How to Keep Mice and Other Pests Out of Your Home

How to keep out mice, squirrels, bats and other unwanted animals.


An hour or less






This article will show you how to critter-proof your house. Follow this advice to get rid of pests once they find a way into your home. You'll also find tips to make sure they never get inside your house again.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver

If lovable old Mickey came from Disney World to live at your house, you and your kids would be delighted. But when Mickey’s real-life cousins move into your kitchen cabinets, well, that’s another story.

Same for the squirrel that thinks your attic is a great place to raise a family, or the raccoon that turns your chimney into a condo. They’re not so cute when they’re on your turf.

Mice, squirrels, raccoons and bats are the most common fur-covered pests that invade our homes (often when the weather starts turning cool). They really don’t mean any harm. They’re just looking for food, water and shelter. We’ll tell you how to keep your home from becoming a varmint’s dream house.

Don’t have a cat? Watch this video to learn the next best things for getting rid of mice in your home.

Project step-by-step (8)

Step 1

Eliminate Food Sources

  • Store food, especially grains, pet food and birdseed, in rodent-proof metal or heavy plastic containers.
  • Store grass seed in sealed containers.
  • Put away any uneaten pet food.
  • Rodent-proof your garbage cans by setting them on 6-inch high wood platforms.
    • Pro tip: Make sure lids fit tight; use rubber cords to fasten them down if necessary. Replace garbage cans that have cracks or holes.
  • Pick up any fruit that has fallen from trees in your yard.
  • Search out holes (even small ones) around your foundation, eaves and soffits and fill them with steel wool, cover with sheet metal, or fill with caulk, plaster or cement.
Step 2

Bait the Traps

  • Set snap traps with the baited trigger end of the trap tight against the wall. Wherever possible, use two traps.
    • Note: Mice usually run along walls.
  • Dispose of a dead mouse in a plastic bag in the garbage, then reuse the trap.
    • Note: The scent of the dead mouse will help attract any other mice in the house.

Step 3

Place the Traps Against the Wall

    • Note: An alternate trap position puts the traps parallel to the wall with the bait at opposite ends.
  • Place traps under sinks or appliances, and in closets or behind furniture.
    • Pro tip: Chocolate, nutmeat or cheese make good bait. The expanded-trigger type traps shown in these photos work best.

Step 4

Try Humane Traps

  • Place the trap so the tunnel is against the wall and parallel to it.
    • Note: A large baited compartment allows you to catch two mice at a time, so they won’t get lonely.
  • Release mice outside, at least 100 yards from where they were trapped.

Step 5

How to Get Rid of Squirrels: Trap Them in the Attic

  • Place a live squirrel trap in the attic near the nesting area or entry point.
    • Pro tip: Peanut butter on a cracker makes good squirrel bait.
  • Check the cage daily and release the squirrel outside as soon as possible.
    • Pro tip: Use caution and wear heavy gloves, since the squirrel will not be happy.

If you get a squirrel in your house, it’ll usually be in the attic. So you’ve got to get it out, and the only sure way to get it out is to trap it. Then seal up the openings so it doesn’t come back.

Begin by keeping watch around the soffits and eaves for a few days to see if you can spot the squirrel entering. If that fails, check the attic to find out where it is nesting; the entry point will probably be close by, and from a darkened attic you may be able to see daylight through the opening.

Step 6

How to Get Rid of Raccoons: Call a Pro

    • Note: Capturing and removing raccoons from your chimney (one of their favorite places to live) is probably best left to a pest control professional. Raccoons are very strong, smart, difficult to trap and when cornered, dangerous. They can easily kill a small dog, so don’t mess with them.
  • If you do trap a raccoon, call your local animal control office to ask about pick up.
    • Note: Local ordinances may require releasing the raccoon and any of its young right where you captured it, so check with local animal control authorities before taking it out to the countryside. Here are more tips on how to get rid of raccoons.
Step 7

How to Get Rid of Rats: You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Trap

    • Note: When rats show up, it’s bad news, since they can carry fleas and disease.
  • Trap rats with a snap trap for rats (like a mousetrap, but much bigger) or try out these best ways to get rid of rats.
    • Pro tip: Watch that snap. It could break your finger!
    • Note: Dispose of dead rats carefully. Wear plastic gloves, watch out for escaping fleas, and put the body in the garbage inside two zipper-top plastic bags.
  • If you don’t want to kill one or more rats, try a live rodent trap.
Step 8

How to Get Rid of Bats: No-Kill Methods

    • Note: If a bat gets into your house, don’t panic. Remember that bats are our friends in spite of all their bad press. A small brown bat can eat 1,000 insects a night. They’re usually easy to get rid of, since they want out even more than you want them out.
  • Turn off the lights and open the doors and windows.
    • Note: Once the bat’s panic subsides, it will follow the fresh air current out of your home,
    • Note: If you have repeated bat visits, it probably means your attic has become a bat motel and you need to stage an eviction.
  • Spread mothballs around the attic.
    • Note: This works occasionally, but not usually.
  • Call a pest control specialist to caulk and seal all openings, then install a couple of one-way doors that will let bats out, but not back in.

Pest control specialists will handle any furry beasts that you don’t want to trap, capture or dispose of. Check the Yellow Pages or internet under “Pest Control.” Some specialize in evicting certain types of critters; others offer general pest control. Prices range anywhere from $50 to $800, depending on the job. But prices can vary considerably for the same type of job, so be sure to shop around.

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