You have seen a little furry creature scurrying about in the house, spotted its droppings, or otherwise suspect that you have a mouse, or possibly a rat, for company.
Mice come in looking for food (and sometimes warmth) and will tend to go away if they cannot find any biscuit crumbs; old pizza topping; bags of flour; chocolate; cooking pans with the remains of yesterday’s meal, etc. to tuck into. In other words, they like to eat all the things that you do!
Whose problem is it?
In London you might expect the occasional visit by a mouse or rat. They are everyone’s problem. After a few mild winters recently their numbers have increased tremendously and the competition for food has made them bolder. Just don’t make your home inviting by leaving food out, and deal with the problem promptly.
Second, if you are renting, don’t expect your landlord to pay for visits by a professional pest control company unless you can show that you have taken all reasonable steps to deal with it yourself particularly in the area of food control.
What you can do
Mice need to eat. If they cannot get at your food they will go somewhere else. So the most important thing anyone can do is to clean up each and every stray scrap of food whether it is in the kitchen or in any other room – such as your bedroom – where you take food and leave it around!
But cleaning up is not enough! Look through the cupboards and for all stored food that comes in bags and packets – breakfast cereals; sugar; biscuits; pasta; dried beans; flour, etc. Buy air-tight sealable plastic containers for them and put them in them as soon as you bring them home.
Scaring them off
It is worth trying mouse scare devices that you plug into a few electrical sockets around the house, particularly the kitchen. They give off a high pitched sound that humans can’t hear but which annoys mice. As long as you are maintaining reasonable food control these can help.
Catching the creatures
If you want to try and catch the mice, you can get traps and sticky sheets to put down from hardware stores.
Any form of killing is messy and you will need to be prepared to dispose of the dead bodies. (Use gloves!) There are ‘humane’ traps that catch them live with the idea that you can take them outside to release. However, there are reports that you need to take them over half a mile away if they are not to find their way back.
For a bad infestation or if your attempts are not successful you will need to bring in the help of a professional pest control company, which will have expert knowledge and additional control methods available to it.
The good news is – because it is easiest – that food control may be enough! However, it may make you feel better if you fill any external holes the mice may have come in through. (Note filling gaps in kickboards under kitchen cabinets won’t make any difference.) Filling the holes will not get rid of mice already in the house and may even trap them in. Also, it is impossible to seal the house completely1… not only will they come in if doors are left open, mice can get through a hole as small as the thickness of a pencil!
If you do want to do it, the easiest way to fill holes is with expanding builder’s foam which you can buy in hardware stores although mice can still smell food through it and will chew their way in. In the Marcia Road houses, entrance holes are most likely to be under the sink around the water and waste pies where the pipes come through the kitchen floor and, if you are in one of the houses with a wooden kitchen floor (the later ones are concrete), there may be gaps between the floor and the walls.
If you have a clearly identified entrance hole the best filler to use is a really tough, specialist one by Rentokil and is available from DIY stores. It’s expensive but effective.
This page was improved with advice from Paul of Empire Pest Control Ltd.
1 Update March 2017: One owner has reported having a mouse-free existence since using a specialist company that seals all holes. It is called Superproof. (Check out their home page video.) However, our experience has been less positive. The sealing was effective for two years but one by one mice returned. The company refused to make a paid return visit to assess whether the sealant needed repair or adding to anywhere, and would only re-do the whole job again at full price.