How to Catch a Mouse Like a Pro

Mouse hole and mouse trap with cheese

Are you sick of playing an endless game of cat and mouse, trying to catch an unwelcome furry intruder? If so, don’t despair. You don’t have to resort to harmful rodenticides to get rid of your mouse problems. You have plenty of options for traps, from the classic snap trap to a DIY bucket trap. This article will teach you how to trap a mouse like a pro and even what to do with the mouse after catching it.

How to Catch Mice With Mouse Traps

One of the simplest ways to get rid of mice in your home is with a classic mouse trap. You can use either a live or lethal trap. If you choose a lethal trap, only use the classic spring mouse trap, and not a glue trap. Glue traps are excessively cruel and not as effective; mice have been known to chew off their own feet to escape them.

Step 1: Choose Your Bait

Different mouse traps on white background
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In order for a mouse trap to work, it needs the proper bait. Without it, a mouse will pass right by it without a second thought. Cheese is a classic, and it does work, especially if it’s soft and fragrant, but it’s far from the only option. Peanut butter is possibly the best mouse trap bait, but marshmallow, gum drops, or beef jerky also work. When in doubt, pick something sweet or fatty with lots of calories.

If you find that the trap’s bait is gone but there’s no mouse in the trap, you need to change tactics. Try using less bait to make it harder for them to steal it without getting caught. You can also try adding more traps, moving them into better positions, or changing the type of trap. If all else fails, switch your bait to peanut butter if you’re not using it already. It’s vicious and difficult to steal without getting caught.

Step 2: Placement

traps to catch mouse
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The next thing to consider when using a mouse trap is where you put it. The best placement for a mouse trap, live or not, is on one of the mouse’s trails or anywhere else you’ve noticed them frequenting. Mice use the same ones over and over, so trails are ideal places for traps. Place the trap perpendicular on the trail, so that it will snap towards the wall. Ensure you’re placing multiple traps at once for maximum effectiveness, and make sure you get a good quality mouse trap.

Step 3: Monitoring

After you’ve placed and baited the trap, all you need to do is monitor it. Check each trap at least once a day. If you’re lucky, they’ll work within 24 hours. Replace your bait and dispose of any dead mice properly. Release live ones at least two miles away from your home. Mouse traps are effective for multiple areas in your house or apartment, including the kitchen, cupboards, and even in the walls.

Alternative Ways to Catch Mice

If you want to catch a mouse without a trap, there are alternatives. While they’re not as effective as traditional traps, they can still help you get the mice out of your home without relying on poison. 

Homemade Traps

Small mouse in a pink bucket
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There are many ways to make homemade traps for rats and mice. One such method for catching mice is to make a DIY bucket trap. To make one, you need:

  • A five-gallon plastic water bucket
  • An aluminum soda can
  • A strong metal dowel
  • A plank of wood
  • Peanut butter (for bait)

Setting up a bucket trap is simple as long as you know what you’re doing. Follow these easy instructions to get started:

  • Drill two small holes in your can, one on top and one on the bottom
  • Drill two holes of the same size in the rim of your bucket, one across from the other
  • Put the dowel through the holes in the bucket and can, so that the can is suspended over the center of the bucket
  • Place your bucket trap wherever you believe it will be most effective
  • Bait the trap by smearing peanut butter on the can
  • Place the wood against the bucket so that it creates a ramp for the mice to use

If you’ve made your trap right, mice will climb up the ramp and jump onto the can to try and get the peanut butter. When they do, the can will roll, which will deposit them into the bucket below. The sides of the bucket will be too smooth for them to climb up, so they will stay there until you arrive to release them outside and away from your home.

A bucket trap can be either lethal or nonlethal, but the nonlethal method is preferred. Lethal traps, especially DIY ones, are excessively cruel. 

A bucket trap should be checked just as often as a normal one, once a day. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of a humane trap, as the mouse may starve or become dehydrated. 

By Hand

Mouse in hand
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Catching mice by hand is never recommended. They’re too small and too fast for it to be at all effective, and you won’t be able to address the rest of the infestation. In addition, while it’s very rare for a mouse to bite, they will do so if they feel threatened.

If you do choose to try and catch your mouse by hand, you should know how to protect yourself. First, wear thick gloves that the mouse can’t bite through. Gardening gloves are good for this purpose. You should also wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants to protect your arms and legs. Finally, use an N95 mask so that you won’t be exposed to diseases the mouse or their droppings may carry, such as hantavirus.

Signs of Mice

Mouse droppings and ruler
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When trying to trap mice, it helps to recognize the signs of an infestation. Mice leave behind several telltale signs for you to look out for, including:

  • Droppings: Mouse droppings look like black grains of rice. Keep an especially close eye out for them in places where you store food. They’ll also be in places they frequent, which will help you identify mice in your attic and other common infestation sites.
  • Trails: Mice leave trails through your home. You may see paw tracks in dust, or dirt tracked in. If you use a UV light, they’ll show up clearly, since mice leave a trail of urine behind them to mark the path. Mouse trails are typically against the walls.
  • Nests: A mouse nest is a definitive sign of an infestation. They’re most commonly found in dark, out-of-the-way areas, so check your crawl space for mice and get rid of them when you can (Here’s a guide on How to Prevent and Get Rid of Mice in Your Crawl Space). Pregnant and baby mice will typically stay in these nests for at least 18 days after birth, which means you won’t catch them in your traps.
  • Odor: Mice have a very noticeable, musky odor that smells similar to ammonia. If you notice it, and can’t find any other sources, you may have a mouse problem.
  • Noises: If you hear scratching, skittering, or squeaking in your walls, attic, or other secluded places, it could be a mouse infestation.
  • Pet Behavior: Pet dogs or cats may act differently if you have a mouse infestation. If they seem very interested in a certain area, it may be the main nesting site.
  • Holes: Mice frequently get into your house through cracks or holes. If they aren’t big enough, they’ll widen them until they are, so watch for any opening that appears to be growing.
  • Damage: Mice can inflict damage to your home by tunneling through insulation or chewing wires and support beams. It’s important to recognize and get rid of mice in your walls especially, before it’s too late.
  • Sightings: If you see a mouse in your home, you almost certainly have an infestation, whether it’s alive or dead. Mice in homes aren’t solitary creatures. When you see a mouse, you shouldn’t try to catch it. You’re unlikely to succeed, and even if you do, you’re likely to get bitten or be exposed to hantavirus.

After Catching the Mouse

mouse caught in live trap
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If you’ve caught a live mouse, you may be at a loss for what to do with it. The best thing is to take it outside and release it into the wild. Mice are versatile creatures, so they should have no trouble surviving in whatever field or forest you choose. Just make sure it’s far enough away, at least 2 miles, that they can’t go right back into your home to cause more problems.

To prevent mice from coming back, it’s important to keep your home clean. Depriving them of food and nesting materials will keep mice away from your home so that you don’t get another infestation right away.

Disposing of a Dead Mouse

When you find dead mice, whether they’re in a mouse trap or not, the protocol is a bit different. Before you do anything else, you need to confirm that it’s dead. Once that’s done, you spray the mouse with a disinfectant to kill any pathogens it may carry. Next, pick it up and put it in a bag so that you can dispose of it. Always wear rubber gloves when handling a dead mouse, and if you pick it up with an instrument, like tongs, disinfect them right away.

How Much Does Mouse Removal Cost?

If you’ve tried everything to no avail, it’s time to bring in a pro. Professional mouse removal costs between $246 to $432 on average, and it’s well worth it. The professional will be able to quickly and effectively get rid of your mouse infestation so that you don’t have to worry about the diseases they spread or the damage they can inflict on your home.

How to Prevent Mice

Once your home is mouse-free, you need to work to keep it that way. By following just a few simple steps, you can keep mice out of your garage and other vulnerable areas of your home. Here are some tips to prevent a mouse infestation:

  • Clean: Clean up food as soon as you’re done with it and don’t leave any dirty dishes out. Pick up any clutter so that it doesn’t become nesting material for a mouse.
  • Seal Cracks: Sealing up the cracks and holes that mice use to enter your home will prevent them from getting in again. You should also screen your windows if they don’t already have it, and consider installing sweepers on your exterior doors.
  • Use Repellent: You can use certain smells that mice hate to deter them from your home. Peppermint and eucalyptus are very good examples. Sprinkle essential oils with these scents around common mouse nesting spots to prevent them from setting up shop.
  • Lock Up Food: Keep your food in sealed containers to prevent the smell from attracting mice. This applies to both human and pet food.
  • Keep Your Outdoors Clear: Keeping foundation plants at least a few feet away from the side of your house will deprive mice of cover to gnaw their way into your home. Keep wood piles and bird feeders a good distance away from your house so that mice don’t easily move from them to your home.
  • Light: Mice don’t like light. Light up vulnerable areas such as the crawl space and attic so that infestations don’t form. Even having a light on in intervals or at certain times can help prevent mice.

FAQ About Catching Mice

How do mice get into my home?

Almost any small opening in your home can become an entrance mice use to enter. Cracks in your foundation, unscreened windows, and the space under your door, for example. If it’s at least as big as the diameter of a pencil, it’s likely that mice can fit through it.

Why aren’t my traps working?

There could be any reason your traps aren’t working. A likely one is that there’s too much other food nearby. Traps only work when they’re the most enticing thing in the area, so if you have, say, a candy bar in the open on a table in the same room, the mouse will likely go for the candy. Clean up the area and ensure your traps are positioned right, then wait and see if they work.

Will my cat catch mice for me?

It depends. Many cats will try to catch mice, but it’s not a certainty. Cats generally don’t go for live prey if they’re well-fed, so if your cat is a pet and not a barn cat specifically for catching mice, it’s unlikely. Even if they are, it can take hours for them to catch a mouse since they mostly do it for entertainment instead of food. Just having a cat can help repel mice regardless, however.

How do I get a mouse out of my car?

If you want to get a mouse out of your car, the strategy is a bit different. First, clean your car to try and get the mouse to vacate on its own due to the lack of food. While you’re cleaning, use a loud vacuum and make a lot of noise, while keeping the doors open, to try and scare it out. You should also clean the engine to get rid of any nests it might have made inside it.

If that doesn’t work, use mouse traps specifically designed for the car, and in the meantime, leave the windows open so the mouse can escape if it wishes. When the mouse is out, disinfect your car thoroughly to get rid of any diseases it may have left behind. Ensure you don’t leave any food in your car in the future to keep mice out of your car.

Find a Mouse Pro

Catching a mouse may seem daunting, but it’s all a matter of patience and persistence. Take care when catching mice and ensure you’re keeping yourself safe.

If you have issues with mice or other unwanted guests, contact pest control professionals near you. They can take care of your mouse problem so that you won’t have to worry about it anymore.

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Austin Geiger

Austin Geiger is a writer who's passionate about pest prevention. He enjoys writing about rodent control and teaching readers about how to keep their homes free of rats and mice.