Yes, believe it or not, there are times when mice actually become more active. They’re never exactly lazy, but when they need something, they’ll really step up their activity until they get it. Mice really need to keep warm over the winter. If they don’t have a warm, safe place to stay, they’ll search relentlessly until they find one.
You probably know where this is going. If you’re not careful, the warm, safe place mice find could be your home. Mice only grow more desperate as winter goes on, which means they’ll try to get in harder and harder while they can. Here’s what you should know about how to keep mice out of your home all winter.
Why mice are active now
Mice and rats are incapable of hibernating. If they want to live through winter, they have to find a warm place to live. Mice will keep trying to find that warm place until they succeed or die off. By November, mice are feeling an understandable pressure to get a move on. If they’re not already in your home, then they’re trying to get in. Late in the season, mice may become bolder and stay out longer in a last-ditch attempt to find shelter.
Even the mice that may have infiltrated your home keep busy this time of year. During winter, mice tend to build small, hidden nests to hunker down in during the day. These nests help them stay hidden, so they can remain in your warm home longer. Unfortunately, mice also reproduce and rear offspring in their nests. They also continue feeding and teething all year, damaging your food and home in the process.
What mice want
A mouse’s top priority this November is simply to keep warm. Mice can’t survive freezing temperatures for very long. The minute they sense temperatures dropping, they’ll start actively seeking out sources of warmth. This frantic search for shelter tends to trump all other considerations. That being said, if your home is also a source food, darkness, and seclusion, it’ll only look all-the-more attractive. Mice can’t survive winter just by keeping warm; they also need to keep eating, drinking, and growing.
Unsurprisingly, mice are not picky eaters. They’ll chow down on just about anything, and they don’t need much. Mice have incredibly keen noses. They can smell dry goods through packaging and walls. You can assume mice know pretty much exactly where food is at all times. They can subsist on crumbs, garbage, or unsecured dry goods very easily. Finally, mice need a tiny amount of moisture and a place to hide. If your home provides these things, it’s the perfect winter destination.
How mice get into your home
Mice have evolved to be very good at tracking down the things they want. They can’t just smell food through walls, they can also follow the scent it produces. Often, mice will catch a whiff of some food and follow it to a tiny opening. Mice only need a hole the size of a dime to squeeze their way into your home. In some cases, they can even make an opening if they can find soft material.
Mice don’t just smell their way in, either. They’re also extremely attuned to changes in air pressure and temperature. As they make their way around a home, they can actually feel tiny drafts created by holes. They can follow that sense of warmth all the way through a hole and into your home. Mice are also surprisingly proficient climbers. Given an opportunity, they’ll crawl up to any opening they can get–even if that opening’s on your roof!
How to prevent mice infestations this winter
Mice get into homes by finding and following small drafts back to their sources. Preventing them means finding these sources before they can. Starting in your basement, look for any cracks, gaps, or holes in and around your walls. Pay special attention to window and door frames, areas around utility lines, and baseboarding. Patch up holes with caulk or steel wool, which will help deter rats and mice. Remember: any hole that’s big enough to notice is probably big enough for mice to use.
You probably can’t keep mice from smelling your food, but you can keep them from getting to it. Store all pantry foods in airtight, hard plastic containers. Consider keeping these containers in elevated shelves, rather than near the floor. Keep your food preparing and dining areas very clean, especially during the winter. Vacuum and/or mop regularly, clean surfaces after every meal, and don’t let crumbs accumulate. Make sure you don’t let garbage pile up, either.
The bad news: there’s never really an “off-season” when it comes to mouse infestations. There’s a reason why the teething terrors have thrived for so long: they’re tenacious. But we have good news, too. No matter how relentless or desperate the mouse, you can keep them out of your home for good.