The kitchen becomes even more of a haven as temperatures drop in the fall and winter. As you welcome guests into your home during these months, you may unknowingly entertain some unwanted furry intruders as well. When the seasons change, mice may show up and take residence in your kitchen to take advantage of the ample food, water, and housing it provides.
According to a study conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 45% of respondents reported rodent problems during the fall and winter months. Of those respondents, 50% reported that rodent issues occurred in the kitchen. As the weather cools, it’s important to be mindful of keeping these pests out of your home. Here are some ways to identify and address mice in your kitchen.
How Do Mice Enter the Kitchen?
The NPMA cites that 29% of Americans have experienced a rodent problem in their home. If you’re battling these pests, you are not alone. Though mice infestation is a common problem, it can be difficult to diagnose. Mice are nocturnal creatures, which means they are almost always active at night. You may not see or hear mice during the day, but there are several clues to look for to determine if you may have critters in the kitchen after dark.
Here are seven signs of mice to look for:
- Mouse droppings in the kitchen
- Gnawed holes in kitchen walls
- Gnawing or rubbing marks around the kitchen
- Evidence of nesting materials in the kitchen
- Smell of urine in and around the kitchen
- Scampering or scratching sounds in the kitchen
- Unusual pet behavior in and around the kitchen
If you notice one or more of these signs, you should begin looking for potential locations mice may use to enter your home. Mice can fit through holes the size of a dime, so consider all small openings as possible entry points.
Common kitchen entrances include holes or cracks in or near the following areas:
- Interior pipes
When you find holes or openings, check for dirty or oily markings around the edges. The oils and grime from a mouse’s fur can rub against the hole edge as it passes through, especially if the opening is small. As you notice infestation signs and investigate your kitchen, it’s important to keep in mind the reasons why quick action is a necessity.
Why Ridding Your Kitchen of Mice Matters
Mice may appear harmless, but they are not as innocent as you may believe. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), mice can directly transmit 11 different diseases worldwide. When mice come into contact with infected insects, they can indirectly transfer 15 additional diseases worldwide. Many of these diseases are transmitted through mouse bites, scratches or contact with feces.
With proper caution and safety measures, you may be able to avoid those transmission methods. However, diseases like hantavirus pulmonary syndrome spread when you breathe dust contaminated with rodent urine or droppings. Protecting yourself and your family from dust can be a much larger task than simply avoiding the mice. Eliminating mice from your kitchen as quickly as possible can help lower your risk for dangerous rodent-borne diseases.
Diseases aren’t the only health concerns mice present in your kitchen. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, rodents are a common allergen that causes allergic asthma. Rodent allergens may be more widespread than you think. A study conducted by the National Institute of Environment Health Sciences surveyed 831 homes and found that 82% had mouse allergens. If you or your family members experience allergy or asthma symptoms, your kitchen may become a respiratory health hazard.
Finally, mice can cause physical damage to expensive resources in your kitchen. If they enter through your walls, mice may create nests and store food in wall cavities. Their gnawing may damage cabinets, furniture, paper, and electrical wires. If those wires are attached to your toaster, you can probably replace it. However, if mice chew the electrical wires to your stove or refrigerator, the fix may be more expensive.
Even if the mice don’t physically damage your kitchen appliances, you may still have to throw out items that have come into contact with their urine and droppings to prevent potential illness. Overall, acting quickly when you notice signs of mice can help prevent dangerous and inconvenient health, property and economic risks.
How to Effectively Prevent Mice in the Kitchen
Effective mouse prevention in your kitchen involves eliminating the resources these creatures seek, including water, food and shelter. Here are some specific actions to consider to help eliminate these sources in your kitchen and prevent mice.
1. Store Food Away
When food becomes scarce outdoors, mice may turn to your kitchen for their sustenance. In the wild, mice eat seeds, roots, leaves, stems and insects. In your kitchen, mice will eat just about anything — including glue, soap and other common household materials. They can gnaw through plastic bags, plastic containers and cardboard boxes to get into food that appears to be protected and sealed.
For this reason, one of the easiest ways to make your kitchen less desirable for mice is to store your food properly. Items such as uncovered leftovers, exposed fruit bowls, exposed pet food and food in cardboard containers can become a feast for mice. The CDC recommends the following actions to protect your food from mice:
- Keep food on counters and in cabinets inside thick, airtight plastic or metal containers.
- Clean up any spilled food or crumbs right away.
- Avoid leaving dirty dishes or utensils in the sink or on the counter overnight.
- Keep kitchen trash cans tightly sealed, and empty them regularly.
- Even if your counters and cabinets are high off the ground, you should mouse-proof your food items. Mice have sharp claws that enable them to climb surfaces like wood, metal and plastic. Despite their small stature, mice have the agility and build to climb on counters with relative ease. Make sure to store the food items on your counters in heavy, sealed canisters to keep them out.
To get rid of mice in kitchen cabinets and keep mice out of your kitchen drawers, check for access holes in addition to keeping food sealed and protected.
2. Seal Any Holes or Entry Points
Because mice can squeeze through coin-sized holes, they may be able to find or gnaw several entry points into your home. Locating and sealing these interior and exterior entry points can help prevent the mice from getting into your kitchen.
Here are a few recommendations from the CDC of places to look for entry points within your kitchen:
- Inside, under and between kitchen cabinets
- Inside, under and between refrigerators
- Inside, under and between stoves
- Inside pantries near floor corners
- Around doors in your kitchen
- Around pipes under your kitchen sink
- Around floor vents
- Between floor and wall junctures
The CDC also recommends the following places to look for entry points outside your home:
- Around windows attached to your kitchen
- Around and under doors attached to your kitchen
- Around the home foundation
- Around holes for electrical, gas, plumbing and cable lines
- Keep in mind that even small holes or gaps may be enough to let mice inside. When you find small holes, the CDC recommends filling them with steel wool and using caulk to keep the material in place. For larger holes, use lath metal, lath screen, hardware cloth, metal sheeting or cement to fill the gaps. You can also use flashing around the base of your home to seal holes in the foundation.
You can purchase any of these patching materials at a local hardware store to help with the hole sealing process. If possible, check for and seal existing holes before the fall and winter months to prevent mice from ever stepping foot in your kitchen.
3. Prune the Exterior of Your Home
Many kitchens face into backyards or gardens. While this may make for a scenic view of bushes and shrubs outside your kitchen window, it may also present an issue when dealing with mice. The landscaping you have outside your kitchen and around the base of your home can make an inviting home for mice when unkempt.
Mice like to make homes in woodpiles, storage areas or hidden spots near food. They typically like to nest in soft substances like rags, paper or leaves. If you have any of these objects or areas near your home, mice may take up residence and be more likely to move inside when the weather gets colder.
To keep your exterior protected from mice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends removing piles of leaves and deep mulch from your property. In addition, the NPMA recommends keeping your shrubs and bushes trimmed and keeping mulch at least 15 inches from the foundation of your home.
In general, take a look at the materials and plant life you have near the exterior parts of your home connected to your kitchen. If you notice any piles, overgrown bushes or soft substances mice may use for nests, consider pruning the area before the mice seek shelter indoors.
4. Set Up Traps
One of the most common and traditional methods of dealing with kitchen mice is using traps. If you decide to use traps, there are some important safety practices you should implement. There are two types of mouse traps you may find in stores:
- Snap Traps: These traps feature an area for bait that triggers a forceful metal piece when touched. Though not always effective, this trapping method kills mice on impact and prevents dangerous bites or contact during disposal. The CDC recommends using a pea-sized amount of peanut butter on the traps and positioning the bait end perpendicularly against the wall. Use multiple snap traps in the areas with the most mouse droppings for maximum effectiveness.
- Glue Board Traps: Though glue boards are a nontoxic option, they may not be as safe as they appear. The CDC discourages homeowners from using glue traps for several reasons. These traps leave mice stuck but still alive, which means they may urinate on the board. The urine, combined with the chance that live mice may still bite, creates a dangerous opportunity for exposure to rodent-borne disease during trap disposal.
- It’s important to note that mouse traps should not be used in areas where children or pets may be present. Your kitchen is likely a high-traffic area, which means traps may not be a safe option in this room. Also, several traps may not be enough to take care of an infestation. Think carefully before using traps to catch mice to keep your kitchen safe and family-friendly.
5. Use Essential Oils
The scent of some essential oils may work to deter mice from entering your kitchen. In a study conducted on natural rodent repellents, researchers concluded that chili, wintergreen, bergamot, geranium and peppermint oils discouraged rats from visiting a testing area. Of this group, peppermint oil is one of the most commonly used and available for purchase.
Add several drops of peppermint oil to a spray bottle filled with water and spritz the mixture near any kitchen gaps or openings and areas that contain food. You may also choose to add drops of peppermint to cotton balls and place them in and around gaps and food sources. This method not only protects your home, but it also makes your kitchen smell like a fresh candy cane!
One of the benefits of this method is that it is safe for use around pets and children. If used by themselves, essential oils may not be enough to prevent and eradicate mice completely. However, when paired with other methods, essential oils can make an excellent supplementary measure.
6. Know When to Call a Professional
With mice infestations, it’s important to acknowledge that some cases may be too big to handle without the help of a professional. What may begin as one or two mice can quickly turn into a large colony in a short amount of time. This is due in part to the fact that mice breed at high rates.
The gestation period for a mouse is 19 to 21 days, and female mice can have litters with up to five or six young. In ideal conditions, mice may have five to 10 litters in a year. If mice are living under the protection of your kitchen walls and aren’t dealt with, an infestation can get out of hand rapidly.
A mouse’s breeding rate, when paired with its potential for carrying diseases, is enough cause to take action at the first sign of infestation. If you notice signs of mice, it may be wise to call an exterminator and implement preventative measures in the meantime. Professional pest control services can assess the scope of the infestation, locate potential problem areas and handle the removal safely and skillfully.
Hire the Best in Pest Control
You may use your kitchen for entertaining, but mice are never the intended guests. To reclaim your space and peace of mind, call Spectrum Pest Control. Our Pittsburgh rodent control will inspect your property and create a customized plan to eradicate the pests in your home as quickly as possible.
We understand that finding and dealing with pests is inconvenient and frustrating—that’s why we offer affordable prices and high-quality service for every situation.
To schedule an appointment, contact Spectrum Pest Control today!