Introduction: How to Trap a Mouse

Picture of How to Trap a Mouse

"Build a better mouse trap..."

Well you don't need to build a new mouse trap.  The old standard works great with a slight modification and the proper use use bait.

Once you have your trap modified and baited properly, there are three things that are very important to catching mice: location, location, location.

Step 1: The Trap

Picture of The Trap

There are many different types of traps you can purchase to catch mice.  Some are kill traps and some are live traps.  If you chose to use a live trap, ask yourself why?  If it is to be nice to the mouse or you can't deal with a dead mouse keep this in mind.

If you release the mice back into your yard, they will come back in!  They don't want to be out in the cold when they know your house is nice and warm and stocked with yummy food.  There are also live traps that may keep the mouse alive but to what end!

There is that sticky paper type where the mouse sticks to the trap.  I have not used them but I have seen the results of their use.  The mouse will not like being stuck to this and they will get themselves free.  I have seen what they leave behind, stuck to the paper.  I won't go into that here.

As un-PC as this may sound, just kill the mice.  Get a good old spring trap, bait it, set it, kill the mice.  Normally, where it one, there are several.

There are some fancy kill traps that are easy to set, easy to clean, etc...  But they do not work as well as the good old fashioned spring trap.  If you want catching mice to be easy, hire an exterminator to come in and take care of the problem.  If you want to catch mice, you will have to do a little work and get your hand dirty.

If you don't like getting your hands dirty, wear gloves!

Step 2: Modify Trap

Picture of Modify Trap

Once you get your trap out of the package, there is one small modification needed to increase the killing power and accuracy of the trap.  To help insure the mouse is trapped when they are on the trap, you will need to modify the trigger so that it will go off when the mouse sniffs it.

You do not want the mouse moving around and working on the bait without the trap going off.  To do this, straiten up the trigger latch to a point where you can no longer get the trap to set.  Then bend it back just a little.

This will create a hair trigger on your tarp.  When the mouse so much as sniffs the bait, it will go off.  This is very important.

It is also very important to watch your fingers once you have made this change.  The trap will go off when you least expect it.  Just carrying it around may cause it to trigger.  Hold the trap on the sides on the end where the bar is located when the trap is set.  If the trap happens to go off while you are holding it, the bar will not hit you.  You will drop the trap and the bait will come off but you will be safe.

Step 3: Bait the Trap

Picture of Bait the Trap

What is bait?  Bait is the thing that gets the mouse to come and visit your trap.  So what do mice like?

How about a nice piece of cheese?  NOT!  Mice will eat cheese but that isn't what they really like.  Cheese is not part of a mouse's natural diet.  But given no other option, they would be more than glad to eat your cheese.

Use a peanut.  Mice love nuts.  Take half of a peanut and jam it into the CLAW of the trigger.  This will hold a peanut in place so that a mouse can not just nibble on it or get the bait and sneak off with it.  By jamming the peanut on the CLAW and having the modified hair trigger, the trap will go off when the mouse come by just to sniff this yummy peanut.

Step 4: Location, Location, Location

Picture of Location, Location, Location

You want to put your trap where the mice are.  Sounds simple doesn't it?  Well it is.  How do you know where the mice are?  Well how do you know you have mice?  They will either get into your food stuff and you will find an open bag of peas or rice and you know they are around.

Mice also tend to leave their calling card where they go.  When you find their calling card, put your trap in that location.  Mice will travel the same locations.  So trap where the poop is.

Make sure the trap is clean of obstructions so when it goes off it doesn't hit anything.  If your trap is in a hard to reach location, you may want to anchor it with a string or wire.  Just because this is a kill trap doesn't mean the mouse dies.  The trap will also jump around when it goes off.  If you have a string attached to it, you will be able to find it after it goes off.

In the picture below, the trap is clear of obstructions.  It is also in an easy to get to location so there is no need secure it.

Step 5: Wait for It ------ SNAP!!

Picture of Wait for It ------ SNAP!!

Check your trap a couple times a day.  If you hear it go off, take care of it right away and reset.  Where there is one mouse there are many mice!

Look at the trap for the bait.  It is normal for the nut to come off when the trap goes off.  Look for the nut and use it again.  You do not want it drawing the attention of a mouse unless it is attached to the trigger.  Dead mice do not eat the nut.  So if you can not find it, that is a good sign that there are more mice.

Dead mice do eat peanut butter, but that is a different story.

Take your dead mouse and dispose of him properly.  Put him in a bag, feed him to your large snake, hang him in a tree for the birds.  But get that thing out of your house.  If you leave it too long, you will start to notice them by their smell!  Dead mice do not smell good at all.  Get them out.

Step 6: Repeat

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Now that you have trapped a mouse, start the process all over.  Because it is so common for mice to hang out with each other, where there is one there are many.

Find the bait, reset the trap, put it back in the same place.  Or put it in another location where you have found their calling cards.

If you have trouble with pocket gophers, check out this instructable:


67spyder (author)2016-08-07

As someone who has survived hantavirus (no it is not always fatal) I will support the argument that mice CANNOT be in your living space. Just had a mouse in the house and read your 'ible after finding the peanut butter had been licked clean from the triggers on my traps. Did the tweak you suggested and 1 hr later, no more mouse! Thank you

TWJL1 (author)2016-06-25

oh and nice job building the trap AT

TWJL1 (author)2016-06-25


TWJL1 (author)2016-06-22

but if you kill it don't you think it will look kind of gross? And maybe you'd want to make a small house somewhere far from your home (make it warm) so if you catch a mouse u could put it there and it may not come back.

AT (author)TWJL12016-06-25

For the most part, the dead mice look just fine. I do take them outside and place them in a tree where they are typically taken as food by one of the local big birds. Much of my yard is a mouse house as it were. There are plenty of places where they live. Nature has a way of providing for them both with food and shelter. So as long as they stay out of my house, I leave a big chunk of my yard alone so they can do their mouse things.

DarrelO1 (author)2016-06-23

I've had such a hard time setting these conventional traps to be sensitive enough to catch the mouse, but not snap my finger when I try to put them down. I do like the idea of putting it into a box first that someone suggested, with holes in the box to allow rodent access, but I found that electric traps work great and are humane in that the rodent is electrocuted and killed within a fraction of a second. These traps cost more (about $40), but I don't have to touch the rodent, they're extremely easy to use, and I don't get my fingers snapped (this last one is the most important).

One thing people should check is for how the rodents are getting in. I had a problem with them getting into my attic every winter, but saw no points of access that they could be using. I don't recall how I figured it out, but I did some investigative work to identify how they were entering. I suppose a motion sensor camera or something like that would work to help gather clues. Anyway, once I saw that they were coming in at a roof junction between the garage and the house that wasn't 100% completely sealed, I bought some anti-rodent expanding foam and sealed up the hole. No more rodents.

AT (author)DarrelO12016-06-25

The best way to deal with the mice is just what you did; keep them outside. Mice are very small and it doesn't take much of a chink in the armor to let them in. Mice can climb vertical walls making their options greater that one might think.

Good job for figuring out how they get into your house and fixing that issue.

LiamOSM (author)2016-06-23

How many mice do you successfully trap in a month?

AT (author)LiamOSM2016-06-25

We try to keep the mice out of the house and are doing a good job of that. Because of this, tracking on a monthly basis doesn't even make sense as the number of mice are maybe 6 a year and most of them are in the attached garage.

TWJL1 (author)2016-06-22

but if you kill it don't you think it will look kind of gross? And maybe you'd want to make a small house somewhere far from your home (make it warm) so if you catch a mouse u could put it there and it may not come back.

phillipcd (author)2016-05-25

Maybe you could catch a mouse without killing it and then let it free . . .

AT (author)phillipcd2016-05-26

The problem with using a live trap is what to do with the mouse. If you let them out in your yard, they will come right back in. I could walk them over to my neighbor's and let them go there; but I like my neighbors and don't want to just pass the buck

Another issue is the size of a live trap means I can't get them into the small areas where a mouse does it sneaking around. We really do not need mice chewing into our dry goods or living in our stove (that was very odd).

Don't get me wrong; I like mice. I had a pet mouse when I was much younger. They also make great meals for some of the larger birds we are in the area.

LadycB (author)2016-04-02

I'm having this issue now. We've been dealing with mice since moving in our new apartment (we didn't know mice were here until two days moving in). Since November of 2015, I've caught at least 30. Mostly with the sticky traps. I prefer killing them, because I don't want them to come back into MY home. I do not like mice, especially with a baby in the house. My issue is when I get rid of one, more pop up. Ugh. It's a never ending battle and I need a permanent solution. I saw a pregnant one last night. *sighs*

Indy Dawg (author)2015-02-04

This is horrible I'd you want to get rod of an animal in your house you need to put it In a cardboard box and let it run free outside. DONT KILL IT! How would you like it if I killed u because you were in my house minding your own business

milo_P (author)Indy Dawg2016-03-09

Agree with ChrisP18 here. Rodents are disease spreaders. I grow organic vegetables and they get in the gardens and chew on the food and leave their droppings behind. Ugh!! Think about this the next time you eat. It is very important for human safety to get rid of them.

ChrisP18 (author)Indy Dawg2015-04-07

You literally have no idea how diseases are passed to humans do you? Mice aren't pets. And they reproduce like you wouldn't believe. Killing one isn't going to do anything.

Rabies, black plague, etc etc.

AT (author)Indy Dawg2015-03-02

The problem with live trapping mice and setting them free outside is that they will come back into your house. Having mice in your house is a health issue. If they want to stay outside in the wood pile, bushes, trees, etc... they are more than welcome to take their luck with all of the birds of pay and other animals that will eat them.

As for you threatening to kill me if I was at your house, if I were in your house, I would have been invited and killing me would be a bad thing.

Postol Front (author)Indy Dawg2015-02-10

You wouldn't say that if you found yourself eating mouse poop, because it got into your food. The black plague is still around you know.

Postol Front (author)Indy Dawg2015-02-10

You would not say that, if you suddenly found yourself eating mouse poop because it got into your food. The black plague is still around you know???

No Snap (author)2015-12-24

We always live trap and release. The key is to release a mile or two away from the house. Chances are they will be eaten by snakes, or raptors but at least they will have fulfilled their role in the Grand Stratagem.

Mouse traps are the pest, there are may mods to make it better too!

TainT (author)2015-08-29

An even easier way is to just glue the peanut onto the trigger using
some carpenter glue. As soon as the mouse touches the peanut, the trap
will go off because the trigger and bait are connected. Plus you won't need to go looking for the peanut; it'll stay stuck to the trap.

smarterthanamouse (author)2015-04-15

That is a wonderful tip about modifying the claw and trigger but... Yikes! I cringe to see a mousetrap set out like that. (1) If someone has a pet in the house, heaven forbid that you might leave that cabinet door slightly open and the pet gets snapped. Also (2) some snaps can leave a bloody mouse-mess. I see that your cabinet space is pretty tight in the picture, but I've had very good luck putting the trap in a small box (1/3 to 1/3 the size of a shoe box will work) with the top flaps held down by a small weight of some sort on top. I just cut a nickle-sized hole in two opposite side corners of the box, set the trap inside, and snug the box so that those open corners are next to the wall (since mice don't like venturing away from along walls, apparently). Having everything nicely contained in the small box makes removal clean and easy, I believe.

AT (author)smarterthanamouse2015-04-16

If you have pets, you do need to insure the traps are not where they would get to them. The picture of the trap isn't where I end up putting them. I have some spots under and behind bottom drawers in the kitchen where there is plenty of room to snap and nobody can get at them by accident. I haven't had much issue with the bloody mess.

I like your idea of the box with small holes and the trap inside. That would keep things clean and the mice would easily be able to get in through the little holes. I bet you could keep a couple traps in there.

Thank you for the tips!

Fission_Chips (author)2015-02-28

Poor mousey! :'(

AT (author)Fission_Chips2015-03-02

It is sad. I try to keep them out of the house so they can live in the wilds of my yard and that of the neighbors. It is a tough live as a mouse. So many predators out there who want to eat you.

I have spent quite a bit of time working around my house to make it difficult for mice to get in in the first place.

Once they are in, they pose a health risk and cause quite a bit of damage by chewing on things they shouldn't.

If only they could read, I would post no trespassing signs for them as a warning to stay out.

VyT (author)2014-11-04

It seem that the basis snap mouse trap is still the best one. In recent years, the people start using the electronic mouse trap made by Victoria. They seem be the most successful mouse trap manufacturer.

cschinsky (author)VyT2014-11-14

VyT, I think you mean Victor mouse traps. :)

Vyger (author)2014-09-28

I used to have this trap that was built like a tunnel. It had a runway through the middle with a spring trigger in the floor. Mice love to go through spaces like this so you put it next to a wall and they would run through it, set off the trigger and the whole tunnel rotated and chucked them into a catch bin. Once there was one in there it attracted others and in very short time you had the whole family.

So now what. Well I got the cats and we sat down and played peek a boo. I slide the lid back and a mouse would pop out and the cat would snatch it, crunch it and wait for the next one. Then one time I was gone for a week and when I checked my trap it only had a few live ones but the remnants of several more dead ones. With no food they turned on each other and ate each other. Then the smell attracted more. So it became like a cage grudge match ultimate fight with the winner eating the losers. Mice are not cuddly, they kill and eat anything they can even each other.

Mr_Liss (author)2014-08-28

I've had pretty good luck just using peanut butter as bait on unmodified mouse traps. The mouse can't lift the PB like it can with a piece of cheese or whole peanut. Because PB is sticky (also smellier than a whole peanut) the mouse will move the plate the PB is on when eating the PB, and die.

fisherman1 (author)2014-03-09

I had a problem with rodents and birds eating the dog food outside of my house. Using a rat trap and super gluing dog food to the trap worked very well!

imcgowan1 (author)2014-01-18

I have also found chocolate is very popular with the furry little fiends. Although i have to be careful using it as there was a nasty incident with the wife resulting in sore knuckles for her and me. Pmsl

lime3D (author)2012-06-04

I like to hot glue a peanut (in the shell) to the trigger. The mouse HAS to move the peanut to get into it, then Whammo!

AT (author)lime3D2012-06-05

That is a great idea! The nut always comes out when the trap goes off. I have tweaked mine so much that they will just go off from the smallest vibration. Sometimes just setting them down in place will trigger them. I am going to have to give the hot glue a try.

I wonder if they make peanut scented hot glue?

Eurober (author)2011-08-23

I found by experience that once the trap is set, one should remove the human scent. Using the end of a gas torch flame, one should “brush” briefly the trap so that the scent is eliminated. This works particularly well in area where the rodents are getting diffident about the human presence

Dr Qui (author)2011-06-04

Its the second mouse that gets the peanut butter. If you catch a mouse and the bate is gone its best to reset the trap.

You are so right about the cheese thing so many people that came into the hardware store I worked thought cheese was the best bait, we always advised peanut butter. 

Cheese on traps is a cartoon myth and is planted in our subconscious by Tom and Jerry cartoons.

I prefer the new plastic false teeth type traps as they are more sensitive to small mice, I have had several cases where a small fast mouse was quick enough to dodge the trap, the retaining bar flicking up give a fast mouse enough of a warning to flee.  Ive even had tiny mice that where to small to trip the plastic traps and had to resort to glue traps as a last resort.

PS if you have a cat let it eat the dead mouse, it will give it a taste for mice and it will maybe do its job properly next time a mouse comes around.

EagleScout316 (author)2009-12-11

I've found that rubbing a thimble full of peanut butter works really good, or an even better option is to melt a bar of Hershey's chocolate onto the metal.  With the chocolate, we caught 10 mice in 2 hours out in the garage.  ;)

AT (author)EagleScout3162009-12-11

That sounds like a target rich environment!  You can catch them without any bate in those cases just by placing the trap in their paths (along walls and such.)  But I love the idea of coating the trigger with chocolate!  They could lick it off but are likely to bite it.  Another option might be to put some peanut chunks in with the chocolate.  When it hardens, it would hold thing in place.  But that is starting to sound too good and I might want some for myself and well.... SNAP! 

AAAAA!  My tongue!

arirang777 (author)AT2011-02-28

I wish I could have read this In'able before: End of last winter got a huge rat eating left overs from the bird feeder and hiding in the garage. I got the OEM trap no modifications though, covered with a cut-off bucket (I didn't want a cat or kid getting it) and used some bacon strip as bait. That night I heard it go off, then a huge commotion. I kept sleeping with a grin on my face.

Next morning I went to check it out: Bucket thrown away, empty trap, blood and a lot of fur stuck to the spring wire but no rat. Haven't seen the rat or its feces since then. Hair trigger and the claw is a terrific idea. If I were to use it, I am sure I'd have a rat head-trophy hanging by the chimney by now.

I thought about adding some upward spikes in the strike zone to basically impale the rodent, but then and accidental snap on my finger (it happens) would be costly. Great Idea, AT!!!

anibioman (author)2010-10-31

marshmallows work well

Kiteman (author)2009-10-09

Another very good bait (in my experience) is chocolate.

Marcos (author)Kiteman2010-10-29

Yes! Works great. Exotic food for the varmints, but it seems to do the trick.

I break off a small piece of chocolate, then carve a small notch on opposing sides, then tie it to the trap with a shortened wire twisty. It works quite well, especially when your local pests have developed tood bait-snatching skills.

I've had pretty good luck with letting a slice of cheese dry until it's hard, then tying it on the trap, though lately, (it is indeed mouse season) I've been using chocolate and/or peanut butter. I had a mouse within half an hour of setting the trap. After I returned the "humane" trap, which barely got sniffed at for over a week.

RadBear (author)Kiteman2009-10-09

I've found most rodents dig peanut butter.

the DEVIL (author)RadBear2009-11-24

my dad finds that a bit of bread coated in peanut butter works. only a 1cm bit of bread though with a 5mm coating of peanut butter. if your intrested in trying it out.

AT (author)the DEVIL2009-11-24

That is a good idea.  Peanut butter seems to be a great bate but mice lick peanut butter and that won't set off the trap.  Putting it on maybe a crust would be a great alternative.  That would get the mouse to have to do some chewing.   This would be more likely to set the trap off.

AT (author)RadBear2009-10-09

Peanut Butter is great but I have found that it can be licked off without setting off the trap.  That is why I have moved to peanut alone.  Seems to work just as well but a little more work to get on the trap.

underwhelmed (author)AT2009-10-09

I use peanut butter, but I apply it to a bit of cotton ball and place that in the metal bait jaw.

Using this method, the mouse will try and take the food/nesting material and be killed 100% of the time.

On another note, a co-worker recently flattened a mouse in or break room using a dead fall trap and an old aluminum vacuum form tool. The tool was about 2 foot by 10 inches and 2.5 inches thick. He made a figure 4 trigger and used some peanut butter. Very effective, flat mouse.  I let him clean it up.

HMMMMM this could make a good airsoft mine

mr. clean (author)2010-09-15

what i do is snot the peanut butter all over the claw part and the trigger this helps lubricate the trigger and the mice will lick the trigger it almost never fails u could also add peanut butter to the peanut u jam in the claw as peanut butter aroma will most likely carry further than just a plain peanut.

xXInmateXx (author)2010-08-24

I got a mouse in a trap once, and it was still alive its back was broken and we let it got. The thing started crawling with its two front paws. And Its back was squashed like that one in the trap.

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