Learn powerful up to date methods from the experts that will stop mice in their tracks and get rid of them for good.
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Mice -A Brief History & Overview
Ridding your home or business of mice may seem like a simple task but don’t be fooled.
Though they may seem small and fragile, mice are amazing animals. In terms of sheer athleticism, they may be the ultimate decathlon champions of the animal kingdom. They can climb with speed and agility that would leave most monkeys dizzy from the attempt. They can out-accelerate rabbits from a standing stop and in an inch per inch, pound per pound comparison make greyhounds look like mules running in a muddy field.
It should also be kept in mind that we have been trying to eradicate mice for literally thousands of years and the fact that this article on ‘How to Get Rid of Mice’ is being written shows how successful those efforts have been.
Though presently found in every country in the world, the mice we see as household pests today originated on the Indian subcontinent and have only been able to expand their range over the last few thousand years due to their extreme capacity for adaptation and more importantly, their close association with humans.
While in the wild, mice are both predator and prey they most often fall into the latter category. Down through time, humans unknowingly created an ideal environment for them to flourish.
Food stores put back to sustain us in lean times proved to be just as nutritious for mice as the for us!
Mice are omnivorous, the same as people. Anything that we eat they will. Strangely enough, they seem to prefer many of the same tastes that make humans mouths water. Peanut butter, bacon, and cooked chicken are three of their favorites.
The homes we constructed for ourselves provided more than ample shelter for them to set up housekeeping. The soft materials that we like to surround ourselves with made ideal nesting material for them and our need to stay warm and dry made it possible for them to reproduce without the worry of the seasons.
Naturally, having found such welcoming hosts, mice were in no great hurry to return to their wild existence and so when humans began to travel, trade, and migrate, they chose to tag along reaching new locales at the same moment we did.
How fast do mice multiply? Female mice can have 5-10 litters per year and anywhere from 3–14 young (average 6-8) per litter. This high reproductive rate is one of the main reasons that they so easily adapt to new environments and it is so difficult to get rid of mice in your home once they establish a nest.
Difficult and impossible are not the same thing though and there are steps you can take to remove mice from your home and prevent them from coming back. That is provided you are willing to invest the time and effort required.
Mouse Control Options
There are many control options for mice that have widely varying degrees of success. One secret to keep in mind is that your efforts to eradicate mice in your home is not a one and done proposition. Mice tend to move back outside in warmer weather but you can rest assured that in the fall, when cooler temperatures return, they will also. This means that you must remain ever vigilant in denying paths of entre and ever watchful for signs of their presence.
Mouse Repellents– For the most part mouse repellents are a wasted effort. Flashing lights and loud noises have no effect and the ultrasonic devices on the market are just a clever marketing scheme. Taste and odor repellents are also ineffective whether they are commercially produced or some home-cooked concoction passed down to you.
Poisons- There are many good poisons baits on the market but they should be used with extreme caution and never in an area that can be accessed by children or pets that will find many of them just as tasty as a mouse would. It should also be remembered that poisons do not kill instantly. If a mouse consumes poison then your family pet eats the mouse the very real possibility exists that both could die. There is also a high probability that you will end up searching your home for the rank smell of a dead mouse in your walls.
Mousetraps– Mousetraps, whether glue, spring, or live are some of the oldest and simplest tools you can use to rid your home or business of mice. Properly employed they greatly reduce and even eliminate the mouse population in an area. Their one drawback is that regardless of the mouse being alive or dead it has to be disposed of creating a health risk.
Fumigation– Fumigants or gases should never be used by anyone other than licensed professional exterminators.
Exterminators– The safest and surest way to eliminate the mice from your business or home is to call in the professionals. They have the knowledge, skills, and tools to make sure all the mice are killed and that your property is as sealed and protected to prevent their return.
What are Mice & Where They Live
Mice are mammals classified in the order: Rodentia, suborder: Myomorpha, family: Muridae and subfamilies: Murinae (Old World) and Sigmodontinae (New World) with thousands of genera & species having been cataloged.
Mice are now native to every continent except for Antarctica but all are believed to share a common ancestry with mice like creatures that existed on the Indian subcontinent. They are categorized as having pointed noses, furry round bodies, large ears, and long tails that can be equal to their bodies in length. They range from 1 to 7 inches in length, not including their tails, and their weight can be as little as a half-ounce or as much as an ounce.
They come in a wide variety of colors ranging from white to black with the majority of wild species being tan, gray, or brown. Many display a lighter colored lower body or belly and this trait can extend to their tail’s coloring as well. As a general rule, they have small feet though there are some exceptions like the kangaroo mouse which is native to the deserts of the American Southwest.
Mice are nocturnal preferring to rest during the day and only venture out in the twilight hours. They are omnivores meaning that they will eat virtually anything that can be digested. While they will eat cheese, it is not in truth their preferred meal. Wild mice generally survive on a diet of nuts, seeds, earthworms, and by hunting insects. If food becomes scarce, they will even turn cannibal and devour each other. When cohabitating with people they will eat pretty much any food that is left within their reach.
In the wild most mice live in underground burrows though some prefer to nest in hollow logs or stumps. Mice are prolific reproducers. A female can breed when she is 4-7 weeks old, depending on the species. Their gestation period is only 19 to 21 days and a doe (female mouse) can deliver a litter of 4-12 pinkies (baby mice) every three weeks throughout her life.
In the United States mice are present in every locale and type of environment. Though most species of mice in the U.S. occupy woodlands and similar wild areas, the majority of experts consider them to be semi-domesticated rather than truly wild as the majority of mice species in the Americas are at least partially dependent on human activity to survive in their present numbers.
The most common mice that people in the U.S. are likely to encounter in their daily lives are the House Mouse (Muridae Mus Musculus), Deer Mouse (Peromyscus Maniculatus) and White-Footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus).
How to Tell if You Have Mice
The first step in eliminating mice in your home or business is to establish that you actually have a mouse problem rather than some other types of pest. Then it is best to see if you can find their harborage or nest and if they have been established long enough to start reproducing. Nests are made-up of shredded paper or cloth materials including carpeting, old clothes, books, gloves and are often found in attics, boxes, tool boxes, drawers, basements and if occupied long enough can become evident along cracks in wall moldings by chewed up material and droppings escaping through the cracks.
At first glance, it can be difficult to tell if you have a mouse problem or some other type of pest has invaded your property. A few key things to look for are that when mice feed they tend to husk their food peeling back layers at a time and leaving very little waste. Other small fury pests tend to cleave their food leaving what might appear as shavings behind. Mice also tend to leave a lot more droppings. They will deposit on average twice as many feces pellets as rats though they will only be a fraction of the size. Mice droppings are generally the size of grass seeds while rats deposit feces in clumps closer to the size of raisins.
Other signs that you may have mice in your walls or attic.
If you detect a musty urine-like odor. This smell is a sure indicator that you have mice in your home rather than another type of pest.
If you hear gnawing or scurrying noises especially at night odds are you have mice playing in your home. Mice are nocturnal and most active in the evening through the early morning.
If you find a small hole in a wall with chewed edges you can rest assured there are mice in the walls of your home or business. Mice can and will chew through almost any building material in search of a nesting site close to a food source.
If you find clothing, books, wires, or other soft items with chew marks you have a serious mouse problem. Mice chew up these items to create a soft bedding for their nests.
If you find food packages that have gnaw marks or small holes in them you have a mouse in the house. Mice are voracious and will eat up to 20 times a night.
If you find burrows around the outside of your building, mice may have dug their way in. Look in weedy areas, around plants, under boards, around garbage cans and A/C units for their little tunnel entrances.
If you have the opportunity to see your home invader, mice are smaller than other pests, have rather floppy ears and a triangular head with a pointy snout. Their heads and feet are also small compared to their cousins. One of the surest indicators though is to look at the tail. The mice commonly found in homes have fine fur on their tails while rats’ tails are hairless and may appear either slick or scaly.
Types of Mice That Are Found Indoors
If inclement weather forces them to seek shelter indoors almost any type of mouse can invade a building. That being said, if you determine that you have a mouse problem and live in the Southern United States then odds are that it will be one of three types:
House Mouse– Muridae Mus Musculus, as it is technically called, is one of the widest spread mammals in existence. They are generally grey to tan but can range in color to being nearly black. Adults are 3-4 inches long with a hairy tail of nearly equal length and their heads are classically triangular but ears are nearly bald. Their voices are high pitched and the model of the squeaking mouse sound.
Deer Mouse– Peromyscus Maniculatus is a fairly new visitor to the extreme Southern United States but is common from Northern Georgia upward and to the West. Their bodies are generally 3-4 inches in length and tails are long as compared to their bodies. They can most easily be distinguished by their extremely pointed noses, large beady eyes and pointed ears. Their droppings are also large as compared to other mice being as hefty long-grain rice kernels. Deer Mice are not as common in-doors as other types as mice being hoarders who prefer to share communal nests in tree stumps and fallen logs in cold weather.
White-Footed mouse– Peromyscus leucopustend to have lighter colored bellies and more varied coats than other types of mice in the Southern U.S. and this two-tone effect extends to their tail as well. They tend to nest very similarly to House Mice but will often store extra food near their nest the same as Deer Mice.
Types of Mice That Are Found Outdoors
Keeping Field Mice Out of Your Yard
Field mice is a common expression for several species of mouse including the Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), House Mouse (Mus musculus) and White-Footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) that live in the woods and yes, fields across the United States. In the wild, they are a valuable part of a healthy ecosystem.
They are also carriers of disease and parasites that are best kept at as far a distance as possible. While there is no sure way of stopping them from ever entering your yard, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of mice infesting your property.
Keep your yard clean and neat. Mice don’t like exposed areas so maintain your lawn. Trim bushes and hedges where limbs don’t provide cover at ground level and avoid having brush piles.
Don’t feed them. Mice are omnivorous and will eat just about anything remotely digestible. Keep pet food stored in sealed containers. Clean pet dishes immediately after use. Use squirrel guards on bird feeders. Avoid having garbage in unsealed receptacles.
Deny them cover. Keep woodpiles, rockpiles and scrap lumber away from your house. Use traps and poison baits to eliminate mice in your yard if you must but avoid using poison if possible.
Turn them into prey. Cats and some breeds of dogs are great mousers and just their presence will deter mice from staying in the area. It was once a common practice for farmers to catch and release nonvenomous snakes in their corncribs and barns to control mice. Snakes may be the ultimate natural mouse trap.
Are Mice Harmful or Dangerous
A mouse is a nuisance at best. They leave droppings everywhere. They attack and consume your food and their constant need to chew can lead to them damaging furniture and the structure of the building itself. If they chew into electrical wires which seem to attract them, they can create the very real threat of an electrical fire or cause short circuits within your home or business.
Mice have a very high metabolism and must eat frequently to maintain themselves. This could entail them having as many as twenty meals in a single day.
Mice are omnivorous meaning they at meat as well as plant materials. In the wild, they eat nuts, seeds, fruit, insects and pretty much anything that they happen upon that is digestible. They are not above acting as scavengers or even resorting to cannibalism and it is not unusual to find bones in the wild that show evidence of being chewed on by mice. In your home or business, they display pretty much the same behavior eating nearly constantly when not disturbed. Despite popular myths to the contrary, cheese is not their favorite food though they will eat it.
Their preferred diet is primarily plant-based, high in carbohydrates and calorically very dense. Some of their favorites that they will turn to in your home may include:
Where Mice Come From
Paleontological data suggest that 10-15 myr BP the ancestors of modern-day mice emerged on the Indian Subcontinent and 6 myr BP the genus Mus established itself and diverged into several species as it spread into neighboring lands.
Approximately 10,000 years ago, at the beginning of the Neolithic transition, the progenitors of today’s house mouse (Mus musculus) came into being. This period which saw mankind progress from the hunter-gatherer phase of our development and begin to build permanent agriculturally based settlements also began the close relationship between man and mouse. Mice happily transitioned from foraging in the woodlands to feeding on the crops that farmers planted and in the food storage areas in these early villages.
From that time till the present the histories of mankind and that of the mice have been unequivocally intertwined. As long-distance traders began to develop routes some 6,000 years ago the Mus genus made its first appearance in the emerging Chinese civilizations and the trade centers of the early Arab world. Then 2,000 years later when agriculturalists began to migrate from the Middle East and spread across Southwestern Europe, they unknowingly brought mice with them. The two histories are so intertwined that scientists can use molecular phylogenetic studies of mice to establish the migration patterns that early humans followed.
The rest, as they say, is history. When Europeans settled the New World, mice were stowed away on their ships and in the last millennium as international trade came to dominate the world’s economy mice achieved, with our help, what many would have thought impossible. They became established in every corner of the globe except for Antarctica.
Are Mice Harmful or Dangerous
Having mice in your home or business can be both harmful and dangerous. Mice must gnaw constantly. Their teeth never quit growing so they must continually wear them down to keep them usable. This propensity for chewing can lead to them creating holes in walls and in extreme cases causing structural damage to a building. Beyond this they have been known to gnaw holes in pipes causing water leaks and even worse their munching on electrical wires can lead to short circuits and create the very real risk of an electrical fire.
These are just a few ways that mice can cause harm and be dangerous to buildings themselves. The truly scary part is the health risks mice can present to you, your family, your clients and your employees. While most people aren’t aware of it, you do not have to suffer a mouse bite or even have direct contact with the mice themselves to be at risk of contracting some very serious and even life-threatening illnesses.
Diseases that people can catch directly from mice
Simple having contact with the waste from an infected mouse, breathing dust contaminated with their urine, feces or saliva, consuming food or water they have tainted or possibly even walking through a puddle of water polluted with their waste is sufficient exposer to contract many diseases. Here is a far from comprehensive list of the more serious illnesses that mice can directly transmit to humans.
HPS is an often-fatal viral infection that people can contract when they breathe in particles contaminated with the virus. In the majority of cases, this occurs when people stir up dust that has been tainted with saliva, feces or urine from infected mice.
Its early symptoms always include soreness in the large muscle groups, fever and fatigue but can include abdominal problems, headaches, chills and dizziness. As the disease progresses coughing and shortness of breath develop as the lungs fill with fluid.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that people contract from eating food or drinking water contaminated with the urine of a carrier animal. People can also become infected if their skin or mucus membranes come in contact with soil or water that is corrupted with mouse urine.
The symptoms of Leptospirosis are highly variable and, in some cases, there are none at all making it very difficult to diagnose. Left untreated, the bacterium can cause kidney damage, liver failure, meningitis and death.
LCM Is caused by the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) which it is estimated that 5% of the House Mouse (Mus musculus) population in the United States is infected with. It is a neurological disorder characterized by fever, muscle aches, headache, lack of appetite, malaise, nausea, and vomiting in its early stages. As it progresses meningitis, encephalitis and/or motor abnormalities may develop.
LCM is generally not fatal with a mortality rate of less than 1% but it can lead to permanent nerve damage in those infected.
The Salmonella bacteria is carried by many animals including mice. It is most often transmitted to humans when people contact areas contaminated with or eat food tainted with the urine or feces of infected mice.
Though rarely fatal it does cause severe stomach distress and flu-like symptoms including fever, chills and muscle aches.
Diseases That Are Indirectly Transmitted By Mice
These are just a few of the 35+ disorders people can catch from being in the same environment as mice. A completely different set of concerns become involved by what is called secondary vectors. Mice are prone to being infested with ticks and fleas that can provide a completely different pathway for people to become infected with diseases.
The most common vector-borne disease in the United States Lyme Disease is spread to humans when they are bitten by an infected black-legged tick. Symptoms can include migraines, fever, fatigue, headache, and a distinctive skin rash called erythema. Left untreated Lyme Disease can affect the heart muscle, joints and central nervous system.
One of the deadliest tick-borne diseases in the United States RMSF is transmitted when infected ticks bit a human and transmit the Rickettsia rickettsi bacteria to them. Its symptoms include: fever, headache, lack of appetite, muscle pain, nausea, rash, stomach pain and vomiting. Due to its severe nature immediate medical care should be sought if you believe you may have been bitten by a tick infected with RMSF.
How to Get Rid of Mice For Good
How easy or difficult it is to get rid of mice in your home or business depends on several factors. The particular type of mice you have, how long they have been there, the age and type of construction used in the building, the availability of food and nesting sites and whether you have a mouse or a full-blown infestation are just a few things that need to be taken into consideration if you want to permanently eradicate mice from the structure.
A few options in no particular order are:
Each method has its strengths and weaknesses depending on the particulars of the mouse problem you are facing and to some extent how much effort you are will to put into rendering them extinct in an area.
To help you match the best methods for your particular desires and needs we will break things down into several subsections.
Note: Eliminating mice from your house or office is only half the battle. You must also put forth the effort necessary to find where they are entering and deny them future access. This involves sealing any cracks they may be entering through and destroying any nests they may have already established.
Getting Rid of Mice Naturally and Humanly
There are more than a handful of ideas that you can try to get rid of mice in your home or office without having to resort to killing traps or poisons that can present their own set of dangers and moral issues.
Live Traps for Mice
The surest and most human means of removing mice from your home or business is with live traps. These traps are available from most hardware stores or building supply companies and are generally some type of box trap that you bait and leave in an appropriate area. They trap the mice without killing them and are designed to allow you to release the mice back into the wild at your convenience.
Natural Mice Repellents
Many of the more popular items that people claim will drive mice away are completely natural and you are likely to have some of them in your home now. Because of their strong scents which supposedly annoy mice are peppers and pepper sauces, cloves, onions, peppermint leaves and bay leaves.
Items you are less likely to have on hand but that some swear by are owl feathers and cat litter. Concentrated ammonia is also reported to highly effective at driving mice out right along with friends and family.
The true effectiveness of any of these methods is questionable but it cost little to nothing to try them.
How to Get Rid of Mice in Walls
Unfortunately, the one phase of mouse life that cartoons got right was that they love to live in walls. Once settled in, the closed-in space provides them with a haven and openings for plumbing and electrical works give them easy access to your entire building.
Even less fortunate is there is little you can do about a mouse while it is in the wall itself. You will need to learn its habits and trap it while it is out foraging. If this isn’t possible or your mouse problems grow to the point of a true infestation you will need to call in a professional exterminator.
Eliminating Mice in Ceilings
Just as mice like walls they have a natural love for ceilings. Rummaging around overhead they are mostly free from human interference and wire paths and HVAC openings create an easy access highway for them to use.
To eradicate mice in the ceilings you will need to find their paths of travel. Look for urine-stained trails or areas with extremely heavy droppings deposits. these will normally be located along walls and ceiling joists. Place traps or baits in these areas for your best opportunity to successfully eliminate the mice from your ceilings.
Exterminate Mice in Attics
Attics may be the ultimate mice haven. Warm cozy and in most cases containing more than an ample supply of food and nesting material. Eliminating mice in attics is no different than destroying them in ceilings or crawl spaces. Establish their movement patterns by looking for urine-stained trails and areas with heavy concentrations of droppings. Use baits and traps to eliminate those that are already there and find where they are entering at and seal them up.
Getting Rid of Mice in a Kitchen
If you have mice in your home, they are eventually going to find their way to the kitchen. The plentiful food supply is simply too enticing for them to ignore. It also means that it takes extra effort to eliminate mice from the kitchen area and keep them out.
Maintaining proper kitchen hygiene is a must. All crumbs and scraps must be disposed of promptly and securely to avoid providing mice with the snacks they are always looking for. Of even greater importance is the mouse proofing of kitchen cabinets.
All foods should be transferred into hard plastic or glass containers. This is especially important for items like cereals and pasta that normally come in soft packaging that mice can easily chew through.
All cabinets including those high ones that are seldom used should be cleaned and inspected for access points. Mice can slip through a hole the size of a ballpoint pen so search carefully and seal any possible entry points.
Once these tasks are completed you can concentrate on exterminating the mice already in the kitchen. This is best accomplished using traps. Repellents have been found for the most part to be ineffective and the use of the poison baits available to the general public is, at best, problematic in any food preparation area.
Eradicating Mice in a Restaurant
If you are operating any type of food service business mice can quickly become a nightmare. The sitting of a single mouse can ruin your reputation. Signs of mice can lead to health code violations and hefty fines and these are nothing compared to the liability you can incur if a patron should become sick from tainted food.
As always, prevention is your best weapon. Regular inspections to spot and eliminate access points should be a matter of routine. The prompt removal of all waste to a site as far from the building as possible is advised. Training employees to look for the signs of mice in your restaurant can also be very helpful as an early warning system.
Glue traps and spring traps for mice can help to catch the occasional mouse that might slip in through a door but poisons should not be used in any food preparation area to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.
From a strictly legalistic point, the best defense for restauranters is to contract with a licensed and bonded professional exterminator. It demonstrates due diligence on their part with officials while providing the best ongoing preventive measures available.
Ridding Commercial Establishments of Mice
To make mice feel welcome all that is required is a source of food and an area that is frequently left undisturbed. The majority of commercial establishments provide both rather nicely. Businesses frequently have spaces whether under counters or in storerooms where very little activity takes place and employee and customer waste are almost always a source of food. In a pinch, mice will even eat cardboard and other packing materials.
To help prevent mice from becoming established you should always be on the lookout for areas of entry, especially where electrical, plumbing, and HVAC works penetrate outer walls and the roof. Normal hiding spots like drop ceilings and storage areas should regularly be cleaned and inspected for signs of mice. Waste should always be removed frequently from the building.
To eliminate any mice that may have slipped through the cracks of your preventive measures, traps and poison baits can be employed at the owner’s discretion. It should be remembered though that poisoned mice could survive long enough to make it into hiding and result in an odor problem.
In cases of major infestations, it may become necessary to call in professionals who are experts in removing mice from commercial properties.
Mousetraps are available at hardware stores, building supplies and even in some grocery and convenience stores. They now come in a wide array of different designs including some very sophisticated electronic traps. Still the most effective, easiest to use and most common ones fall into one of three basic categories; spring traps, glue boards and live traps.
Spring Traps– Spring traps are some of the oldest mouse traps around dating back to the 1800s and are still in service because they work. You place bait on the trigger, pull the spring arm back and set the retainer rod under the trigger. Then just place it in an appropriate place and wait. When mice attempt to take the bait, the trigger is tripped and the spring-loaded arm strikes them hopefully resulting in a quick human kill. There are newer variations on this theme but they all work on the same basic principle.
Glue Boards– Glue traps for mice are even simpler. They are a shallow dish filled with adhesive. When the mouse steps on them they become stuck and are trapped. Though moderately effective these traps are considered cruel by some as they don’t kill the mouse but simply leave it trapped and awaiting disposal.
Live Traps– Live traps are often also called humane traps. There are several designs available including multi-catch models. The majority of them are variations on a basic box trap. Their advantage is that they don’t kill the mice but only contain them so they can be released back into the wild. On the downside, they tend to be larger and more complicated to use than other types of traps.
Regardless of the type of trap used caution should be used when disposing of the mice. Even dead mice can spread dangerous diseases and the fleas and ticks that they may be carrying will be looking for a new host once they expire. Always wear rubber gloves when handling mice and wash thoroughly with a disinfecting soap afterward.
How to Get Rid of Dead Mice Smell?
Few things stink worse than a dead mouse. It has been described as a sweet skunk smell and those brave or crazy enough to get a close sampling say the dominant odor is burning sulfur combined with the methane emissions from a large dog.
The timing can vary greatly depending on the climate but generally, a dead mouse will begin smelling within 12 hours of death and continue stinking for one to eight weeks. The moister the climate the longer the smell will last.
If you smell a dead mouse your greatest hope will be that you can find the corps and remove it. You can then use some form of odor eliminator to clear the air. If they are to be found just follow your nose.
Unfortunately, though, if the mouse has died in a wall or under a floor, as often happens when poison baits are used, there is little you can do other than try to cover the smell with candles, potpourri and air fresheners. Opening windows and doors can also give some relief but time or the services of an expert are really your only hopes of relief.
How to Get Rid of Mice Permanently
Excluding mice from your home or business is part art and part science. It takes the understanding of an engineer to determine how and where they are making the entry so that openings can be properly sealed. It also takes the cunning of a hunter to ferret out all their hiding places and deploy the right tools to eliminate them. Most importantly it takes diligence and a sustained effort. That is why it is often most advisable to call in a professional extermination company when you suspect you might have mice in your home or business.
Mice are intelligent to the point of being cunning and once established are difficult to destroy. They are disease and parasite carriers and capable of causing severe damage to your home or business.
Professional exterminators spend years learning their habits and how to best overcome them. Beyond this they are armed with tools that you, as a member of the general public, don’t have access to and are prepared to educate you on how to supplement their efforts.
To permanently rid your house of office of mice call the professionals.