How To Get Rid Of Mice In House Without Killing Them

It’s a cold hard fact, winter weather drives mice and rats into our homes. In fall, with cooler weather moving in, several critters will be dying to invade your home to stay nice and warm.

Mice breed fast and one mouse taking up residence in  your home may result in a populations that exceeds 200 specimens within a matter of months.

Thinking about it just makes you want to curl up in bed, feet safely off of the floor until you can come out of hibernation in the spring. If all you had to go up against were a few ants and the occasional spider, it wouldn’t be so bad.

It’s those squirmy little mice that you dread. With beady eyes and worm-like tails, they infest the walls and comfy corners of your home without a second thought of consideration towards you and your family.

How will you keep these pesky rodents from bedding down and chewing up the walls of your home?

It makes you wonder, are there effective ways to get rid of mice naturally? To get rid of mice without killing them.  After all, you don’t want a bunch of dead mice laying around, rotting behind the cupboards or walls causing an odor problem.

Obviously you’re not looking for woolly methods unrealistic treehuggers would use but a humane way to get rid of the pest that actually works.

Here are your options. Keep in mind that although popular, they are not evenly effective. We have listed pros and cons of each method.

The first and most important step is prevention.

How to prevent mice from entering your home

As soon as summer months start to slip away, it’s time to start thinking about your strategy for keeping mice out of the house.

Create barriers and block any entrances. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it because once mice have settled in they can be extremely hard to get rid of.

Mice commonly have their nests in attics, lofts, storage boxes, and wall interiors.

The first step in mousy warfare is to work from the inside of your home out to block any holes and tunnels mice have created to get in.

How far should you go in blocking holes?

Key here is to seal up every opening mice could enter your home through.

  • Repair holes in outside walls, floorboards or skirting boards. Fix broken air bricks.
  • Tidy up cupboards.
  • Remove nesting material.
  • Inspect if doors (especially the garage door which is often the main entrance for mice) seal well. If not make sure to ensure it does seal well.

Keep in mind that the common house mouse (Mus domesticus) is approximately 2 inch long and weighs about an ounce allowing it to sleep through openings just slightly larger than a pencil.

Mice can enter through extremely small holes.

Other common, uninvited guests are yellow-necked mice, wood mice,  and brown rats.

What to use as blocking material?

Depending on the size of the hole, you can either block it with something like a scouring pad or dish sponge, or you may need to repair the hole by filling it with plaster or caulk.

Steel wool for smaller and wire mesh for bigger holes if generally recommended by pest control professionals.

Either way, by starting from the inside of the house and working your way out, mice that are attempting to get in through the blocked holes will probably give up and exit through the outer holes on your house.

Make sure you’ve sealed all holes inside before starting on the outside

You can easily find entrances where mice have tunneled through by checking for droppings, stains and undesirable smells these rodents leave behind.

Once you’re sure the mice have fled the scene, start on the outer walls and seal them up to prevent curious mice from coming back and tunneling a new hole.

Keep your home tidy

Mice love nothing more than a dirty house. Not only stinking garbage but even lingering food crumbs make your home an open buffet for these little critters.

You can easily prevent mice in your home by making it as unappetizing to them as possible.

Make sure all the surfaces in your home are clean and that food is not left laying around in the open air where mice can smell it.

Mice don’t roam large areas. They generally nest near their food source, so the critical element of effective mouse control is to find their food source. Once their food source is removed the mice can not survive.

Keep your floors swept to reduce food particles laying around and vacuum at least once a week. You might not see any crumbs in the carpet, but even a tiny fleck of a Cheeto can be detected by mice.

Keep pet food and grass seed in closed containers that mice aren’t able to chew into.

Change garbages often and keep your outdoor ones a safe distance from your home. Garbages are like homing beacons for mice.

Use smells that mice hate

Although garbages may ring the dinner bell for mice, some sources claim that mice absolutely hate certain smells and as a result will stay far away from them.

Often recommended is peppermint oil which is a natural solution that supposedly repels mice with its strong scent. Mice have extremely sensitive noses, so any smell they don’t like hits them much harder. Peppermint oil will also keep insects out of your home, especially spiders.

Simply place cotton balls with a few drops of real peppermint oil on them around your home; target areas where you suspect mouse activity.

Natural home remedies that involve cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce are also helpful because of their spicy scent.

Garlic salt will keep rodents away for a time, but eventually they’ll work their way past it. Stick to stronger scents to deter mice. They’re not only organic, but they won’t harm the mice if that’s something you wish to avoid.

The downside of using sprays or scents is that these are not science-backed solutions. They are not generally recommended by professional pest control companies.

Mice may find the smells irritating but they will be able to find their way around them so these are not a viable solution when it comes to natural ways of getting rid of mice.

Use electronic repellents

Along with a sensitive nose, mice also have excellent hearing that makes them susceptible to high-pitched ultrasonic waves. At least, that’s the theory.

Using sonar repellents such as the well-reviewed Rid-Tech Ultrasonic Pest Repeller is a humane solution to mouse traps and poisoned baits.

However, mice can become accustomed to the sounds of ultrasonic devices and will eventually ignore them.

There’s also the fact that the sound is blocked by walls and furniture, thus diminishing their effectivity.

There’s little to no scientific evidence that high frequency sounds emitted by electronic mouse repellents are effective.

Electronic devices may an effective solution, but only temporary.

The best way to get rid of mice without killing them

Poisons and inhumane mouse traps will leave a litter of little corpses around, which isn’t healthy for anyone involved. Another downside of poisons; they are bad for mice so they are for children and pets too.

There’s also the fact that traditional mouse poisons cause internal bleedings in the mice klling them slowly and painfully which puts many people off.

Luckily, there are more friendly ways to keep mice away that don’t involve toxic chemicals and your own personal mouse graveyard.

Non-lethal mouse traps

photo by Roger Arquer
photo by Roger Arquer

If you find yourself with a mouse infestation that needs more than preventative measures, trapping the mice with non-lethal devices will help you cut down the population.

Live-catching mousetraps are your best solution in case you don’t want to kill mice. Some of these traps attract mice via food baits. Once the mouse is inside a door will snap closed, capturing the critter.

Mouse traps are very effective, especially in capturing individual specimens. Make sure to be early in attacking the problem though, once your house has been infested, more extreme pest control measures may be necessary to get rid of the problem.

There are many different kinds of traps. Some devices are available to purchase at a store or online, while others are easy to make yourself at home.

  • The downside of trapping (inhumane and humane) is that it takes more effort than, for instance, using poison.
  • The advantage of this method is that it allows you to catch and release mice without having to touch them.

Where to  place traps?

Place traps wherever there are mouse droppings. Commonly behind appliances and throughout the home where the walls meet the floor.

“You want them perpendicular to the wall, with the baited end closest to the wall,” Mr. Martin of pest control company Terminix said to the NY Times.

Use an attractive bait

Mice will nibble on pretty much anything, but it helps to use one of their favorite foods.

The mouse love cheese myth

Cheese is surprisingly not as attractive to them as cartoons make it out to be, but if you use a strong enough cheese, it may work better.

  • Use foods like saltine crackers, peanut butter and small seeds or nuts. Anise seeds are particularly effective.
  • You can also use bait foods that are sweet, like chocolate or candy. Mice like sugary foods, so don’t hesitate to lay down some Nutella spread.
  • A cotton ball with a few drops of vanilla flavoring is attractive to mice too.
  • You can even use wet cat or dog food to lure them in.

Where to set the mice free?

Whatever method you choose, removing the mouse from your home must involve dropping them off at least a mile away from your house. Mice, much like squirrels, will find their way back if released too close to home.

With a few mice gone, the food supply suddenly becomes larger for the remaining mice, and they generally take the opportunity to stuff themselves full and breed.

This results in a larger mouse population and only serves to aggravate the problem. Here are a few trap methods you can use to discreetly and humanely remove your mouse problem.

Which mouse trap should you buy?

Buy a trap endorsed by animal rights groups. Whether you’re a fan of PETA or not, they do have some pretty effective traps on their website.

You can also check on sites like Amazon to see if PETA or The Humane Society have put their seal of approval on the contraption you’ve picked out.

One of the cheapest and most effective humane traps is from Seabright and is called the Smart Mouse Trap, and you can buy it on Amazon for around $14.

Although it’s not meant to trap bigger rodents such as rats or squirrels, it is very useful for live-trapping mice that make their way into your home.

There’s no poisons or snap traps involved; all you have to do is put your choice of bait (they suggest a saltine cracker for this one) into the trap and the door will close when the mouse takes the bait.

You can reuse it as many times as you want to, so it not only keeps the mouse alive, but it saves you money in the long run.

Make your own trap

This method takes a little more ingenuity on your part, but it’s the cheapest option available. A common method is to use a large bucket with slippery walls that the mouse can’t climb up once they’re inside.

A precariously balanced cup tied to the sides with string works fairly well, or you can get an old aquarium (choose a fairly large one) and put the bait directly inside.

The mouse will climb up the makeshift ramp or ladder you put against it and jump down into the aquarium, but it won’t be able to get back out because of the slick glass walls.

You can also prop up buckets with coins or an empty toilet paper roll so that the mouse’s movements set the trap off. The bucket will come slamming down, trapping the mouse inside without harming them.

Bottom line

Putting any of these methods into practice will not only get rid of your mouse problem, but it will also ease your conscience knowing that you’ve removed the problem without causing harm to the animal.

Non-toxic, non-lethal methods do better in the long run to both protect your family, as well as the mice, from harmful chemicals and pesticides.

But in the end the key thing is to get rid of the mice one way or the other, if only because they are key hosts of ticks that may carry Lyme disease.


Photo credit: Roger Arquer.

33 thoughts on “How To Get Rid Of Mice In House Without Killing Them

  1. I set up containers large green put bedding in them . They go in it in morning . I see the tunnels going down . At night I see them come out. I have chickens in garage . Door dose not close well. So I have had some wall problems . That started first. I plan to lid up container drop them off in open none owned used field in country were I live. I taken large plastics container in an out door coup . Put a wire with a pop can in center with peanut butter caught a lot . Ug . My big problem one wall were it started . I thing it travels under my garage steps.they our a different colony .i have to leave food out.i did put poison in attack . All started with neighbor moved in with goats chicken coup near our house. So I have 4 in garage . We’re there chickens roam during day and Turkies , did not want to use poision outside

  2. Love you’re website. Very informative and easing to the mind. I have only one question…. What if the mice already know what the plan of action is. Then what do you do? I’ve enjoyed reading your article, thank you.

  3. Where does one release them without making them someone else’s problem? What about the lagality of doing such things? The only way to get rid of the problem is to permanently remove ALL the mice. Period Not simply give them to someone else as it may be you who is the recipient of someone else’s ‘compassionate’ act. Victor snap reps never fail . This is not a 5 minute hobby Zor you never get rid of them.

    1. you must live in the city…you drive out to the hills and open space where many animals roam…that’s only a couple miles from me, but like I said, you must live in the cement jungle, and if that’s the case, you are right, you would make them someone else’s problem…drive a few miles further…you might find open space and rolling hills

  4. We are going to get some humane traps and try the peppermint oil, too. We have three cats, but only one who is a mouser. I’ve always heard that mice will leave a home with cats. Not true! Must be an old wives tale. Lucy has only caught four mice so far. When she is not sleeping, she’s on mouse patrol. Duster smells the mice but I’m no sure he knows what to do. Mickey doesn’t care and shows no interest. Cats!

    1. Funny, i have one mouse because my cat brought it in and let it go! Wanted to play with it, but it darted under the stove and had been there ever since…:-(

    2. The mice I have made a statement to me by sitting on the peppermint balls, and leaving their feces on them. Now look whose boss. I have to try something else.

      1. Sorry to hear that…was going to use peppermint oil but I suppose I’ll give it a try … Just in case my mice have a different mind set. Ha ha trying to be a bit optimistic!

  5. Peppermint oil worked great ….the first year. Now I see droppings right by the fresh cotton balls! Smart little dickens.

  6. I am sorely disappointed, bc nothing is guaranteed to be a permanent prevention!! I am in an apartment, on the highest floor and the complex doesn’t do things correctly, for pest control!! If an apartment gets Bed bugs, for example, they fumigate one unit, not an entire building, so everything comes back, be roaches or anything! I don’t want to smell or touch a dead mouse… GROSS!! I don’t think I am permitted to block holes, either…SO upset!

    1. You need to move!! If the management is not doing their part in preventing and controlling pest infestations, you could probably bring legal actions against them…at least contact local renter’s rights advocates

  7. My cat is useless for everything except catching mice, lizards, and bugs. I lived here 45 years without one
    Mouse until I took in my cat Toni. She caught one!

  8. Hmmmm, interesting. Yes, i am concerned that the little buggers just go away unharmed, so will be trying Vinegar. Don’t see it here, but the posts about them sitting on the Peppermint cotton balls made me laugh. Maybe vinegar will bother them away. Also sparkling under the floor boards. We’ll see. I’ll know soon enough. Thanks!

    1. Would be very interested in knowing how the vinegar worked…it works miracles in many other ways ie: cat pee, mildew, etc. I’d like to know if it is a deterrent to the mice

  9. I have heard that some folks use ammonia to dispel critters like raccoons so I am wondering if it would work to put containers of it around the house where the mice might be getting in, along with using other methods. The wire mesh sounds like a good solution for blocking the holes. We just found evidence of our first mouse, so we at least temporarily found and used duck tape to try to close up the hole. True, the mouse might still get in but this is just a temporary measure for the night. Tomorrow I will look for the wire mesh, and we have one of those electronic repellants, so I put it in the area for the night and some peppermint and eucalyptus oil as well. Can’t hurt and if it works just one day, that will be good. Luckily we think we caught the creature(s) early. This is very helpful information. We were afraid of the poison because of our other pets.

  10. I feed birds , the little mouses climbe the post right into the bird feeder . One of my cats caught one !!! Broke the little mouses back legs . It was horrible

  11. Been tracking baby mouse two days now … Seen him go behind my appliances on the kitchen counter and as soon as I turned on the light it runs under the top part of the stove behind the controls of the stove… If I put steel wool along the entire opening will it cause a fire? Tried peppermint oil, glue strips & baited traps too… This is creeping me out… But I can’t kill it & I surely don’t want as a pet either… What can I do… I read your entire article… I’m against using the poison cause I don’t want the smell of dead mice around my house…what am I to do.

    1. Yeah, so “glue strips” kill, too, and it’s a horrifying, brutal, cruel way for an animal to die. Put yourself in its position and imagine having your feet permanently stuck to the trap. Picture yourself struggling to escape. What would you be willing to do? Tear off all of the stuck skin and leave it behind, running away on infection-prone, bloody, raw tissue? Chew off your feet at the ankle and drag yourself away on bloody stumps where your feet used to be? That’s what glue-trapped animals do. If you don’t want to kill the mouse, try a live trap, not a snap trap. The smell of poisoned animals? Poison is a slow, painful, miserable, frightening death to a little being. Live trapping, if you check the trap every 8 hours, is humane and effective. I have used live traps with great success. Try them. The one I use and like is from a seller called Atomic Barbie on Amazon.

  12. My night. 2:56 AM. Felt something crawling up the back of my left leg of my pajamas while sleeping. Jumped up and got those sucker’s off in an instant! Stunned I ran into the kitchen and my husband had a great big smile and said “George has a toy” (one of my cats). Went back to my moving pants and took them outside and released the mouse 🐭 of many. Standing in the kitchen I bent over to have my husband see if he could find a mark where I swear I felt a bite. He saw nothing. I walk to the bathroom (still freaked out) to see for myself if there is a mark (mind you it’s very dark without lighting). I felt something squishy under my fuzzy sock and panicked thinking it was a mouse 🐭. Don’t worry, it was just 🐶 shit 💩. Cleaned myself and the floor, put some fresh fuzzy socks on and decided to give up and go to the porch and smoke a cigarette. Two feet from the door 🚪, I step in something wet (dog 🐶 piss). I quickly put my foot on the 99 cent rug to blot it only to discover it was piss soaked. Cleaned up once again. I decided to go to the back patio to have my smoke instead. Open my French door stepped down and a raccoon ran up to me and stood up, looking me straight into my eyes 👀. In my sweetest voice I asked that 40-45 pound creature “Are you hungry?”, his/her answer was yep, and so is my friend the pregnant skunk. I have never backed up so slowly in my life! I just took an extra blood pressure pill and am back in bed once again. I still feel whatever it is scratch /bite on my leg. I’m both i to go to sleep or get up. Both seem to be a very bad idea.🙅💤🏨👎

  13. This nocturnal intruder has been entering my small home for the past 3 to 4 months, at night time or early morning, and makes strange gentle tapping sounds. I have not been certain as to whether it might be a mouse, a Gecko, or a cockroach? However, today I noticed that a pear left on my dining table had been gnawed into, and there were scratch marks on the rest of the pear. This convinced that this intruder would be a mouse. Like most people, I have not got the heart to kill it with poison, etc., but would be happy to know what I could do to repel it. I have been having many sleepless nights over this visitor, especially afraid of being bitten, which would be serious. I need to do something about this dilemma, but nothing seems to work! I pray about it now, and hope that divine intervention will prevail and show me how to deal with this matter humanely.

      1. Please don’t. It causes a painful inhumane death, and pets/larger wild animals frequently catch and eat the dying rodent, only to be poisoned themselves. Where I live, the owls and hawk populations (which consume vast amounts of rodents) are being decimated because of rat poison. A terrible “solution” all the way around.

  14. Ants: I lived in New Mexico for years up in the mountains and had tansy growing out in front of my house. When a trail of ants came waltzing across the floor or counter or window frame, I would break some stems and place them next to the line at different intervals. Within 24 hours they would totally be gone and not return until the next year! I had to do it on the second floor as well and placed stems around the kitchen window frame. When it dried out, I would replace it. It is a miracle worker and way better than spearmint or peppermint in my experience.

    Mice: A Lexus car repair man told me about this remedy. Purchase this thing that people hang in their toilet bowels for a scent (not for coloring the water!). I can’t remember what it was called, because I simply called it “a stinky”. It is a 1/2 moon shape and has a wire or plastic hanger on it and is sometimes inside a plastic canister of sorts. It use to be available in Walgreens where they sell all sorts of smelly things for the bathroom that you plug into the wall, etc. You can check there first, but I have also found it at Walmart and the Dollar Store. The most inexpensive I have found was .49, but it is usually a dollar. I hung it under my hood in two different places and no more mice problems. There is a chemical in it that repels them. I also lived in a yurt that had lots of open spaces where the canvass wall met the floor. I placed these in stinky things in those spaces which were behind furniture, so did not bother me. I actually left them sealed in their wrapper, so I would not smell it. I never had any mice again!!! NOTE: IT does not work with rats. I used a live trap when one of those entered my space! Afterwards I placed the live trap baited on the front porch and caught another member of the family and no more showed up.

  15. We have mice in our basement, so this is really helpful. I’ll be sure to look inside, then outside for any holes they might fit through. I was going to use caulk, but if pro’s say steel wool, I’ll probably try that.

  16. We have two dogs and one of them is getting old (13 1/2 y.o.) with weak legs. We used to have cinder blocks so that dogs can step up to go through a doggy door, but it was getting difficult for him, so we asked our friend to install a ramp outside of the doggy door next to a sliding door. In summer, we adjust the door so that dogs can use the doggy door in the night. I’m wondering if it was the mistake to have 4 mice so far this summer! One sneaked into a room where dog food bin is, chewed some dog, flour and rice bags placed near the bin and was a resident there without us noticing. Nowadays we close the sliding door completely to block the doggy door, but we still have mice problem. We are not quite sure if the ramp was the cause for the mice problem, and if so, what to do with the ramp. Our dog needs it, but we don’t want mice coming in. Please let us know if you have a good idea what to do with it. Thanks!

  17. I can’t find any good info on how to get rid of a mole in the house. I don’t want to kill it. I also can’t find where it is hiding. I think it has a tunnel in and out of the house. Do the techniques for getting rid of mice also work for a mole?

  18. Please don’t. It causes a painful inhumane death, and pets/larger wild animals frequently catch and eat the dying rodent, only to be poisoned themselves. Where I live, the owls and hawk populations (which consume vast amounts of rodents) are being decimated because of rat poison. A terrible “solution” all the way around.

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