive either).
    Good luck, Kate.

  4. Good for Emmy! When we lived in Atlanta, a squirrel, probably a baby, fell into the wall and couldn’t get out. It was August and it was stinky but short lived because of the heat. You can always move out when it’s too awful. I like the exterminator idea, though we had no success with that approach on another occasion. You don’t want a cat stuck in the ductwork…that’s for sure. GOOD LUCK!

  5. Hi Kate,
    We’ve had mouse “issues” before, and using mousetraps with peanut butter has worked, but our mice have always been in parts of the house where our cats can’t go.

    It’s possible the cat is keeping the mouse away from the traps. You could try setting traps in the basement, but then don’t let the cat down there for a few days.

    Also, if the mouse got into the ductwork, it mostly surely can get back out if it wants. It may have fled there to escape the cat. I wouldn’t remove the vent covers – you might end up with a cat in an undesirable situation.

    Good luck!

  6. In past years, my mice would always find bags of cookies I stored on shelves downstairs in the cellar, rip into the bag & feast. Could you put some such on a surface near the heat vent (so the smell would be enticing) then encircle the cookie bag with a trap or two? The mouse won’t stay in the heating duct — it’ll have to come out to eat, won’t it? Once I had a mouse in the fan hood above my stove. I saw my cat looking up there, then heard the scritchy sound & concluded, “mouse!” So I banged on the hood, and sure enuf the mouse came out — but it escaped my cat. It was running all over — I saw it in the box of Christmas wrapping — I don’t think the cat ever got it — I forget — stupid thing. I remember sitting and watching TV & I’d see the mouse go scurrying by — or perhaps it was a different one.

  7. We had a mouse in the house earlier this season. First, we put anything that resembled food away. Then we put an almost empty, open peanutbutter jar in a deep, narrow wastebasket and positioned it beside a desk that is a little higher so the mouse could jump in. It did, and within just a few hours. I had no desire to do the little guy in, so we covered the wastebasket and dropped it off in a field in the local park which is at least a mile away from our house. Good luck!

  8. If you get a glue trap get a big one, like one for rats that way the mouse can’t scamper across. Also, there is a kind with something that makes them fall asleep so they can’t get away and also, you don’t hear them. They are effective.

  9. We use to have mice in the walls almost every fall until we sealed up every little nook and cranny with expandable foam insulation. Our dogs usually alert when they are running behind the walls, but they are not as adept at catching them as cats- they must think its some type of a squeeky toy. I’ve found if they die in the walls, they usually don’t “stank out the joint”. When we remodeled our kitchen and took down the bulkhead we found a perfect little mouse skeleton on the beam. Never knew it was there. So Kate, once you find that little bugger, try using peppermint oil on a dishcloth to repel them. I use to put this in my pantry every fall – the pantry was located next to the garage – it kept them out of the pantry. I think its easier to keep them out rather than have to dispose of them after the fact and I really don’t like to “do them in”. After all they are just looking for a warm place to bunk for the winter! To keep the mice out of our RV, we use moth balls, just open a box, set it down and it repels them. However, I don’t do this any place that our pets roam. Moth balls are not safe for pets. Good Luck – hope Emmalina doesn’t get took stressed by this.

  10. I totally concur with Anne Marie!!!

    Please keep us all posted as to the manner of capture decision and outcome. We will be waiting with “baited breath”. (ouch…even I know how bad that one is!)

  11. This makes me remember my sophomore year in college when we had a bit of a mouse problem in our dorm and my hallmates (particularly my one friend) and I had perhaps a bit to much fun waging war on them. A bunch of us (including me) caught at least one mouse in our room using the snap traps. Now that I think about it, it was probably a good thing the guys were on the first floor rather than the girls (who were on the second floor), otherwise there probably would have been a lot of shrieking in the building. Anyways, I first detected a mouse was in my room in October when I found a hole in a bag of peanuts that had been sitting in a crate stacked on top of another crate that was on the floor and even after disposing of the peanuts, I continued to occasionally find them for a number of weeks until I finally caught the mouse. At the end of the year, my mom actually found its nest in an unused closet (My room was a double that I had to myself).

    Well, good luck with catching the mouse.

  12. Kate — I believe that on next year’s blog birthday celebration you will be reporting that “Mouse in the House” received the most comments! 🙂

    Don’t use the glue traps.. I did once and it’s just horrible to see the little thing stuck and struggling – I’d rather just kill ’em quick with a snap trap.

    And perhaps you might want to consider “the adventures of Emmalina” as a blog mini-series!

  13. Our cat alerts us to mice, too, though I don’t think Amber would actually catch a mouse … just chase it around until it got away, or she got tired, which would probably happen first.

    I’d rather catch a live mouse than get rid of a dead one, so we used a couple Smart Mouse Traps baited with peanut butter on cardboard. The mouse can’t actually get to the peanut butter, so it is very important to check the traps daily so we don’t starve a mouse.

    The instructions say to “release where needed” and we have a park about 5 miles away with a resident hawk, so I suspect s/he needs the mouse more than we do. I wonder if it sees our car and thinks “Delivery!”

    We typically have to set the traps three or four times at the beginning of cold season, catching a half dozen or so mice. Once we go a week without a catch, we remove the traps. We haven’t had any trouble with mice in the house after the traps have been removed, but I wouldn’t mind if we had to keep catching and releasing all winter. I just sort of accept that if I am going to live out here in the country, in a not so new house, I’m going to have to deal with mice from time to time.

  14. The mice do die because of the heat. We found that when we disconnected the dryer vent tube from the back of the dryer and a dead mouse and its bedding scraps fell out. The mouse was dehydrated meat!

    Some time ago we would hear mice in the suspended ceiling of the family room, but that has ceased since we have our lawn service spray perimeter pest control around the house several times a year.

    Emmalina will, however, get the bugger if it surfaces! It’s keeping her entertained in the meantime.

  15. Not sure what the best way to catch a wild mouse may be but I have feeder mice and when one expires in the cages, it smells to high heaven, so if you do start smelling an awful smell, it’s probably a dead mouse. Make sure it can’t get to any type of food sources, unless you put it there to catch the mouse, as that’s another reason for it to hang around.

  16. Our four cats were good at identifying mice invaders last winter, but didn’t exactly earn their keep in catching them. This didn’t exactly bother me as the “Humane Mousetrap” by a group called “Smart Mouse Trap” did a very good job at catching them and allowed us to release them (and, admittedly, keep one as a pet who, after a few skittery weeks, seems very happy in his habitat). I had to improvise a few tricks such as weighing down the trigger with a coin and smearing the far wall of the trap with peanut butter (not the trap lever itself), but these strategies are fairly obvious once the trap is in use.

    I suspect the guy(s) is/are surfacing somewhere; placing the trap near a vent will probably lure them out. They have remarkable sniffers for finding food.

  17. LOL, we could lend you Cleo, our corn snake!

    Actually, we never feed her live prey — she’s quite content with thawed-out mouse-sickles. She pounces on them and constricts them just like she would if she were a wild snake. She also likes to “rattle” her tail — we say Aw, look, she thinks she’s a big, bad rattlesnake!

  18. Had the same thing…a mouse in the heating duct. Didn’t figure it out until spring when I changed the furnace filter. Then found the mummified remains. Never did smell anything. Maybe the warm air just dried it up so fast, it didn’t have time to smell.

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