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What Do Mice Eat: Both in Your Home and Yard

July 04, 2022

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Aside from providing shelter, your home can become especially attractive to mice if the items they like to eat are easily available to them. If they start entering your home, they could pose risks to your health because they can spread infectious diseases, contaminate your food, and cause allergic reactions. Not only that, but they also destroy property by chewing on wood, walls, and wiring.

Learn more about the foods and items mice like to eat so you can minimize the availability of those items in your home. If mice are already in your home, learn the best foods to use when trying to trap these uninvited houseguests.

What do mice eat?

Mice need very little food and water to stay alive, so even a few crumbs left on the floor or moisture on a countertop can easily feed one mouse for an entire day. They will even use some food items to help build their nests if they aren’t hungry. Mice can eat just about any food item available to them. Certain species of mice, however, do have dietary preferences.

A house mouse, for example, likes to feast on grains, seeds, fruits, roots, rotting foods, insects, and basically anything else they can find in a home. The items mice might go for in your pantry are foods high in carbohydrates, like:

  • Breads and other grains, like cereal and pasta
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Pet food, including treats

A deer mouse will eat just about anything too, but tends to prefer seeds, fruits, nuts, and insects. However, deer mice can be especially troubling to homeowners since they not only seek out food in your home, but also use your house to create a food cache to store food for winter, which can attract other pests to invade your house.

What food are mice attracted to in the kitchen?

A wide range of foods found in various rooms of your home will attract mice. Here are a few of their favorite items:

  • Cereal: Mice love cereal more than anything. Grains, like oats and wheat, are easy for them to hold and nibble. It’s also easy for them to work their way through the cardboard boxes most cereal is packaged in.
  • Protein and sugar: Mice also love high-fat, high-protein, high-sugar foods. Things like lard, bacon, butter, grease, chocolate, dried fruits, and deli meats are all temptations for mice.
  • Feed and seeds: Pet food, bird seed, grass seed, plant products, and more are an invitation for a feast for mice.

You may not know you have mice feasting on food in your house because they are timid, nocturnal animals who sleep in the daytime. However, if you notice droppings in your kitchen or cabinets, smell a foul odor, or hear scratching sounds that seem to be coming from inside the walls, you could be dealing with a mouse infestation.

What attracts mice in your house?

Other than easy access to food, shelter, and water, mice are attracted to various products commonly found in households. Below are a few of the most common things they’re drawn to:

  • Paper products: Items like paper, cloth, and burlap are the perfect materials for mice to tear into and use for nesting. Whether in books, linens, clothes, knick-knacks, or everyday items, if they can gain access, they’ll use it for warmth and padding.
  • Tissues and toilet paper: These soft, squishy materials make attractive additions to a mouse nest. They’ll weave balls of tissue, toilet paper, and even dryer lint into balls as a cozy shelter.
  • Insulation: Another source of warmth, insulation is easy for mice to burrow into anywhere from your walls to the attic or basement.
  • Junk and litter: Clutter, debris, trash, food scraps, and spills create smells that draw in mice. Keeping your home clean, sealing trash bags, and reducing clutter makes your home less attractive to mice because it eliminates food sources and places to stay hidden.
  • Trees and bushes: Mice use trees, bushes, and vining plants as bridges to your home from the outside. If you have bushes, shrubs, or trees close to your home’s exterior, they could be easy access points for mice (and other pests) seeking a new home.

What attracts mice to your yard?

Wild field mice can set up shop in your backyard and garden areas, especially if you have a tasty vegetable garden. These rodents are very attracted to seeds and bulbs, including plant and grass seeds that you may have just planted.

In the wild, mice are attracted to buildings and shelters like sheds, garages and trash cans due to their proximity to food and water sources. They can also burrow underground to live in tunnels beneath your lawn, where they may cause damage to root systems.

How to protect your home from mice

Having mice in your home can be a dangerous health hazard. Their droppings and saliva are known to contaminate foods with bacteria that can cause diseases such as hantavirus, salmonellosis, and rat-bite fever.

Some people can experience dangerous allergic reactions to a mouse’s fecal matter if they breathe it in, especially people who suffer from asthma.

What foods should you use in mouse traps?

If you think you have mice, you can try setting up a few mouse traps in the areas you believe they’re nesting or near your food storage. Although many people think a piece of cheese is the perfect lure in a mouse trap, there are much better foods to use for bait.

Since mice like to eat nuts and seeds, baiting a trap with peanut butter is highly effective. It smells good, it’s sticky, and it’s sure to bring a mouse to the trap. Other options for food bait are moist cat food or dinner leftovers.

Other preventative measures to keep mice away

To get rid of mice, you need to remove their food sources and close up entry points to your home. This can be difficult and time-consuming, but it will eventually lead rodents to find a more welcoming environment.

Seal up any access points where mice can get into your home. This includes cracks in your foundation or basement walls, gaps around door frames, and even tiny holes in pipes that can lead to appliances.

Inside the home:

  • Keep foods stored in sealed containers
  • Sweep the floor well after every meal to remove crumbs
    • Be sure to sweep up any bits of food that may have collected under stoves or other appliances
  • Empty and wash pet bowls after meals
  • Keep garbage cans shut tight
  • Dry any counters of moisture
  • Sanitize shelves and countertops

For outdoor areas:

  • Mow the lawn on a regular basis so mice can’t hide
  • Trim overgrown bushes to keep the ground below them visible
  • Regularly clean up any dropped seeds from bird feeders
  • Remove debris, like old wood piles, where mice can nest

If you’re dealing with a mice infestation, it may be time to get help from a professional pest service. A thorough inspection will help identify where mice are getting into your home, where their nesting sites are, and the areas they most frequently visit to obtain food. These services have tested and appropriate measures to bait, capture, and address a mouse infestation in your home or yard.

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