If You Notice This Smell at Home, You May Have Mice, Experts Warn

You may not realize that this scent could be due to mice.

Mice are excellent hiders. Once these rodents create a nest where they won't be disrupted by humans, they only move around to quickly forage for food, which means you may not immediately realize you have mice in your home. While they can leave obvious traces like their droppings or the sound of their steps scuttling in your walls, some mice are harder to spot. But there's one subtle sign you should be aware of—the smell mice give off. To see which scent could mean you have these critters in your home—and what to do about it—read on.

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Mice give off a musky, ammonia smell.

mouse on kitchen counter amid food jars

"A mouse's distinctive scent is musky ammonia, which smells like stale urine," says pest management expert Jordan Foster. He adds that the smell can be especially noticeable in closed areas like pantries, cabinets, or drawers, as well as along baseboards and walls where they tend to congregate. "Odors help them mark space and establish a territory."

Megan Cavanaugh, one of the owners of Done Right Pest Solutions, describes the smell of mice as worse than a musty basement, explaining that since they don't have bladder control, they urinate often, which leads to the smell. "If you smell urine, stale urine, or urine that is older and in an area that is not near a bathroom, you may have mice," she says.

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Other signs of mice include grease marks, strange noises, and teeth marks.

Carrot with bite marks

Cavanaugh says if you have mice for a while without noticing, you may begin to see grease marks along the floorboards or walls. "Mice don't have great eyesight, so they typically travel along walls," she explains. "Over time, their oils build up on your walls and baseboards."

But of course, there are even more obvious signs of a mouse problem. If you're hearing noises, especially at night, such as scratching in the walls or on furniture, Cavanaugh says that could be a sign of a mice, and Foster explains that you'll almost inevitably find teeth marks in objects around your home. "To wear down their continuously growing teeth, mice chew on hard materials, such as wood, plastic, cables, and electrical wiring," he says, warning that because of their chewing, mice are a "serious fire hazard," too. "They chew through shielding and wiring, leading to electrical shorts, equipment damage, and potential fires," Foster says.

If you have mice in your house, you need to take action to get rid of them immediately.

mouse trap with cheese
Shutterstock/Africa Studio

If you notice any signs of mice in your home, you need to take steps to get rid of the rodents immediately. Cavanaugh suggests placing both snap traps and sticky taps along the walls or in the corner where two walls meet.

She also advises using essential oils to deter the mice since they don't like the smell of peppermint. If the problem is severe, of course, you should contact professional pest management.

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And identifying entry points is key to stopping them in the future.

small mouse in hole behind tile wall

Whether you have mice and want to prevent more from entering your home or you want to deter the rodents before you have a problem, you need to start by identifying how they can get in. "As with any pest, getting rid of the infestation is only half the problem as you also need to find out where they're getting in and make sure to carry out mouse-proofing measures, such as sealing any gaps around the exterior of the house that could be serving as entry points," explains Darren Backhouse, partner at MJ Backhouse Pest Control.

Cavanaugh advises starting with the laundry vent and then walking the perimeter of your home to check for any opening larger than a fourth of an inch in diameter—and don't forget to check under decks and porches and around patios, she says.

Then, of course, you need to seal these potential entry points. Cavanaugh says her team uses a copper-wire mesh to cover the openings, "but you can use a steel-wool or other metal mesh" or foam spray, she says.

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