Fact or Fiction: Is Cheese the Best Bait for Mice?

Updated: Apr. 17, 2024

It may seem natural to bait mouse traps with cheese, but experts say you'll have better luck luring your resident rodent with a sweet treat.

Like bears and honey or cats and milk, mice and cheese just seem to go together. But do they? This classic cartoon trope is actually a common misconception. Baiting mouse traps with cheese can lessen their effectiveness in attracting and catching mice in your home. So what should you do if your mouse traps aren’t working?

Read on for a look at what you should use instead to tempt the palate of these surprisingly picky pests.

Do Mice Really Like Cheese?

Although mice will eat cheese if hungry enough, they are generally more attracted to carbohydrates than dairy. According to the National Pest Management Association, “Mice will consume almost any human food but prefer grain-based products.” If they can get their paws on grains, vegetables or sweets, mice will actively avoid cheese — especially those with strong odors, which offend their sensitive sense of smell.

The myth of cheese-loving mice goes back to when people routinely stored food in cellars. Wooden barrels and earthen jars kept grains safely out of reach, and meat was hung from the rafters to cure. Wheels of homemade cheese, on the other hand, were left on open shelves to ripen, making them easy pickings for hungry rodents.

When people discovered gnaw marks on their cheese, they assumed mice munched on their preferred snack. In truth, it was simply a question of access.

Best Bait for Mice

If not cheese, what should you use to bait your mouse traps? Says Ed Spicer of Pest Strategies, “Just place a bit of peanut butter, chocolate or some beef sticks to attract the critters.”

Peanut butter is a top choice because it’s tempting and sticky, forcing the rodents to stay at the trap longer. For more easily “stolen” baits like chocolate or meat, Spicer suggests tying those to the trap with dental floss so mice can’t make off with it without setting off the trigger.

Other trap baits that are more effective at attracting mice than cheese include:

  • Dog food;

  • Seeds;

  • Grain;

  • Nutella;

  • Sticky candy like marshmallows, Tootsie Rolls or gumdrops.

If the mouse has already raided your pantry, Spicer says “the bait should be what the mouse has been feeding on in your house,” since the furry thief will already have developed a taste for it.

How to Set Up a Mouse Trap

Lots of different types of mouse traps require bait, including classic snap traps (bar or clam styles), electric traps, and live catch (or humane) traps. By far the biggest name in mouse traps is Victor, but Authenzo, Tomcat and d-CON also make highly ranked baited traps.

No matter which type or brand you’ve chosen, here’s how to bait and set up your mouse trap most effectively.

  1. Bait the trap. Less is more. “A small amount of bait works better and prevents licking and nibbling which at times will not set off the trigger,” says Spicer. Bait your trap with a piece of food no larger than a pea. Wear gloves to avoid leaving your scent on the bait or trap; that might deter mice from approaching. Set the trap following the manufacturer’s instructions.

  2. Choose a position. Mice generally take the same path between their nest and a known source of food without much deviation. Place the trap along that path flush with the baseboards, in corners or near small openings the mouse has been using to enter. You can also set traps near gnaw marks, droppings or other evidence of rodent activity.

  3. Double down. Set at least six traps for each mouse you’ve spotted to increase your odds of success. Place two traps side by side or in a row in case the agile critter tries to jump past.

  4. Check the trap. Sometimes you’ll hear a trap go off. Even if you don’t, you should check your traps regularly. Ensure they are still set and clever mice haven’t cleaned you out of bait. When you’ve caught a mouse, remove it ASAP.