Musophobia, the fear of mice or rats, is one of the most common phobias in North America. Aside from the irrational fear of rodents, there is also legitimate concern over the effects that mice can have on a home. Mice and rats can spread disease to homeowners by contaminating food with their urine, droppings, shed hair, and by biting. They can also spread murine typhus and plague via fleas that feed off the rats and then bite people. If mice get into a person’s food or water supply, he or she can be infected with Salmonella, develop tapeworms, contract infectious jaundice or Lymphocytic choriomeningitis. Mites found on mice can also cause problems such as house mouse mite dermatitis, or Rickettsial pox.The notion of mice running across the kitchen counter or getting into cereal boxes and leaving behind hair, urine and feces is unpleasant to say the least. It’s also dangerous to people’s health, and must be stopped quickly. Mice can also cause extensive damage to homes through their habitual gnawing. Because rodent’s front teeth never stop growing, they must gnaw on items to keep their length manageable. Mice will gnaw on things like cardboard, wood, electrical wiring, and insulation. Rats are even able to gnaw through tough materials such as lead and aluminum sheeting. The damages to property, in addition to the costs of throwing out contaminated food, can add up to be a very expensive—and gross—problem. How can you tell if you have a mouse problem? For starters, you’ll probably notice droppings in corners, under furniture, and in other protected spots. You may also find remnants of gnawed materials like shredded cardboard or paper. If the mice have been in the house for a while, there’ll be an odor in the home. If you’re still unsure whether you have a mouse, you can try using a black light. Rodent urine has a fluorescent glow, so a black light can be used to spot their ‘trail’. If you do have mice, you must get rid of any food products that may have been tampered with. Open cereal boxes, potatoes left on the counter, etc. may have been contaminated, and should be thrown out. You must then put all of your dry goods in sealed glass containers (or heavy-duty plastic) in order to prevent mice from getting into it. Just closing the cupboard doors is not enough because rodents have an exceptional ability to squeeze into small openings. You should also seal any pet food or bird seed that you have in the home. Removing the food supply is the most important step to take in preventing future rodent problems. It’s also critical however, to block all openings to the house. This is a daunting task considering how small of an area they can get into. A rat for instance, can enter openings as small as 13mm. Place screens on all windows and exterior doors, and fill any cracks or holes in the foundation. Check interior spaces for openings, especially around pipes and cupboards, and use steel wool to fill in gaps.Now you’ve eliminated their entry points and their motivation for staying. If the mice don’t leave of their own accord, you’ll need to consider ways to remove them from the home. One way to repel mice is to place cotton balls doused with peppermint essential oil in places where the mice are believed to frequent. The scent is too overpowering for them, and will cause them to avoid those areas. In addition to using scent to get rid of mice, you may also have to use a trapping device to make sure you get your mouse. There are the old-fashioned snap traps, as well as glue traps, poison, and live traps to choose from. Poisons and glue traps are considered by many to be terribly inhumane, as they cause slow, painful deaths. Snap traps can kill quickly, though it’s important to purchase the right sized trap. If you have large rats, you’re likely to just injure them with a mousetrap, and dealing with an injured rat can be traumatic for both predator and prey. To entice the mouse to your trap, place sticky bait like peanut butter or melted chocolate on the trap, or else fasten hard baits like cheese or cotton balls to the trap so that it can’t be removed. You may want to put fresh bait on the trap for a few days so that the mice get used to this free lunch program. Then, when you feel you’ve gained their trust, set the trap to go off.If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of killing a mouse (and many people are), there are live traps you can purchase. They’re intended to capture mice that you’ll later release at a distant location. There’s no blood, no bodies, and no guilty conscience, but these traps require patience and persistence. It’s important to check your live traps every day, or you could end up with a mouse stuck in the trap, dying from dehydration and starvation. You also need to take the mouse VERY far away from your home to ensure that it doesn’t return. Rodents have incredible homing abilities, so drop them off several miles away. One thing to note is that many house mice cannot survive out in the wild. This means that when you release your mice outside, they still face almost certain death. This is why some experts suggest that snap traps are the most humane option when it comes to rodent removal, as their deaths are quick. On the other hand, you may sleep better knowing you gave the mouse a chance by using a live trap.