Practical - Index > Urban Wildlife > Wild Animals

Living in Harmony With House Mice

About Mice

If you spy a little grayish-brown animal with a long tail, chances are, he or she is a house mouse. House mice, who weigh in at less than 1 ounce and are usually about 2 to 3 inches long, need only a tiny bit of food each day. They are found throughout North America, often in buildings. They nest in walls, in drawers, behind large appliances, or wherever they find a cozy, secluded spot.

Solving Conflicts Compassionately

Some people are unconcerned about a self-regulating number of house mice in their home. Others are disturbed by the sight of just one mouse or his or her rice-sized droppings. Every now and then, deer mice, white-footed mice, or meadow voles also come into a building seeking shelter in fall or winter.

Mouse-proofing your building is the only sure way to deter mice. Killing them will only cause others to move into the newly formed vacancy. After mouse-proofing your building, give these little animals a chance by live-trapping and releasing them.

To mouse-proof a building, put all food and garbage in well-sealed containers that mice can't gnaw through. (You may want to move some foods from the cupboards to the refrigerator.) Feed companion animals indoors, and pick up the dishes when they have finished eating. Feed birds only in emergencies, like blizzards, when they can't forage for themselves, since the spilled seed attracts rodents. Keep piles of wood, bushes, and plants about 1.5 feet from the house to allow a clearing between them and the building. Seal holes larger than 0.25 inch in diameter, cracks in the walls and floors, and spaces around doors, windows, and plumbing.

After mouse-proofing the building, remove any mice who are still inside with live traps. Be sure to check the traps several times a day! The little animals will be hungry, thirsty, and frightened, and they may die if left in the trap too long. Release them at least 100 feet from the building, in a park, wooded area, or meadow. Do this in warm weather to increase their chances of survival.

Although many hardware stores sell live traps, you can make your own by putting a little dry oatmeal and a dab of peanut butter inside a small plastic wastebasket and tilting it (use a stack of books or bricks to hold it up). The mice will climb the stack to the wastebasket rim. They will go inside for the food but won't be able to climb back up the slippery sides of the wastebasket.

Remember, check the trap often! When a mouse has been caught, put on gloves, take the wastebasket outside, and release him or her according to the instructions above.

Since mice may carry diseases that are transmissible to humans, clean the wastebasket and/or live traps and the areas where the mice have been with a mild bleach solution (1:30).

Keep in mind that live-trapping the mice will become an endless cycle if you do not first mouse-proof your building.

If mice are in a vehicle engine or some other place that can't be mouse-proofed, mix together salad oil, garlic, horseradish, and plenty of cayenne pepper. Let this mixture sit for four days, then strain it into a spray bottle and spray it under the vehicle's hood. This won't hurt the engine or animals. Other repellents are moth balls and peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls.

If your local hardware store carries poisons and sticky glue traps, which cause rodents and other animals intense suffering and agonizing deaths, urge the manager to carry humane live traps instead.

Mouse dilemma and responses
Alison McKellar

I live in Maine and several months ago, in the middle of winter, I captured a mouse in the kitchen with a humane trap. I probably would have just left it if it weren't for the fact that Chelsea, my dog, was spending all her time trying to catch it. She would stay up all night in the kitchen just whining... Anyway, I caught the mouse and then quickly realized that I couldn't just release him outside in the middle of winter, so I put him in a ten gallon aquarium, gave him some food and water and all kinds of things to hide in. I also put a hamster wheel in there which he love to run on.

Now that it's spring, I was hoping to be able to release him into the wild, but now I'm wondering if he has become so accustomed to his life in the cage that he wouldn't survive, or, if the sheer fact that I found him in my house means that he wouldn't know how to live away from humans. He is brownish in color.

I'm wondering if it is possible to release him in a place where he has a good chance of surviving?

you may get some ideas from this thread.

i think the longer you keep the mouse as a pet, the harder it will be for it to survive in the wild.

I also think that this mouse would have a hard time surviving in the wild now that he is used to having all the pleasures of being a pampered pet.  Why not simply give him a name and accept that you have a most unusual pet. 


Stories like this give me hope for mankind.

Quote: Originally Posted by Jessica

Stories like this give me hope for mankind.
I completely agree!

There is a good chance this is a field mouse...and that he/she would have survived one way or another, if released when caught...The mouse probably came in from the cold and would have sought shelter elsewhere.  It seems nothing short of cruel to keep this poor creature an isolated prisoner in an aquarium tank for the rest of his/her life. Set the poor thing free.  At the very least, he/she will provide a meal for another wild creature out there.

You're kind of on your own to decide whether you think the mouse would be happier being free or how it lives now.  Actually no one can help you seriously with this including an answer from the mouse itself.  If it was very young when captured it's probably adapted to it's present lifestyle.  Good luck and know you're not the first person faced with this similar dilemma.

Can you let it loose where you originally trapped it? Or face a repeat of the same situation with the dog again?

Hi.  I just think that you are an amazing person!  Best of luck!

Charlett Hobart
To Alison Mckeller in Maine , re: mouse issue

First of all you must determine if it is a country Mouse or Meadow vole. I am a former animal keeper from the Bronx Zoological Park and came across this issue as well at my cabin in the Adirondack Park. Mice have tails as long as their bodies and visible ears. Voles have much shorter tails and partly concealed ears.

Their diets should contain a very abundant supply of fresh, clean grasses which have seed heads on them. They need this for digestion and minerals etc; otherwise they die of impacted intestines. Their diets are nuts endemic to the region,,i.e. hulled acorns, natural sunflower seeds with husks, - a general wild assortment. They eat and need live protein, such as wax worms ( half inch long white worm full of fat and protein ) sold in pet stores, It is a larval stage of a black beetle. Or try small cut up earth worms.

They need to grid down their incisor teeth, hence the need for manageable sized husks. No peanuts. A peanut is a legume. Try bitter greens - Kale, brussel sprouts, fresh ( non GMO ) corn kernels, a bit of apple ( too much causes loose stools ) cherries, blueberries. Fresh water changed daily. Make sure he/she has regular bowel activity. A grape or two. A rodent of this sort has a short life - a year or two at maximum.

Was your mouse, vole full grown when you caught it? These creature usually find human habitation in the cold winter months and make forays outdoors for food. You might choose to keep him/her till the end of its life as you have conditioned it to depend on you by now.

How long have you actually had this creature ? If you do keep him the aquarium in which he/she is housed ought to be two feet by 15 inches minimum. They are social creatures you know so I would think the creature is sexually mature by now.. If it is a male you will have no visual trouble seeing a very prominent organ. If you see nothing - it is a female. You might want to fill the aquarium with climbable branches, hidden areas where it can tunnel, fill it with some dried leaves, fresh ones too and natural earth at the bottom. If you put enough natural items in there you will curiously see how this intelligent creature will accommodate these thing to his/ her liking and most likely will construct The Bed Area. You might put in an empty toilet paper roll and watch him use that often. Put a weighted metal lid on the aquarium that has dozens of sizable air holes. He will need a certain amount of sun a day but be careful of overheating. Glass traps heat. I don't know about wheels -is the wheel being utilized ? If not - take it out.

Pull up on your computer by entering in the Google strip MEADOW VOLE, then try FIELD MOUSE. Ask for photos comparison, then when you have determined what you have you might need to verify diet for it. I think a field moose is larger than a vole. I personally had a charming male vole that my dog found. He lived about one year. Their wild living arrangements, if it is a vole, are like apartment rooms - one area is for toilet activities, one is their bedroom area, one is where they store food, another area is the nursery where they raise their young etc; - if this is a field mouse ,well they do other things.

Regards, Charlett


keep the mouse.  Provide it a better cage and a play mate that is the same sex.
Thank you for not killing him/her.

Charlette had great advice on her post.



Karen Long
Quote: Originally Posted by BETTY NORTON

Hi.  I just think that you are an amazing person!  Best of luck!
I think so too!  You are wonderful!

Karen Long
I think so too!  You are wonderful!

charlett hobart
Alison, ZiZi's advice of "set the poor thing free" - is questionable. It probably
won't survive. You might want to answer some of the questions I posted to you
about age when found etc; before I could make a reasonable, practical suggestion
to you about what to do next. I f you have had this creature for 5 months I think
you made him yours when you put him in an aquarium and made a "pet" For the future if this happens again just put them back outside and if it comes back in it
probably has babies in your home. ( If a female ) Rodents like human homes. So
do squirrels, raccoons, bats ,birds, snakes, feral cats, and bees, wasps etc; First
you must identify what you have and them contact the appropriate professional
source - Herpetologist at the Bronx Zoo, curator of mammals at the Bronx Zoo
or American museum of Natural History or ornithologist at Cornell University et al.
to determine your course of action. You will get the right information from them
to be able to determine responsibly what choice you will make with a clear and confidant mind and a satisfied heart. Charlett
Next time you will know better. But I think this time around you wanted a pet. Can
you handle him/her? If so, if tame - them handle him/her. They like contact when tame. You are the mate of the creature.

Hi, I have actually done this myself. We left ours lose for a long time. She had wondered in our house one winter and was bothering all my other mice. He had a wheel on the refrigerator  food bowls and all kinds of good things. We ended up putting her  in a 20 gallon long tank. She loved it. Lots of behavioral enrichment toys. We had a vet that would treat mice. I had them for pets for years. I thought I could raise them for food for snakes because my friends owned a pet shop.  Well I couldn't.  I had over a hundred mice.  All separated by sex of course . My vet could even do surgery on them for tumors. I would not put the little guy/girl out. Thank you for doing such a nice thing.

Just when I think there is no hope for mankind (or manUNkind), I read about this!  Bravo for your consideration of this lucky little mouse. 

I think I could do no better than the excellent advice already written here by some outstanding experts ~ I just say whatever you do, enjoy the experience of getting to know a fellow creature.  You and your animal friends certainly know how to live together in peace and harmony.

Won't the world be a wonderful place when behavior like this is so commonplace that no one needs to commend it as extraordinary?

I went through something similar several years ago.  I noticed a mouse running around the house.  I didn't bother him and he (or she) didn't seem to be very frightened.  Then I realized that I had not one mouse but a whole colony.  I became apprehensive as it was about this time that the papers started to publicize hantavirus and I discovered a heap of mouse poop behind some stuff.

I set up a few humane traps and I caught many of the mice.  When I caught one, I would drive it into an undeveloped area and let it go.  That seemed like the best thing at the time.  After a while there were no more mice.  I don't think I caught all of them.  They probably felt that it wasn't a safe place for them to live there and split on their own. 

I felt a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing and still do.

If the mouse you caught seems to be happy with living in the aquarium I would continue to take care of it and maybe provide it with company. This may not be a perfect solution but it seems the best under the circumstances. 

Carol Tavani
Thank you for being a caring human being. I wish there were more people like you. Sounds like you have a new pet. My secretary kept a mouse she caught and had him for 7 yrs!! He had a charmed life.

Julie van Niekerk
I would keep the mouse and take care of it and be very proud of myself for saving the live of a small mouse.  It is so rewarding.

Deb Conner
I am a licensed wildlife rehabber from southern Indiana, and was very heartened by your delightful story about the mouse. Typically, it isn't a good idea to try and make pets out of wild animals...they fare better with freedom befitting a wild animal, and the ability to make their own survival decisions. In the case of your little field mouse, however, I don't see anything wrong should you decide to keep the little fellow, as he seems to have adapted quite well to his current surroundings. I would 'upgrade', though, to a 55 gallon aquarium, and continue placing new toys, and hiding places for him to explore. Don't be tempted to add a companion, however, field mice are very territorial and an injurious fight could ensue.

I rescued forty mice, along with a lot of other guys, from a petstore about a year ago when it went out of business. All were destined to be feeders and all the females were pregnant.  Now we have over a hundred seperated by sex.  I had large ( 3 and 4 foot tall) mouse cages donated and they live very busy and productive lives "in captivity".  My problem now is that the wild mice have also moved into their room in our barn.  One baby was found and I took him to a wildlife rehabber who said that a field mouse would have no trouble adjusting to life in the wild even though she totally raised him.  He was released.

If you do decide to keep your little friend, they sell "toppers" for the aquariums that give the mouse lots more room on a ten gallon aquarium. They are sold on e-bay. You will probably have to put hardware wire over them to keep him/her from squeezing through the bars as the wild ones did in the cages that I kept my white mice in. Make sure to use aspen and not cedar bedding.  Thanks for being such a good friend to these sweet little creatures.

I had the same experience but with a baby rat. He lived his full life with me (2 1/2 years). Your mouse could do the same. Too risky now that he/she has had an easy life.      

You will know whether you should keep the mouse because it will let you know.  If it is happy, it will run on its wheel, eat and do all the little mousie things it can do in the environment you have provided it and if it is not happy, it WILL try to escape at every possible chance.   My friend in NYC rescues mice and other rodents and she says that the older they are, the more difficult it is to keep them confined.  They will leap and jump toward any thing they perceive as an escape route etc.   If they're more content - they won't try to escape all the time.  In fact,
I'm going to alert her to this thread so she can possibly contribute some of her wisdom here.   And GOD BLESS YOU for your kindness.

Hello my message is:

wonderful to read the stories of others catching and keeping or releasing field mice voles; a poster wrote:

Their diets should contain a very
abundant supply of fresh, clean grasses which have seed heads on them. They need
this for digestion and minerals etc; otherwise they die of impacted intestines.

comment: there is a big dif. plain grass and grasses "which have the seed heads on them: anne writes:

I understand grasses and hays which have "the seeds intact; such as long stemmed forage is "far superior to plain short grass; so I appreciate your knowledge!

my opinion is: if I had to say: should the mouse go or should the mouse stay?
ps besides with the free seeds; she wants to stay! lol
I say: the mouse should stay in the cage with the exercise wheel because he is already accustomed;
and recall; mice don't live very long anyway...THNX!

ps that was a neat story about "rescuing the 40 mice from the pet store going out of biz...

I liked that ! and the rat story too; great and awesome are the mice and rats

yet man's ways have ruined their natural instincts;

they do have a life ! contrary to popular belief and yes

Birds and Cats do eat "sick and weak excess mice ! a.
(which prevents mice epidemics like @ Australia; ps which reminds me of the story of what happened in China in the 1940's

the Sparrows were eating the farmers's seeds so the dictators of China told everyone; go out and bang pots and pans to scare the Sparrows; so the noise they made caused many of the Sparrows to die...

so the next year: China has the worst plague of Locusts in century; see the dictators of china did not know...The Sparrows were eating the Locuts too ! AR

pps anther reason to keep the mouse in cage is:

'if you let the mouse out; near or far from your house; he could prob. find his way back to your house or barn; and he could bring other with him;

so by keeping the mouse in the are preventing over breeding of mice; "i'd keep him !
(i had mice in a cage and I forgot to fill their water; and they died about 3 of them; they were house mice I got in a humane trap; I felt bad about that though!
(it looked like their bowl was filled but it wasn't! a