Is that hole at the end of the bread bag is due to an unwanted guest making itself home in your cupboards at night -- or did you just catch it on something? Are those noises that you occasionally hear in the attic just the house settling or a family of rodents? Is that frayed edge of a rug just "wear and tear," or is a mouse wrecking havoc on your home furnishings?
Mice aren't an uncommon problem. If you live in the city, they can come up from the sewers and end up nesting in your garage. If you live in the country, they can move in from the fields or woods and make a home under your deck. Here's how you can tell if you've got a mouse infestation:
1. You see dark, moist droppings.
Mouse droppings are about the size of a grain of rice. Fresh droppings, however, are generally dark and moist. As they age, the droppings lose their color and dry out. Old droppings could be from an infestation that's long over and are nothing to be concerned about. New droppings, however, indicate a problem. Look for the droppings under your kitchen sink, along the walls (where mice usually run), and near your food supplies.
2. You find piles of shredded fibers.
If you find small caches of shredded fibers inside your cupboards or closets, you've probably stumbled across the remains of a mouse's nest. Mice will tear up paper, cloth, rugs, bedding, the stuffing from pillows and anything else their sharp little claws can shred to make a nest. If you detect a musty odor or the scent of urine in a dark area, like a closet, start looking for a pile of fibers. If you find it -- you've probably got a few mice.
3. You see fresh gnaw marks.
Gnaw marks age in the opposite manner from animal droppings. If you see something that looks like gnaw marks on your wood trim, the edges of boxes, and storage containers, look at the color of the marks. Gnaw marks darken as they weather and age, so dark marks aren't a concern. Light-colored marks are probably new, however, which means that there are probably some active rodents somewhere in your home.
Ultimately, the best way to be sure if you have a mouse problem is to call an expert in to do a residential mouse inspection. If the mice are there, the experts can find -- and eliminate -- them for you.