When mice and rats move in, they don’t announce their arrival with a friendly hello. Instead, they stay out of sight as much as possible, which can make identifying an infestation difficult.
Rodents travel through ductwork, pipes, voids, and in other unexpected spaces with ease. They’ll enter houses, move between apartments, and otherwise try to reach any place where they might find warmth and food.
If you see just one mouse or rat in your home, many more are likely nearby. Indirect signs, such as the presence or absence of droppings, can help determine the extent of any potential infestation but there’s more to look for.
So whether you’re trying to remove an existing mouse problem or you’ve spotted a mouse for the first time, here’s how to know when all the mice are gone.
Mouse Sighting but No Droppings
If you see a mouse in your house, it’s time to search for droppings. They’re typically black and rod-shaped, between 1/8” and 1/4” long, similar in shape and size to a grain of rice. They’re soft and moist when fresh but turn hard and dry in about a day. (Rat droppings are similar but bigger, about the size of a thumbnail.)
Check under cabinets, behind kickboards, inside drawers, and other areas. Mice can squeeze through openings the size of a dime, so there’s little limit to where they can go. They often congregate in the kitchen in search of food, so check behind the oven, microwave, and other appliances for signs as well.
Large quantities of droppings typically mean mice have established themselves in the area. Large-sized droppings often indicate the presence of mice two years or older but can also mean there are rats present.
Older mice signal two potential problems. First, older mice prefer to live in comfortable, safe locations. That’s not how you want your home to feel to mice. Also, older mice typically indicate some location nearby, such as a neighboring house or apartment, likely has a major mouse problem.
It’s extremely rare to spot a mouse in your house but not find any mouse droppings. However, if you’ve searched thoroughly and found nothing, you’ll want to then stop an infestation from occurring. Check the perimeter of your home for potential points of entry and seal off any you find.
Signs to Look for When Checking if the Mice are Gone
Just as it’s difficult to determine when mice have moved in, it’s also challenging to know when all the mice are gone. Here’s what to look for:
No Mice Sightings
Mice are nocturnal and tend to avoid open areas. By the point when you see them running through the main areas of your home, the infestation is typically fairly bad.
Note that a lack of mice that you can see doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of mice entirely. However, if you previously saw mice, but now you don’t, that’s usually a sign your removal efforts are having an effect.
No New Damage
Despite their small size, mice can cause big damage. They’ll scratch and gnaw through wood, plaster, and other materials. Plus, they leave behind urine, feces, and oily marks.
While mice can be tough to spot, the damage they leave behind usually isn’t. If you notice a lack of new damage around your home, the mice might be gone.
Droppings are often the most obvious sign of mice—the average mouse deposits between 50 and 75 pellets a day. Instead of leaving them in piles, mice typically deposit their droppings along wall edges.
Older droppings are hard and dry. You want to scoop them up. Then, watch for moist, fresh mouse droppings to appear. A lack of new droppings is typically a strong indicator that all the mice are gone.
No More Scratching Sound in the Walls
Mice love to get into the void space behind walls, where they can make quite a racket while running around, especially at night. If you’ve successfully driven them out of your home, you’ll no longer hear their signature scratching sounds.
No More Stinking Smell
Mice use their urine to communicate socially and for reproductive purposes. If this particularly pungent aroma starts to dissipate over time, the population of mice in the area might be decreasing.
No Sign of Recent Activity
Remember, you’re always looking for signs of recent activity, such as fresh feces and urine. Keeping your home clean allows you to easily distinguish between old and new evidence of mice activity.
Mice are more likely to seek out warm shelter indoors when the weather outside is wet and cold. They’re typically more of a problem for Texas homeowners starting in the fall and then continuing into the winter.
Mouse Behavior and Habits
When you understand the basics of mouse behavior, you’ll have an easier time spotting and stopping mice infestations.
Mice are nocturnal and tend to shy away from open areas. If you see a mouse running around during the day, that could mean the areas you can’t see have significant mice habitation. Mice typically only travel between 10 and 50 feet from their established homes.
Mice enjoy their creature comforts. If they can find a dry, warm, safe spot near a source of food, they’ll stay. Aside from food, the need to find a safe place to give birth is another significant reason mice enter homes.
Once they’ve entered a home, they won’t leave willingly. Even worse, mice are fairly social creatures, especially when they live indoors. With a typical litter between six or eight, mice can quickly overtake an area.
If you see mice in your house, keep your distance. Although not particularly aggressive, mice can bite if they feel cornered or threatened. Try making loud noises from afar, or flashing the lights, to scare a mouse away (and try to watch where it runs off to).
To help prevent mice, never leave food out. Also, leave lights on both inside and outside of your home. Mice prefer foraging in dark areas, and light can sometimes act as an effective barrier.
What to Do When I See a Mouse at Home
You’ve just seen a mouse run by. What do you do now? First, don’t panic. Even a major mouse problem is fixable.
Next, it’s time to investigate, and you’ll need your eyes, ears, and nose. Mice droppings are the clearest sign. Note where they’re concentrated and how old they seem.
Also, listen for any scratching or other noises inside your walls. Mice are most active at night, so if they’re across the house from where you sleep, you might not hear them unless you stay awake to listen.
Finally, use your sense of smell. Mouse urine has a strong odor, similar to stale human urine or even stale popcorn. Mice frequently urinate to mark their territory, so the smell is often fairly pronounced.
Removing mice completely, and keeping them out entirely, is a methodical task. Depending on the severity of the infestation, ridding a house of mice can take anywhere from a few days up to about three months.
Common mouse control methods include:
Bait stations are packages of poisoned pellets wrapped in plastic, paper, or some other material mice can chew through. They’re typically peanut butter flavored, so mice will feast on them without hesitation, only to die. Ideally, they’ll first carry the pellets back to a home area, where other mice can also eat them.
However, this can be dangerous for pets if they consume the dead mouse/rodent, then they will also be poisoned.
Traps provide quick kills and easy disposal. However, proper placement is key to their effectiveness. First, mice don’t travel far from home, so you’ll need to identify where they live.
Place traps perpendicular to walls. Mice often move alongside most walls. If the trap is perpendicular, they’re more likely to trigger it, so it’s lethal.
Aside from eliminating the mice currently inside, you always want to prevent more mice from entering later. Mouse-proofing your home focuses on two key strategies:
- Maintaining good sanitation
- Blocking all potential entry points
First, you’ll need to remove not just all loose food but also all crumbs and residue. Mice can live on just four grams of food a day, making even small amounts seem like a feast. Also, store all food in glass or heavy plastic containers, as mice can chew through cardboard and plastic.
Next, block off any openings larger than a quarter-inch. Close holes around pipes, seal cracks in the foundation, and make sure all doors and windows are tightly sealed. Steel wool and metal screens are often effective mouse-proof barriers.
How We Handle Mice
At Stampede Pest Control, we implement a deliberate, humane approach to mouse removal. It’s effective, safe for your family, and good for the environment.
Our three-prong mice removal approach involves:
- On-site Evaluation – We’ll thoroughly investigate your home to determine the exact nature and severity of the problem. Then we’ll develop a custom removal plan potentially involving snap traps, bait stations, live trapping, or whatever methods your situation dictates.
- Decontamination and Debris Removal – After removing the infestation, we’ll help prevent future problems by removing debris or advising if the debris is significant.
- Safeguarding Your Property – We’ll block entryways and otherwise mouse-proof your home from future unwanted intruders.
The Bottom Line
Mice are troublesome houseguests, and getting rid of them on your own isn’t quick or easy. Sometimes, it’s not even possible.
For the best results, call a professional at the first sign of a mouse or any rodent. Only an expert can accurately determine the extent of a mouse infestation, and then implement solutions so you can know when all the mice are gone.
If you’re in Houston, Dallas, Austin, or the surrounding areas, contact us today for a free quote. With over 10 years of local experience, we’re the number one choice in Texas for all mouse, rat, and rodent removal needs.