Mice are always on the hunt for non-threatening spaces that radiate warmth. Like humans, we seek out food, water, and shelter. So when we squeeze under the garage door of a suburban home during the first cold snap, we will usually lay down a trail of urine filled with pheromones that are like perfume to other mice.
‘The more they lay down, the stronger the scent becomes,’ says urban rodentologist Robert Corrigan, author of Rodent Control: A Practical Guide for Pest Management Professionals. ‘Sooner or later, the mice of the area say, ‘the house on Jones Street is being used by my community, I should try it too.”
We’re flexible—but not that flexible
We can squeeze into some pretty small places, but we have a backbone and a skeleton just like other mammals. Our skulls typically measure about six millimeters high—about the size of a dime. If we can fit our heads under a door or through a pipe, our backbones are flexible enough that we can ‘do the limbo the rest of the way through a six-millimeter hole,’ Corrigan says.
Cheese isn’t necessarily our favorite food
The cartoon Tom and Jerry may have immortalized the idea that cheese is our favorite food, but we’ll nibble anything you leave out for us. ‘That might mean a piece of cheese that fell off the counter,’ says Chelle Hartzer, a technical services manager for Orkin and a board-certified entomologist.
‘Or it could be some blueberries that you left out. Really anything that they can get access to.’
We’re big breeders
If our bellies are full (we only need one-tenth of an ounce of food every 24 hours), we’re going have lots and lots of little mice. Female house mice produce between six and eight pups per litter, Hartzer says. And we can do that between five and ten times a year. With mice reaching maturity within six weeks, it’s not hard to imagine how quickly a litter can turn into an infestation.
We can wreak havoc on your wiring
The word ‘rodent’ comes from the Latin for ‘to gnaw.’ That’s what we love to do—whether it’s the electrical wiring in your car or the gas lines inside your house. ‘It can also shut down the appliances in your kitchen, every dishwasher repairman will tell you that,’ Corrigan says.
The damage can be dangerous: gnawing the wrong wires in your attic, say, could cause a short and spark a fire.
We may be carrying some nasty germs
Slinking around dirty places like alleyways, crawl spaces, ditches, and sewers means we’re likely to pick up some scary, antibiotic-resistant germs. Researchers from Columbia University trapped hundreds of mice in apartments around New York City and released their results earlier this year.
‘We found that these so-called ordinary looking mice out there were carrying four of the most important germs associated with food-borne illness,’ says Corrigan—C. difficile, E. coli, Shigella, and Salmonella. Wild mice can carry up to 35 diseases, according to Terminix. So when we are skittering across your countertops, ‘it’s not just a little mouse in the house. It can be a potential health risk.’