Tiny footprints, squeaking sounds, and chewed-up cardboard are telltale signs of an infestation.
Mouse hiding in tennis ball next to dog laying on the floor
Credit: Borislav Turkalj / EyeEm

You go to the kitchen cabinet and reach for a bag of rice and notice that some suddenly spills out. That's odd, you think. It's a new bag. Then you notice the mini puncture marks in the plastic bag. What could it be? Probably a mouse. Actually, make that "mice"—plural. "House mice are social animals," says Dr. Angela Tucker, B.C.E., a technical services manager at Terminix, a national pest control company, "and they tend to live in groups." They also reproduce frequently and may have up to 10 litters of babies (called pups) each year. "Chances are good that if you see one mouse in your home, you may have many others." Here are some signs that you have a mouse in the house.

There are dark droppings on the floor.

With its granular shape and three to six-millimeter length, mouse excrement resembles black grains of rice. If you see such droppings, it's likely their nest is nearby since they don't poop too far from home.

You moved the refrigerator and see a clump of shredded materials in a corner.

You probably found a nest. "Mice nests tend to be in hidden areas such as the wall voids, under or behind cabinets and appliances, and in kitchens, basements, crawlspaces, and bathrooms," says Dr. Tucker. Mice also look for shelter within 30 feet of a supply of food. These illegal subletters use soft fibrous materials—cardboard, cotton, string—to build their nests.

You notice gnawed plastic or chewed cardboard in your kitchen cupboards.

Mice are legendary gnawers. Besides plastic and cardboard, other favorites that mice like to chew their way through include wood, vinyl, and aluminum. But they're gnawing to stay alive: They were born with front incisors that keep growing, so mice gnaw to file down their teeth and be able to eat.

You hear strange noises.

They're not always "quiet as a mouse"—sometimes they get rambunctious, scratching their feet on the floor or making squeaking sounds.

Something just ran by you on the floor.

You can pretend you didn't see something whoosh by you across the room but you know you did. Check for tiny, telltale footprints left behind as they sprinted by.

You smell a musky odor.

"Living mice do not typically have a distinct odor, but when one ends up dying in the walls or basement," says Dr. Tucker, "it can create a strong smell of sulfur dioxides, methane, and other odorous gases that produce when tissue begins to decompose."


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