Zelena's Notes on Home Mouse Control
These are my personal notes and thoughts on how to keep mice from causing problems in a personal home. I'm hoping by sharing it will save someone else a lot of time looking into the options.
Rodents getting into the home is an issue that has been faced for thousands of years. People have come up with countless ways of trying to deal with it.
My goals are to find an amiable solution for both myself and the mice. We can both coexist peacefully. The mice making a mess and destroying stuff in my home is something I will not tolerate, so they must be evicted. They should be relocated to a place that is their natural habitat where they can build their own home. Then we will both be happy.
TD;DR: How should I control mice?
Use preventative measures to prevent mice from wanting to stay. Plug up holes in the walls of your home so they cannot enter easily. Do not leave out food. Clean up spills. Store food in rodent resistant containers.
Use a repeating live trap that:
- uses a one-way entrance
- has small ventilation holes so the mouse can breath, but not so small they can squeeze through
- has a metal storage chamber for the mice, or other strong material so they cannot chew through
- uses simple parts that are not prone to failure
The JT Eaton Multi-Catch Mouse Trap (SKU: 421CL) or Victor TIN CAT (Model CM308) are the perfect example of the right kind of trap to get. Many brands make traps in this style which you can likely find easily at a local hardware store. They are cheap, highly effective, and infinitely reusable while in working condition.
JT Eaton Multi-Catch Mouse Trap (SKU: 421CL)
Victor TIN CAT (Model CM308)
If those aren't working, use the TOMCAT Live Catch Mouse Trap (Item #199802 Model #33538).
TOMCAT Live Catch Mouse Trap (Item #199802 Model #33538)
Use peanut butter as bait. Optionally mix in sunflower seeds or nuts. Don't use fruit or cheese.
Place the trap along the edges of walls where the mice commonly travel. Put them in areas between where there nest might be and a known food source they are using.
Think about what other animals are in the area and make sure it is safe for them. Also make sure the traps are ones those animals can't interfere with the function of or relocate.
Check traps daily in the morning as soon as you wake up. Always use gloves while handling mice. Take the traps with the mice somewhere at least two miles from your home to release them.
- use poison, because this *will* kill unintended targets, including pets, no matter how careful you are
- use cruel traps that prolong suffering, such as strangling, suffocation, drowning
- use electronic traps
- over bait a trap, or bait outside the trap
- use cheap knock-off traps of poor construction
What are the options?
I'm only going to look into options for someone looking to protect their personal home.
There is no option that will forever keep mice away. There's always the possibility of new mice moving into the area.
You should make sure what your dealing with are actually mice, and not rats or some other pest. Mice are much smaller and easier to deal with than rats. Rats are much larger, smarter, and more cautious.
Other creatures that could be in the area include (but could be more) mice, rats, shrews, voles, moles, snakes, chipmunks, squirrels, gophers, skunks, opossums, badgers, foxes, hawks and other birds of prey, cats, dogs, coyotes, and many many more. Be familiar with what species are in your area. Think about how your options might affect them if they happen across the method used or mice affected by the method. Do not use any methods that could negatively affect unintended targets.
Before we begin, a note on Shawn Woods. Shawn Woods runs a YouTube channel that is probably the most popular source of rodent trap reviews at the moment. He's an amateur enthusiast of traps and trapping. The channel is a good place to see traps in action which helps a lot in highlighting obvious design flaws.
Shawn Woods Youtube Channel
I'll be linking to it a lot so you can see traps before buying. Warning though that mice can get hurt or killed during his videos. I'll try my best to provide appropriate content warnings on the links, but I might make mistakes.
Overall, I think he does his best to be unbiased, but is not infallible, and does some things which should not be emulated.
In particular, Shawn often does not wear gloves. That's his choice to put himself at risk, but if he catches something, he'd be putting the people around him at risk too, and that's not his choice to make.
Wild rodents can carry quite a variety of diseases and parasites which you really do not want to catch. When handling wild rodents, always use gloves. I personally use a thick pair of reusable nitrile gloves.
CDC's list of diseases transmitted through direct contact with rodents
Shawn has a tendency to over bait traps. He's quite messy with his application as well, scattering it all over the floor. This doesn't affect Shawn's videos too much because there are always a *lot* of mice. The first few mice clean up the easy to reach bait, and a later unlucky mouse gets the bait that activates the trap. This is discussed more in the Bait section.
The best way to manage rodents is to prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place.
Look for the possible entry points a rodent might use to get inside. Basements and rooms with walls on the outside of the house should be checked. Attics and rooms higher than the ground floor should be checked as well, because mice can climb.
The size of a hole mice can get through is surprisingly small. I've seen it said that they can fit through a hole the size of a dime. You'll want to plug those small holes anyways to stop snakes and insects from getting in.
When plugging up holes, don't use spray foam, because it is too brittle and easy for mice to chew through. Board them up with wood, or attach a wire mesh over the hole. You could use a wire mesh on both sides of the hole with a layer of steel wool in the middle as an extra deterrent.
Shawn Woods testing hole plugging methods
Matthias Wandel - How small a hole can a mouse get through? Experiments.
Ensure pet doors will only accommodate larger animals. Magnetic flaps, for example, would require more force to open than a mouse could give.
Don't leave food out. Clean up spills and crumbs as soon as possible. If your problem is more severe, then never leave any food unattended, even for a second. Use cleaners that will remove the scent of food.
If you have pets, remove continuous feeders and only feed your pets while they are there. Mice love pet food and continuous feeders will end up feeding mice more than your pets.
Store food in rodent-resistant containers. Something that will both stop them from chewing through and will block the scent are best.
Trapping is the main option that should be used to control mice.
There are many ways to categorize mouse traps. Mouse traps have more patents than any other kind of device. I'll be separating them first by if they are live or kill traps, then by what mechanism is used to capture the rodent.
Some factors to consider when looking at traps are:
- Cost (Is it affordable?)
- Appeal to mice (How likely are they to approach and interact with it?)
- Success rate (How often does it succeed in catching the mice that interact with it?)
- Weight (How easy is it to steal?)
- Material (How easily could a mouse or other animal chew through it, rendering the trap useless?)
- Re-usability (Can the trap be used multiple times? At what capacity?)
When evaluating traps, the factors I'm most interested in is finding traps that have a good ratio of cost to appeal and success. The absolute best traps can follow all of these principles at once.
When looking at Shawn's videos, remember that a higher number of mice caught does not necessarily mean it's a better trap. A better measure is how many of the mice that interacted with the trap were caught.
If a trap is in a room with 3 mice and it catches 3 mice, that's a 100% effective trap. It could not have caught more. If the trap is in a room with 100 mice and catches 5 mice, that's only 5% effective.
Electronic traps are not good because they require higher maintenance, more costly to purchase, more costly to operate, can only be used indoors, and might present a possible fire hazard. Electronic components also add a new possible point of failure. I advise avoiding them entirely, since there are plenty of better purely mechanical designs. They will not be discussed here.
Place traps with their opening against the edges of walls. Mice tend to travel along the corners between walls and floors because it feels safer to them. They prefer to be surrounded rather than out in the open where predators could easily get them. Put the trap in the way of this natural path, and they are more likely to discover and enter it.
Check traps daily, first thing in the morning, no matter what kind of trap you are using.
If it is a multi-catch trap, include some extra food inside the holding area of a trap for the mice to eat instead of each other.
Peanut butter is the best all around bait. Mice love it. It has a strong scent to attract them. Being sticky, you can safely place it anywhere at any angle. Any brand of peanut butter should work. You don't need to splurge for the organic stuff. Cheaper, sugarier brands like JIF might actually work better, though this hasn't been tested.
Seeds, nuts, and pet food can also make good bait.
Don't use fruit, dried or not. It can attract insects and is likely to grow mold quickly.
Don't use cheese either. Mice don't really like it. It's a myth.
If you do use a looser bait, try to stick it down using peanut butter. It will make it more difficult for the animal to steal, and you can now use these baits on any surface.
Do not over-bait traps. Over-baiting can render certain traps useless. Too much bait allows the mouse to reach in and lick it up without properly entering the trap, then leave once they're full.
You want areas mice will be to be as clean as possible. If there's food left out, they have no reason to go inside your traps. You want the trap to be the most appealing option.
Only bait outside a trap, such as on the ramp leading up to it, to guide the mice if the mice are having trouble finding it. This is a common issue with bucket style traps, but does not affect most traps at floor level.
Live traps are safer for you, pets, mice, and any other animals that might wander by.
They often have a higher success rate than kill traps because they require the mouse to enter the trap entirely. They are also more often self-resetting, making them more effective on larger populations.
Mice caught in a live trap should be transported at least a mile or two away from your home to be released. Try to find a natural wooded area that's not near other houses. If you release them directly outside your home, they'll simply come back inside to their nest.
One-Way Door Traps
My personal favorite design of the one-way door has a door that's closed behind the rodent by a teeter-totter as they walk across it. This design was first used in the 1876 Delusion trap and has since been iterated on and become the de facto method of mouse catching by professionals.
Mouse traps in this style are the only mouse trap that succeeds in every category of a good mouse trap design. They are highly reusable, made of a material that can't be chewed through, easy to use, and extremely low cost.
JT Eaton Multi-Catch Mouse Trap (SKU: 421CL)
Victor Tin Cat With Window
Shawn Woods Tin Cat Trap review
Shawn Woods 1876 Delusion Trap review (CW: corpse, death, gore)
J. H. Morris animal-trap patent No. 179940
The Victor® Multiple Catch Humane Outdoor and Indoor Mouse Trap is an example of a bad trap. It is made of plastic in an attempt to make a cheaper alternative, but it unfortunately is a perfect example of why soft plastic is not a good material for trapping rodents. The gaps are large enough for a mouse to get it's teeth in an chew a hole to escape.
Victor® Multiple Catch Humane Outdoor and Indoor Mouse Trap
The Mice Cube brand of mouse traps is an example of extreme minimalism in design. Despite how simple of a concept this is, they took it a little too far. The only moving part is the door, which is good for the trapping mechanism. No removable back means baiting and cleaning it are a more difficult task. And worst, the trap has no air holes. Moisture will get trapped inside with the mouse, getting hot and sweaty.
If you have the tools, you can drill your own small holes, but at twice the price of the Tomcat Live Catch trap (under Tip Traps), it's difficult to recommend. It's so close to being great. If you can get them at a price that matches how minimalist it is, it might be worth it. I really hope they update the design to be better ventilated.
Shawn Woods Mice Cube review (CW: distressed mouse)
Another way of making a one way door is using a narrow funnel of spikes. It's easier for the mouse to slip through in the direction of the spikes, but they'll get poked if they try getting back out.
The downside of this design is that to be really effective, it has to be a tight squeeze, which can deter more cautious mice. It also means larger mice might not fit.
Shawn Woods Fruit Jar Wire Funnel Trap review
Tip traps are simply designed traps where the weight of a mouse entering the trap causes the device to tip back, releasing the door and trapping the mouse inside. Their simple design makes them fairly elegant.
Tip traps can only catch one mouse at a time, but they could be an advantage over the one-way door traps. They have a completely open entryway, which might feel more inviting to the shyer, tentative mice who avoid pushing through a door. If your one-way door traps aren't catching the last few mice, consider trying a few of these.
Most tip trap designs can be prone to failure, since they can be misfired simply by a mouse climbing on top. I don't think this is as big of a concern as Shawn makes it out to be, because you can use multiple tip traps, and reset them as often as you like. I wouldn't make it the only trap you use, but they can be useful when other options don't seem to work, or you need a low cost way to cover a larger area.
Shawn Woods' video on why tip traps are bad
You can prevent mice from activating these kinds of traps from outside by placing a small box over top with only the entrance side exposed. Then when a mouse climbs over, they're on the box, not the trap. Make sure the tipping motion of the trap is not blocked by the box. Some traps such as the Tomcat Live Catch now include a shielding for this, but are more expensive.
Demonstration on how to improve the Kness tip trap
Shawn Woods Trap from Belarus review (Identical to a Kness Tip Trap)
Shawn Woods Tomcat Live Catch Trap review
Tomcat Shielded Live Catch Mouse Tip Trap
It's becoming harder now to find the older style forked door tip traps. They are less reliable than the shielded model, but a great deal cheaper. Going for quantity over quality might be a better option.
Being cheaper, you could get a lot at once and spread them throughout the area. You normally want more traps than you have mice, when using single-catch traps. Placing two against the wall together facing apart from each other might help improve catch rates, but if you don't have many it's better to have them in more locations.
Use the simpler designed tip traps. These traps don't need springs. The kinds where the door is held up by a clip don't work as well. The better tip traps have the doors resting on forks that swing downwards towards the trap. There's many cheap models on Amazon like this.
Victor Live Catch Mouse Trap, an example of a bad tip trap style
Shawn Woods Victor Live Catch Trap review
A removable back makes it easier to bait and clean these traps. Be sure the back is not too easy to remove, or else the rodents will be able to remove it too. Duct tape is useful for extending the trap's life.
Tip traps may be less effective on soft surfaces such as rug or dirt. If you need to place them in these kinds of areas, try placing a flat wooden board beneath it.
Plank traps use an outstretched board of some sort mounted on a pivot. A counterweight or magnet keeps it upright until a mouse walks past the pivot point and tips it with their weight. Bait is placed on the end of the plank to entice a mouse to walk to the end.
These kinds of traps can be highly effective, but require careful calibration. If they tip too easily, the rodents will understand it's not a stable surface and back away. If it doesn't tip easily enough, lighter rodents will be able to walk on it without activating. This is thankfully not as difficult to do as it sounds when using a long plank, because it functions as a lever and amplifies the force of their weight the further towards the edge they get. To be effective, a mouse only needs to get most of their body past the pivot point before it releases.
They come in a variety of shapes, styles, and materials. Most are made with plastic, which can work indoors or outdoors. Plank traps made out of wood tend to swell up went wet and stop working, making them only good for indoor use.
Plank traps might use a magnet in the base to allow the mouse to walk further down the plank before it releases. I'm less a fan of this style and prefer a simple counterweight.
The best plank style trap in my opinion is an old home-made style trap made by cowboys of the old west to keep their limited food supplies safe while on the trail.
What makes it so much better than other plank traps is that the entire top of the container is covered. There's nowhere for the mouse to jump out, even in a container as short as a coffee can. It uses simple parts, and it's own weight to reset itself. The metal construction makes it more resistant to rodent chewing than most modern designs. The wide open area for the mouse to walk around on is more appealing than other thinner plank styles. The slick metal material of the plank doesn't give mice anything to hold onto when they fall.
Smithsonian Institution: Coffee-Can Mousetrap
Library of Congress: Coffee Can Mouse Trap
It appears to be made with a square coffee can, a flat piece of sheet metal, a long square piece of wood, and some nails. The wood is attached to the sheet metal with nails. In the top rim of the can, the ends of the wood is nailed in an offset position, about 3/4 back, allowing it to pivot. The sheet metal has the corners clipped for safety and to fit the rounded edges of the can. An additional nail is added to the end on the inside of the coffee can to attach bait. A large portion of the other end of the sheet metal sticks out over the side of the can, providing weight and a means for a mouse to walk up to the trap.
Shawn in his video review does not construct it very accurately to the original. The plank isn't long enough. It's set too far forwards. And the tipping end scrapes the side of the coffee can, which interferes with it dropping. Despite that, it still works really well.
Shawn Woods Cowboy Coffee Can Trap review (CW: off-screen death, animal feeding)
This isn't a commercial product, and there's not really any like it on the market. If you plan on building your own mouse trap at home, I'd highly recommend basing it off this one.
The Wippo-Matic would be one of my top recommendation in this style, but unfortunately they are no longer being made.
Shawn Woods Wippo-Matic review (CW: off-screen death, animal feeding)
The Planky B is an innovation on the plank style trap that incorporates a second level of the plank which activates the plank tipping, rather than relying on a magnet or balance point. But again, it's no longer available.
Shawn Woods Planky B Trap review (CW: kill trap, feeding animals)
A simple homemade plank style trap can be created using a toilet paper roll and some tape. A longer paper towel roll might be more effective.
Squish one side of the tube flatter. Place some peanut butter on the inside edge of one end of the paper roll. Then balance it on the edge of a shelf or other solid surface. On the ground underneath the paper roll, place a bucket or other large container for the mouse to fall into when it tips.
You can make it reusable by taping the bottom edge of the roll at the pivot point to the surface it's resting on. This will also help prevent it from rolling away. Add a slight counterweight to the end opposite of the bait to help it tip back upright.
Shawn Woods Toilet Paper Roll trap review (CW: parasite)
PlankyPro offers a plastic plank style mousetrap, good for outdoor use and longevity. It's still more expensive than one-way door traps.
The Flip N Slide has become the latest fad in mouse traps, thanks to personal endorsement by Shawn Woods. I must admit, it looks like it has a lot going for it that other trap manufacturers could learn from.
The design uses a very long plank that extends almost the full reach of the bucket. A longer plank means the sensitivity adjustment doesn't need to be as precise for a mouse to trip it. The more distance they have to go to the end, the more mechanical advantage they get from their weight.
Long planks can have an issue where they reach too far to the opposite side of the bucket, allowing rodents to simply walk around the edge of the bucket and reach over to get the bait, not stepping on the plank at all. This design solves that by adding a large shroud over the tipping part of the plank. The shroud additionally helps ensure only smaller creatures can fit.
The shroud allows the bait to be applied to the top side of the device, rather than on the plank itself. This helps extend the life of the bait. It also distracts mice by having them focus upward, rather than at their feet.
And most importantly, the trap covers the entire bucket like a lid. This makes it more effective as a live trap than similar designs, because it blocks the way for mice to jump out.
Mice are more attracted to this trap over other bucket traps because it provides a nice enclosed clear area to walk around. It's not an obstacle course like other bucket traps. There's no obvious signs for something they should be concerned of until after they step over the pivot of the plank, causing them to approach less cautiously. The mouse will think the bait is an easy target, unlike a rolling log.
Despite all the positives, I don't think I can actually suggest this trap. At $20, it's more expensive than other trap options. It might be a good choice if you need to do some serious bulk collection, but for that price I would expect a better material.
The plastic is weak enough that rodents can chew through it. If they're determines enough, they'll chew the shroud right off to get the bait directly. If you're lucky, they'll try to take the obvious route. If you have rats in the area, then expect the chewing will be more of an issue.
If you do decide to buy one, be sure to only get the original from Rinne Corp. The success has brought a bunch of cheap duplicates made of worse material or sold for higher prices. There are also a lot of people making minor design changes such as making it a double plank, but these make the design less efficient.
This is purely speculation on my part, but I think Shawn is motivated to promote the Flip N Slide as much as he is because he gains a 10% commission on any purchases made using his affiliate link. It is a good trap, and I'm sure he absolutely believes in it, but I don't agree that it deserves just how much hype and attention he's been giving it. I caution you not to follow hype or trends and consider what will be best for you rather than following a crowd.
Remember that the total number of mice caught is not a good indicator of a good trap. A better measurement is the success rate. He does mention a few mice did not make it in. We do not see the full night in Shawn's footage, so we cannot know the actual success rate. Due to the factors above, I do believe it would have a high success rate, but not any higher than a cheaper one-way door trap.
Shawn Woods Flip-and-Slide Trap review (CW: kill trap, corpses, animal feeding)
RinneTraps Flip N Slide Official Store Page
I could not find any commercially available plank style traps that I would recommend. They're often more expensive than a one-way door trap. The need for a ramp makes them less discoverable to mice. They take up a lot more space, and need additional parts that are not sold with the trap. Most are built with a 5 gallon bucket or bigger in mind, so be sure to add the cost of that to the trap's cost if you don't already have one.
Hole traps are a more refined versions of pit traps. They can share some similarities with the spiked entrance version of one-way door traps.
A paper trap is another option for an easy homemade design. A piece of paper is stretched and affixed over a pot or other container, and an X cut into the center of the paper. Bait is placed on the edges of the X in the center. A mouse believes it to be a stable surface and approached the center, which suddenly gives out under them, similar to how a plank trap does.
Shawn Woods Old Style German Mash-Pot trap review
The Black Beauty wire mesh trap is surprisingly effective. I'm not quite sure why it works, but my guess is the exit of the funnel is too close to the bottom and too loose for the mice to get a good way out.
Shawn Woods Black Beauty trap review
The Hole In One looks like a surprisingly effective trap. Watching the trap it action, it's almost as if mice will simply throw themselves inside.
What's happening is mice hook their legs and feet onto the edge of a surface so they can lean down and grab things with a farther reach. This trap is sized just right to exploit this behavior. The mouse feels it's safe to reach, then slides down the slippery curve when it's too late.
Since this is relying on exploiting mouse behavior, this will not work on more cautious mice or mice who don't have this behavior. Some reviewers report that they've not been able to catch anything with it. Others have even reported that rodents have chewed giant holes through the lid. I suspect that person also had rats in their area, and the rats chewed through to get the peanut butter.
Overall, it has a low success rate, and I would not recommend buying any version of it. But you could try building your own similar design at home for free if you happen to have the parts around.
Shawn Woods Hole In One trap review (CW: off-screen death, feeding to animals)
Rolling traps are a type of bucket style trap where you put some rolling obstacle over the top of a bucket. The mouse climbs up, then out to get the bait in the middle, but the surface beneath them spins and they fall off.
These obstacle style traps can sometimes have no effect, because the obstacles make the bait less appealing to mice. The biggest flaw in these style traps are that mice can feel the trap move before they are in a position to fall. Smarter mice will back away without getting caught.
The Mascall Mill is a very old style mouse trap from 1590. A stick extends to the center of the bucket, where free-spinning paddles are baited on the ends to entice the mouse. When they reach for it, them try to use the paddles for support, which move out from underneath them, and the spin might swing the next paddle around to knock them down into the bucket.
Shawn Woods Mascall Mill Trap review (CW: death trap, corpses)
The rolling log trap is a popular example of a homemade mouse trap, but it has it's flaws. The free spinning center alerts a mouse quickly that the surface is unstable. Mice are more likely to pass it up if there's an easier food source available. If a mouse has to work harder to get caught, it's less likely to happen.
This particular kind of trap had a fad period for how easy it is to make at home. However, many have reported having no success. That's likely because they had less adventurous mice. It's worth a try if you have the materials, but I would not count on it getting everything.
Shawn Woods demonstration of homemade DIY soda can trap (CW: off-screen killing, feeding corpses to animals)
Shawn Woods homemade corn rolling log trap
Between the two, I think the Mascall Mill is more effective, but the rolling log is easier to build.
Shawn Woods comparison of Rolling Log, Mascall Mill, Flip & Slide, and Walk The Plank (CW: brief mention of feeding dead mice to animals at the end)
Self-resetting traps use some sort of mechanism that allows it to reset itself to be prepared for the next mouse. This usually relies on the mouse to perform some specific task to reset the trap, or some other internal power source.
The increased complexity of these style traps makes them more prone to failure. Simpler traps are often more effective. But they fun to look at as a feat of engineering.
Shawn Woods The Bender review (CW: kill trap, on-screen death, corpses, feeding to animals)
Curiosity Show: An incredible ancient mousetrap
Wind Up traps have a chance of crushing and killing the mouse. A good live trap would have no chance of that happening, so I cannot recommend it.
Shawn Woods Ketch-All trap review (CW: pet mice in danger, mention of kill trap attachment)
Shawn Woods follow up review, showing how trap can kill a mouse if timed incorrectly. (CW: death trap, corpses, gore)
The Auto-Mouser is a good example of having too many unnecessary components. Slow to reset, and lots of failure points.
Shawn Woods Auto-Mouser Trap review (CW: distressed animal, off-screen death, animal feeding)
Sometimes a simple hole in the ground with some bait is enough. This will only really work on the more desperate of mice, but they are easy to make.
The bowl of peanut oil trap got popular on YouTube a while back. It certainly looks effective in the right conditions, but I would advise against it.
Original YouTube video that started the trend (CW: distressed animals)
It would be tricky to get the level of oil right to be accurate and not accidentally drown the mice. If they don't drown, it's still not good for the mouse. The mice are going to be trying to escape the whole time and exhausting themselves. Being covered in oil for hours would be very distressing. If they do manage to get out, now you have an oily mess all over the place. Personally, I don't want to be handling oily mice.
Shawn Woods Bowl of Peanut Oil Trap review (CW: distressed animals)
Sometimes all you really need is a hole and some bait. Greedy mice will do their best to get at it, and end up falling in. While not a practical solution, it does show us that we should expect at least some level of effectiveness from almost any trap. If the trap can't do any better than literally just a hole, then it's not a good trap.
Shawn Woods catching mice with no mouse trap
Kill traps are any type of trap intended to kill the animal that gets trapped by it. They tend to have a lower effectiveness rating than live traps. They can be dangerous to leave unattended, especially with pets, children, or other animals in the area.
Kill traps can be snap traps, glue traps, strangling/snare traps, drowning traps, crush traps, suffocation traps, electrocution traps, booby traps, and more.
There is no such thing as a "humane" kill trap.
Merriam-Webster currently defines humane as:
1 : marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals
There is no way to justify killing a healthy creature as being compassionate, sympathetic, or considerate.
Think about it. How would you like to be killed? The answer, I hope, is *not at all.*
Some traps may be less *cruel*, but that is very different from humane. If you feel you must use kill traps, I highly encourage you to avoid ones with unnecessary cruelty.
Traps that are unnecessarily cruel are ones that cause a slow death or prolong suffering. Some examples are strangling traps, drowning traps, and glue traps.
Glue traps are especially cruel. It's a mystery how they have yet to be outlawed. Never, ever use glue traps. You wouldn't want to anyways, because they're not very effective, and when they do work, you've made an extra mess for yourself to deal with. They're not reusable, making them a bad economical choice. There are no reasons to use them.
NYT's Wirecutter reporter Sarah Witman tries to justify kill traps by saying mice already have short lives, as if this somehow absolves a person from being the cause of their death. You wouldn't say it's okay to kill someone because they're old and only have a few healthy years left to live. All life is precious, and if it's short, it's even more so. It is more ethical to give them a chance in nature than to guarantee their death.
NYT's Wirecutter Mouse Trap Review Article
She claims live traps are less humane because there's a *chance* mice might suffer. She forgets that kill traps also have a failure rate, which cause even greater suffering. In the classic snap traps like they recommend, a mouse might get just their leg or tail stuck in the trap. They won't die, and will have to chew their leg off to escape. That's suffering. And you'll have to clean up the blood.
If you're concerned about the possibility of mice turning on each other while in a live trap, you can use multiple single-catch live traps instead. You can mitigate it inside multi-catch traps by providing enough food for all of them inside the trap. They will prefer to eat the easier meal. (Shawn claims they do this because they are stressed rather than hungry, but in every instance where it has happened in his videos, it's been a time he hasn't included food in the holding area.)
The only thing that makes the use of kill traps better is that you can use them to provide other animals with a free meal, completing the circle of life. It might help struggling predators get by a little longer. Like live traps, you'll need to go a few miles away from your home to toss the mice into a wild area. Do not toss them outside your home, or you will condition animals to come to your home.
Do not feed wild mice to your pets. They carry disease and parasites which could make them very sick. Only let other wild animals feed on them.
The lengths some people will go to to get revenge on mice is insane. They'll even set loaded guns and cannons inside their own homes for it. These are terrible designs for obvious reasons, but demonstrate the pettiness people are willing to exhibit when dealing with these creatures.
Shawn Woods 1882 Pistol Trap review (CW: corpse, on-screen death)
Shawn Woods 1862 Cannon Trap review
Mouse trapping is a common place that people who wish to inflict animal cruelty tend to flock to, because it's seen as socially acceptable or "necessary". There are people who get an evil sort of glee from knowing the mice are suffering and getting killed.
Recently while in the store by the pest control section, I had *two* different people stop to tell me about their favorite ways of killing mice. This one guy in particular was telling me with such exuberance how he loves a certain brand of poison because of how much it kills.
When I said I don't want to use a poison that will also kill the predators helping to control mice, he pivoted to telling about how he loves shooting the mice dead with his BB gun off the back porch, simulated the action of shooting one, then laughed to himself at the thought with the same tone as a scammer who's realized they've found themselves a juicy patsy.
Avoid these people like the plague. You do not want to be like these people. They are animal abusers. Animal abusers don't stop at abusing animals.
With that said, I understand there are certain times when kill traps are necessary. For example, the Australian mouse plagues. Some parts of the world even make it illegal to release certain species that have been trapped. Chances are, these are not the circumstances inside your own home.
Wikipedia: Australian Mouse Plagues
It is a difficult choice to make, but if you really are in a situation where letting them live will lead to harm for yourself and loved ones, the use of kill traps might be justified. Really think about it. You must fully understand the meaning behind taking a life. "They ate a little bit of grain!" is not a life threatening situation. If you find yourself actively searching for a reason to kill, there isn't one.
Because there is no such thing as an ethical kill trap, I am not going to recommend any. I do not want to give any information that will help the sadistic people like described earlier.
The cheap wooden and wire Victor snap traps are the classic design people think of when they think of a mouse trap. People tend to go for them because they are the cheapest option you can get.
However, snap traps have a very low effectiveness rating. They're possible to trigger without the mouse in killing range. They can misfire. It can fail if the mouse is not approaching from the expected angle. A mouse might get caught by the leg or tail, drag the trap around, or chew off its own limb to escape. Yikes.
If you want a cheap way to set traps all around your house, use Kness tip traps instead, which are safer and more effective. They can be used in any condition you'd place a snap trap.
Trap Top Picks
The best trap is the metal one-way door trap, like the JT Eaton Repeater or Victor Tin Cat. I can't suggest any specific brand, but if it's well built, it will do the bulk of the work. The design has been around for so long, the cost has been optimized to a point where it's very cost effective.
Amazon: JT Eaton Multi-Catch Mouse Trap (SKU: 421CL) $11.50
Amazon: Southern Homewares Multi-Catch Mouse Trap (SH-10059-2PK) $19.99 for 2
If that's not working, the Tomcat Live Catch tip trap is your next best bet. You can find these in a variety of stores, mostly hardware stores, gardening stores, or general stores like Walmart. They're a little more expensive that I'd like, but you won't have to do any modifications to make them more effective.
Lowes: TOMCAT Live Catch Mouse Trap (Item #199802 Model #33538) $5.68
Ace Hardware: Tomcat Live Catch Animal Trap For Mice (Item #7338791| Mfr #0362010) $7.59
If you want to cover a larger area cheaply, use the Kness Tip Traps. You can place a box over the back half of them to create your own shield like the Tomcat Live Catch trap has.
Amazon: 6 Kness Tip Traps for $27.35. (Less than $5 each)
Every mouse product is going to have negative reviews. No trap has 100% effectiveness, and different traps will work better on different mice. Often bad reviews are caused by user error or not understanding how to use their traps. They're being used by people who have no experience. Don't let these deter you too much. But do be on the lookout for reviews that point out obvious design flaws or poor materials/craftsmanship.
Sometimes a faulty product makes it through production. It's going to happen with any product. If the trap your using is failing to operate properly, try switching it out. Most companies are willing to send replacements.
Don't buy any Amazon branded mousetraps. They are not tested. Made of cheap materials. Prone to failure. A total waste of time.
Mouse traps sold at Wal-Mart cost significantly more. I've noticed the prices tend to be cheapest at hardware stores like Lowes. Prices may differ in your area.
A warning about bucket traps: if left somewhere water can get in, such as outside where it rains, the bucket could fill with water and drown the mice inside. This is true even if the bucket trap has a lid, since the lids are not water tight. Consider adding some small holes to the bottom to let the water leak out.
Bucket traps can be made more effective by digging a hole so the entrance is at ground level. The more solid ground there is around the entrance to a trap, the safe the mouse will feel about approaching it. You can try to do something similar indoors by having the bucket edge be in-line with counter tops or other surfaces.
A common issue with bucket style traps is that they have an open, exposed top. It could be enticing for another animal such as a rat to jump inside, grab the helpless mice, and jump back out with them. If your catching container is deep enough, it should stop most mice from jumping out, but some outliers are really great jumpers, and a standard 5 gallon bucket might not be deep enough.
Some trap variations get around this issue by having an enclosed container, or by having a deeper container. If using a bucket, you could cut a hole in the side of the container to mount the trap, and put the lid on top.
To prevent mice from jumping out of a bucket trap, cover the bottom with sawdust or fine sand. You could also line the container with a trash bag, but this has a risk of suffocation and could collect water.
Poison can be a tempting option for controlling mice. In theory, you can simply set it, and the problem will take care of itself. But that's not entirely true, and it will cause more problems than it solves.
First, you have to be extremely careful when storing and setting poison. When not in use, you must keep it in a locked container away from children and pets. Mismanagement of lethal substances is highly irresponsible and could get you into legal trouble.
When in use, you must use a bait station that prevents anything but the intended target from getting inside to the bait. No bait station is infallible however, and something else will eventually get inside.
Even if your bait station is perfect and only mice can get inside of it, mice have a tendency to grab food with them and stash it away in other places, completely defeating the purpose of the bait station. The bait must be firmly anchored in some way to prevent mice from taking it with them.
When a mouse eats the poison, it will take some time before it starts taking effect. The mouse will retreat to its nest while it's not feeling well, then die there. If they're inside your home, then they could be dying inside your walls, making the house stink and a health hazard.
I've had mice die in the ventilation system of the house. It made the entire house stinks for days, blowing bacteria and fur all around the house. I had no way of reaching through the vents to clean it myself. It was awful. People say a dead mouse doesn't stink "that much" because it's a small body, but it still stinks.
Before the mouse dies, the mouse will still be active for up to a few days, carrying the poison around inside them. The mouse could become sluggish and lethargic, making it a tempting option for predators. When another animal eats the mouse, the poison is passed directly into them, and poisons them too. Even if it doesn't kill them, it will cripple them.
This is called secondary poisoning. Secondary poisoning can wreak havoc on the local ecosystem. You will inadvertently end up killing the kinds of animals that would help keep the mouse population under control. You could be poisoning endangered species. You could even end up poisoning your own or other people's pets.
Wikipedia: Secondary poisoning
Secondary Poisoning and Ecological Effects of Anticoagulant Rodenticides
An owl might eat up to 3 mice *per day*. If just one owl dies, the mouse population will suddenly start booming. You do not want to kill the creatures that are helping you reduce the problem.
Rodents killed with the use of secondary poisons have to be disposed of in a special manor that's a lot of hassle. You can't just throw them outside, because a dead mouse can also look like a free meal to scavengers who will also get poisoned. I'm not giving any advice on how to do this because it will likely be different for every area.
If you absolutely *must* use a poison, use one that does not cause secondary poisoning. At the time of writing, the most available consumer option is corn gluten meal.
Wikipedia: Powdered corn cob (corn gluten meal)
Mouse X, a brand of pest control that uses corn gluten meal
Shawn Woods Rat X review (CW: death, bodies shown on screen)
Some extra measures can be taken to encourage rodents to stay away. They may be helpful for areas that can't be properly sealed off from mice, such as car interiors.
They should not be used as the primary method of keeping rodents away, but can be a helpful addition if used properly.
Peppermint oil is expensive, but it seems to be the only effective repellent. You can sprinkle the essential oil into cotton balls or use some commercial options.
Shawn Woods Mint Oil Repellent Test
This is the active ingredient in commercial products such as Grandpa Gus Mouse Spray. It will likely be cheaper to make your own.
Shawn Woods Grandpa Gus Mouse Spray review
Ultrasonic devices do nothing. Don't waste your time with them.
If they did produce a sound, they couldn't do it in a range that would affect people's cats or dogs, which means they would have to push the sound to such a high range, it doesn't affect mice either. More likely, I think these devices are prone to not do anything other than waste electricity.
Shawn Woods video on the Class Action Lawsuit against Ultrasonic Pest Repellers
Smelly, and does not seem to deter rodents. You don't want to use this in your house, and it doesn't work anyways. Rodents are smart enough to tell the difference between when a predator is in the area or if it's just their smell.
Shawn Woods Fox & Wolf Urine Repellant Test
Not much testing has been done on if dryer sheets are effective rodent repellent, but initial tests seem to imply they are not effective.
Shawn Woods Dryer Sheet Repellent Test
Irish Spring soap does not repel rodents. This is an urban legend.
Shawn Woods Irish spring soap as rodent repellent review
Moth ball products explicitly state that they are not meant to repel rodents. And it's true, they do nothing.
Shawn Woods Moth Balls as rodent repellent test
Often when it comes to mouse control, people will say "Just get a cat!"
I cannot stress enough: **do not get a cat for the sole purpose of catching mice.**
Cats are unique, living creatures, with their own needs and desires. Owning a pet can be a big responsibility. If you bring one into your home, you are responsible for them. Are you ready to pay for food, to care for them daily, change the litter boxes, pay for the vet bills, keep up on flee protection, and do the research to learn how to take care of them?
Not all cats are mousers. I've owned or taken care of several cats, and less than a quarter of them hunted mice. If you're not okay with that, then don't get a cat. If you want the companionship and other benefits of owning a cat, then you can consider getting one, and if they happen to catch mice, that's a *bonus*.
Even if your cat is a mouser, having a predator in the area encourages mice to hoard more food and come out less frequently. They've evolved to minimize the amount of time they are out exposed to predators. You'll find more deposits of food getting stashed away by the mice, which could grow moldy.
If you really have a serious pest problem, you should contact an exterminator. Do your own research on them before settling.
Exterminators take more extreme approaches. They will use the most powerful poisons they can get. They will use kill traps. You might need to leave for a few days to let them fumigate the house. They may even lie about how "safe" their methods are, or might not even be aware of the dangers.
A common pattern I see in any line of professional work is that they believe "What I learned is what works" and become set in their ways, unwilling to grow beyond that or learn new things. A good exterminator will be willing to talk with you to find an agreeable approach that fits your needs.
Ask ahead of time what methods they will use, and let them know your limits. If they try to hide their methods or won't cooperate, dump them.
Under no circumstances should you agree to the use of second kill poisons. Check for yourself what poisons they use and ensure it is safe. Find the active ingredient and look for independent research that investigated its transference. The research should not come from the company that makes the product, or any similar organizations with conflicting interests.
Wikipedia can be used to get a quick overview, but also check places such as https://www.science.gov for research on the topic.
Science Search Engine
For example, an exterminator might use Contrac as their choice of poison. Searching for it, we find the product page where it lists the active ingredient as bromadiolone.
Looking into bromadiolone, we can get an overview from the Wikipedia page. It mentions is extremely dangerous to anything that ingests it, and it can be absorbed through skin contact. So we know the poison will be dangerous for pets, children, or other people who might find it.
The page doesn't mention anything about secondary poisoning, so expand our search to "bromadiolone secondary poisoning" and find a study from the NIH. The NIH is a well trusted U.S. government run organization for biomedical and public health research, making it a good quality source to use in our research.
NIH: Hazards of Secondary Bromadiolone Intoxications Evaluated using High-performance Liquid Chromatography with Electrochemical Detection
Reading the abstract, we can see that it is relevant to what we want to know. We also see it only applies to voles feeding on worms, and it was found to pass to the predator.
This study reported on the possibility of intoxications of non-target wild animals associated with use of bromadiolone as the active component of rodenticides with anticoagulation effects.
the risk of secondary intoxication of small mammalian species feeding on bromadiolone-containing earthworms is the same as of primary intoxication through baited granules.
Searching for more articles on the NIH website using the same terms reveals many more articles examining the relationship between different predator/prey relations, which confirm similar results.
Further down, there is a convenient review article which summarizes the current body of knowledge on the subject.
A review: poisoning by anticoagulant rodenticides in non-target animals globally
It summarizes the known harms of anticoagulant rodenticides, the class bromadiolone falls into. It's safe to say we've confirmed the risks of this poison are well known, and should opt not to use it.
If you're at such a point where such high intensity poisons are required, then it's an issue affecting more than your home. Look into what the local experts are suggesting on the matter. You still should prefer poisons that are not secondary kill, because they can be just as effective without collateral damage.