8 Most Common Types of Mice You’ll Find in Your House

Of the many mouse species that inhabit North America, only a few actually find their way into homes. Here's how to recognize them and keep them out.

A House Mouse
Ken Wilson/Getty Images

House Mouse

The house mouse (Mus musculus) is one of the most common mammals worldwide. It can be found in all parts of the United States and Southern Canada. Adults are about five to seven inches long, with large, round ears and mostly hairless tails.

House mice prefer grains and seeds, but will eat pretty much anything humans eat. It stays within a limited territory about 30 feet in diameter and travels along established pathways. Nocturnal, it makes 20 to 30 foraging trips each night, leaving 40 to 100 droppings scattered around in a single day.

The deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) north American native rodent,
Karel Bock/Getty Images

Deer Mouse

The deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), sometimes called the field mouse, is a little bigger than a house mouse. It’s easily distinguishable by its deer-like color, due to dense fur that’s brown on the upper body and white below. The tail hair is similarly brown and white.

The deer mouse ranges throughout North America, although it’s more common in the East than the West. Deer mice are primarily nocturnal omnivores (i.e. they’ll eat meat and plants). It’s important to identify this species. Unlike the house mouse, deer mouse droppings can spread hantavirus, which causes a potentially fatal lung condition in humans.

White-Footed Mouse (Peromyscus Leucopus)
Weber/Getty Images

White-Footed Mouse

A white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) can be difficult to distinguish from a deer mouse, because they’re basically the same size and color. If you look closely, however, you’ll see the white-footed mouse has larger hind legs and less definition between the two colors on its tail.

It’s sometimes called a wood mouse, but that’s actually a different species native to Europe and Asia. These mice prefer to live in the hardwood forests of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, but can be found as far west as the Rocky Mountains and as far south as the Yucatán Peninsula.

White-footed mice have excellent homing skills and can find their way home from up to two miles. They can also spread hantavirus.

Cute Harvest Mouse Running Along Hawthorn Blanch
Sarah Bray (Me) Bray/Getty Images

Western Harvest Mouse

The Western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis) lives primarily in the West from British Columbia to southern Mexico, but can be found as far east as Indiana. It’s four to six inches long including the tail, with brown fur on the upper body and white fur below.

This mouse is active all day and loves seeds. Like most mice, it doesn’t hibernate during the winter. While it prefers the outdoors, it will seek shelter in buildings during the cold months. It isn’t known to carry hantavirus.

Cotton Mouse (peromyscus gossypinus) feeding around some birdfeeders
Nancy Strohm/Getty Images

Cotton Mouse

The cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus) inhabits U.S. woodlands and swamps, south from Texas to Florida and as far north as southern Virginia. It gets its name from building nests from raw cotton. It has grayish fur on the upper part of the body and white fur below.

Adults can be up to eight inches, including the tail. It’s nocturnal and omnivorous, feeding mostly on seeds, berries and insects. It doesn’t hibernate, but goes into a state of inactivity known as torpor during the hottest part of the summer.

Jumping Mouse Gettyimages 1155564275 Jvedit

Woodland Jumping Mouse

The woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis) inhabits the northeastern U. S. and southeastern Canada as far west as Manitoba and as far south as northern Georgia. It’s large, often eight to nine inches long, including the tail. It’s most recognizable by the white tip on its tail and the brown band that stretches across its reddish-brown fur from head to hindquarters.

These mice hibernate throughout the winter and usually spend the late summer collecting and hoarding food in their burrows. They’re nocturnal omnivores. Perhaps the most notable characteristic of this mouse is its ability to jump long distances — almost 10 feet!

california mouse scurrying along outside on the ground
CreativeNature_nl/Getty Images

California Mouse

The California mouse (Peromyscus californicus), also known as the California deer mouse, is found only in the West, ranging from northwestern Mexico to central California. It can be 11 inches from the head to the tip of its extremely long tail. The dorsal fur is mostly orange with a mixture of black and brown, with a creamy white underbelly.

Besides seeds and berries, this nocturnal mouse also eats grass, flowers and fungi. Unlike most mice, the California mouse mates with a single partner. The male defends the nest and raises the young to increase the chances of survival.

Cactus Mouse (Peromyscus Eremicus)
Weber/Getty Images

Cactus Mouse

As you might expect, the cactus mouse (Peromyscus eremicus) lives in the desert, from the southwestern U.S. to northern Mexico. Adults grow between six and eight inches long, with mostly gray bodies and an almost hairless tail. They feature large eyes and ears with a pointed snout.

Cactus mice eat seeds, mesquite beans, insects and green vegetation. Active year round, they’re mostly nocturnal but may come out in the daytime. They enter torpor when food and water are scarce.

Professional preparing trap for rats, mice, for pest control in a special black box to place the poison.
Sebastian Ramirez Morales/Getty Images

How to Keep Mice Out of Your House

The house mouse is the one most likely to invade your home. But when the going gets tough, all types of mice seek food, shelter and the warmth of homes. That makes exclusion your main control strategy.

How to prevent them from entering

There are two main ways. Fix cracks in your foundation and seal the baseboards with caulk, being mindful that some mice can squeeze through an opening as small as 1/4-inch. And keep your house clean and dry.

How to get rid of them

Choose between live or lethal traps. If you go with live trap, be sure to release the mice far from your home and neighboring houses, too. Remember, white-footed mice can find their way back from two miles away.

Another option is to call in a professional exterminator.

Chris Deziel
Chris Deziel has been building and designing homes, and writing about the process, for over four decades. He developed his construction and landscaping skills in the 1980s while helping build a small city in the Oregon desert from the ground up. He's worked as a flooring installer, landscape builder and residential remodeler. Since turning his focus to writing, he has published or consulted on more than 10,000 articles and served as online building consultant for ProReferral.com as well as an expert reviewer for Hunker.com. Though his specialties are carpentry, cabinetry and furniture refinishing, Chris is known by his Family Handyman editors as a DIY writer with a seemingly endless well of hands-on experience.